Archive for January, 2011

Cutting the Deficit

Posted in Economy on January 27, 2011 by Mike Procario


The Republicans are having an internal debate on cutting defense spending. Steve Benen says this is a test of whether they are really interested in reducing the deficit. He closes with this observation.  

The United States now spends about as much on defense as every other country on the planet combined. With this in mind, it’s something of a litmus test: those who claim credibility on fiscal responsibility, but believe a bloated Pentagon budget is untouchable, shouldn’t even be part of the conversation.

I wish we could could outspend the rest of the world on scientific research. 


Snowy Trip Home

Posted in Travel on January 27, 2011 by Mike Procario

The forecast was for rain turning to snow in the D.C. area, so I looked for an earlier flight home. There was nothing available going to Dulles, but I was able to get a flight to Reagan.  When we left Chicago, the pilot announced that he was expecting minimal acceptable conditions for landing nonetheless the flight went smoothly. When we landed snow was falling, and from that point on my trip home was a slow grind punctuated with complete stops for hours at a time.

There was no gate available for our plane, so we sat on the tarmac for an hour and half, while United tried to figure out how to handle five planes with four gates. The idea of backing an empty plane away from the gate for 20 minutes while we unloaded was dismissed as too passenger friendly. I sat there worrying that the roads were getting worse and that traffic would be bad. By the time we got off the plane, the snow on the ground was visibly deeper than when we had landed.

I had to get Dulles to get my car, so I hopped the metro for Rosslyn where I hoped to catch a bus straight to Dulles. We had a fifteen-minute delay at Arlington Cemetery when the train in front of us broke down. While waiting I overheard a couple talking about checking into a hotel, because they could not get home.  I would later realize that fifteen-minute delays were trivial during the great traffic jam/snowstorm of 2011 and heading for the comfort of a hotel would be the smart thing to do.

I was deprived of an another serious delay when the bus driver warned me that he would not be leaving for at least three hours. I searched for a cab and lucked out to find one fairly quickly. We had gone less than a mile when we turned into a completely blocked road. Eventually the police showed up and did something to relieve the congestion, but we had gone less than a mile in an hour and a half.

The batteries on both of my cell phones were nearly drained. I wanted to call my wife, Margaret, and tell her where I was and how I was making my way home. I searched by backpack and found the charger for my work Blackberry. I plugged into the cigarette lighter. I was able to send Margaret texts and give her call after it charged up. It was reassuring that I would have a fully charged phone for the rest of the trip.  Unfortunately, my Blackberry has very poor internet browsing and my music is all on personal cell phone. So I was left with listening to the radio.

The cabbie had the radio tuned to a news stations and we heard about fallen tree branches, power lines, and jackknifed trucks blocking roads. As we started to move we were counting the rear wheel drive Mercedes and BMWs that were stuck. The cab driver seemed to take some delight in that as our minivan plowed through the snow.  It took a little over three hours to get to Dulles.

I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I had a Cinnabon and coffee at the airport to fortify me for the rest of the drive. Cinnabon was the only restaurant that didn’t have a long line. I was seriously considering staying at the airport for a while, but the roads had seemed clearer as we approached the airport. I got my car and headed out. Margaret and I had swapped cars, so she would have the RAV4 if she needed it. I got to drive her VW Beetle home, which is no a car with good ground clearance.

The snow was tapering off as I took the Dulles Greenway north to Leesburg where I could get US 15 north to Frederick. The Greenway was pretty clear of snow and the traffic was not heavy. I was able to drive at 45 to 50 mile per hour.  There was more snow on US 15, but I soon caught up to a snowplow, which was going slow but made it easier for me to drive. Just outside of Lucketts, Virginia we came to another complete stop. Police and emergency vehicles showed up. The plow driver came to tell me that they had to go help clear a jackknifed truck and to not follow him. This turned out to be another hour and half delay. I sat watching my gas gauge and worrying that I might use all my gas.

I got home at 2:15 AM, which was 9.5 hours after I landed at the airport.  About half off that time was sitting at a standstill. I should have stayed in Chicago. They have lovely weather this time of year.


Picking Journal Software

Posted in Mac OS X on January 7, 2011 by Mike Procario

I decided to start a personal journal on January 2. It was not a New Year’s resolution. I just felt it would be nice to write down somethings so I could remember them. I was particularly motivated by a trip to airport with Megan. She had brought two large suitcases home for Christmas and was worried they might be overweight. The weight limit is 50 lbs. per suitcase. Megan ended up have both suitcases right at the limit. I wanted to remember this for the next time she flys and try her be a lighter packer. 

I use a large variety of computers. I own a Mac laptop and I have both Windows 7 and Ubuntu desktops. I also have a Windows XP desktop at work. The simplest solution would probably be to put a Word file in my Dropbox folder. I have Word on all the machines but the Ubuntu, but that has OpenOffice which can read/write Word files. The only hangup is that I cannot install Dropbox at work. I would have to go to the web and download the file, make my edits, and upload it again. 

Instead I decided to try doing it Google Docs. I could edit that from my browser on all of the platforms. I used it for a few days, but I was a little bothered by the spellchecker it flags misspellings but does not offer corrections. It is certainly not very full featured. I remembered that I dad a account. I had used it for awhile and then stopped. It had a nice post to blog feature and it seemed better than the blog editing software at the time.

Zoho Docs is definitely more full featured than Google Docs, but I had some formatting problems. On the good side, the spellchecker offers suggested corrections and has a custom dictionary to store those names and acronyms that I use. The formatting problem seemed to be related to its different views. There is a normal view which uses the whole web browser window even if it that wider than the page I have defined. You can then switch to page view and see roughly how it will look printed. There is also a print preview view that gives even more accuracy. When I flipped back between these views I seem to have affected the word wrapping. Sometimes a line in the middle of a paragraph would start with a space. Also I tabbed over to put a date in the righthand corner. These would then be wrong in page view. I tried to fix them but they would look fine in normal view and still be messed up in page view. 

I ended up using Memoires, which does meet any of my initial criteria. It is a Mac only program, but it is designed for journal entries. It provides a calendar view. I can make multiple entries a day and it was $14.99 on the new Mac App store.