I believe the look is one of incredulity

Or in other words, “Do I really have to take this person I’m talking to seriously?”

Observe Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (to whom my reaction has been tepid at best, but I’m warming up to him after this) listening to, and attempting to answer, a question posed to him today by Rep. Michele Bachmann, regrettably of Minnesota’s regrettable 6th District:

Pay particular attention at 1:14. That is precisely the moment where Secretary Geithner realizes he’s dealing with a crazy person. Priceless.

Soon the look of incredulity may become known simply as the Bachmann Effect.

Regrettably, I also bothered to visit Earth2Obama.org, the site that apparently posted this C-SPAN clip on YouTube (as evidenced by the omnipresence of their URL in the clip), and I have to guess from that site’s stance that they actually think Michele Bachmann is right in all of this. Sheesh. Where were all of these right wing constitutional literalists during the Bush presidency?

One last comment on the general matter of how this person got elected to Congress, and what that says about her district, the caption in the still from this clip says it all: MN-6 is a prime example of gerrymandering at its worst. There is no logical reason that Woodbury (an eastern suburb of St. Paul) and Waite Park (one of the cluster of communities that makes up the St. Cloud micropolitan area, 92 miles away) should be in the same congressional district. The 6th district wraps around the northern ring of Twin Cities suburbs and extends awkwardly to the northwest, appearing like some blocky beast preparing to devour the metro area in its gaping, Limbaugh-esque maw. More specifically, it’s the most politically conservative area (if it can even be called an “area”) of the state, sitting on top of the geographically smaller, more densely populated, most liberal area of the state — the 5th (Minneapolis) and 4th (St. Paul) districts. The district is contorted in its southeastern-most corner to absorb the population of the conservative eastern suburbs instead of extending into more moderate, less populous (but more geographically contiguous) areas around St. Cloud.

Minnesota's 6th congressional district

I’m not sure who was responsible for the gerrymandering of the current Minnesota congressional district map — whether it was Democrats looking to sequester hardcore conservatives in a single district, or Republicans hoping to expand their influence over a generally “blue” (or at least “indigo”) state. But in the end, all that matters is that it produced an environment that would not only elect Michele Bachmann, but even re-elect her after she had already become a national laughingstock last fall.

(Thanks to Dusty Trice for this one.)

Why we should resign ourselves to acceptance of the Geithner plan

I was underwhelmed from the beginning with President Obama’s choices of Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, and the events of the last couple of weeks have shored up a lot of public opinion that Geithner, in particular, may not have the right vision to shepherd the economy into a genuine recovery. But, for the moment, his plan is all we’ve got.

It doesn’t help that economic heavyweights like Paul Krugman are down on Geithner’s plan, but for now I will take limited solace in the words of economist Brad DeLong:

Q: What if markets never recover, the assets are not fundamentally undervalued, and even when held to maturity the government doesn’t make back its money?

A: Then we have worse things to worry about than government losses on TARP-program money–for we are then in a world in which the only things that have value are bottled water, sewing needles, and ammunition.

In other words, there may be a better plan out there; this plan we have may not work; but if it doesn’t, the reason it won’t is because things are so fundamentally screwed up that probably nothing would have saved us.

Yeah… that, uh, makes me feel… better?

(Found, as usual, on Daring Fireball.)

Where are all of the pictures?

I know many of you have been waiting patiently (?) for the return of the “Offspring” photo galleries. Unfortunately I’ve been really busy with work (and life)… and I’ve been spending most of my “geek” time doing music in GarageBand or playing the Wii (i.e. losing to Fletcher at bowling), rather than getting the new photo gallery stuff set up on the site.

Fortunately for you, we’ve taken almost no new pictures since Christmas, because a) the camera’s batteries are crapping out and b) the camera has been misplaced for several weeks. So, you haven’t missed anything, really.

One of the key points in getting this set up was finding a mechanism in WordPress to restrict access: in short, I want to know who’s looking at pictures of my kids. Now I’ve found a plug-in to manage access to individual blog posts, so that’s one more hurdle jumped.

Future posts in this category will require you to be logged in. Fortunately, it’s easy to register and once you’ve done it, you should never have to do it again. (At least, not until I decide to change my site entirely again. But I don’t anticipate doing that in the near future, if only because I’m not going to have the time to mess with it!)

Microsoft, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

Most people who know me well understand that I am an acknowledged Apple fanboy. But I don’t simply hate Microsoft because I love Apple. There may be more truth to the fact that I love Apple because I hate Microsoft.*

At any rate, it’s clear that I hate Microsoft, and for reasons that are much more concrete, tangible, and, in the context of this article, quantifiable.

As you may know (if you know me, and probably wouldn’t if you don’t, but you do now… get it?), I make my living building websites, which means that I am forced to deal with both Windows and Internet Explorer, like it or not. (Not.) I do my work on Macs, and my day-to-day web browser is Firefox. But everything I do needs to be tested in the Microsoft world, since that’s the context in which 95% of my audience will be viewing my work.

At least once every month or two, I am forced to bring my work to a grinding halt while I attempt to diagnose some obscure Internet Explorer problem I’ve just run into. It is usually some trivial function that I take for granted, but for some mysterious reason simply does not work in Internet Explorer under a particular set of conditions. So I spend a day or so fruitlessly searching Google to find others who’ve experienced the same problem. Eventually I resign myself to the fact that there is no logical explanation for the problem and I will never discover a real solution to it. So, the only alternative is to concoct a hokey workaround that Internet Explorer can accept. These weak victories are always bittersweet: at least I’ve found a way to move on and get back to the real tasks at hand, but my work is forever tainted by Microsoft lameness, without even giving me the satisfaction of a glimmer of understanding as to why I’ve just undergone a day of torture.

Finally, I’ve had enough. I know that as long as I work in this field, I will always have to deal with this problem, but I’m no longer going to silently submit to the whims of mediocre software. I will catalog my woes here for the world to see, so when I finally jump off a bridge with a thousand Windows Vista CD-ROMs tied around my waist, people won’t wonder why.

* For the record, I don’t unequivocally hate everything Microsoft does. I own, and enjoy immensely, an XBOX game console.

The mysterious window.print() problem

It seems an easy task: print the damn window. But no, nothing is ever as easy as it seems with Microsoft. In this particular case, I have a pop-up window which contains a frameset. The frameset consists of a left frame with a tree of page links, and a right frame containing the body of the page linked from the left frame. Within the body of the page in the right frame there are links to allow you to print the frame. So far, so good. But there’s also a special link that opens a new page that contains the full content of all of the pages, so you can basically print the whole lot at once instead of one page at a time.

As expected, all of this works just fine in other browsers, but not in Internet Explorer. It handles the regular single-page window.print() just fine, but when you go to the full page, nothing. No printing, no JavaScript errors, nothing. It’s like it’s just a dead link. With the exact same code as what works on the other pages. And, if you open the page from the frame in a new window by itself, it prints just fine. So, we have some pages printing just fine in the frame, and another page that prints just fine when it’s by itself, but it won’t print if it’s in the same frame that the other pages print fine in, using the same code. You can see why this is driving me insane, can’t you?

Nothing I find anywhere online suggests that this problem exists. So eventually I resort to the only option that’s available… open the troublesome page in its own pop-up (yes, a pop-up opening a pop-up… always a great idea), where window.print() works just fine.

Thanks again, Microsoft!

What Happened to the War-Related Rants?

I have written several rants here over the past few weeks, generally being critical of the build-up to war (as I am not a big fan of death and destruction). Those select few of you who are regular readers of my rants may notice a few of them have gone missing, including one I wrote just earlier today. That is because I feel now is the time for me to state, simply and — as best I can — succinctly, a few basic principles I believe in that have led me to my current position:

  • Killing other humans is fundamentally immoral. Killing the killers does not ennoble the deed.
  • War is a gut-wrenchingly hellish, morally-repugnant morass that bears little resemblance to the polished soundbites that make their way back home to the 6 o’clock news.
  • Striking first when the opponent presents no clear and present threat is bound to set a dangerous precedent that, for our own enduring liberty, we should hope others do not follow. Unilateral violation of the sovereignty of nations, no matter how despotic their leadership, is asking for trouble.
  • To show balance in my opinions expressed here: Saddam Hussein is despicable. Although I try to avoid using the word “evil,” he probably fits it better than anyone known in my lifetime. The Iraqi people deserve liberation. And I support our troops, performing their sworn duty, even if I question the full and true motivation to send them into combat.
  • “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 7:12