obama zen

October 13th, 2008

A well-thought article in the Times from Andrew Sullivan on Obama’s calm and political judo, and how these things have helped him. My favorite paragraph:

Obama rarely directly attacks. He subtly baits. His most brilliant rope-a-dope of the entire campaign was against Bill Clinton in the spring. In a newspaper interview, Obama cited Ronald Reagan as the last transformational president. He didn’t mention Clinton. The former president was offended by being implicitly dissed, took the bait and unleashed a series of unwise public scoffs at the young Democrat, culminating in a dismissal of Obama as another Jesse Jackson. Suddenly, black Democrats abandoned Clinton’s wife, and the Clintons’ base collapsed. Obama merely stepped out of the way as the Clintons self-destructed. He didn’t just end their campaign; he helped to bury their reputation.

Not to mention “He does his thing, raises masses of money, keeps his staff in perfect order and focuses on issues and themes.” There’s quite a contrast in this race at the moment.


October 13th, 2008

Some light relief – this screen capture from Roller Coaster Tycoon is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages (from today’s Bleat):


October 9th, 2008

This time not my pics – an awesome collection of photo art from a friend of a friend. Here’s his portrait of my friend Kjetil:

and another thing

October 9th, 2008

A few months ago there was a furore because Michelle Obama said something to the effect that for the first time she was proud of her country. Now there’s a very minor issue being raised about VP nominee Palin’s association with the Alaska Independence Party and the fact that the AIP worked with Iran to denounce the USA at at UN meeting, and that Palin’s husband joined the AIP the following year. I don’t mean to point fingers at the nominees specifically here, but there does seem to be something of a double-standard: for some reason your patriotism is pretty much unquestionable if you’re a Republican, but fair game if you’re a Democrat – any ideas why?

rage and anger

October 9th, 2008

Hmm, not a pleasant way of making your case. Obama says regularly that he understands that this is part of being in politics, and that he has been called worse things on the basketball court, but I have to say that no matter what your policies are, or party affiliation is, if you are a candidate who is running on such a negative message, you’ve lost me.

sad story

October 7th, 2008

This morning my friend layclerk (it’s a singing thing) in Glasgow posted that his cat Ernie, who has been sick for some time, passed away. Very sad. It’s something I guess you know will happen with a pet, but it’s heartbreaking when it does happen, and especially in this case when Ernie was only seven years old. I know I’ll find it very difficult when it happens to my orange cat Scout. Anyway, spare a thought over the next few days for him.

how to be popular

October 6th, 2008

Or not – from fivethirtyeight.com:


October 3rd, 2008

It was the vice presidential debate last night, and I listened to some on the radio. The first third I thought Palin did very well, and Biden didn’t really know how to counter. The balance seemed to shift later on, as Palin’s responses got more repetitive, and I think Biden kind of got into the swing of it, and had more chances for gravity and to display his experience. Your interpretation may be different of course, although snap polls seem fairly strong in Biden’s favor at the moment, especially among independents. There was potential for interesting moments – both these candidates have shown themselves to be gaffe-prone, but I think that this excerpt from the transcript is quite something:

Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced [sic] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he’s a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here’s a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate

I’ve also read some chat about Palin using cue-cards, which isn’t a bad thing, but it might be if you don’t have one for the question:

Sarah Palin debate tactic flowchart

Sarah Palin debate tactic flowchart


September 28th, 2008

This week we finally finally got around to starting our renovation of the basement. We’ve been meaning to get around to this for ages – we would occasionally (about once a year) get a little water in the basement floor when there was a lot of melting snow and rain in spring – not enough to do any harm but enough to stop us from putting any nice furnishings there. Also it was just very ugly – done in wood panelling probably in the 30s or something, and it really needed to be cleaned up.

So after a number of wildly varied quotes, some refinancing, lots of cleaning and junk removal and a bit of fretting about how good the contractor would be we had the whole thing start this Monday. There’s been tons done already – Monday and Tuesday was the demolition of the wood paneling and the drop ceiling; Wednesday there was a lot of cleanup of plumbing, including some drains, then Thursday we had Standard Water come in to do the water protection work – installing drain tile and a sump pump, which involved a trench being dug around the perimeter, then filled with stones, piping and finally cemented over. Friday there was more plumbing and the first of the electrical clean-up. Quite a productive week to say the least, and next week we’re all set for the new walls to be built, and the start of the plumbing updates.

It’s been a bit of a hassle – not too bad because obviously most of the work has been downstairs, but we have had some strange happenings with our electrical system, and the plumbing work has affected the water pressure in the bathroom and kitchen (much better in the bathroom, and terrible in the kitchen which means that the dishwasher isn’t working, so lots of dishwashing all week). The cats have been quite accommodating – we had to move their litter trays and they haven’t been allowed downstairs, which is usually their hideout.

Anyway, it’s all very exciting. Here are the photos from week one – enjoy. I’m already shuddering at how bad it used to look – even if we stop now it looks 100 time better.

almost american

September 28th, 2008

Last Friday I had a rather strange but fun experience – the US Citizenship test. Emma and I had been thinking about doing this for some time – now we’ve had our green cards for about 6 years we’re eligible but it’s not something to be taken lightly. We have found that it’s OK to have dual citizenship with our British passports, and I know that if we have to give that up it would be a different story, but gaining dual citizenship feels like a good thing to do.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve been thinking of doing this: firstly this is home in many ways, and being able to be a full member of the society, especially being able to vote, feels like the right thing (especially as I’ve been paying tax since I got here). Also it gives us much more flexibility – if we left the US for over two years we’d lose our green cards. Furthermore I have heard that it makes a difference with inheritance taxes I might have to pay to the kids when the inevitable happens. A little strange to say that you would serve in the army if called upon, but as we said if they’re going to call up mothers of two in their thirties (like Emma) then the world is pretty much falling apart and it’s not going to make much difference what countries you might belong to.

Anyway, there was a fair amount of paperwork to do, but on the whole it seems to be a much easier process than the whole work visa and green card process. The interview was close to the final stage – now my application has been approved and I just need to wait to hear when the ceremony is, which is the final step. I was quite nervous – apart from the momentousness about it, I was worried that despite my studying I might flunk the US Citizenship test questions. As it turned out the interview was very relaxed. I was asked some pretty simple questions, and seemed to do pretty well in the tests of written and spoken English. It was all over in about 15 minutes or so. I guess I missed the opportunity to change my name (keep meaning to add an extra F to Mogendorff) but all in all it was a good thing to do. Now I just have to wait for the ceremony!

Also last night my friend Michael came over with a patriotic apple pie for us. I was too grateful to point out that although the phrase is “As American as apple pie” there are plenty other countries where people make apple pie. However, not many where someone would carve USA into the crust (the other thing carved in at the top of the crust is apparently an eagle):

USA Apple Pie

USA Apple Pie