Monday, October 31, 2005

The Truth About Harriet

There's a comic out there that you should be reading. It's called The Boondocks and it is biting satire on the government and the life of urban youth. Yesterday's entry was particularly spectacular. Click on the imae to go the the ucomics web site and see it full size.

October 30 Boondocks strip

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Scalito Tee-ball

So, the new nominee has been announced and it is Samuel J. Alito, nicknamed Scalito and Scalia-lite for his judicial philosophy which is said to mirror that blight on American Jurisprudence, Antonin Scalia. And I think it is safe to call Scalia a blight. After all, this is the man who felt it unnecessary to recuse himself from a case where some of the principals had invited him on a hunting trip. He even uttered a mocking 'That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack' after being pressed on the issue. Not exactly the person you want to be compared to in these times of political turmoil. But we aren't here to talk about Scalia, we are talking about ScaliTO, but it is interesting that the right supported Scalia's decision to stay on the case, but want the judge in the DeLay case to step aside for contributing money to Democrats. He hasn't had any personal involvement with the principals. But, read on for the liberal, conservative, and baseball viewpoints of this nomination. Yes, I said baseball....

The reaction thus far is predictable. The liberal blogs and groups are decrying the nomination:

Daily Kos
Al Franken

The conservatives love it:

Little Green Footballs
The American Thinker
Blogs for Bush

So, what does that mean for you, dear reader? The liberals are for and the conservatives are against. Do you only have your ideology as a guide for which side to be on? Well, there are quotes from our elected officials and influence peddlers. The Democrats are preparing for a fight and are suggesting that this is a divisive nominee. Harry Reid appears to be the most sensible of the Democrats. He has not directly attacked Alito, but rather questioned the President's selection process and the fact that Democrats were not consulted at all this time. Charles Schumer called Alito "a nominee likely to divide America". Ted Kennedy was likewise harsh, "President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not strength." The Republicans are now offering glowing praise and cautioning against dissing Dubya's nominee. Apparently only they are allowed to do that. "I commend the president and congratulate Judge Alito on this nomination", says Sam Brownback. Bill Frist was even happier, "Judge Alito is unquestionably qualified to serve on our nation's highest court." Wow. 'Unquestionably'? Shouldn't we wait for the hearings to vote? Gary Bauer, of the conservative American Values Coalition called the nomination "a grand slam home run"! Wow. I didn't even know the Republicans had the bases loaded. And who knew Dubya was such an accomplished hitter? How about someone who know Alito? Adam Ciongoli, a former law clerk for Judge Alito and former counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft had this to say "The president has repeatedly said that he is looking for someone with strong intellect, temperament and reverence for the Constitution to replace Justice O'Connor. Judge Alito is a triple play."

Wait a minute. A triple play is bad when you are the batting team. So is Dubya batting or pitching? And how could it be a grand slam and a triple play? Well, that didn't help either. It seems we have only two choices; ideology and baseball metaphors. Allow me to dabble in both for a moment. I believe this was a grand slam home run for Bush. The problem is, he was batting in a little league field. And this was that stage of little league where your own coach pitches meatballs to you to help you get your confidence up. AND the visitor stands had been blown down by a hurricane, so there was only a home crowd present. Or, better yet, it was Tee-ball. In Tee-ball, everyone bats in every inning and runs to first no matter how the play turns out. The last batter clears the bases. Bush is the last batter. And he's clearing the bases even though he hit a dribbler that didn't even reach the mound. He may even score legitimately as the ball is lost in a scrum as all the fielders converge on it, finally retrieving it and throwing it to first, even as Dubya is heading for third. Yes. The more I think about it, the more I think this nomination is like a Tee-ball game.

But that didn't help you, did it? Sadly, I don't think it is possible to get unbiased information any more. I don't believe in the myth of "the liberal media", but enough people do that information there is not likely to be considered any more credible to those that don't want to believe it than that words from a liberal pundit. You are of course welcome to peruse these links which appear to be attempting to provide an objective view of the man. I particularly found the link to some of his past positions interesting. He does not appear to be the great Satan that the left is making him out to be or the second coming that the right is touting. He is undoubtedly a strong conservative who questions a woman's right to an abortion. He also believes a Christmas display is not religious if it includes Santa, but read or yourself.

Judge Alito's Past rulings
Wikipedia Bio

Personally, I'm skeptical, but waiting for more information to come out. I'm not on the fence, but I'm no so far from it that I can't be nudged back on.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet's New Job

As has been widely reported already today, Harriet Miers has withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). What few realize is that this action also makes her the defacto nominee for another Presidential appointment. She has, in fact, already begun the confirmation process for appointment to the Supreme Court Rejects of the Uninformed Monkey (SCROTUM). The first step in this process was to thank the Monkey-in-Chief for turning her name into a synonym for unqualified cronyism. Once confirmed, she will resume her ball-washing duties that have in the past included such gems as "You are the best Governor ever".

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good Weekend

Hooray! I didn't have to work this past weekend. And I made the most of that time off. Ok, maybe not the most, but I did use much of it well. I managed quite a bit of good family time and even managed to find enjoyment in the mundane...

Friday night, Maya had a show and Josh did not look like he was up to behaving in public. So, my lovely wife went with Maya and did some backstage parent duty. Josh and I had some fun at home. We read some books, played on the computer for a bit, and played his current favorite game. It's a Blues Clues card game. He's a little old for it, but we don't exactly play it the way it is intended. It's more of a silliness jumping off point. Each card has an action on it. On every turn, you are supposed to draw an action card and add it to the end of your row of already played actions. Then, you are supposed to do each action in order. The actions are things like "Rub your belly, like Slippery Soap" or "Smile like Shovel and Pail" with pictures of the characters doing the action. Well, we make the game extra silly by adding more than one card at a time, doing the actions quickly, and making a far longer line of cards than they probably intended. We each had a row of 24. I would end my turn by falling over from exhaustion to Joshua's giggling delight.

On Saturday, we decided to take in a couple museums and a puppet show. We went to the Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park, which is a AR cry from the Smithsonian, but was sill very interesting to us and the kids. This museum was a little heavier on the air and less on the space. It had a very good visual chronology of flight. Lots of good example of aircraft throughout history and some good lifesize displays from WW I and WW II. Maya and I had a discussion of how to differentiate between planes of those eras. It didn't take long to get through the museum, so we decided to take in a puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. We saw Big Joe do his original Halloween show "The Polka Dot Ghost". It was entertaining and engaging, but was clearly geared toward the younger set. Josh liked it, and Maya claimed to like it, but I have my doubts.

After that, we still had some time, so we went to the Fleet Science Center to play for a bit and take in an IMax show before Maya had to report for her performance. Maya played at the dolphin exhibit while Josh preferred the hands-on stuff. In particular, we spent most of our play time on the table where you roll the marble and it spirals inward until it goes into "the black hole". We didn't learn much, but we did have fun trying to collide the marbles. Then we moved over to a turntable which had metal discs of varying thickness. The goal here was to get the disk vertical and rotating in synch with the revolution of the turntable. Then you let it go and see how its rotation interacts with the turntable and you attempt to keep it from rolling off. We learned a bit more there, but nothing he could articulate. He did get good at spinning the discs or, alternately, laying them in such a way that they were flung off at high speeds as he attempted to sever my fingers. The IMax film was "Mystic India". It told the story of a young Yogi who, at age eleven, began a journey that lasted seven years and covered thousands of miles.

On the way home, we grabbed takeout for the kids so we could get Maya to the theater on time. We didn't stay for the show as we needed dinner as well. So, we went to the Mexican place next door. Josh ate more of his Chinese food there, though he topped it off with some chips and REALLY good salsa. I'd consider buying some if they sold it separately. I had a really tasty chipotle wrap and my wife had a shrimp salad in a tortilla bowl.

Saturday night was more of the same for Josh and I. We played on the computer, read books, and snuggled. This gave Mommy time to do some of her homework. He has insisted on the Dr. Seuss book "I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today" every night for almost the past week. It's really good, because we are both memorizing it in the process. When he 'reads' parts, I point to the words. Maybe he'll pick something up that way. One the kids were tucked away, my honey and I curled up on the couch and ordered "Hitch" off the OnDemand service. (Review to come later.)

Sunday morning, Josh got me up early. So, I made cinnamon swirl french toast or the kids, and eggs and whole grain toast for the gown ups. When everyone was fully awake and things were cleaned up, we piled into the car and went to Discovery Lake Park in San Marcos for a little exercise. Mommy and Daddy rollerbladed. Maya rode her bike. And Josh rode his big boy bike (with training wheels) by himself for the first time ever! Woo hoo! He managed to ride 1.5 miles. Maya and Mommy did 3, and I did 4.5. Good workout to say the least. Now that I don't weigh as much, rollerblading is enjoyable again. Neither my shins or back hurt from the weight, though my legs did feel the burn from the exertion.

We couldn't play as long as we liked because Maya had a matinee, so we got her back in time for that. I was the D.O.D. for Sunday's performance. That's the Director on Duty. It's a fancy way of saying usher. I took the tickets, gave out the programs, figured put how many seats we had left over, and helped people find seats together. The show was sold out, but some people didn't show up, so we let in folks on the waiting list. And I gave up my seat so we could get the last waiting person in. That freed me up to go to Costco. Shopping is normally not fun, per se, but I was quite pleased with the fruit and vegetable varieties that were available. I was able to pick up some really good Jonagold apples, for instance. Normally, my choices are Gala, Red Disgusting, Golden Disgusting, and Granny Smith.

Sunday night we just sort of caught up on stuff we needed to get done. It was low key and low pressure. This weekend should be another good one as I don't have to work then, either. In fact, my boss gave me Friday off as well as a comp day for my hard work.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Headlines That Make You Giggle

Sadly, this one is not online. It comes from my local free newspaper, Today's Local News. They have a web site, but it has pretty much no content. At any rate, there is a murder trial going on in which a routine traffic stop led to the slaying of a police officer. Here's today's installment.

Defendant described as 'Maniacal'; 'Courteous'

There was a main headline over it that tied it to the murder case. That one didn't stick with me. Still, this one was plenty big, even as the sub-heading. I realize that he was probably labeled thusly by different people, but come on. I the testimony conflicts, it should not be part of the headline. Why not "Conflicting testimony on defendant's character". I can just see the courtroom.

Attorney: So, you witnessed the defendant shoot the victim?
Witness: Yes
Attorney: And could you describe for the court the demeanor of the defendant?
Witness: He was like a maniac. He had a crazed look in his eye. He was ignoringthe world around him as he shot the officer repeatedly.
Attorney: You'd describe him as maniacal?
Witness: Yes, but courteous. He apologized to me for getting brains on my bumper and offered to pay for a car wash.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Goodbye, Rosa. And Thank You.

Goodbye, Rosa. And Thank You.
Originally uploaded by briwei.
At age 42, Rosa Parks caused an uproar by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She is considered by many to be the Mother of the civil rights movement. Fifty years later, she has left the world. She left it a better place than it was when she came in, but her work is unfinished.

Thank you, Rosa.

We will do our best to honor your memory.

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Happy Birthday Uncle Chuck!

Ok, I'm sure this is on some list of "Top Ten Things to Make Your Blog Irrelevant" or something like that, but if I can't use my blog to say happy birthday to one of my oldest and dearest friends, then what's the point? Chuck is the proprietor of Unbecoming Levity. Stop by his site today and give him a whole mess of hits. Wish I were there to celebrate more properly, buddy. Many happy returns!

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Tom DeLay's Great DeLusion

I've been following the Tom DeLay indictment saga with great interest. I'm sure that almost every blog left of center has had something recently. I'm trying not to overlap stuff on blogs in my circles, so I'm skipping the mugshot commentary. Aces Full of Links and Danspotting both have that angle covered nicely. I wanted to do my own take on things and then I thought, "Someone should make a parody blog and pretend it is DeLay's!". Someone did. A couple someone's did, in fact. 'The Daily DeLay' is a PAC based blog following the issue. 'From the Desk of Tom DeLay' pretends to be his personal blog. So much for that idea. Fortunately, while I was doing my research, I stumbled across DeLay's REAL site...

At last, something worthy of comment that I haven't seen anyone I read doing yet. On Tom's web page he prominently features the central component of his defense as well as links for how you can take action to stop this "partisan distraction". Here is the ceterpiece of the page.

Dear Friend,
As you probably know, the very partisan Travis County D.A. recently manufactured an indictment against me that is based on charges from the 2002 Texas State House elections.
These charges are groundless and false. I am completely innocent.
Just as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and other public officials have defeated similar attacks from this D.A., I will prove his allegations are baseless and without merit.
Despite this partisan distraction, I will continue to represent you and fight for the interests of our community.
I hope you’ll take a moment now to read more about exactly what is happening and why. Thank you for visiting and I look forward to keeping you up to date on our fight against this out of control DA.
Did you get all that? Poor Tom DeLay is the victim of baseless partisan attacks. I suppose it might even be true. But it's hard to muster sympathy for a man nicknamed "The Hammer" who uses threats against his own party members to get his way. I'm pretty sure he lost the moral high ground long ago.

The reason I say that it 'might' be true is that if you follow the link to "The Facts" you will find a large variety of reasons why the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, is just out to get him, but only one legal argument that seems to have any merit. According to the site, the conspiracy provision was added to the law in question in 2003. The actions he has been indicted for happened in 2002. That's all according to DeLay.

The other stuff on the 'facts' page is slanted commentary and links to articles in such objective publications as "The Washington Times" and "The National Review". It calls these articles proof that this is "widely recognized as a wholly manufactured political accusation against Congressman DeLay". And yet, there are litereally hundreds of condemning quotes out there. One would think that Mr. DeLay would have posted everything he could in support of himself. And then there is his 'summary' on the DA. He lists other failed prosecutions in the past against Republicans and points out various criticisms of him. After reading that, how could anyone not thing the guy was a partisan hack?

So, I did what any responsible person would do. I went on a search for more information. I found several articles about Ronnie Earle. He has indicted 15 politicians prior to DeLay. Care to guess at the split? It was a 12-3 split. Pretty partisan, huh? Oh. Did I mention the 12 were DEMOCRATS? Everything I have found on Ronnie Earle suggests that he is a principled, ethical man. He was an Eagle Scout. He teaches classes on building community. Early in his political career, he filed a case against HIMSELF for filing papers a day late. He said he had done wrong and did not merit special treatment. He was fined $212 for the infraction.

So, DeLay's site appears to be designed to do nothing more than delude himself and the masses who support him. It has a thin veneer of credibility. Just enough to convince anyone who was lookin to be convinced, but not enough to convince the impartial or the skeptical. He'll probably beat the rap and resume his hateful ways. But maybe America will get lucky and there will be consequences or his actions.

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Another pointless blogthing

Your Monster Profile

Iron Terror

You Feast On: Jack and Coke

You Lurk Around In: The Backseats of Cars

You Especially Like to Torment: Hippies

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Bearable Lightness of Being...Lighter

This pretty little graph shows my weight since August 29. otice the steady downward slope. The red star is my first 5 pounds. The pink stars are additional fives. The line represents 10% of my starting weight. As you can see, weight watchers is going really well for me! I am now fitting into clothes that I have not worn in years. In fact, Wednesday is rapidly becoming my favorite day. I have my weigh-in, my meeting, and then tap class. I'm a lean, mean, dancin' machine! Ok, leanER. I think my target weight is 170 clothed. I have to talk to my doctor and get an opinion on that. In seven weeks, I have managed to halve my risk o heart attack and stroke. Woo hoo!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Funny Josh

Apparently, there was some excitement at Josh's school yesterday. While they drove, my wife asked him what he learned in school. "We learned about WORDS, Mommy."


"Yeah! Someone said the F-word. I don't know what the F-word is, but I'm not supposed to say it."

At this, my wife let out an involuntary laugh. This was, apparently, the wron thing to do.

"No, Mommy! It's not funny. Ms. Hope said it made her sad." He paused, reflecting. "Sad in an angry sort of way."

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bad Karma

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while realize that Karma is a recurring character around here. She is someone I am forced to work closely with and Karma is not her real name. I've given up on trying to communicate with her. My goal is just to survive her. This is hard as she is an excellent button pusher. That goal was tested again yesterday...

The testing actually began acouple weeks ago, but I've been avoiding it until now. You see, Karma has been unhappy at work long as I've known her. She hates California. She hates her boss. She hates the company. Why doesn't she leave? Apparently, she can't. Not until she wraps up some mysterious, unspecified dealings. I think she is actually a zombie and is rooted to this spot. Ok. I don't, but it sure would make things easier. At any rate, she is stuck here being miserable and therefore feels it is right to make others miserable. Apparently, some of her hatred of me stems from the fact that I am doing work that she wants to be doing. The fact that I am more qualified to do the work and better at it is irrelevant. She wants to do it and it is unjust that she can't.

A few weeks ago my boss pulled me into his office. Apparently, he has gotten to the heart of Karma's problems. Well, two of them anyway. She had been unhappy about her cube placement and denied an opportunity to move in the past. He finally moved her. She was no longer on a busy corner. People had to work at it to look into her cube, now. The other issue was that she was not getting to do any automation work. She'd been relegated primarily to manual testing. This was just as well, in my book. I spend much of my automation time debugging her scripts and try to make then pass consistently. Anyway, he wanted to talk to me about the other half of her problem. He didn't phrase it this way, but I knew where it was comingfrom. He explained to me that his current budget only allowed for one full time resource for automation. Everyone else was supposed to script when they had the opportunity. Well, my boss had decided to split the 100% oer two people. I was to go from 100% automation to 50% automation and 50% manual. This really meant closer to 0% automation as once you are on a shipping project, it consumes your soul. He explained that she wanted to do automation and I had ben hoping for more laser knowledge. It was win-win. I don't think he really believed that, but the facade allowed him to keep the peace and offered me yet another opportunity to show what a team guy I am.

Of course, I seized the opportunity. I actually do want to get some laser knowledge. And I like to work on the shipping products from time to time. But I don't want her doing scripting. Every time she writes a big script, it means more work for me. I have resolved to show her up in every phase of software quality. Perhaps when they see that she really is not good at any of this, they will ofer her the opportunity to pursue other avenues of employment.

I thought for sure these changes would have cheered her. She got a better cube and she got to inflict some unhappiness on me. She got her way. Twice. In the same week. That had to be uplifting for her, right? No. She hated the cube. It was too close to a laser. And she now had too much work to do and not enough time. And besides, Minh (also not her real name) had gotten a better automation assignment than she had. This was especially galling to her as she had worked with Minh previously and had referred her for this position. "I've created a monster," she intoned fatalistically. Minh is Vietnamese. She is petite. She is demure. She has a great smile. She is many things. Monster is not one of them.

I rolled my eyes and gave up. I headed off to do some testing. Shortly into the testing, it became apparent that our test team was only going to have one laser. We were going to have to work in shifts. Split out hours. Karma immediately placed dibs on the afternoon/evening shift. She planned to come in at 2 and leave whenever. Rather than cause a stink, even though I am more efective in the evening hours, I offered to come in at 6 am so I could maximize usage. So, I would work 6-2, Karma would work 2-10, and Jim (which is his real name) would jump in wherever he could.

Well, that was all fine and dandy until the weekend rolled around. We all had testing we had to do and Karma took an informal poll of who would be around during the weekend. I asked about running the overnight test assigned to me. She told me not to bother. "Jim and I are both coming in over the weekend. The competition for laser time is going to be tough enough as it is." Well, I'm glad she decided that my priority was lower than hers. But I didn't push it. Team player. Remember? So, I worked on stuf from home and got a fair amount accomplished.

Apparently, Jim trumped her for their overlapping portions of the weekend and Karma came in Monday in a huff. He felt that she hadn't been making the most of the laser time she had, so why should he give her more? Fortunately, that didn't impact me at all as our shifts don't have much overlap. At least I didn't think it impacted me.

On Tuesday I discovered the error of my ways. Toward the end of my shift at the height of my cold, Jim and I received a pissy email from her demanding that we set a schedule for the weekend. She wanted to know EXACTLY when the laser was hers. I responded that I thought it might be better to wait until we were closer to the weekend. That way we'd have a beter idea of what tests still needed to be done and whose testing would have priority. Then I gathered my things to go home. It was 3, I had been here nine hours, and I didn't feel well. The lab door burst open and Karma strode in. "Can you come down to Jim's desk so we can take care of the weekend schedule." I told her about my suggestion and that we could address it on Thursday or Friday. "Some of us would like to have our weekend settlede so we can make plans!" she snorted in her huffiest voice. "Well, I can't do it now," I told her, "I was just heading out the door and I don't feel well at all." This was not the right thing to say. "It'll only take five minutes. I need to know whether or not I can make plans. I need to know whether or not I can go to Church!" Apparently, her Church does not offer services multiple times over the weekend. Or else she felt that her schedule would be a handful of one hour blocks, all coinciding with her Church times.

Ah. There it was. I don't think that was her real concern, but she was looking for the martyrdom in the moment. By not doing what she wanted, when she wanted it, I was oppressing her as a Christian. I felt a sudden rush of power. I was an oppressor. I decided to make use of it. "Well, it'll have to wait until tomorrow. I need to be someplace." She stormed out and immediately fired off another email. This one reiterated her point that things had to be taken care of right away.

On my way out, I stopped off to talk to Jim. He couldn't meet right then, because he had another meeting. I told him I'd check in with my wife and give him my availability in the morning. He found that to be more than sufficient. In the morning, I gave him my availability. Karma gave him her preferences. She wanted the prime aftenoon spots on Saturday and Sunday, 2-7 both days. These aren't what you'd call reasonable shifts. Neither Jim nor I could really come in after 7 since we both are in in the morning on Monday. She ended up getting 2-7 Saturday and 4-7 Sunday. I got noon-4 Sunday and Jim took 6am-noon. He also figured he'd come in Saturday evening and try to get some stuff done.

Karma looked at the schedule and said, "Oh, good. I can come in early on Saturday since nobody else is using that slot." So, her strategy was to take times she knew other people wanted and then come in on the open times that nobody wanted! Nice.

The weekend rolled around and Jim decided to come in Saturday around 4 to check some things and see if he could hop on the laser when Karma was done at 7. Problem was, she wasn't there! This ticked Jim off more than a little bit as he could have come in earlier and made it home in time to have dinner with his family. However, she had the laser to herself from 2-7 so, he had waited. This only added to his pique about her poor use of laser time.

I dare not hope it, but could this be the end of Karma?

If you are new to the character and want to see more of her absurd, but true, exploits, check out these tales:

Karma on beauty
Karma on The South
Karma dictates breakfast law
I have fun at Karma's expense re:breakfast
I have more fun re:breakfast
Karma explains acceptable prejudice
Karma hates rice...and Asians

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A NEW Hell Meme

Well, we've created our own hells and populaed them with those we felt were deserving. Time to turn the tables! Answer a series of religion and 'morality' questions and see which layer of hell you will be dispatched to.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

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Monday, October 17, 2005

"Well Explained" Design

The Dover ID-ers got a scientist to testify on their behalf in the court case. For those who have somehow missed it, the Dover, PA school board is trying to force Intelligent Design into the science curriculum...

Michael Behe is a biology teacher at Lehigh University. UNIVERSITY! He has some very unscientific things to say. Here's a good excerpt:

evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force
Ohhhhhh-kay. Since evolution cannot explain something in its field, the ONLY other possibility is that it must be the work of an intelligent designer. Let me try that. Hmmmmmmmm. I was sitting in my room when the light went out. I checked the filament. It was intact. I checked the circuit breaker. It had not tripped. I checked the plug. It was plugged in. Oh my gosh! An Intelligent Designer must have removed the luminosity from the light.

Sheesh. You'd think that a college biologist would be quick to point out that gaps are being filled in all the time as people conduct more research and investigation.

And even if there is an Intelligent Designer, what does that have to do with Science class?

Honestly, I'd be comfortable with making sure that the science texts containing evolution contained language that explained what a scientific theory is. That evolution is a theory, albeit a strong one. And that there are holes in evolution that many people are studying in order to try to fill the gaps. There. Now evolution is not presented as all-encompassing. It is still presented accurately. And it is up to the listener to decide by whatever means they have at their disposal what should fill those gaps. No institutional religion. Just scientific method.

Another good section which I'm sure is not fully explained in the article is where:
[Behe] made a scientific argument that blood-clotting "is poorly explained by Darwinian processes but well explained by design."
Now, without seeing his scientific argument, it's tough to refute it. However, it likely falls back to my original complaint. If [well reasoned argument about why clotting doesn't work under Darwin], then [a miracle occurred]. It's very tidy to say something happens because it was supposed to happen, but it's not verifiable. And it discounts the more plausible "we just haven't ound the explanation yet".

And to the faithful out there, I am a religious man. I believe in Creation. But I do not believe it is literal. My religious beliefs and my scientific knowledge coexist reasonably harmoniously. That's because I do not let my faith contradict observable science. I am reminded o this Douglas Adams quote from Hitchhiker's:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

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Guess I Won't Be Making Meth

I don't know how it is elsewhere in the country, but if reports are to be believed, crystal meth labs are popping up all over Tijuana and San Diego. In an effort to clamp down on this, the local powers that be have passed regulations limited the sale of one of the more common ingredients. Some pharmacies are keeping it behind the counter even though it is an OTC med. I am, of course, referring to that evil chemical, pseudo ephedrine...

I ran face first into the new policy last night as I stopped off to pick up some Nyquil and Dayquil as my cold has persisted for over a week and I have a major deadline. So, taking time off is not an option. Can't rest? Medicate! Nyquil at night. Dayquil in day. Duh! I wanted to go to Costco and just buy the mega pack of gel caps, but they were already closed, so I went to my local pharmacy chain. I had my choice of the 40 count pack for $15 or two 20 count packs of the store brand for a combined $10. A tough choice. So, I grabbed two generic night time and two eneric day time and headed off to pay.

Boop. Boop. Boop. Bzzzzzt! The clerk looked at the item and then at the readout. "Sorry, hon, but you are only allowed three of these." I blinked. I wasn't sure what the next move would be. "It's the new crystal meth restrictions," she elaborated. I laughed. "So, I could have bought ANY three products that had pseudofed in them, but no more?" She thought about this for a second and nodded.

I could have bought three packs of forty, but I can't by four packs of twenty. In the former, I am an upstanding citizen. In the latter, I am a drug trafficking suspect. Even better, I could have bought three of the hundred count bottles of pseudofed if I wanted. All of them contain the same amount of pseudo ephedrine per dose. I'd imagine the chemical process to extract the pseudo ephedrine would be easier with fewer ingredient involed. (B.O.B.?) Plus, I paid with a credit card that matched my photo ID. If I was a criminal drug lord, I'd want to make sure there was no paper trail. I'd pay cash.

Then, it got better. She could see I was sick and felt badly or me. She said, in full view of the customers, "I can't override the computer, but if you just come around and go back through the line again, it will let you do it." Excellent. So, if I was trying to make meth, I now knew a couple of ways around the system. I can either go out and come back in. Have a few friends with me and go to different checkout lines. Or, easiest of all, just go to each of the dozen pharmacies along the 1 mile stretch of main road. Buy three hundred count bottles of pseduofed at each stop. Then, fill up my tub and start extracting chemicals.

I love intelligent deterrents.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

It's Against My Religion to Impregnate a Lesbian

At least, that's what these doctors said. They later amended their position that they wouldn't perform the artificial insemination because the Guadalupe Benitez was unmarried, even though she had been living with her 'partner' for 7 years. The doctors used religious freedom as their defense in the suit brought by the woman. The judge ruled that religious freedom could not be used as a defense. That, to me, raises an interesting point. If a business owner is not getting any government money, are they legally obligated to give their services to anyone willing to pay? Is their own personal morality allowed to come into play here? Personally, I don't think it was right for them to refuse to do an IVF on this woman. Fortunately, she was able to find another doctor to help. The only thing I can see going for her side, though, is the slippery slope argument. If we allow one practice to discriminate based on a protected class, there is nothing to stop all of them. And then, we could reach a point where services aren't available to Guadalupe, because everyone has some 'valid' reason why they cannot help her. So, I suppose I'm opposed to their attitude, but wondering what sort of relief exists for someone who is morally opposed to performing an action for some people, but not others. For example, would anyone be up in arms if doctors refused to artificially inseminate an 18 year old, unmarried woman?

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Thursday, October 13, 2005


Well, I got tired of the fact that Bloglines will only let me blogroll blogs that have an RSS feed. It's good in that it helps you avoid stale links, but it's bad in that many of my friends cannot be linked to through it. So, I've switched to Blogrolling. I can add any blog I want and attach to it a mouseover comment. Blogs updated within the last few hours will have an * next to them. So, rejoice Wombat, Kerri, Jocelyn, and NM! You are now rolled.

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How Many?

More fun with Dubya, courtesy of my friend, Jim.

Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing. He concludes by saying, "Yesterday, three Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"Oh NO!" exclaims Dubya, "That's horrible!"

The staff is stunned at this display of emotion and sit there watching the President with his head in his hands.

Finally, Dubya looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Wisdom of Dubya

Q: What's Dubya's position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He thinks they are both fine ways to get out of New Orleans.

Not sure where to credit this one. I read it somewhere but don't remember where.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Soup is Good Food

I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I made myself some tasty soup to take to work today. Non-creamy soups don't cost any points under the Weight Watchers core plan, so I've started to experiment with my own soup recipes. My first soup was a really tasty black bean that I think came out better than Panera's black bean soup, and I really like theirs. It's too bad I cook by improv. Next time I'll have to measure things as I add them so I can post a recipe. Today's soup was a chicken broth based barley soup. I combined broth, pearled barley, scallions, plum tomatoes, carrots, and minced garlic. The garlic and barley combined for some nice flavor. Mmmmmmmmmm.

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Bye, Bye Beef

A while back (over three months now), I gave up red meat. It happened right after my sigmoidoscopy. It was the health precursor to joining Weight Watchers. My colon was clean and it seemed a good idea to keep it that way. Plus, my cholosterol was just slightly on the wrong side of 200 and my triglycerides were higher than I would have liked. So, although I used to really enjoy a good steak or a burger, I decided it had to go. Now, every time I want one, I just try to remember what my friend Patti used to say. "Beef! It's what's in your colon."

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Organizational Excellence

So, I'm here at work at 4:30 in the morning and it's a bit chilly. So, I thought a cup of hot chocolate might be nice. (Sugar Free of course.) I go to the kitchen. No cups out on the counter. Plenty of lids, but no cups. No worries. I look through all the cabinets. More lids. No cups. I glance about the room knowing that there must be a box around somewhere. They often dump a box in the kitchen and wait for someone to empty it. Ah. There it is. A box. OF LIDS.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Things NOT to do when driving to Mexico

So, last Wednesday, we began our journey to San Felipe. We made a few mistakes along the way, though none of them ended up hurting us too badly. We didn't spend any time in a Mexican prison and we didn't have to bribe any Mexican officials. Still, it could have gone better...

Things didn't start all that well as we had not packed or arranged our supplies or secured care for Nala. My wife had not finished her homework and I had not proofread it. We did not have our car activities set out and I was still unable to copy an audio book to our device. Oh, yes, and Maya and I had a rehearsal from 7-9:30. Somehow, we got all the things done and even had the car loaded such that we just had to roll out of bed and go in the morning. This of course contributed directly to the first thing.

The first thing you should not do when meeting people at 5:30 am in a Target parking lot to caravan down to Mexico is to stay up until 1:45 am making trip preparations. Granted, they need to be done, but you really ought to start sooner. Six hour drives are not recommended on three hours sleep. This is especially true if you don't speak the language of the place you are traveling to.

But we did that anyway and had to suffer the consequences. One of those consequences is also item number 2 on our list. If you need to arrive at 5:30 am, do not set the alarm clock to 5:00...PM! It might get you a little extra sleep, but it only annoys the people who got up on time and are waiting for your sorry butt. And if you do make this mistake, try not to sound like the ringing phone woke you up. Blame your children for the delay or something like that.

We were fortunate in that the people we were traveling with are really nice and overlooked our tardiness. By a little after 6 the wagon train pulled out. We were given the privilege of being the middle car. This is good because they would have lost us otherwise. Our little 4 cylinder engine was no match for the Sequoia in front of us and the Beemer behind. We were barely able to do 50 on the uphill parts in the mountains. Craig wrangled from behind and we kept in cell phone contact while we were on the U.S. side of the border. We brought radios so that we wouldn't have to use the phones once we crossed. Roaming charges, you see. That segues nicely into number 3.

We stopped at a McDonald's in Colexico which is the U.S. city adjacent to Mexicali, where we would be crossing. Craig and I took our cars to get gas and Mexican car insurance while everyone else went in for a bite. We came back and stopped in for something ourselves. I opted for lowfat milk which I added to the cereal I had brought. Then we piled in for an uneventful border crossing. Getting into Mexico is very easy. I don't think anyone even asked us a question. We just drove straight through. That's when thing number 3 occurred to us. "Where's Curt?", I asked. Curt is Joshua's favorite stuffed friend. He's a bear with a Red Sox World Series shirt. He was in the car when we got to McDonald's, but did not seem to be present now. "Where's my cell phone?", I added, as I looked around for Curt. "I didn't have either one," my wife informed me. "I left the phone right on the seat," I asserted, a mild note of panic mingling with the lack of sleep. "Josh brought Curt to the bathroom with him," Maya recalled. Bollix.

We signaled and pulled over to the shoulder on the main highway in Mexicali. We were still very much in the city part. Cars wooshed by as the Sequoia idled in front and the BMW behind. Craig hopped out to find out what was going on and relay the information to Maria, the lead driver. We searched the whole car and found the cell phone. In the trunk. "Oh. Maybe I moved that when I moved our warm clothes," my wife said unabashedly. We decided we had to do a trunk dive for Curt, Josh screaming and crying the whole while. Alas, Curt was not there. He had to still be at McDonald's, on the U.S. side of the border. Border crossing on a work day, which this was, at rush hour, which this was, is a challenging proposition. After our tardiness, nobody wanted to add another 1-2 hours onto the trip.

So, we did the only thing we could. We broke out the cell phones and ate some information and roaming charges. There were two McD's in Colexico. We asked for the one near the border. I called it. A man answered. "Ola." I explained that we were looking for a stuffed bear that was left behind and that we had just eaten there. Clearly, he knew, right what I was getting at. "Ola?" he replied. The mild note decided to kick it up a notch. "Look...ummmm....nosotros...uh...left...un pequna...ehhhhh....stuffed animal." You just know THAT is going to work. "Ola?" Argh! "Look, can I speak to someone else?" *click* He hung up on me. He hung up on me! How hard is it to figure out that you don't speak the same language as the person on the other end and get someone who does?!? I called back, hoping to get someone else. I did! And they promptly told me I wanted the OTHER McD's. At least they gave me the number. So, I called that one and was getting nowhere again, when my wife stepped up to the plate. She is not fluent in Spanish, but is significantly closer than I am. She used far fewer Ums and Uhs and more Spanish words. After five minutes, they determined that they didn't have the bear. They also determined that they were not the McD's right next to the border. They gave us the first phone number again. This time, my wife had the discussion with Senor Ola. He was willing to hand the phone off for her because he could almost understand her. Grrrrrr. Well, she talked to the other person. "Did you find uno osito? A little bear?" The woman on the other end was the manager. She gave an excited reply, "¿Osa Menor? Sí. ¿Es marrón y borrosa? ¿Tiene una pequeña camisa blanca?" That means, "A little bear? Yes. Is it brown and fuzzy? Does it have a little white shirt?" We found Curt! They agreed to put him in a bag for us with our name on it and hold onto it until Sunday. We couldn't go back, but we had found our wayward bear and were assured of his return. Granted, the phone charges were likely more than the cost of the bear, but there are just some things you have to do when you're a Dad.

By the way, number 3 on the list? Don't let your children take anything out of the car at any rest stops!

So, now we were in the unenviable position of having to explain to Josh that we weren't going to see Curt for the rest of vacation. He didn't take it well. I tried explaining that Curt was just having a sleepover. He was going to eat chicken nuggets and play on the playground. We'd pick him up Sunday and all would be well. He was still not very pleased, so I broke out the radios. Distract him, I thought. He liked them and it did distract him, although he couldn't get the hang of pressing the talk button. So, he had me talk to him. Then I got silly. To amuse him, I started saying, "Aieeeeeee! Los Federales! Ayuda me! Ayuda me!" in a kind of high pitched voice into the radio. This translates roughly to, "Aieeeeeee! The state police! Help me!" He laughed. He wanted me to do it again. And again. This led to thing 4. I did it one more time and the radio crackled to life. Someone with an official sounding voice said "Ola?" and then rattled off a bunch of Spanish. Thing 4: Don't bust on the police on an open radio.

We decided to stop playing with the radios at this point. At the next red light, we did a Chinese fire drill to get the second radio to Craig and Kat. That way we could communicate without roaming charges as we drove. Things went pretty smoothly for a while, even though everyone was tired and cranky. Maria set a blistering pace that we were not exactly comfortable with. The speed limit alternated between 60 and 80 km/hr. We were doing 120. Knowing that the Federales like to hassle gringos, we were more interested in toeing the line. Additionally, she liked to pass in non-passing zones and stay in the other lane for an extended period to pass more than one car. At least that is what we thought at the time. It turns out the whole 'staying in the other lane' thing is a caravan trick to let you know it is clear to get over. That enables everyone to know when it is safe to pass. Live and learn. We were still going too fast. We were ripe for thing 5. There were a few contributing factors to thing 5. The first was our speed. The second was the bright sun behind us which made it hard to see when the lead car's brake lights came on. The third was not braking slowly as we passed a Federales cruiser on the side of the ride while decelerating from double he speed limit.

As we passed by his position, we noticed his car pull out behind Craig. I dare say we were all a little anxious. He followed for a bit and then pulled alongside Craig. We had all slowed to within the speed limit. He stared out the window of the cruiser at Craig, daring him to look. To his credit, Craig stared straight ahead. After a while, he tired of this and pulled alongside us. My wife was driving and refused to look. I sneaked a glance from under my hat. It was covering my face so I could feign sleep. The trooper did not appear to be in a good mood. His stern expression was accentuated by his slicked back hair and mirrored shades. He didn't see me peek and my wife refused to look, so he moved up the column. He pulled in front of Maria and enforced the speed limit with his presence all the waedgep to the ede of the desert. He tired of the game and the heat and pulled off at the last chance saloon on the edge of the desert for a beer. Bullet dodged. Thing 5: don't jam on the brakes in front of the Feds, especially when you are speeding.

Given this travelogue, I'm sure you are expecting trouble in the desert. Wrong! The only interesting thing in the desert was the military checkpoint and the men with machine guns. They looked at us and just waved us through. We evenuneventfulan uneventul pit stop at a road side "rest area". It was a bit sketchy. There was a man there who attended the area and sold cold beverages. He also handed out napkins as you walked by. This was to make up for the lack of toilet paper. He spoke no English, so I exhausted my entire Spanish vocabulary conversing with him while the kids went to the bathroom. Then Josh needed my help. When I went in, I found an interesting place. The urinals had been removed from the walls such that you had to use one of the two stalls. The door to one of them didn't open. This turned out not to be a big deal as the wall between the two stalls was missing. I found out what Joshua needed my help with. Hopping from one stall to the other through the missing divider.

We got back on the road and made good time he rest of the way. We pulled into the resort at noon and it only took an hour to get our rooms and keys. From there, we went to lunch arestaurantl restaraunt for our final mistake of the day. We pulled together a bunch of tables on the patio to make room for the twelve of us. Some of us ordered in English and some in Spanish. We waffled on whether or not the water was purified there. The waiter told us he'd bring us a pitcher. But we still weren't sure, so I went to the room and brought back bottled water, instead of buying theirs. We also brought our own wine. We confirmed that this was ok before we did it. The waiter was very nice about it. He uncorked the wine and put both bottles in a bucket of ice on a stand. Then the food came out. Craig and Miriam had ordered carne asada quesadillas. Twice when repeating the order, the waiter had said 'tacos' instead of 'quesadillas'. So, I stopped and corrected him. He got very impatient and said, "Si. Si. I know!" He brought out two plates of carne asada TACOS. Then he insisted they were quesadillas. Maya ordered chicken enchiladas with rice and beans. He brought her chicken salad on lettuce on a fish shaped plate. He then insisted she said "insalata" and not "enchilada". He relented and brought what she ordered. Miriam ate her tacos. Craig did not. The waiter scowled at us the whole time. When we finally got he bill, there was a $12 charge for uncorking the wine that we had not been informed of.

Thing 6: Don't piss off a grumpy Mexican waiter.

Next time, I'll tell you about the actual trip itself.

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Bill limiting procreation assistance abandoned

Apparently, the genius behind Indiana's procreation assistance bill aws not anticipating all the negative flap she was getting about the bill and has dropped it. State Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) had acknowledged the bill would be controversial. Duh! So, you want to force people who can't conceive naturally to have to submit to government scrutiny to determine whether or not they are fit to be parents? And they got upset? Just because the statute said gays and single people were unfit to be pregnant? Shocking!

Score one for "All men are created equal."

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Weight Watchers Week

So, I've been on Weight Watchers for just over five weeks now and it has been going well. I started this post after week 1, wherein I lost 5 lbs, but never quite finished the post. I have now lost approximately 15 pounds and feel great! I just got my 15 lb star and am closing in on my first 10%. When I have lost 21 lbs, I will have lost 10% of my body weight. My unclothed weight this morning was 189.5! That is the lowest I have been since about my wife's second trimester with Maya. If I get down to 180 unclothed, my lovely wife has promised to by me a new mp3 player! You can't help but feel better about yourself under those circumstances. And the thing is, it hasn't been too hard! It hasn't been easy, but I've found the Weight Watchers program to be perfect for me...

It's not as oppressive a program as you might expect. I know I did. That's why I put off joining for as long as I did. I kept telling myself that I could lose the weight my own way. After a while, I decided that maybe I couldn't. I found a WW location near me, via the website and went down to sign up.

There are a number of ways to do WW. The most effective is to attend meetings with a friend. I don't have any of those out here who are interested in losing weight with me, so I decided to fly solo, which is still more effective than not going to meetings. At any rate, the meetings have different topic each week, and after your first meeting there is an orientation. The meeting consists of weighing-in, getting a new information booklet (during the first 12 weeks), recognizing accomplishments, discussing the topic of the week, Q&A, and then an orientation or newcomers or people who want a refresher.

The first thing to learn about WW is that it is not a diet. It's a lifestyle change. This is a crucial component as diets don't really work. As soon as you stop the thing that is enabling your weight loss, you go right back up again. The point of WW is to change your perceptions and conceptions about what is a healthy lifestyle.

At orientation, I learned that WW offers two meal plans. Neither requires you to buy anything special. (They make their money of meeting fees and optional products.) You can switch between the plans at the beginning of each week, if you like. Most people choose the Flex plan, but I preferred the Core plan. Actually, I kind of did both, but with a focus on the core plan. I was curious how they compared, you see. The Flex plan allocates you a certain number of points based on your weight at the beginning of the week. You log everything you eat and drink in your weekly journal and record the points on the table. The more you weigh, the more points you get. The minimum for anyone regardless of weight is 20 per day. The maximum is 34. This is to ensure that you are eating enough, but still positioned to safely lose weight.

To give you a sense of scale, here are some point values.

  • 1 cup of lettuce = 0 points
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans = 2 points
  • 1 cup of skim milk = 2 points
  • 4 oz of lean beef = 6 points
  • 1 McDonald's cheese burger = 7 points
  • 1 cup regular ice cream = 8 points
  • 1/4 of a Papa Gino's large cheese pizza = 10 points
  • 1 cup premium ice cream = 14 points
  • 1 original Whopper sandwich = 17 points
  • 1 medium size chocolate chip cookie dough Dairy Queen Blizzard = 24 points
  • Denny's Farmer Slam WITHOUT syrup or butter = 30 points!!!
So you can see that some foods work well with your points and others do not. On the core plan, you can eat anything you want, as long as you have the points for it. The only rule is, you bite it, you write it. In addition to your daily allotment, you also have 35 points to use as you see fit for the week. You can use them all at one meal, if, say, you wanted the Farmer Slam. You could also just have 5 extra points a day if you wanted a little treat here or there. Maybe you can't live without butter, so you use your points for that. They do not carry over from week to week. Point values are listed in your week 1 book for most foods. If you don't see a food listed, you also get a slide rule that correlates fiber, fat, and calories to points.

The core plan is simpler, but more restrictive. You still get your 35 weekly points for whatever you want, so there is some counting involved. However, your daily guideline is that you are allowed to eat until you are satisfied of ANY of the core foods. The core food list is pretty extensive. You can have all the fresh fruits and vegetables you want. Ditto for lean cuts of meat, fish, and eggs. You are also allowed healthy oils, high fiber cereals, and fat free milk. You can also have potatoes or whole grain pasta at one meal a day. Most sauces that are not cream based are also on the core plan. Basically, you are cutting out refined sugar and fatty dairy. You don't have to log what you eat, but it is still a good idea to do it.

Regardless of the plan, you are also supposed to follow some healthy guidelines as well. These guidelines include eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 servings of dairy, 2 servings of healthy oil, and six eight-ounce glasses of water each day. It is also recommended that you take a daily multi-vitamin, and ensure that you get at least one serving of protein per day. Here is my week one daily log:

Day 1:
Veggie omelet
cup of skim milk
medium apple
1/2 large cucumber
slice of watermelon
broccoli slaw salad
1 cup of grapes
home made chicken stir fry
8 oz baby carrots
cup of skim milk
Total points: 22
Day 2:
1.25 cups of shredded wheat
cup of skim milk
medium apple
stir fry
4 oz baby carrots
sesame bread
1 banana
left over stir-fry
1/2 cucumber
cup of skim milk
Total points: 26
Day 3:
Grilled chicken salad
1 cup sugar free pudding
Celery stalks
1.25 cups shredded wheat
1 cup skim milk
More celery
Applebees Tilapia dinner
Applebees WW berry cheesecake
Total points: 27
Day 4:
1.25 cups shredded wheat
cup of skim milk
Stir fry
1 cup sugar free pudding
Whole wheat pasta
Home made tomato sauce with ground turkey

Total points: 26
Day 5:
shredded wheat
cup skim milk
4 oz carrots
celery stalks
8 oz watermelon
5 oz chicken
finger vegetables
black bean soup
grilled chicken salad
veggies and dip
Total points: 23
Day 6:
cup skim milk
ground turkey sloppy joes
cucumber slices
garden salad
Applebees Tilapia dinner
grape tomatoes

Total points: 16
Day 7:
1 cup Kashi puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup shredded wheat
1 cup skim milk
Whole wheat pasta
Home made meat sauce
Grape tomatoes
Cucumber slices
1 cup black bean soup
1 cup grapes
2 cups couscous
1 cup pearled barley
Total points: 25

As you can see, I wasn't exactly starving there. I just changed my food choices and watched my portion sizes a bit. I was never really hungry for long. When I was hungry, I ate. I averaged 23.5 points per day and had I been on the flex plan, I would have been required to eat between 20 and 26 points. So, they really are equivalent from a caloric point of view. As to my flex points, I used up a bunch of them as I made mistakes in figuring out what to eat and not to eat. All my pudding during the first week cost me because it wasn't fat free like I thought when I bought it. I got the pre-made. Now I buy the instant and make it with skim milk. I also used some points on my Applebees trips. They don't have those rated or the core plan, so I had to deduct the full point cost, even though the vegetables and fish were core. It was just the rice and the oils that I needed to deduct. But I've adopted a generally stricter posture to be on the safe side.

The other major component is the meetings. Here you can get questions answered about what is core and what isn't. Members share foods they have found that have reasonable point costs with each other. We discuss strategies for difficult situations. And we congratulate people who have reached various goals. You get a star for every 5 lbs and a key chain when you lose 10% of your starting weight. Not sure what you get when meet your goal. But once you make goal and maintain it for a couple months, then you are a life member. You get to come for free to the meetings and only have to weigh in once a month.

If you are looking to lose weight, I highly recommend Weight Watchers.

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