Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pondering the Economy of the Next 20 Years

I am looking at a quote from Ben Bernanke, chair of the Federal Reserve: "People are not likely to buy houses when they are unsure about their jobs." This quote is interesting because being unsure about one's job has become increasingly the norm since the 1970s. If anything, employment insecurity in the U.S. is accelerating as globalization and technology continue to expand the ways in which American workers can be made redundant. Bernanke's implication, in that context, appears to be that the house-based economy has died. People are not going to be able to buy homes en masse, and housing prices are not going to rise dramatically, for years to come. Indeed, even with a healthy recovery beginning immediately, it would probably take something on the order of two years to burn off the excess inventory and get back to a seller's market. At present, it appears that any recovery, whenever it begins, will be slow and weak for quite some time. In other words, we are not going through a trough in house prices. We are finding a new level of normalcy in house prices. In order to reach a level that people can afford and live with on their new, lower and/or less reliable incomes, "normalcy" may entail house prices that are shockingly low by last year's standards. Whenever houses do become more affordable, there will be some pent-up demand to help reduce the backlog of unsold homes. But the longer this interim period continues, the more likely it is that people will begin to develop other expectations or ideals for what a home can or should be. It is not presently clear what will happen in transportation, for example, to facilitate suburban home ownership: a year or two from now, it may or may not seem affordable and sensible to commute long distances by private vehicle. More emphatically, if unfolding financial circumstances scare people to such a point that they become savers, they may find it impractical if not ludicrous to buy as much house as they can afford. Profit from speculation in housing, for the ordinary homeowner, is years away at this point. What is more likely is that people will adapt to be happy with less, in terms of house size. In short, when house prices do finally stabilize, there is a good chance they will do so unevenly -- unpredictably, even, from the perspective of one who is still thinking in terms of what used to be desirable. The Great Depression made a lasting impression. It took the stock market 25 years to return to its 1929 high. Many who experienced the 1930s acquired lifelong habits of thrift and conservatism. If the present market meltdown burns people to a comparable extent, as it appears likely to do -- if, for example, it sears the image of grandparents who are struggling for health, fiscally and otherwise, on the memories of the next generation -- then it is likely to be spoken of with comparable respect and fear. People are going to be afraid to go back to the way we were thinking previously. Adaptation to a saving economy, if that's how it turns out, will likely be healthy for the nation and its people in the long term. For one thing, it could have the prospect of persuading a lot of people that one's living quarters exist for certain specific purposes within a larger social context. You buy the house you need, not the house you can afford -- and likewise, for that matter, for your form of transportation and other things. Flying by the seat of one's pants financially may come to seem so strange as even to discourage people from having kids without some confidence that they will be affordable -- unless, that is, things melt down to such an extent that flying by the seat of one's pants financially is the only way many people can survive.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Perspective on Consumption

I was just reading a New York Times article about how devastating it is for Japan's economy that its people are saving their money instead of spending it. The idea is that consumers drive an economy, and when consumers don't consume, the economy is not driven. Then people get laid off, they have less money, they buy even less, and the whole economy goes into a downward spiral. Clear enough. Another perspective says, however, that you can't keep supplying increasing billions of people with stuff. The environment can't take it, and anyway the resources aren't there. There's a real risk -- a reality, for millions upon millions of people -- that even food will become scarce and unaffordable. You hear farmers talk about "potatoes made of oil," for instance, and you realize that even agriculture is heavily dependent on petroleum and other industrial inputs. If we hadn't had marketers and advertisers and salespeople to sell us all kinds of crap for all these many years, maybe we wouldn't have bought so much of it to begin with. There's no law of human nature that says people are happier when they have to spend more of their precious time buying, installing, cleaning, fixing, insuring, adjusting, storing, and otherwise screwing around with a houseful of random gizmos. Not to put all the blame on the marketers et al.; the point is just that it somehow became normal to create demand, when common sense would suggest that this is actually abnormal. So what are the Japanese doing with their savings? They are protecting themselves in case their pension and retirement system falls short. Not a bad plan. If having the extra doodad in your house means someone in your family will not be able to afford the critically needed bit of food or medical care in a pinch, it could be reasonable to ask whether that doodad was really so bloody necessary. It has become normal to believe that people are supposed to spend their lives working for someone else, doing what that other person tells them to do, having a sense of self-worth and an ability to live and enjoy life for only as long as that seems appropriate to the other person. Under such an arrangement, people spend the bulk of their adult lives away from the people and things that matter most to them. It is a strange arrangement. In a world that has the technology to satisfy so many needs and desires so easily, it does seem extreme that we would all find ourselves compelled to work nonetheless -- and even then, in many cases, not to be able to afford the essentials.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ubuntu: GRUB Error 22, Error 15

This is an update on a previous post discussing issues with GRUB Error 22 and Error 15. It started with Error 22. In this case, though, I got a short version of the error message: I got simply "Error 22" instead of "Error 22: No such partition." I was not sure whether this was because I was now working with Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 rather than Hardy Heron 8.04, or whether there was instead some other reason. It had been a while, but it appeared that I might not have understood, last time around, that the Error 22 problem was, in a sense, a Windows problem, not an Ubuntu problem. Or maybe it wasn't, that time. But this time, it was. I solved the problem by simply running the Recovery Console (i.e., boot with the Windows XP CD and choose R; just hit Enter for the Administrator Password) and doing a three-step sequence: FIXMBR, FIXBOOT, and then FIXMBR again. Then Exit. Once I did that and rebooted, I got a screen that said, "Please select the operating system to start" and gave me a choice between Microsoft Windows XP Professional and UNetbootin. This calls for another explanation. UNetbootin is installed by Auto Super Grub Disk (ASGD). ASGD is a freeware Windows program that, basically, makes it easy to get your GRUB going again at least in some cases, so you don't have to spend a lot of time screwing around with the regular Super GRUB Disk (SGD) (available from that same website or elsewhere). I had installed ASGD because I was already at this problem for a while before I decided to take these notes. So I chose the UNetbootin option. It ran, and then said, "FIX OF BOOT FAILED." So ASGD was not going to solve this particular problem for me. It said "Hit return to continue," which I did, and then it said,

Very funny, that last line. At this time, Rescatux was vaporware. So I tried rebooting with Super GRUB Disk (burned to a CD). In the English Super Grub Disk option, I chose the Gnu/Linux (GRUB) option. It gave me "Error 15: File not found" and "SGD has NOT succeeded." I rebooted from the Ubuntu 8.10 live CD (i.e., the program CD that I had used to install Ubuntu). I clicked on Places > Computer > UBUNTU to mount the hard drive, where the installed file system was (as distinct from the file system contained on the live CD). UBUNTU was the name I had given to the partition where I had installed Ubuntu. Now I had a symbol next to UBUNTU, there in File Browser, indicating it was mounted. I went back to the main menu and chose Applications > Accessories > Terminal. At the prompt in Terminal, I typed "sudo -i" (always without the quotation marks, unless otherwise indicated) and hit Enter. This logged me in as "root," i.e., as administrator. Then I typed "nautilus." This gave me another File Browser session, but this one had the advantage of having root powers. In this browser, I went to UBUNTU > boot > grub > menu.lst. Someone said that said an easier way would have been to just type "sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst," but this seemed to open the wrong copy of menu.lst. I killed File Browser, so as to set Terminal free to do other stuff. (Probably could have opened another session of Terminal instead.) Following advice from the thread just cited, I typed "ls /boot" but was not sure what this was telling me. (In another thread, incidentally, someone said they fixed their Error 22 by rearranging SATA drive cables.) I found the GRUB Page within the Illustrated Dual Boot Website. I went to their Troubleshooting Section > Error Messages from GRUB > Error 15 instructions. They cited three different possible problems. First, maybe my menu.lst was specifying the kernel or initrd.img file incorrectly. I had restored this Ubuntu installation from an Acronis True Image backup. I liked TrueImage, but it had caused me some difficulty when restoring Ubuntu on another occasion. This time, I was seeing a discrepancy between menu.lst and the contents of the /UBUNTU/boot folder, viewed in File Browser. The /boot folder seemed to contain two different Ubuntu kernels -- not only kernel 2.6.27-7-generic but also 2.6.27-11-generic. But it did seem like at least the 2.6.27-7-generic one should boot, so I doubted that was the problem. To double-check that, I followed the advice to type "ls /boot" and see what that gave me. Almost everything it listed seemed to relate only to the config-2.6.27-7-generic option. So I guessed that the appearance of only the 2.6.27-7-generic option in menu.lst was not a problem. The second problem they considered was that maybe the Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) line in menu.lst was wrong. The idea of the UUID was apparently to identify a kernel by a unique code, so it didn't matter which order you plugged your hard drives in (so you wouldn't have to change menu.lst, every time you rearranged drives or partitions, to indicate that the Ubuntu installation was now located at (hd2,0) or whatever. Well, but of course, in my case it wasn't working. But this second option seemed to apply in situations where someone was using an older version of GRUB, and that wasn't the case here -- everything was newly installed from an 8.10 CD. The third scenario was that maybe some of the files in /boot/grub were missing or corrupt, such that I would have to completely delete those files and restore clean copies. The instructions for this seemed to say I would first need to boot the system using SGD. This wasn't good, because I wasn't able to do that. I also needed to know where my Ubuntu files were, and normally that would have been no problem, but in this case I was confused; they did not seem to be where I thought they were supposed to be. I decided to start again from the beginning, or at least from one beginning. I rebooted without anything in the CD drive. This gave me, again, the choice between booting WinXP or UNetbootin. I chose WinXP. It booted. Fine and dandy. I rebooted, and this time I chose UNetbootin. It gave me the FIX OF BOOT FAILED message again. So we had confirmed that ASGD was not the solution. Booting again with SGD, I went back into the Gnu/Linux option and chose Boot Gnu/Linux Directly. This just got me Error 15 again. After hitting Enter, I found myself at a menu and chose the Miscellanea > Boot Gnu/Linux > different Root and Boot Partition (Manual). But I couldn't get that to work either. Still in SGD, I tried Advanced > Gnu/Linux (Advanced) > GRUB > UnInstall GRUB (MBR). I wasn't sure which drive to uninstall it from, so I chose the first one. It said, "SGD has succeeded!" I tried again with the second drive. Same thing. Ditto on drives 3 and 4. I rebooted into WinXP and ran ASGD again. Incidentally, I had told WinXP's Disk Management to run disk tests on all partitions on reboot, which seemed especially advisable because, in response to one of the Ubuntu commands I had entered, I had seen a message that said, "Partition table entries are not in disk order." But the Windows disk check did not seem to make any difference. After wandering around in SGD's wonderful tools and confusingly redundant menus for quite a while, I stumbled upon Boot & Tools > Boot Master Boot Record (MBR). I tried it with drive 1 (hd0), and it gave me the GRUB menu with just WinXP and UNetbootin. I did a Ctrl-Alt-Del and tried it with the second drive; it froze after showing me a half-dozen lines of code, ending with "chainloader +1" and "boot." Third and fourth drives: same thing. This appeared to indicate that it was supplying its own code to get the ball rolling, but that there was no MBR on those drives to continue. So drive 1 was the only game in town. Now it was just a question of how to fix the MBR on drive 1 to include Ubuntu. Focusing on drive 1, then, I went into SGD's Gnu/Linux > Fix Boot of Gnu/Linux (GRUB) again. This time, I looked at all of the lines it was showing me. Its Error 15 seemed to be indicating that it was not finding the stage1 files for GRUB. The suggestions I was seeing, at this point, were heavy on the "delete Ubuntu and start over" approach. But I wanted to learn how to address this problem on the fly, without having to devote hours to rearranging data, reinstalling, etc. So one suggestion was to boot with the alternate Ubuntu CD and install GRUB that way. I had an alternate CD for 8.04, but not 8.10. I gathered there had been some changes to GRUB or menu.lst etc., so I downloaded and burned the 8.10 alternate. While that was downloading, I tried something else. I booted with the regular Ubuntu CD, and used the procedure described above to make sure the UBUNTU partition on the hard drive was mounted. (That may have been unnecessary.) Then, as advised by some community documentation, I typed the following in Terminal:
sudo -s grub find /boot/grub/stage1
That gave me a response of "(hd2,4)." That's where my Ubuntu partition was. So then I typed this:
root (hd2,4) setup (hd2,4) quit
Then I rebooted. UNetbootin still didn't fix the boot. I tried again with SGD. When I used it to try to boot the Ubuntu partition, it again gave me "Error 22: No such partition." I gave up and reinstalled Ubuntu using my TrueImage backup. SGD still didn't do it. I tried the Manual Boot option. That called for some of the same step as before:
sudo -s grub root (hd2,4) chainloader +1 boot
Unfortunately, the "chainloader +1" step gave me an error: "Invalid or unsupported executable format." Another possibility was to type this, also at the grub> prompt:
configfile (hd2,4) /boot/grub/menu.lst
This got the error message, "Filename must be either an absolute pathname or blocklist." Then I realized I had neglected to mount the UBUNTU drive as described above. So I did that. But I still got the same error messages for these chainloader and configfile commands. Now I thought that perhaps I had the pathname wrong. I navigated around the drive using CD commands, starting with "CD /" and then naming folders (e.g., "CD media") until I got down to the one that contained stage1 (above). So now I tried again with what I thought might be the correct absolute pathname:
configfile (hd2,4) /media/disk/boot/grub/menu.lst
This gave me "syntax error near unexpected token 'hd2,4'." The website mentioned above gave me the option of entering commands from the menu.lst file manually, but I wasn't sure how they worked or what I was doing, so I decided instead to try booting with the alternate CD, which I had finished downloading and burning by this time. I chose the "Rescue a broken system" option. After answering a number of questions, mostly with default answers, I chose "Reinstall GRUB boot loader" as my first rescue operation. Next, I named /dev/sdc5 as the bootable device where I wanted the GRUB boot loader installed. But I got "Unable to install GRUB in /dev/sdc5." So I went back and tried "(hd0)" instead. That failed too. Next, I tried /dev/hda2. Another failure! So this was why things had not been working: it could not install GRUB anywhere. I found some instructions for recovering GRUB within an older version of Debian Linux. Those instructions were essentially: (1) within the "Rescue a broken system" option on the Ubuntu Alternate CD, choose the option that says, "Execute a shell in ." (2) In the shell, I typed "fdisk -l" (that's an L, not a 1) to make sure my Ubuntu installation was at hd2,4. Then I typed
grub root (hd2,4) setup (hd2) quit exit
Now, this seemed to be more or less what I had done before. But this time, I guess the Alternate CD made the difference, because when I rebooted, I had a regular GRUB menu, with Ubuntu and Windows on it. I tried the Ubuntu option, and it ran!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Graduate and Gestalt

In a tumultuous moment at the end of the 1960s movie, "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross run onto a bus, go to its back end, and sit down. Then, very oddly, instead of kissing and being excited to be with one another, they look off in somewhat different directions while the soundtrack plays Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence." My reaction to this scene was, What? What the hell is going on? What's the matter with these people? Well, and now I have my answer. I am sitting here, very belatedly reading about Gestalt psychology, which I had heard of but never really did much with, and here's this reference to "The Gestalt Prayer," which begins with, "I do my thing, and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine." I am reading, that is, about the existentialist roots of Gestalt psychology, about the extremely individualistic orientation of that whole worldview, and particularly about the existentialist focus on the present moment and, you know, it makes sense. When they ran out of the church and climbed onto the bus, the present moment had moved on. The church thing was great, yeah, but it was over, and now they were on a bus, each continuing to live exclusively in his/her own world, with the interface to the other being a project rather than something taken for granted. Reading this stuff reminds me of how weird people were, sometimes, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Maybe earlier than that, and definitely later than that too (in e.g., the punk movement), but certainly there was a sense, among a lot of people, that it was OK, or possibly even normal, to be strange or different. I have long been aware that there was a freedom then that we don't have now -- that, even though a guy was much more likely to be harassed for having long hair, there was also an accessible mindset in which it was understood that there would be people hassling you for being yourself, and that this was just normal. You didn't have to be within today's broad lines of normalcy to be normal; you just had to be yourself to be normal, and maybe you didn't even have to be yourself.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

WinXP Message: Deleting an index entry from index $0 of file 25

I had previously encountered the message, "Deleting an index entry from index $0 of file 25," when booting my Windows XP system. I assumed it was just some sort of generic screwup or random housekeeping performed by Microsoft. Now I'm not so sure. This time around, I got that message, repeated about a million times, after going into Ubuntu Linux on my dual-boot system. I went into Ubuntu to delete a large folder -- about 10GB -- that WinXP was taking forever to delete. I knew Ubuntu would be much faster, and it was. But now it seemed the reason for that message might be that Windows was trying to catch up with what Ubuntu did. Files were supposed to be there, according to some information available to Windows; but those files were no longer there; so now Windows had to match up its records with the realities. If that theory is correct, one solution might be to use Windows for working with files on NTFS filesystems (i.e., those recognized by Windows, shown to be NTFS in GParted or other drive partitioning software), and restrict Linux operations to files on partitions that are formatted Linux-style (e.g., ext3). Another possibility would be to do joint Linux-Windows operations on files on a removable drive, and then make sure that drive is not connected (so that Windows won't spend minutes or hours checking it out) when Windows is booted. I have heard there are utilities that allow work on ext3 partitions from within Windows, so that might provide another option.

Ubuntu and VMware: New Installation

In January 2009, I decided to install plain-vanilla Ubuntu (i.e., not one of the official derivatives, e.g., Kubuntu, or many other unofficial distributions) on a new computer. This machine was running an AMD Phenom 8450 Triple-Core CPU on a Foxconn A7GM-S motherboard (with a maximum of 8GB RAM) and, at the start, a single 640GB Seagate hard drive. The latest release available at this time was Ubuntu 8.10 (meaning it was released in October 2008), known as Intrepid Ibex, so that was what I planned to install. I chose the 64-bit version of Intrepid because I wanted VMware to have access to more than the 32-bit maximum of 4GB of RAM. As with my 2007 and 2008 investigations of virtualization, I decided that VMware remained the best candidate for my virtualization needs. I had gone through many issues in the process of refining my VMware Workstation 6.0 (and, more recently, 6.5) installation, and this time around I hoped the process would be relatively straightforward. I installed Ubuntu on the target machine. Windows XP was already installed, and GRUB set up its usual menu. (I covered most of these details at length in my previous posts. For terms not defined here, use the search box at the top of this page to search my blog, and then use Ctrl-F or whatever is appropriate in your browser to find the specific locations where the terms are discussed.) Before the installation, I used a bootable GParted CD to add two Ubuntu partitions at the end, after my Windows NTFS partitions (for PROGRAMS, DATA, etc.) -- one for the Ubuntu program files, and the other for swap. That way, it was easier to see what I was doing when I got to the partitioning part of the Ubuntu installation. I modified the panels on my Ubuntu desktop, followed the steps to install my restricted NVIDIA graphics drivers, adjusted the font sizes in File Browser (Nautilus), and otherwise got the desktop in shape to suit me. Then it was time to install VMware. The file name was VMware-Workstation-6.5.0-118166.x86_64.bundle (meaning that I was installing the 64-bit version). To run it, I opened a Terminal session, navigated to the folder where the bundle file was located, and typed "sudo sh VMware-Workstation-6.5.0-118166.i386.bundle" (here, and elsewhere in these posts, without the quotation marks except as otherwise indicated). The installation was much smoother than it had been last time, when I had installed Workstation 6.0 instead of 6.5 (which was not out yet). In fact, the installation was painless and almost instantaneous. I rebooted into Windows XP and used VMware Converter to make a VMware virtual machine from that existing Windows installation. Unfortunately, when I booted back into Ubuntu, I found that VMware could barely run that VM. Performance was much, much worse than on my other computer -- partly because the VM was 40GB, larger than the 15-20GB VMs I ran on the other machine, but especially, I think, because I had only one hard drive. On the other machine, I had separate drives for Ubuntu program files, for data, and for the virtual machine. To speed things up, I ordered another hard drive. I had never owned a 10,000 RPM drive, but I found one on sale and decided to put my Windows and Ubuntu program files on it. I also revisited the Windows installation, removed some programs and otherwise got its size down to 15GB, used GParted to trim its size down to 25GB, and used VMware Converter to make another virtual machine. The next steps after that are the subject of a later post.

Best of the Month, Three Years Ago

Here are the best items posted on my personal newsletter in January 2006: * * * * * Late-Night Political News from About.com "Let's sum up the State of the Union for you -- we're in good shape, not as good as Exxon." --Jay Leno "President Bush talked about the need to work hard on the economy, to work hard on health care, and to fight nonstop against terrorism. Then he left to go on a long weekend at his ranch to watch the Super Bowl." -- Jay Leno "President Bush gave his State of the Union address. ... Did you notice, a lot of Republican congressmen were not applauding President Bush. It's hard when you're wearing handcuffs." --Jay Leno "I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not once did he apologize to Oprah for lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." --Jay Leno "Judge Samuel Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court today. President Bush said that Sam's got the intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to the court. You know, like the rest of the judges are sitting around in their underpants eating Cheetos." --Jay Leno "I'm sure you know by now Muslim groups are outraged and are rioting over cartoons that are appearing in European newspapers that they say are offensive. Now they have attacked something very important to President Bush. The comics." --Jay Leno "Some of the other Oscar-nominated movies people are talking about, George Clooney's film, 'Good Night, and Good Luck.' If you haven't seen it, it's about the White House's Medicare plan for the elderly." --Jay Leno "Did you hear what the Republicans have said about Hillary Clinton? They say she's too angry to be president. Hillary Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, too angry to be president. When she heard this, Hillary said, 'Oh yeah? I'll rip your throats out, you bastards.'" --David Letterman "If President Bush is wiretapping my phone and listening to my calls, I think he actually should pay for half of the phone-sex bill." --David Letterman "Muslim law condemns any artistic rendering of the prophet Mohammed, kind of like the Christian commandment against taking the lord's name in vain, or the unspoken Buddhist rule, try not to make him into a bong." --Jon Stewart "The president said we must continue to find new sources of oil. The only place he doesn't want any drilling, 'Brokeback Mountain.'" --Jay Leno "The trial of Enron chiefs Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay began four-and-a-half years after perpetrating -- allegedly -- the fraud that led to the second largest bankruptcy in American history. Why four-and-a-half years? Because apparently it's harder to bring Ken Lay to trial than it is to invade two countries." --Jon Stewart "In a 58-42 vote, the Senate confirmed Samuel Alito as the nation's next Supreme Court Justice, meaning if you want an abortion, you'd better hop to it." --Tina Fey "President Bush said that the American people are addicted to oil. To which Vice President Dick Cheney said, 'Not that there’s anything wrong with that.'" --Jay Leno "Do you believe we are addicted to oil? So basically when we invaded Iraq, we didn’t really mean anything, it was just the oil talking. We were under the influence of oil at the time. We just need a 12 step program and we could get out of Iraq." --Jay Leno "In Washington President Bush came out of the white house and saw his shadow...Cindy Sheehan." --Jay Leno "Hillary Clinton said this week that she doesn't agree with either the people who say we should be in Iraq or her friends who say we should be out. Thanks for clearing that up. Think she’s running for president? Even John Kerry said, "Pick a position!" --Jay Leno "Everybody is in the Valentine's mood. For example, earlier today Dick Cheney shot his buddy in the ass with an arrow." --David Letterman "Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer. In fact, when people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity is now at 92 percent." --Jay Leno "The real question now is, is this a one-time thing, or will the vice president try to kill again." --David Letterman "If this story gets any bigger, pretty soon they're going to have to tell the president." --David Letterman "I'm surprised Dick Cheney loves to hunt so much. The five times the government tried to give him a gun, he got a deferment." --Jay Leno "After Whittington had a heart attack, Cheney said, "You big baby. I get those all the time. Walk it off." --Jay Leno "But here is the sad part -- before the trip Donald Rumsfeld had denied the guy's request for body armor." --David Letterman "I think Cheney is starting to lose it. After he shot the guy he screamed, 'Anyone else want to call domestic wiretapping illegal?'" --Jay Leno "When the ambulance got there, out of force of habit they put Cheney on the stretcher. No, the other guy!" --Jay Leno "Dick Cheney is capitalizing on this for Valentine's Day. It's the new Dick Cheney cologne. It's called Duck!" --Jay Leno "But all kidding aside, and in fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil." --Jimmy Kimmel "Former FEMA director Michael Brown is testifying before a Senate panel today. He was supposed to testify last week, but he just got there." --Jay Leno "The White House has given permission for a company owned by the government of Dubai to run six U.S. ports, including the Port of New York. Now Dubai was accused of supporting the September 11th attacks and was one of only three countries to support the Taliban. Now they're going to run the Port of New York. What's next, we'll put Mexico in charge of immigration? How about Dick Cheney in charge of gun safety? Courtney Love in charge of Olympic drug testing?" --Jay Leno "An Arab country in charge of ports. That’s like FEMA in charge of disaster relief. That's like Wayne Gretzky's wife in charge of your bank account. It's like Michael Jackson as your nanny." --David Letterman "Hillary Clinton said today she finds the administration's refusal to level with the American people troubling, but she also finds it somewhat nostalgic." --Jay Leno "There's a new comic book where Batman goes after Osama Bin Laden. You thought radical Muslims hated cartoons before?" --Jay Leno "Actually, one awkward moment today in Washington. During the 21-gun salute, Dick Cheney returned fire." --Jay Leno "Dick Cheney is on vacation. He's out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and so far he has shot two skiers." --David Letterman "Monday is President's Day and former President Bill Clinton is very excited. He is taking George Bush, Sr. to 'Hooters'. ... George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have been spending more and more time together. Doesn't that seem like an unusual couple to you, honestly? Earlier today they went to go see that gay cowboy movie." --David Letterman "Dick Cheney said he felt terrible about shooting a 78-year-old man, but on the bright side, it did give him a great idea about how to fix Social Security." --Bill Maher "Mardi Gras starts tomorrow in New Orleans. Talk about perfect timing. Those truckloads of ice from FEMA just showed up." --Bill Maher "People say Hillary Clinton has a brand new diamond ring, an enormous diamond ring. The last time anybody saw a rock that big, it was going through a window at the Danish embassy." --David Letterman "Here's my favorite part of this whole incident. After Cheney shot the guy, the police later showed up at the ranch where Cheney was staying and wanted to talk to him, but were told to come back the next morning. And that's what they did, they came back the next morning. Kev, that ever happen in the 'hood?"-- Jay Leno "Cheney also admitted that he'd been drinking. He said he had one beer. Okay, it was a 40-ounce Colt .45, but just one." --Jay Leno "Cheney says he feels terrible about what happened. The man he shot was his friend and if he could, he'd give him the central processing unit right out of his own heart to make up for it." --Jimmy Kimmel * * * * * Things I Have Learned from Children A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house 4 inches deep. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite. A 3 year old child's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan and tie it to a paint can, it does spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 room. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. The glass in windows (including double pane windows) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan. When you hear the toilet flush along with the words "uh oh," it's already too late. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke (and lots of it). A six-year old can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36 year old man says they can only do it in the movies. Certain Lego blocks will pass through the digestive tract of a 4 year old. Play-Doh and microwave should not be used in the same sentence. Super glue is forever. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water. Pool filters do not like Jell-O. VCRs do not eject sandwiches, even though TV commercials show they do. Garbage bags do not make good parachutes. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving. You probably don't want to know what that smell is. Always look in the oven before you turn it on. Plastic toys do not like ovens. The fire department in my town has a 5 minute response time. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy. The spin cycle on the washing machine does make cats dizzy, however. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy. 60% of men who read this will try mixing Clorox and brake fluid. * * * * * Clippings There is a lot of good advice to help us avoid becoming fat, such as eat less and exercise. But if some researchers are right, you may soon be hearing a surprising new piece of advice: wash your hands. There is growing evidence that some viruses may cause obesity, thus making obesity contagious. When a lion killed Sierra the baboon, her mother reacted in a way that one could call human-like: she looked to friends for support, say researchers who studied the animals. The scientists found that baboons physiologically respond to bereavement in ways similar to humans, with an increase in stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Baboons can lower their glucocorticoid levels through friendly social contact, the researchers say. * * * * * Who's Going to Have the Money to Buy Your House? Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items. The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing. The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before - in 1932 and 1933 - two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs. * * * * * Borowitz Report Excerpts In his first day at home since stepping down from his post as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan made a series of cryptic, inscrutable pronouncements that left his wife, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, totally baffled. The former Fed chief was renowned for his confusing, often incomprehensible statements about the markets and the economy while testifying to Congress, but according to Ms. Mitchell, those remarks were "a piece of cake" to understand compared to the mixed messages he has been sending at home. The trouble began at the breakfast table, Ms. Mitchell said, when she asked the former Fed chief what he wanted to eat, a question which led to a serpentine 45-minute response. A court in Baghdad today found former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to serve a life term as President of Iraq. With the nation of Iraq on the brink of civil war, Saddam's judge said that being forced to serve as President of Iraq was the stiffest sentence he could hand down. * * * * * Websites of Note Escapa! http://members.iinet.net.au/~pontipak/redsquare.html You can do anything at Zombo.com http://www.zombo.com/ Perpetual bubblewrap http://www.urban75.com/Mag/bubble.html * * * * * Doctor Notes Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year. On the second day, the knee was better and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely. She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night. The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed. Discharge status: Alive but without permission. The patient refused an autopsy. The patient has no past history of suicides. Patient has left his white blood cells at another hospital. Patient's past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant. Since she can't get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up. She is numb from her toes down. While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home. The skin was moist and dry. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches. Patient was alert and unresponsive. Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her adult life, until she got a divorce. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation. Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stockbroker instead. Skin: Somewhat pale but present. The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.