Life is a Mystery

15 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Free File

FFR: Free File

The IRS is now (well, tomorrow) offering tax prep software for free. I wonder how well it will work and what provision it may make for state taxes (none, I imagine). I should probably check it out. Last year I had some luck with TaxACT, but IRS provided free software would do even more to get me off the Intuit endless upgrade loop.

12 January 2009 . Comments Off on Physical fitness yields mental fitness

Physical fitness yields mental fitness

This is pretty inspiring. (Thanks Merrilee!)

Obama has gone to the gym, for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He always has treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the past few months.

Right now I’m more like the reporters covering him.

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama’s every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald’s while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect’s gym trips last month, noted: “While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop.”

Of course, I’m no longer 22, so I’ve missed years on my commitment to mental fitness and I feel it too!

It’s a schedule he started as a 22-year-old student at Columbia University in New York, and it immediately transformed him. … Physical fitness yielded mental fitness, Obama decided, and the two concepts have been married in his mind ever since.

11 January 2009 . Comments Off on Instruction manual

Instruction manual

Mary pointed to this wonderful little film. In eight minutes it describes a life lived by the book and the dangers of a narrow reading. I love how the filmmaker makes subtle shifts in the backgrounds to amplify the feelings of the characters. The colors are so well used, angry parents or angry child reinforced by bright angry colors. Very nice, both what is said and how it is said.

9 January 2009 . Comments Off on Reinstate the 50 state strategy

Reinstate the 50 state strategy

When Howard Dean came to the DNC he did something crazy: he hired DNC organizers in all 50 states and built a national voter file. Ridiculed at the time by many Democrats, the “50 state strategy” was hailed by the netroots as a way to build up local parties and recruit candidates so that Democrats could take advantage of every opportunity that emerged. After gains in 2006 and the presidency in 2008, you’d think the 50 state strategy would be pretty well vindicated.


But the new DNC chair, Tom Kaine, might just pull the plug. I’m guessing that’s unlikely, but it is hard to say. Dean ruffled a lot of feathers.

If you want to see the 50 state strategy continued, take a moment to join in the petition at Democracy for America: reinstate the 50 state strategy.

8 January 2009 . Comments Off on Torture and the AFM

Torture and the AFM

We have become a land of torturers. I pray the next administration can begin to reverse this terrible slide. Unfortunately, it slowly becomes clearer just how far down the slope we’ve come, covered in mud and blood. The Army Field Manual (AFM) is often cited as the standard to which we should return. Yet Appendix M of the AFM allows for a form of isolation that may be considered torture in itself. Who are we? I think it will take more than Obama to fix this one. We will all have to decide and take a stand. Who are we?


7 January 2009 . Comments Off on Justified?


How do we justify this? Such an illustration could just as easily be made out of US and Iraqi coffins. We were presented an opportunity on 9/11 to help the world along a new path that could break the cycle of violence. We declined. I wonder how long it will take for us to change?

7 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: VixML


VixML may be an interesting way to develop visual iPhone apps.

5 January 2009 . Comments Off on Nate shines

Nate shines

Man, I love the analysis we are getting from Nate Silver these days! Here is a wonderful post where he takes apart a laughably bad editorial in the WSJ, and, in the process, educates us all about exactly what issues are still in play in the Minnesota recount.

Then, later in the day Nate takes on the absentee ballot issue. He does not think there is much chance it benefits Norm even if he does win a case in court.

Let’s be frank: Norm Coleman doesn’t have much of a future in electoral politics. Defeated Presidential candidates sometimes have nine lives, but defeated Senatorial candidates rarely do, and in his career running for statewide office, Coleman has lost to a professional wrestler, beaten a dead guy, and then tied a comedian. He doesn’t have much to lose by fighting this to its bitter conclusion. But it’s hard to envision how he’ll come up with enough ballots to overtake Franken.


5 January 2009 . Comments Off on Witness


Today I was privileged to witness a small bit of history at the Minnesota State Office Building. I was at the State Capitol today to be part of a rally for the Minnesota Health Plan and then went over to the State Office Building to sit down with my representative to talk health care for a few minutes. As I walked into the building I noticed the media trucks, and then remembered: the recount.

As it turns out, my work was done just a bit before our Secretary of State was due to preside over the final Canvassing Board meeting of our US Senate recount. I walked over to room 10 and sat down to wait. When the appointed hour arrived Mark Ritchie entered the room with the four judges who have been members of the Canvassing Board. We all stood as they entered, me a bit self-consciously. It felt odd to stand for these people.

Then they got down to their business.


This board, and the staff of the Secretary of State’s office, have done such a terrific service for Minnesota. Their deliberations have been so open, their judgements so unanimous, their care so evident, that I have a tremendous degree of faith in their work. The kind of faith that has been missing in other recounts around the country over the past few years. I was amazed anew at the openness of our government today. I walked in off the street, never passed a guard, a metal detector, or anyone who made me feel unwelcome. As I entered the meeting room I felt I had as much right to be there as anyone else. I didn’t have to make an appointment: my government was just open to my own witness and inspection.

They got the main business over within five minutes. By 2:35 they had certified Al Franken the winner of the recount. Now we wait seven days for any Colman court challenge (all but sure to arrive). After the certificate was signed, the bi-partisan board shared a few words about the process. Their heartfelt respect for the process and the people who helped carry it out was clear. Ritchie noted that the foundation for the recount had been set 150 years ago at the founding of the state. We inherit all the good work of earlier public servants and we can contribute new refinements to the process in return.

It was all done within 15 minutes. I have to say, by the time the meeting adjourned I was glad we’d stood for these people when they entered the room. They deserve every ounce of our respect for the hard job they and their staff have done for us. They showed us what the rule of law and a healthy respect for democratic process can do. This was government as I want to see it: open, accessible, accountable, practical, successful. Bravo!

3 January 2009 . 1 Comment

Ferber and the Family Bed

Today I caught this status update from a friend on Facebook: “survived the first night of Ferberizing. (wife) didn’t die, (baby) didn’t die, (wife) didn’t kill me. (baby) slept on her own from 11:00 to 6:30.” That reminded me of my own experience. I have such a bad memory and have worn down so many rough edges in my rearview mirror that this is probably a good long way from the reality of events, but maybe Mary will chime in with a comment of her own to remind me of the truth of our family bed. Read on for the story.


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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /