Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who is the Genius at MicroSoft?

Many of us use MicroSoft's Outlook e-mail program. Not a bad program. You can send and receive e-mail and use the calendar function to keep track of your life and days.

But there is one thing that really pets my peeve.

When you need to "dump" all your deleted e-mail you need to use Empty "Deleted Items" folder. Fine enough, it's pretty straight forward. But where do you find this command?

Logically, one should find it under Actions. It is an action after all.

But not Outlook. Nope, you have to click on Tools to get the Empty "Deleted Items" folder to appear.

So tell me, what tool do you use to empty deleted e-mails? A digital wheelbarrow?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Learned a new word today: ultracrepidarian

The word is an odd mix of Latin (ultra) and Greek (crepidas). It means to go beyound your step. Basically it means to opine about a subject that is beyond your expertise or that you have no business talking about.

Here is what "World Wide Words" has to say about how we got this interesting word:

Ultracrepidarian comes from a classical allusion. The Latin writer Pliny recorded that Apelles, the famous Greek painter who was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, would put his pictures where the public could see them and then stand out of sight so he could listen to their comments.

A shoemaker once faulted the painter for a sandal with one loop too few, which Apelles corrected. The shoemaker, emboldened by this acceptance of his views, then criticised the subject’s leg. To this Apelles is reported as replying (no doubt with expletives deleted) that the shoemaker should not judge beyond his sandals, in other words that critics should only comment on matters they know something about. In modern English, we might say “the cobbler should stick to his last”, a proverb that comes from the same incident. (A last is a shoemaker’s pattern, ultimately from a Germanic root meaning to follow a track, hence footstep.)

What Pliny actually wrote was ne supra crepidam judicaret, where crepidam is a sandal or the sole of a shoe, but the idea has been expressed in several ways in Latin tags, such as Ne sutor ultra crepidam sutor means “cobbler”, a word still known in Scotland in the spelling souter). The best-known version is the abbreviated tag ultra crepidam, “beyond the sole”, from which Hazlitt formed ultracrepidarian.

Crepidam derives from Greek krepis, a shoe; it has no link with words like decrepit or crepitation (which are from Latin crepare, to creak, rattle, or make a noise) or crepuscular (from the Latin word for twilight), though crepidarian is a very rare adjective meaning “pertaining to a shoemaker”.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Timing of Christmas Music

On November 1, 2007, my wife drove me to work. She likes to listen to an FM station that plays middle-of-the-road music. I enjoy it, too, but in recent years I have settled for the drive-time newsy stations and talk radio. But on this day—November 1, mind you—the station played nothing but Christmas music on the ride to work.

You read that right—Christmas music on November 1.

By the end of the day another Milwaukee station started playing Christmas music. The first station that started playing it stopped at noon and went back to its traditional playlist.

Why this rush to get Christmas music on the airwaves? Do merchants need to prod us this early for our shopping dollars?

When I worked part-time at a radio station Christmas music made its appearance after Thanksgiving. And then it wasn’t “all Christmas music all the time.” We played one Christmas tune each hour the first week, two each hour the second week, three each hour the third week, etc. Christmas Day was all Christmas music.

At the other end it seems all Christmas music is shut down on December 26. Then for a week you only hear the season-appropriate songs like “Frosty the Snow Man” and “Let it Snow.” Notice how soon those are erased from the airwaves after the New Year festivities are over?

Personally I don’t want the Christmas music before I have had a chance to digest my turkey. Okay, maybe while I’m eating my turkey (especially if the meal is supper). I would also like the music extended. Epiphany is January 6; Orthodox Christmas is January 7. Can’t we extend the Christmas music out to those dates? I personally still play it out to those dates.

Certainly extending the holiday music could go a long way to fight the winter blahs, ease the depression of impending taxes and tax preparation, and the like. Hey, maybe merchants wouldn’t have to rely on a local sports team playing late into the playoffs to keep sales numbers up (a friend of mine bought a store with his wife and their first year the Packers won the Super Bowl; he remarked that their numbers that year were dramatically better than the previous owner had the previous years and he believed people continued buying party supplies as long as Green Bay remained in the playoffs).

So let’s get a realistic policy on Christmas music.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Zogby on 19 September 2007:

Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance,
below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent
rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in

Wow! As dismal as President Bush’s ratings are, he’s still almost three times as popular as Congress!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Food Stamp Challenge

On Wednesday September 19, 2007, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a fascinating piece entitled “A taste of poverty.” The aim of the article was to focus on “[Sherrie] Tussler, the executive director of the Hunger Task Force, and her 10-year-old daughter, Madeline, vowed to live on $21 of food each for an entire week - the average allocation for a food stamp recipient - as part of the Food Stamp Challenge, a national effort to highlight what Tussler says is insufficient funding for the federal Food Stamp Program.”

The timing was rather interesting for me personally. The evening before my wife, my son, and I helped sort and box donated food items at that same Hunger Task Force. We volunteered through my employer, Genesis 10.

Now I will say this is an admirable thing. Many of us don't realize what it's like to go without, or with less than we are accustomed to. We have cravings—but how many times do you want something but, after scanning a full fridge, go back to the TV and resist a craving because one doesn't find something one likes?

But there were also some questions I had about the article, perhaps some flaws. These I'd like to address.

The reporter does not tell us how Ms. Tussler comes to the $21/per person/per week allotment. The reporter does give us these statistics:

  • $33 billion dollars--food stamp program
  • 27 million people served in 2006

A quick calculation (on my computer calculator) brings this to $23.50 per person, per week (Sherri spent $21/pp,pw). That's American dollars, not Canadian (as of today the Canadian money might go farther). I'll give Ms. Tussler the benefit of the doubt that $21/week was easier to do mathematically than $23.50.

But I'm assuming that all 27 million received food stamp aid every week. Again, the reporter doesn't share with us something important like, oh, say, the average number of weeks a food stamp recipient receives aid. If the average length of assistance is 26 weeks, then you can double the per meal at $2, the same as the rate we pay for my son's hot lunch at the Lutheran elementary school where we send him ($40 for 20 meals).

There was another question I have. This was to replicate what a person could eat getting food stamps. As part of her “ordeal” Ms. Tussler made it a policy not to accept assistance from anyone. During the week she did this she was at a golf outing that raised funds for various charities (she stood at a hole to inform golfers about the Hunger Task Force.) Many offered her food, but she refused. I found this interesting because it would be like someone down on their luck, getting food stamps, but refuse food pantry help. You see, in America food stamps aren't the only way people get assistance. Many churches and groups (my church included) have food pantries. Besides Hunger Task Force, Second Harvest and many churches and individuals help to stock these food pantries. In fact food stamps aren't even the only government assistance available! There is assistance for housing, jobs, drug treatment, and a whole host of other programs all in an effort to help people. Unfortunately it's easy to focus on one small segment, blow it up like it's the sole source of assistance, and plead for more assistance.

As you read the article there were other items that jumped out at me. She eschews meat for peanut butter for the cost. I can buy a pound of ground turkey at Aldi for 69 cents. That's a few meals for two ladies right there (spaghetti, chili, Hamburger Helper...). 69 cents for the pound of turkey, $1 for a box of Helper, water should be free from the tap, maybe a quarter cup of milk. In our family the three of us get a good meal and some leftovers for the next day. A 29 cent can of vegetables from get the picture.

Then I noticed they reported what she spent for milk--$4 for one gallon! In the last two weeks I bought 2 gallons for $5 at Lena's and 4 half-gallons at Walgreens at $1.29 each ($2.58/gallon). Seems to me the exercise may be beneficial just in basic grocery economics. And one doesn't have to resort to bargain-basement grocers, either. Sendik's in Milwaukee, a traditional high-end grocer, is very competitive in its milk prices—with a name-brand milk! I recently paid $2.39 a gallon and not long ago it was regular priced at $1.99/gallon (Golden Guernsey, no less, which has caps to donate to my son's school for extra income for the school).

So while I admire the exercise, and appreciated reading about it, I would like to see some depth to the story. One angle could be explored is what the average recipient actually lives on on a weekly basis. Another is to show there is a panoply of assistance in America. Ms. Tussler chose to follow her regimen; many others have no choice, but they also don't turn down other offers of help. And finally, we can all be smarter in our shopping.

Ms. Tussler also wrote about declining help: “But I also know that after repeated requests for help, even family and friends will eventually set limits.” Something tells me the same holds true for taxpayers as well. We are told that this, that, and another program needs more funds, but the problems seem to linger. Maybe we need to put faces on the problem? Maybe the answer is fewer food stamps and more local charities like churches, food pantries, and the like?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Random Presidential Campaign Thoughts

Regarding John Edwards and his investment in the company evicting Katrina-affected New Orleanians:

If he cared about these victims, couldn't he have made better use of his role as presidential candidate AND key shareholder in the company to urge leniency for these victims? By "divesting" himself (remember, he cashes out for profit) he abdicates any voice he has in the matter. I would think sticking with the company and working from within would be more effective.


Pity poor Bill Clinton. He's trying to burnish his legacy for his 8 years in office. But his wife is running now and she needs to run as one who had influence in the Clinton White House. How can Bill polish both his legacy and his wife's credentials at the same time? A recent interview he stated he was advised by his wife on policy and proofreading documents. Now THAT's a high-rise tight-rope walk if I ever saw one!

Friday, August 10, 2007

You know, the Dems are messing up a golden opportunity.

In 2006 they campaigned against the "incompetence" of the Bush administration's administration of the Iraq War (while strangely silent about the Bush administration of the war in Afghanistan, whatever role we still have in the Balkans thanks to Bill Clinton, the Korea conflict currently in ceasefire, and protecting Europe against herself.

The Dems won control of both the House and the Senate. Suddenly things are in play. "Rummy" resigns and a new general is installed in Iraq. The president urges a surge. Seems that election lit a fire in the White House.

Now it seems the tide has turned and we're winning and may win this war. So, do you think the Dems would say, "Because of our leadership we spurred George Bush to make needed changes to win the war in Iraq." I mean, why NOT take advantage and take credit?

But, NO, they carp on how the war is still mishandled or how the administration is misleading the American people (despite known doves actually going to Iraq and then reporting--GASP--we could win this war!

Is partisan hatred so blind as to overlook golden opportunities?