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Three Keys to Successful Parenting

Now that Madeline is two, it seems appropriate to declare myself a success as a parent. Which means it's now appropriate for those of you with kids (as well as those of you thinking about having or abducting kids) to ask me, "Joel, what's your secret?" Which means ...

2013-05-08 06:15 AM

The Hardest Job There Is

One summer during college I was stringing together temp jobs in order to make money so that I could afford to go out with my friends at night and play "Star Trek" pinball. (I would have preferred, of course, to spend my summer developing my idea for a "group couponing ...

2012-04-13 07:40 AM

What Part of Your Oath Do You Not Understand?

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to something something anymore!

It all started with Wil Wheaton^1^, who used to be the bartender (I believe) on "Star Trek", but who is now some sort of Twitter celebrity. I myself have zero tolerance for Twitter celebrities, but ...

2011-12-20 05:09 PM

Pets.com But With Guns And a No-Knock Warrant

The government has a CIO, it turns out, and when he's not hassling us to change our passwords again or to stop BitTorrenting on company time, he's got a plan to re-invent government itself:

On Tuesday, VanRoekel said that he wants to overhaul the federal bureaucracy to become ...

2011-10-27 09:54 PM

I Am Tired of 9/11

Is it too soon to be tired of 9/11? Because I am.

I'm tired of not being able to bring my pinking shears on plane trips. I'm tired of conspiracy theories (except for ones involving reptilians.) I'm tired of pointless wars that waste trillions of dollars ...

2011-09-11 11:42 AM

College Savings Plans are the Modern Dowry

Because baby Madeline is half-Indian and half-regular-person, she has both Indian friends and regular-person friends. The parents of her Indian friends worry about dowries, which are expensive gifts that they have to hand over when their daughters marry, and that they have to save for until then. The parents of ...

2011-08-07 08:11 PM

Election 2010 Post-Mortem

Everything is different now. The dreadful "Patty Murray loves Dino Rossi" and "Dino Rossi loves Patti Murray" commercials they've been interrupting my football games with have overnight been replaced with commercials for Cialis and Levitra and new, less side-effect-y gout drugs. Our lack of a state income tax is ...

2010-11-04 08:13 AM

Political Satire

Once I left Microsoft I joined a Daytime Writing Group meetup, mostly as an excuse to get out of the house. Every week I'd go and share the latest chapter of my "Ayn Rand meets J.K. Rowling meets Joseph Heller meets Tom Wolfe" novel-in-progress and listen to everyone ...

2010-09-28 08:15 AM

Using Statistics to Coddle Vagrants

I left Microsoft at the end of May, largely so that I could write my opus magnum book on Excel. At the time I set a September 1 deadline for having the first draft done. That seemed like the right amount of time, but I failed to predict that I ...

2010-09-22 01:02 PM

Blasphemy and Forced Reverence

On Facebook I list my Religious Views as "irreverence," which is pretty perfectly descriptive. This means that you can believe any crazy thing you want, but I'm allowed to make fun of you for it if I like. Basically, I'm under no obligation to "respect" your beliefs just ...

2010-09-10 12:02 PM

Book Burnings and "Americanism"

You have, I'm sure, heard the news that a church in Florida plans to acquire multiple copies of the Quran and burn them. The reaction I've seen from the "Muslim world" ranges from "that's how you dispose of them anyway, so knock yourself out" to "I'm ...

2010-09-08 08:56 AM

Catholic Iconography

My grasp of Catholic iconography apparently isn't what it used to be, as I can't for the life of me remember what the mop is supposed to symbolize:

2010-09-07 11:27 AM

The Cornerstone of Democracy

Most towns have some sort of "school board," which is tasked with deciding which subjects need to have Biblically-influenced syllabi, taking kickbacks from textbook publishers, and not firing incompetent and/or criminally negligent teachers.

They run for election every few years, filling our medians with campaign signs festooned with grade-school-evocative ...

2010-08-07 07:36 AM

Republican Tea Party Contract on America

The Democrats seem to have decided that their strategy for this fall will be to conflate the Tea Party with the Republican Party. Toward this end, they've crafted a ten-point "Republican Tea Party [sic] Contract on America."

This "Contract on America" is interesting for a couple of reasons. The ...

2010-07-28 05:07 PM

Equal Protection, Sex with Teachers, and Student-Athletes

Call me an old softie, but it always bugs me when different laws apply to different people. For instance, during the most recent student-teacher-sex-scandal I learned the following:

While the age of consent for a sexual relationship in Washington state is 16, it is criminal for a teacher or anyone ...

2010-07-23 08:48 AM

Why Software Testers Should Run for Congress

In my previous post "Why Software Developers Shouldn't Run for Congress" I poked fun at the idea, proposed by a pie-in-the-sky, government-would-work-well-if-only-it-were-run-by-my-kind-of-people type, that an influx of software developers would noticeably improve the quality of our laws.

During a subsequent Facebook discussion, I came up with an ...

2010-07-22 08:51 AM

The Gold Standard of Health Care Reform

Back during the debate over the Obamacare bill I vehemently insisted that it wouldn't be "real" health care reform unless it addressed the shameful practice of not requiring people who buy and sell gold coins to file IRS form 1099 for most of their transactions. Thankfully, it looks like ...

2010-07-21 09:42 AM

Why Software Developers Shouldn't Run for Congress

Over on his blog, Clay Johnson gives five reasons why software developers ought to run for Congress:

1. They're underrepresented. (Similarly, so are people without college degrees, so perhaps they ought to run too.)

2. Congress could use their expertise. For example, think about the more-than-1000-page Stimulus Bill. Not ...

2010-07-19 11:33 AM

Cars + Freedom = Taxpayer-funded Bailouts?

Next time we take several billion dollars from taxpayers and use it to bailout a private automaker, we should probably think about attaching a condition that forbids that company from running jingoistic commercials depicting a Dukes-of-Hazzard-style revolutionary war battle with George Washington driving a black Dodge Challenger, all while the ...

2010-07-04 06:06 PM

Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Illinois Legislature

There are a number of somewhat incredible articles floating around about the grotesque insolvency of the state of Illinois. Many parts are appalling, but what leapt out at me most was the following:

The state’s last elected governor, Rod R. Blagojevich, is on trial for racketeering and extortion. But ...

2010-07-04 09:36 AM

Seth Godin on Postal Monopolies (sort of)

Seth Godin discovers that stamps.com is trying to scam him out of money and asks:

How is that a sleepy, conservative organization like the postal service ends up licensing its brand to a company that can't resist every honey pot scheme and opt out technique in the book ...

2010-06-25 04:22 PM

Cleaning Out Elena's Inbox

The Sunlight Foundation has set up Elena's Inbox, a site that makes it easy[er] to browse through the dump of Elena Kagan's Clinton-era emails.

However, it looks like they've certainly held something back. Can it really be that she sent no emails containing "lol" or "rofl ...

2010-06-23 09:10 AM

On the Proper Role of Government in a Free Society

There are various opinions and debates over the "proper" roles of government, but I'm pretty sure that combing the Indian Ocean to find a missing 16-year-old who's sailing around the world by herself in order to break a world record isn't one of them:

Abby Sunderland's ...

2010-06-10 12:41 PM

Organizing for Louisiana

I live in a city that's full of Obama supporters. (The two notable exceptions are me and the guy in front of me on the freeway the other day with three different Dennis Kucinich stickers on his car.) And so during the 2008 elections I had ample opportunities to ...

2010-06-08 07:40 AM

Helping BP Stay in Business

In an upcoming New York Times piece, David Leonhardt points out that people aren't good at reasoning about low-probability events:

We make two basic — and opposite — types of mistakes. When an event is difficult to imagine, we tend to underestimate its likelihood. This is the proverbial black swan. Most ...

2010-06-01 05:13 PM

Fix-It Faith and Technocracy

Tonight at dinner I ~~started~~ got into an extended argument about technocracy, during which it was asserted to me that whatever faults I might find with our government could be quickly resolved if only we started electing really brilliant people to office.

This not uncommon belief that enlightened technocrats and ...

2010-05-30 12:32 AM

Bootleggers, Baptists, Unions, Unions, and Small Grocers

Here in Washington State, hard liquor can only be purchased at dreary, state-run liquor stores. Most have DMV-ish levels of charm, DMV-ish levels of customer service, DMV-ish hours, DMV-ish selection, and DMV-ish prices.

Every few years someone will propose getting the state out of the liquor-store business, or at least ...

2010-05-27 08:31 AM

The Corporate Shill and the Ideologue

Seattle, in case you don't follow our local politics, has got a mayoral election going on. (Technically it was last Tuesday, but they're still counting the ballots.)

It's a fairly interesting election, as elections go, if only because we junked the good-for-nothing incumbent in the primary, mostly ...

2009-11-07 08:19 AM

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