We have a set of “poetry magnets” that are big words on magnetic strips– pretty cool, although they’re large (100-point font or so) and would take the entire refrigerator if we used them all. So they’re down in my office, stuck randomly to various file cabinets.

Today I saw an interesting pair:


I figure that would be:

1) A great name for a band. “Opening for Rush, it’s the Thought Monkeys!”

2) A great name for a think-tank. “General, I think it would be best to run this by the Thought Monkeys.”

3) A fabulous title for my business cards. “Jeff Schroeder, Thought Monkey.”


Freedom House, an organization dating back to 1941, recently released its report on the world’s most repressive regimes. They analyzed all the countries of the world in terms of political rights and civil liberties, assigning scores to each. Then they reported in detail about the dozen or so that were deemed “most repressive”.

The full PDF document is 136 pages long, and I admit that I didn’t read the whole thing. I did, however, read the chapters on China and Saudi Arabia simply because I’ve been complaining about both countries for years now and I wanted to ensure that my condemnation was fair. Apparently it is.

An excerpt from the China section:

“China is one of the most authoritarian states in the world.  Opposition parties are illegal, the [Chinese Communist Party] controls the judiciary, and ordinary Chinese enjoy few basic rights.”

And of course in Saudi Arabia:

“Women in Saudi Arabia are second-class citizens.  Women cannot get an identity card, obtain an exit visa, or be admitted to a hospital without the permission of their guardian. … The penalty for female adultery is death by stoning. The testimony of a woman is treated as inferior to that of a man in Saudi courts. … Although women make up half the student population, they may not study engineering, law, or journalism.”



While many things distinguish boys from girls, sometimes the most telling sign (in kids, anyway) is their choice of toys. The other day I was talking on the phone to the kids– who were on vacation with Laralee– and they were telling me about the new toys they got at a secondhand store.

Kyra: “Dad, I’ve got a cool new doll!”

Alex: “Dad, I’ve got three new guns!”


What will they think of next?

Now there’s a company trying to sell their seat-sensor technology to
airlines.  Apparently the sensors detect whether you’re “shifty” in
your seat, which might indicate nervousness (read “I’m a terrorist”).

Get this:

“If the seat reveals the passenger may be in a state of high anxiety,
the display can discreetly alert the cabin crew. They can then assess
whether the passenger presents a risk: are they simply frightened of
flying? An air-rager in the making? Or a hijacker about to make their

Oh yeah, baby.  I really want the flight attendant to see a readout of
how much I move my butt cheeks, and then let them “assess” (there’s a
joke here somewhere) whether I’m about to leap up screaming and do
something horrific like wave around my in-flight magazine (since
they’ve taken everything else away, including– as I learned a few days
ago– my tennis racket).

What a crazy world.


There are special moments in every child’s life that a parent treasures and repeats to anyone who will listen…

Today Alex’s friend Arturo showed him how to make farting noises with his armpit. And of course at dinner (where else?) Alex was demonstrating his technique to us– including an explanation of how you want to keep your shirt partially up because it improves the airflow. (Yes, he actually said “airflow”.)

I couldn’t be more proud.


Me: “Kyra, where’s mom?”
Kyra: “Outside, stabbing the yard.”

I checked, and sure enough– Laralee was outside aerating the lawn with a little three-pronged thingy…


… So my corporate credit card showed up today, and there are a few mysterious charges on it. One of them is to a company called Kagivo, and since I’d like to know who’s billing me I thought I’d check out their web site. I was deeply impressed by this statement:

“We offer a selection of databases proxy servers. Each base is constantly updated kind and all bases on the countries are broken.”

And even more to the point,

“We offer you search of a proxy of servers in range IP of addresses specified by you, search in the country set by you, city, state (USA), determined by you ISP.”

I’m not even sure what that means, but believe me when I say I’m really happy they’re charging my credit card.



I think I burned my feet.

We played our usual lunchtime ultimate game today, and the temperature hovered around 95 degrees. With the sun baking down like that on the dry ground, the dirt and dry grass must’ve been well over a hundred degrees. After playing for about 45 minutes my feet were really feeling the pain. I had to sit out the end of the game because I couldn’t keep dancing from foot to foot.

Now, back at the office, they’re still tingling. Man, that’s a hot day…



That’s twenty seconds shy of my one-hour goal for the Bolder Boulder yesterday. It’s a ten-kilometer run, and since I never actually go out and run I figured it was reasonable to shoot for an hour (which is a pace of around a ten-minute mile). This was my fifth time, and I’d never been “sub-sixty” before.

The run itself is an absolute riot, with all the stuff along the route through the city: grunge bands, eighty-year-old cowgirls, belly dancers, Elvis, the Blues Brothers, and thousands of people just generally cheering, throwing water, and offering beers to runners.

This year was the first time I had a stopwatch (“chronograph” if you speak Timex) and I think it really helped me know how far to push myself. I ran the first kilometer in five and a half minutes, and at that pace I wasn’t going to make the hour so I kicked it up a notch and did the second kilometer in five minutes flat. As the race wore on I’m sure I was slowing a bit, but managed to keep the pace pretty well. By the time I ran up the last grueling hill into the stadium for the big finish, I knew I had to put in a final spurt. Not easy, but I clicked off the stopwatch when I crossed the line and was elated to see the number.

Afterward, of course, my friends and I wandered the pavilion while we enjoyed our healthy snack of Cheetos and soda. Uhhh, they sure know how to feed runners!

All in all it was a hard run (good thing it’s only once a year), but I’m pleased I did it and hope to repeat the feat next year…


So it seems that police in Olympia, WA used a court order to place a hidden GPS transceiver in the car of a suspected murderer. He drove to the shallow grave of his daughter, and they followed the GPS signal and arrested him. He was convicted and sentenced to 56 years in the big house.

However, now the lawyers are saying the GPS device was an invasion of privacy and essentially an “invisible police officer in the back seat”, which violates the guy’s Constitutional rights.

On the one hand, I agree that having the police secretly track vehicles– on the suspicion that the driver has committed a crime and will return to the scene or at least to a place with evidence– is treading dangerous water in terms of privacy.

On the other hand, they obviously had reasons to get a court order on this guy (his story wasn’t that good) and it paid off because he was apparently the killer after all. So this was a good tool to seal the case and convict him.

The question, then, is whether this is a Good Thing or not. For a guy who’s griping a lot about invasion of privacy, I find I’m leaning in favor of this…


Boy, I was all concerned that the Pentagon’s TIA (Total Information Awareness) system was going to cause privacy issues for me. But it turns out it won’t. The Pentagon has renamed the system; now it’s called TIA (Terrorist Information Awareness). I guess that means it’ll just collect information about terrorists.

No worries, then.


As if we didn’t already have the most popular yard in the neighborhood (almost a quarter-acre of grass), we cracked out the 14-foot trampoline the other day. Almost instantly the neighborhood kids were over to try it out… and it was funny to watch a half-dozen little bodies trying to coordinate their bouncing so no one got launched into orbit.

Of course, the sad part is that in today’s world having a trampoline is almost an open invitation for a lawsuit. I’m waiting for the first time someone takes a dive and breaks an arm or something. Sigh…


Isn’t it odd that the phrase “quite a few” means a lot… not a few?

Sort of like “inflammable” meaning the same thing as “flammable”, I suppose.


Seen on the Net:

“Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.”



Seen on Slashdot:

“No matter where you go, there you are… about a block from Taco Bell.”


Whenever I have the need to send a test e-mail message– one that I never want to see again, or one I use to sign up on some lame web site that requires an e-mail to register, I always use the same address:


Very clever, eh? (Heaven would be a non-profit organization, hence the .org extension.)

I always felt a little bad for the guy who owned heaven.org, because he would be getting all these random e-mail messages from whoever I happened to sign up with today. But then I checked the domain registry, and it turns out heaven.org isn’t owned by anyone!

Now I’m wondering if I should buy the domain, and what I might put there. The mind reels…


Isn’t human nature fascinating?

Today I was driving along and I saw the guy in front of me toss his half-finished cigarette out the window onto the road. Now, this is a guy who probably wouldn’t think of tossing his candy wrapper on the grass at the park, but he doesn’t think twice about tossing cigarettes all over the streets.

By the same token, I wouldn’t walk into a music store and shoplift a CD. Yet I download digital music all the time and don’t really think twice about it.

And Laralee’s example: most people don’t dare run a red light, but have no trouble pushing the speed limit by 5 or 10 miles per hour.

Interesting, isn’t it?


Great bumper sticker:

“If this sticker is blue, you’re driving too fast.”

(The sticker is red, of course.)


By now most people have heard the story of the $780 million in cash
stashed in various places around Baghdad (including, of all places, a
dog pound).  It’s certainly an interesting tale, and it has apparently
raised an interesting question: whose money is it?

Lt. Colonel Philip DeCamp, the commander of the tank battalion that
occupies the Republican Palace, asserts, “this money belongs to the
U.S. government.”

Lt. Mark Kitchens of Central Command says instead, “all money found is
the property of the Iraqi people.”

I agree with the latter, and find it intriguing that anyone would think
otherwise.  It should be fun to see if the U.S. government attempts to
take the money as its own…


One of the greatest songs ever recorded by mankind:

U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.