Thursday, November 30, 2006

Best Birthday Present Ever!

While I was in Houston for TG, my mom gave me my birthday present(s). I got a couple of neat CD's, but in addition, I got the best birthday present ever! No, really!

A few years ago, my mom started reorganizing various photos of me from my childhood, and she actually finished this project and made two giant photo albums with everything in them. There are even sections at the end with pictures of my two cousins on that side of the family.

She claims her main observation about my childhood, from seeing the pictures, is something like, "Damn, you had nice clothes." And this is true. Pictures show me out in the yard in gorgeous little cotton outfits that look classy and beautiful even now. (I mean, as opposed to how clothing from other decades typically looks dated and silly.)

Later, of course, I grew up and became the slouch and sloppy dresser you all know today. Poor Mom :-
My main observation about my childhood, from seeing the pictures, is that I had a ton of relatives and they all thought I was the cutest thing ever. Of course, every little child is pretty much the cutest thing ever. But that was good to see, all the same :-)

I do not actually have the albums, because they seemed too heavy to lug through the airport and I didn't want to check them, but I'll bring them home after Christmas and scan something in for you guys :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Today we are supposed to have a high of 19°, with windchills below 10° or something crazy like that. Brrr! (But even though they said a high of 19°, it's currently 22°, so go figure.)

It has been super warm lately - warm enough for t-shirts during the day. Yesterday it started snowing, and snowed all night. Fortunately, my car cooled down before most of the snow fell, so the only ice was on the hood where I didn't need to scrape it off. I cleared the snow off the rest of the car using the child-sized plastic snow shovel we keep in the car. It was faster than using the telescoping brush/scraper that we also keep in the car.

It's still snowing. The low tonight is supposed to be 1° or something. And I'm supposed to go to classes tonight! (I usually walk, but maybe I'll drive.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving Feast

I have to admit, when my mom said we were cooking for Thanksgiving, I was a little apprehensive. I've never been part of making a meal with a bunch of parts. But it was fun, and we ended up with quite a feast.

We made these things ourselves:

broccoli-cheese-rice casserole
green bean casserole
a baked cauliflower dish with a lot of delicious cream, topped in buttery breadcrumbs - yum!

in addition, from Whole Foods, we had

dressing (of course!)
mushroom gravy
mashed potatoes
roasted brussels sprouts

There were also rolls & butter, and, for dessert (hours later), an assortment of tiny cheesecakes.

"But wait? What about the turkey?" For our ritual poultry, we had Quorn Chik'n Cutlets (like a fried chicken breast, but made of quorn, which is a vegetarian protein source). I know the idea of vegetarian meats makes some people nervous, but whenever you see them served up as a fried thing, you can be pretty sure they'll be delicious, and these quorn chick'n things were no different. Plain, they would be a fine substitute for a frozen breaded chicken breast, and with dressing and mushroom gravy, they were just great.

All in all, the whole thing was very easy to put together, and we had fun. And also enough food for about 10 people. Yum!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Holiday Adventures

Next Wednesday, Mosch is flying to Dallas to visit his girlfriend T for two weeks.

The following Wednesday, I am flying to Houston for Thanksgiving. (Most commonly asked coworker question: Is your mom going to cook?) (Yes, my vegetarian mom is going to cook a whole Thanksgiving dinner for the two of us. Right, mom? Mom???)

But these aren't the real Holiday Adventures. The real adventure is that Mosch's visit to Dallas to visit T will be their last visit in Dallas, because at Christmas time, T is moving here to Denver!

The idea is that Denver will be a better place for her to live than Dallas, and since Mosch will be here about another 18 months, he can help her get settled in. (T is completely disabled with debilitating headaches - a condition that manages to destroy your quality of life and remove any possibility of supporting yourself while being very difficult to prove for social security disability purposes.)

The plan is this. The weekend before Christmas, Mosch and I will drive my car to Dallas. The next day, I will drive to Houston, where I'll spend Christmas week with my mom. That Friday or so, I'll drive back to Dallas, and then the next day, Mosch and T and I will drive back to Denver. T, along with her psychotic cat, will be in my car, and Mosch will drive a U-Haul towing T's car. We'll drive back over two days assuming all goes well (no blizzards shut down I-70, etc.)

Now that's an adventure! T will then stay with us for a few weeks while she finds a place to live here. I'm really excited about her moving here, and I think she'll like Denver a lot.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Weight Routine Adjustments

During the semester, I'm trying to get to the gym to do strength training at least twice a week. I don't always meet that goal, of course, but last week I finally used up the last blank on the chart I printed in August.

I work out with arms/abs and legs/back on different days, so these days I'm basically doing each one only once per week. This results in slow progress, but I'm still progressing, so that's good.

My arms/abs routine consists of assisted pull-ups, assisted dips, shoulder presses, one-armed rows, bench presses, and ab crunches (with weight). My legs/back routine has traditionally had squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, calf raises, and back hyperextensions. (The links are to pictures, most of them from the wonderful I do two sets of each thing, with about 8-12 reps per set, depending on what I can handle. When I can do two sets of 12 reps of anything, I increase the amount of weight I use, and for some of the moves, I increase the weight even earlier than that.

Up until very recently, I wasn't ready to try squats using a bar. I was just doing the squats with my body weight, and that was plenty. The first time I ever tried them, I did 5 or 6 and was basically crippled for a week. Now I can do two sets of 15! So it's time to move on to using a bar and, eventually, a bar with weights on it.

So last night I did a lot of experimenting, using the large aluminum bar at our rec center. The regular bars are made of iron or something, and they weigh 45 pounds, but this aluminum one is an easy-to-handle 15 pounds. I set everything up in the squat cage and had Mosch help me figure out the mechanics of the movement. I eventually did 2 sets of 10 squats with this bar.

Afterwards, I wasn't able to do the stiff-legged deadlifts, because my thighs were so weak that I couldn't stand without locking my knees, and that's not a good way to do those. The stiff-legged deadlifts are questionable in my mind anyway: they can be dangerous if you do them wrong (which is easy to do, it seems to me) and, although they are supposed to work your hamstrings (back of the thigh), the back hyperextensions seem to work my hamstrings much more.

So I think I'm dropping them from my routine completely. That pushes my legs/back routine down to just three things - squats, calf raises, and back hyperextensions. (I was able to do the calf raises and back hyperextensions even with my weak legs, so there's no major conflict there.)

I'm thinking of adding the machine that is for hamstrings and glutes to the routine to bring it up to 4 things again. I'm not sure what the machine is called, but it is similar to this picture. I don't normally use these types of machines, but I think it will help round out the workout, plus give me some intense work on that area (hamstrings are my primary concern, but anywhere I can build muscle is good).

Anyway, I absolutely love strength training. I don't like that my progress is so slow with it lately, but still, every other week or so I am raising at least one weight, and sometimes several, so things are going well.

Initiative Results

Via Andrew Sullivan, this summary on results of initiatives in various states including Colorado.

Election Results

Well, it looks like the Democrats have taken the House with a decent margin. The Senate, as of this morning, is still up for grabs, with two seats (per MSNBC) still un-called. Democrats need both and (again, as of the last time I looked) are leading in both counts, but by very small margins. Those are Virginia and Montana. So we'll see.

Here in Colorado, both of the gay rights issues went against me - Coloradans voted to amend the Constitution to enshrine heterosexual marriage, and against a referendum creating domestic partnerships for same-sex marriage. Apparently our Constitution is pretty easy to amend (seeing as we do it several times every election), so I'm disappointed but not terrifically concerned about the amendment. I'm more disappointed with the rejection of domestic partnerships. Still, both items had small enough margins to indicate continuing progress on these issues.

The local Republican I voted for despite the approximately 1000 pieces of mail I got about how much she hates seniors (Ramey Johnson) lost to Democrat Gwyn Green (the "fighting grandma" or somesuch). Now, I really don't think people should treat the political parties like sport teams ("I root for the Democrats, and whoever is playing the Republicans!"). I am non-partisan enough to try to vote for the better candidate in many races regardless of party. But I have to admit I am still partisan enough that, when I vote for a Republican and she loses, I feel mostly glad and relieved. So that's kind of crazy, but whatever.

Ed Perlmutter, my Democratic House candidate, won a previously Republican seat, and our Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter defeated Bob Beauprez. And it looks like a good picture nationally. I still have my fingers crossed for the Senate.

One funny thing was last night on MSNBC, they were interviewing a guy (I don't know who) who was talking about the language that Democrats need to use to make themselves look good (e.g., referring to "oversight" rather than "investigations"). That's all well and good, but then the guy said that when he heard Newt Gingrich in 1994 refer to a "Republican Revolution," he knew the Republicans were in trouble.

Oh, really?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

So I voted this morning at the nearby church that was my polling place. I had to show ID, which I didn't know was required to vote here. And I got to use one of those wonderful paper-trail-free touch-screen machines, so there's no telling if my vote really got counted properly. (Aside from that, the machine was very pleasant and easy to use. Granted, not knowing if your vote is counted pretty much invalidates the whole thing no matter how nice the interface is.)

I got some pushback from Mosch on Referendum H, the one that "eliminates tax breaks for employers who hire illegal immigrants" (that's more or less how it's presented), so let me elaborate a bit on that. Referendum H basically says that if an employer claims deductions for wages paid to illegal immigrants on their federal tax returns, they will owe that money to the state, provided that they knew the workers were illegal at the time of hiring. (Just to be clear, there is not some state or federal tax exemption for hiring illegals; it's just that wages in general are a cost of business and are thus deductible from your income for tax purposes.)

So basically, if you knowingly hire illegal immigrants, claim their wages as a deduction on your federal taxes, and then admit this to the state on your state tax form, you will have to pay extra state taxes. The state gets to keep up to $150,000 of this money; the rest would be returned to taxpayers. (We get an income tax refund every year that the state has a surplus relative to some formula; the state doesn't get to keep the money and spend it on new things).

Let's assume I was pro-immigration (which I am) and unequivocally committed to enforcement of existing immigration laws (when in fact I am equivocally committed to it). I would still have to conclude that the only purpose of this almost completely ineffective ballot measure was to draw anti-immigration folks to vote so that they would (presumably) support related candidates and causes. Since I am not one of those anti-immigration folks, I am definitely not going to respond to this pathetic ploy by voting yes.

It'll be nice not to have the phone ring a thousand times a day for a while. And maybe I'll be getting less mail about how some people are grandmas and others hate seniors and want to make their drugs really expensive.

Of course, a Democratic takeover of Congress would be good too. We'll see!

Monday, November 06, 2006

How I'm Voting

Tomorrow is Election Day! Just today I found out where my polling place is and downloaded a sample ballot, and I've just finished marking it up.

I am basically a slightly-libertarian-leaning Democrat, sort of a Clinton Democrat if you will, and I take this voting stuff seriously. Here is how I made the decisions below.

For the national congressional races, I am voting Democratic. I think it's important that control of Congress pass from the Republicans at this time. (We don't have a Senate race here, so it's just the one House district.) For the major local races, I consulted the endorsements of the two major local papers (the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post). Where they agreed, I am following the endorsement. Where they differed, I read both endorsements and decided which was more credible. For the minor local races (where the papers had no endorsements), I consulted the web pages of each candidate and made my decision that way. For the referendums and other measures, I used the endorsements of the papers as described earlier except as noted below. For any issues or candidates for which the above methods did not yield an answer, I am abstaining.

My decisions are as follows.

U.S. Congressional District 110 - Rick O'Donnell (R) vs. Ed Perlmutter (D)
I am voting for Perlmutter along party lines.

Governor of Colorado - Bob Beauprez (R) vs. Bill Ritter Jr. (D)
I am voting for Bill Ritter. It looks like he's going to win. He seems like a much stronger candidate than Beauprez, who I have somewhat vague bad feelings about.

Secretary of State
I am voting for the Republican Mike Coffman against the Democrat Ken Gordon due to the text of the Denver Post's endorsement.

State Treasurer
Democrat Cary Kennedy received the endorsement of the Denver Post; I found their endorsement more convincing (especially given that I'm a Democrat) than the Rocky Mountain News's for Republican Mike Coffman.

Attorney General
Republican John Suthers received the endorsement of both papers.

Other Local Races
I'll mostly skip these, but for the benefit of any mythical local readers, note that I'm voting for Democrats Karen Middleton, Stephen Ludwig, Maryanne Moe Keller, and Linda Rockwell, Republicans Ramey Johnson and Dave Auburn, and abstaining in four other races.

Amendment 38
Amends the state Constitution in mysterious ways relating to initiative and referendum petitions. All or nearly all of the papers statewide came out against it. I am voting No.

Amendment 39
Amends the Constitution to require that at least 65% of school budgets are used for direct educational expenses. I am voting No. I haven't seen any convincing arguments about why this needs to be in the Constitution, even if it's a good idea, which I'm not sure about.

Amendment 40
Amends the Constitution to implement Term limits for state judges. I am voting No following the recommendations of the papers, which regard this as a move to further politicize the judiciary.

Amendment 41
Amends the Constitution to severely limit gift-giving by lobbyists to all state employees, and imposes a 2-year cooling-off period for retiring public officials. The major papers were split, and I read both positions. I was leaning towards voting yes on this, but given that I'm not sure it's a good idea, I think it's best to leave it alone. There is a good argument to be made that this is better left to legislation than to a Constitutional Amendment. I am voting No.

Amendment 42
This is a big one locally. It amends the Constitution to raise the Colorado minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85, and mandates that the minimum wage continue to grow, indexed to inflation in the Denver/Boulder area. I am voting No on this. Although increasing the minimum wage always sounds like a good idea (given that it doesn't seem to cost me anything as a taxpayer, and I like for other people to make more money), there are several problems with this increase. Putting it in the Constitution makes it difficult to adjust if needed. Indexing wages to inflation risks increasing inflation. And indexing statewide wages to inflation in Denver/Boulder risks hurting areas that are experiencing slower growth. Also, increasing the minimum wage is not a very effective way of helping the poor, most of whom do not make minimum wage. (Many people who do make minimum wage are middle class teenagers.)

Amendment 43
Amends the Constitution to forbid gay marriage. I support gay marriage, so obviously I am voting No.

Amendment 44
Amends the state statutes to make possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal. (Right now you just get a fine anyway, and growing and selling it remain illegal.) Even though the papers are not endorsing this one, I'm voting Yes on general principles.

Referendum E
Exempts completely disabled veterans from paying property taxes. I guess I'm voting Yes. I don't feel very strongly about this one either way, but the estimated fiscal impact is low. It's not a great way to help disabled veterans given that the ones who own homes propably need the least help,

Referendum F
Something about recall provisions being updated. I'm voting Yes following the Post's endorsement.

Referendum G
Elimination of obsolete Constitutional provisions. Yes.

Referendum H
Exempts local businesses from tax exemptions for wages if they do not verify that their employees are not illegal aliens. The fiscal impact is expected to be minimal, and I don't really see the point of this. To the extent that I do, I'm basically in favor of immigration, and I plan to vote No even though the Post and Rocky Mt News are endorsing it. I'm sure it will pass anyway. (I am actually in favor of enforcing immigration laws, but I think this is best done at the border. I think suddenly making illegal aliens who already live here unable to work is foolish.)

Referendum I
Creates domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. I'm voting Yes. I really hope this one passes.

Referendum J
This is a "lite" version of Amendment 39. It wouldn't change anything since all schools already meet its requirements. I'm voting No.

Referendum K
Requires our Attorney General to sue the federal government for not enforcing immigration laws. I am voting No because this is a pointless waste of resources.

That's it. I welcome comments, of course, and I'll try to report back on how the election went afterwards.

American Accents

Via Note of the Living Deb, there is a quiz here to determine what (American) accent you have. It's tricky to answer the questions correctly because sometimes your idea of what is right conflicts with how you actually speak. I tried my best to tell by using the words in real sentences.

Anyway, my results:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Go take it and let me know what you get!