Nemo veggin'

After a week of showing up with an increasingly sore throat, I’m going on vacation this weekend. We’ll be veggin’, like Nemo in the picture.

With luck, we’ll have snow to enjoy. Otherwise, we’ll be able to drive to Crater Lake and catch some sights.

Have a great weekend!

Update: Corrected a redundancy. It was a long week… The weekend was wonderful, though. It snowed Sunday afternoon and evening. Got about 4-5 inches. Might post a picture or two later.

Three Teenagers

My youngest daughter turned thirteen today. Here she is, her face illuminated by thirteen candles.

I now have three teenage daughters and one younger son to keep them in line. (I feel like I should also mention my growing gun collection.) I’m one proud dad. :-)

Happy birthday, kiddo! I love you!

Iraq the Vote

I’m in awe. Somewhere between 8 and 10 million Iraqis turned up to vote this past weekend. That amounts to 57 to 72 percent of Iraq’s 11.4 million eligible voters.

Compare that to the 60.0% voter turnout for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. But in that comparison, don’t forget to consider:

  • Iraqis were threatened with beheading if they showed up to vote. This was no idle threat. At least three poll workers and the governor of Baghdad were killed in attempts to stop this election.
  • Iraqis couldn’t drive to or from the polls because of security regulations.
  • Many Iraqis had to stand in long lines, outdoors, and vulnerable to attack.
  • Iraqis had to dip their fingers in ink that would brand them as voters (and potential targets) for up to three days.

We don’t yet know who won the election. We won’t ever know what motivated individual voters; some may have cast their vote to speed the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. That works for me. What we do know is that a large percentage of Iraqis were willing to risk their lives to cast their votes.

I say let’s celebrate this great moment in history.

Remembering Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau II (O?wi?cim-Brzezinka)
Auschwitz-Birkenau II (Oświęcim-Brzezinka) by Pablo Nicolás Taibi Cicare on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

On the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it’s worthwhile to remember the horrors of WWII. Amanda Witt at Wittingshire says it better than I can. Twice.

Photo credit: “Auschwitz-Birkenau II (OÅ›wiÄ™cim-Brzezinka)” by Pablo Nicolás Taibi Cicare on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Forty-Two and Blessed

Another birthday has passed. Yet forty-two is no major milestone. It’s not like 16 (getting a driver’s license and feeling like an adult), 18 (becoming an adult), 21 (becoming an adult, yet again), or 25 (finally becoming an adult in the eyes of my auto insurance company). It’s not even one of those dreaded “decade birthdays.” At most, this is the day when I’ve been older than 21 for half my life. I won’t complain. As my brother says, any day above ground is a good day.

This afternoon I checked my e-mail and I found one of those e-mails that well-meaning people forward, but which usually annoy me. This one was different. It was from my middle daughter. This is the same daughter who came home from shopping last night, gave me a big hug and smile, and told me she loved me. My response: “What did you do?” Oops! Way to go, dad. Let me start over — I love you, too. I’m glad you’re my daughter. But back to the e-mail…


They say if you pass this on, you will receive a miracle. I am passing it on because I thought it was really good, short, and who couldn’t use a miracle! Enjoy it if it happens.

Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, we could easily be replaced at work? But the family we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. So, why do we pour ourselves more into work than into our own families? Invest your time wisely.

Do you know what the word FAMILY means? Father And Mother I Love You. Pass this message to 7 people except you and me! You will receive a miracle tomorrow.

This daughter passed the test to become a driver today. I’m tempted to say she received her miracle right on schedule, but wouldn’t want to insult her by implying she needed a miracle to pass. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. ;-)

I already feel blessed.


You’ve seen the maps. They were popular immediately after the election to show how the electoral votes were to be cast. They’re still popular on certain conservative web sites to advocate how “red” the country is, especially the maps that show the votes by county, instead of by state.

Unfortunately, these maps tend to obscure the election results. For example, Nevada, with its 27 red voters appears to outweigh the 27 gazillion blue voters in the geographically much smaller area of Los Angeles.

The true picture is much more complex. Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan attempt to show the 2004 presidential election results without distortion by intentionally distorting the map. Areas on the map represent similar numbers of voters with the color shading representing the ratio Republican and Democrat votes.

So, what’s the point, you may ask. It’s up for grabs — literally. The people that vote are sufficiently close in number that elections can go either way.

Update: I changed the title from “We’re not that divided”to “Unbalanced?” The original title contradicted the article. Re the question mark: with only 50% of qualified voters actually voting, it’s hard to treat elections as zero-sum games. Expanding the vote still seems to be a valid way for either major party to win.

Saving Nemo

Yesterday, my calico cat, Nemo, had a 9-cm chunk of fur and skin bitten from her right, rear flank. The muscle layer was showing through the wound. After a close shave (in more ways than one), several hours in the after-hours vet clinic, and 13 staples, she appears to be well on her way to mending.

Nemo has pain meds and antibiotics to help her feel better and get better. She is also wearing a clear, conical “e-collar” to keep her from licking the stapled wound with her sandpaper tongue, potentially injuring both her tongue and wound. Unfortunately, she can neither eat nor drink while wearing the e-collar; the cone extends too far beyond the tip of her nose. So, for the last 24 hours, I have periodically removed the e-collar and watched her while she eats and drinks. Then the collar goes back on. I also get to give her a warm compress to keep the drain from clogging. So far, she’s let me hold a warm washcloth to her side while she eats. I wonder how many more days she’ll let me do that.

According to the discharge instructions, Nemo should be feeling pretty good in a couple of weeks. Until then, I’m going to be spending a lot of time with her.

The things we do for our pets…

Turn a kid on to Engineering

Jack Ganssle
Jack Ganssle

Jack Ganssle, embedded systems guru, challenges you to turn a kid on to engineering.

In the ’60s and early ’70s a national Apollo-era fascination with things technical helped groom youngsters for an electronics career long before entering college. It wasn’t (quite) as dweebish to enter a science fair as is the case today. Kids were excited about science and engineering.

Above all, perhaps, was the specter of ham radio. Like so many others of the time, I got my first ham license at age 16. Though even back then sophisticated operating modes like single sideband (SSB) existed, most of us teenagers couldn’t afford the latest cool technology. We were forced to build our own equipment.

“Forced” is hardly the right word, since building stuff was much more interesting than actually using it, when and if it finally worked.

It brings back memories for me: endless hours playing with Legos and my Erector set, the two-stroke lawnmower engine spread out across the shop (that never worked again), the crystal radio my dad helped me build, the blown fuse from connecting a ham code key using just an extension cord (don’t ask…), the ham radio receiver in my bedroom, the Jacob’s ladder in the garage.

What do kids play with these days that interests them in hardware? Ganssle has some suggestions:

Get a Digikey catalog. Surf over to There are indeed a lot of resources for young EE-wannabees. Check out, or Ward Silver’s Ham Radio for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, April 2004.

Sounds like fun!