Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Off!

I'm heading to Minneapolis this week for work. I'm flying there and back on United/Ted with a layover in Denver, and staying in the Holiday Inn Rivercentre in downtown. The forecast for today and tomorrow is snow - perfect for a mile walk each way to the training class I have, right? As I used to say in high school: Hasta la bye-bye.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why I Won't Vote For Clinton

It's because of things like this:

Sen. Hillary Clinton would have long ago distanced herself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright if she had been a member of his church, the Democratic presidential candidate said Tuesday.

It's the first time she or her campaign has commented directly on a controversy that has swirled around rival Sen. Barack Obama's campaign in recent weeks.

"I think given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor," Clinton said in a news conference in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

I think this sort of comment is, in a nutshell, just about everything that's wrong with politics. She's referencing and making a "judgement" (which carries absolutely no real life consequences) about what she would have done, and posturing in such a meaningless way for nothing but political gain. It's meaningless, shameless, unadulterated pandering. It's like someone saying if they were married to President Clinton, they would have treated him better so he wouldn't have strayed into adultery. It's taking an intensely personal, complex matter and reducing it to the point of parody, making a farcical judgment based on that reduction, and claiming to be morally superior for doing so.

Really, it just makes me mad.

Fatal Flaw

Fox News has reported on a study that says newlyweds are more happy when the woman is more attractive than the man. But they report the story as though it is the secret for marital bliss... when the study only talks about people who got married within the previous 6 months. I wonder how this would change if you look at the marriage in 5 years.

"Psychologists who studied newlyweds found men who were better-looking than their wives were more likely to be unhappy and have negative feelings about their marriage.

In couples where the wife is more attractive, both partners tended to be very content."

The proof is in. Men are shallow. Is anyone, anywhere surprised? This fits the stereotype well that women are more interested in being married (with less regard to the partner), while men are happier when they manage to punch above their weight.

Debt Update

I like round numbers. So when I passed the $2,500 mark today in my debt-reduction plan, I felt good. I had to do slightly more than my normal $200 payment ($222), and I'm only at $2,499.90... but it's still progress. The end of this month marks 6 months since I started focusing on eliminating roughly $4,800 in debt. In two weeks, I'll pass the halfway point. And in May, the Federal government is going to be kind enough to spot me an extra month-and-a-half in credit-card payments ($600), which will help me hit my goal that much sooner.

At this rate, I should be able to pay off my credit card in time for my birthday (if I have it figured right, the paycheck that puts me over the top is August 8). I might have to turn 30 utterly single, but at least I can do so with $0 revolving debt.

Media Bias?

Want to do an exercise in figuring out media bias? Here's your chance.

A) Mitt Romney claimed, inaccurately, that his father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.
B) Hillary Clinton claimed, incorrectly, that she had to run with her head down to a waiting car in Bosnia because of sniper fire.

Both statements had an element of truth (Romney's father was participating in related civil rights activity with Dr. King, and Clinton was in an area which was a "potential combat zone."). Both were made while seeking their party's nomination to run for president. The exercise is to compare the way the statements by each were treated in the press. How quickly were they let off the hook? How soon were their words scrutinized? Which publications carried more stories about the various snafus?

The only substantive difference in these accounts for me is that Romney at least has the excuse that he was a child when the actions in question were taking place. Clinton's story was from 12 years ago, not 40.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Information Available at the Time

There's a telling article in the RGJ about a wood-chip biomass power plant in Carson City. It begins:

An $8.3 million biomass plant expected to provide power for two Nevada state prisons has operated only sporadically because of a lack of wood used as fuel.

Nevada Department of Corrections officials had predicted the plant would replace energy from electricity and natural gas at Northern Nevada Correctional Center and the neighboring Stewart Conservation Camp. The plant has not run more than three days straight since it opened six months ago.

"Wood continues to be an issue for us," said Lori Bagwell, department director of support services. "We do not have an adequate and appropriate supply."

The department and Carson City Renewable Resources, hired to provide wood for the plant, said the problem is the lack of supply from the U.S. Forest Service.

The agency sometimes gives limbs and underbrush not used commercially and can be a fire hazard to services that recycle wood. This "biomass" usually is too expensive to move to Carson City to be processed.

"We have the supply," said Ed Monnig, forest supervisor of Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest. "It's the cost of getting the wood to the plant that's the crux of the matter."

But the real kicker is towards the end of the article. There, after the problems are detailed, the response is:

A 2005 report by Phoenix-based APS Energy Services said the plant could be fueled by unusable wood. That is the same company that built the plant.

"Prior to the construction of the biomass plant at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, we worked with the correctional center to evaluate all factors related to the project, fuel source being one of those," said Damon Gross, an APS Energy Services representative.

"We believe the correctional center made the best decision for the state of Nevada taxpayers with the information that was available at the time the decision was made," Gross said. "We continue to work closely with the Northern Nevada Correctional Center during the final phases of startup."

I'd like to know what, precisely, changed in the available information since then. This sounds like a hollow excuse to me. One of the big, persistent, and predictable problems with projects like this is summed up nicely early in the article. "'Generally speaking,' Monnig said, 'the biomass itself isn't worth enough to pay its way off the mountain.'" There's a reason that wood (an obvious and abundant fuel) wasn't being used to generate power before this plant was built, and now that $8.3 million has been sunk into the project, it is becoming evident.

And, lest you think that the wood-chip-burning plant is at least environmentally friendly, remember this: the wood is being burned to get energy. Just like coal or oil. And just like coal or oil, it impacts the environment by releasing carbon that has been taken out of the atmosphere and stored in a solid form (in burning, the stored energy is unleashed as the complex carbon gets broken back down to CO2). My guess is that burning wood is, per unit of energy produced, not that more efficient (and maybe less efficient) than coal. If that's true, then the environment, the taxpayers, and pretty much everyone involved would have been better served by a coal-fired power plant. Good intentions can be such lovely paving stones on the road to perdition.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Ridiculously Impossible

To be a Christian, you must believe that something ridiculously impossible has happened. The Resurrection is something that can have no natural cause or it is robbed of all value, and if the resurrection did not happen than to follow Christ is a fantastic waste of time.

There can be no equivocation on this. If there is no resurrection, than Paul was right: we who believe it are the most pitiful of men. If there is, then there is not a person alive who would not benefit from hearing what such a person has to say.

I am not a follower of a philosophy. I am not a Christian because I am a naturally magnanimous and noble person. I believe that some 2,000 years ago a dead man walked out of the tomb alive, in awesome power beyond anything ever seen before or since and that such a man deserves to be followed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lent: Week Seven

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit"


Is there any impetus more universal for humans than the desire for control? Every single one of us strives for it. Maybe not in all areas of our lives, but we generally want to be masters of our domains. We expect to be able to choose and dictate the course of our lives. To be able to choose "today I will eat, tonight I will sleep."

In Western life in particular, we choose our foods, cars, clothing, housing, carreer, mates, when we have children, and a thousand other things. We choose our doctors, dentists and insurance. We can set the temperature in the house - sometimes we can even program the thermostat to adjust throughout the day.

There are few things as unambiguously frustrating as the loss of control. When we feel stuck, trapped by forces beyond the grasp of our manipulative hands. We value self-help books because we don't want to cede the control over fixing our own problems.

But we're not in control. Not by a long shot. From time to time, moments beyond our imagining will shove their way into our cloistered, controlled life and force us to deal with that fact. Perhaps an illness created by invisible invaders will make you too sick to walk. Maybe despite all your best attempts, your child decides to rebel anyway. Maybe you're stuck watching loved ones go through problems no hand can fix. Maybe you have to go to work at a job you hate day after day to provide for a family that barely acknowledges that you're running yourself ragged for them.

Death is the ultimate loss of control. You cease to have any ability to do anything. All you have ever known is a body of flesh and bone; now unresponsive, unmoving, unliving. It is at that point that you have nothing at all to fall back on. Stripped bare, all pretension is gone.

What do we have to do or say at that moment except to trust Another completely with all we are?

And how can we practice for that most dire or most glorious moment, except to do the same now? If I cannot entrust myself to God, cede myself to God, relinquish control of myself to God today... how will I ever be prepared when no other option remains? If I cannot trust God in the pains of life today, how could I ever trust him with my very spirit at the moment when this body fails me?

If I cannot say now "Father, into your hands I commit my grief, my sorrow, my frustration, my hopes, my dreams, my passions and my fears," then neither am I ready to say "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One of those years

Really, the basketball season ending how it did was a microcosm of the year to date since my last birthday. So close, yet so very far.

Race in America

I haven't had time to read all of - much less fully digest - Barack Obama's speech about race in America. But what I read of it (maybe the first 1/3) reminded me what I like most about Obama. He is a man, according to several accounts of those close to him, that thinks deeply about issues. I think he did a good job of using both broad and detailed brushes in what is too often a sound-byte world.

I found what I read to be very interesting. And very well-centered... an amazing feat with such a polarizing issue.

Monday, March 17, 2008


The other day, I decided I wanted a different desktop image. But I also wanted something specific - a flat background for my icons on the left, and a simple image on the right. I liked my hot air balloon pictures, but the background of the pictures wasn't what I really wanted. So, I started manipulating things. Mostly, I kept the balloon as-is, but took the background, stretched a thin line of it across the screen, and blurred it a lot while darkening it. When I was done, I had this.


Sound familiar? Sunday I discovered that one of my tires had what looked like a nail stuck in it, and a tire that was flat. With the scar on my left pinky finger still sore (if I push it at just the right angle), I tried to take it to Big O Tires to fix the flat.

Closed Sundays. Perfect.

I made sure I had my portable air compresson in my car, and went to work today. I made it home alright, but had decided to give fixing my own flat another try. So I got home, jacked up the car, pulled off the tire, let some air out, pulled out what was actually a 3/4" screw with really thick threads, ran the rasp through the hole, put in the patch material, grabbed a knife, and....

I managed to cut away the material safely, gingerly, and without filleting myself. I put the tire back on the car, reinflated it, checked for leaks, and am ready to go.

But I did wear leather work gloves, and gripped the patch material with pliers, while the tire lay flat on the ground (instead of being supported between my knees). I was careful, and the caution payed off.

Bush and the Economy

From a speech by the President at the Economic Club of New York:

"Fortunately, we recognized the slowdown early and took action. And it was decisive action, in the form of policies that will spur growth. We worked with the Congress. I know that may sound incongruous to you, but I do congratulate the Speaker and Leader Reid, as well as Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Secretary Paulson, for anticipating a problem and passing a robust package quickly.

This package is temporary, and it has two key elements. First, the growth package provides incentives for businesses to make investments in new equipment this year. As more businesses take advantage, investment will pick up, and then job creation will follow. The purpose was to stimulate investment. And the signal is clear -- once I signed the bill, the signal to folks in businesses large and small know that there's some certainty in the tax code for the remainder of this year.

Secondly, the package will provide tax rebates to more than 130 million households. And the purpose is to boost consumer spending. The purpose is to try to offset the loss of wealth if the value of your home has gone down. The purpose is to buoy the consumer.

The rebates haven't been put in the mail yet. In other words, this aspect of the plan hasn't taken to effect. There's a lot of Americans who've heard about the plan; a lot of them are a little skeptical about this "check's in the mail" stuff that the federal government talks about. (Laughter.) But it's coming, and those checks, the Secretary assures me, will be mailed by the second week of May. "


What's really important to note in this is that the government doesn't have the resources to grab and pull the economy out of recession. $130 billion is a drop in the bucket of national U.S. economic activity. The only useful stimulus, then, is one that is well-timed and can help keep the economy from tipping over. That point was passed at - and possibly before - debate on this package ever began. Stimulus that was voted on in February but doesn't arrive until May is useless, and accomplishes nothing but adding to an already gargantuan Federal budget deficit.

But even more than that, look at the second-to-last quoted paragraph here. The President just said - with a straight face, I presume - that a $300 to $1,200 check is supposed to offset the wealth you may have lost if your home value has gone down. Funny, but paper wealth in housing has dropped by tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. If a $300 check could offset the losses in housing, we wouldn't need any stimulus at all!

This "stimulus" is too late, too little, and utterly ineffective for anything but adding to the national debt. And just remember: if the government is running huge deficits at the peak of the economic cycle (which we probably hit sometime in 2007), how bad will the deficits be as economic activity slows - driving tax receipts down and increases the strain on government programs (like jobless benefits)?

Friday, March 14, 2008

One in Four

That's how many teenage girls in the country have an STD, according to a report running through the news right now. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I imagine it wouldn't be news if this wasn't an increase. My question is this:

I grew up in an era of classroom sex education. I know that kids half my age are getting sex education. So why is the proposed answer more sex education?

I question the efficacy of sex education, though it's not posible to know what would have happened without it. Maybe the rate of infection would be higher. Maybe it would be lower. But I'd be interested in a study that compares rates of infection and pregnancy among those who have and have not participated in sex ed classes. I'm not saying sex ed classes are evil (a debate for others in another place)... but I want to know if they have a measurable impact before accepting the pundit's knee-jerk "we need more money."

I think the odds are strong that there are much more pressing root causes of tenage sexual activity - poverty, broken families, and the like. If those are the deeper causes, then sex ed may simply be a flimsy band-aid on a gaping wound. And if that's the case, we are grossly negligent if we merely apply the band-aid and consider ourselves skilled healers.


Dawson and I were having lunch together yesterday, as we typically do once a month. As we talked about how things were going witht he church, an older woman with disheveled hair who had been sitting nearby walked over to say that she had overheard some of the things we were talking about, and to tell us to keep fighting the good fight.

It was odd, and the moment passed. When I got off work, I went out to my car, ready to get home ASAP to catch the Nevada basketball game starting at 5:00. Who should approach me in the parking lot, but the same woman. "Excuse me young man, but could you give me a ride downtown? It's a long walk and I've been on my feet too long today already." I tried to offer an excuse - "Oh, I don't go that way, I'm heading north." No dice. "Could you make an exception? It's not that far."

And then it occured to me that this woman had heard me and Dawson talking about the church... and I knew that I didn't just represent myself, but Christ. What else could I do? "Sure, I'll take you." It really was just a mile or so down the road, and all told it cost me 10-15 minutes initially, but because of favorable traffic I made it home by 4:50 - maybe 5 minutes later than normal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bad Recurring Dream

I occasionally have a bad recurring dreams. It's not the sort of thing to cause terror, but it's always unpleasant, and the sort of dream I remember the next day.

I'm a senior in high school, and I've forgotten my book for American Government and can't graduate (in last night's version, I had to leave class to try and grab the book out of my car only to realize that I didn't drive to school and was SOL). In another simalar theme, I find that I never graduated college because I forgot I had enrolled in a key class and never attended.

If I had to psycho-analyze myself, I could say that I have a deep and unresolved fear of not moving on to "the next stage in life" because of negligent behavior on my part. Always, I find out too late to fix the problem, so the fear is that not only did I not move on before, but that I am prevented from moving on ever.

I have one such fear. But it seems strange that this fear should be expressed with forgotten textbooks and skipped classes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Deficit News

Let no white-washing fool you. The Federal Budget deficit is big, growing, and not changing any time soon. The President likes to "project" ending deficits by making unrealistic assumptions about what future administrations and Congresses will do, while doing the very opposite himself.

In the news: the monthly deficit in February was $175.56 billion - the highest ever for a single month, surpassing the previous high by roughly $55 billion ($119.99 billion). Even ignoring special timing factors about when the month began and ended (which added some $40 billion to the deficit), if would have still been the highest by over $15 billion.

The highest deficit for any month, ever. There's only one man in the country with the Federal veto pen, and it's on his shoulders and at his feet that I lay the blame for this.

Ferraro and Limbaugh

In case you haven't heard, Geraldine Ferraro has recently been in the news for saying that Barrack Obama would not be doing as well as he is in his race against Hillary Clinton if he weren't black.

Rush Limbaugh once suggested that the media treated Donovan McNabb differently because they wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

Fairness test: If you think one is racist and the other is not, then your opinions are probably being colored by something else. You can find both to be racist if you want (I would disagree, but at least you are being more consistent), or you can find neither to be racist.

In both cases, the accused was making an observation that in their opinion the black person in question was recieving some form of favorable treatment, whether from sportscasters or from the public. In neither case was the comment directed at the black person in question.

I'm really interested to know if Mrs. Ferraro made any public comment about the Limbaugh situation when it happened. If she did, I'm willing to judge her by her own words, either way.

Nature: Red in Tooth and Claw?

Sometimes we just need happy stories.

Lent: Week Six

"It is finished"

I probably heard it every Easter growing up. Our pastor would give his Sunday sermon, and talk about how the greek word used to express this is tetelestai, and that this phrase also had financial connotations - that it was used to signify that a debt had been paid. I always thought that was a neat story.

But I'm more cautious about antecdotal translations now, so I decided to look up the usage of this word in other contexts. I'll bold the phrases that use the same word, for reference. It is variously translated as "accomplished, carried, carry, completed, finish, finished, fulfilled, fulfilling, keeps, pay, perfected, performed," and so the word carries a flavor of all of these.

John only uses this word twice in his gospel (here, and a couple verses earlier to say that Jesus acted knowing all things had been accomplished, said that he was thirsty), never in his named epistles, and 8 times in Revelation, three times about the end of the thousand years, twice about the 7 angels with plagues that finish the wrath of God, twice concerning the end of the mystery or words of God, and once concerning the end of the testimonty of the witnesses. Matthew uses it seven times, usually saying that Jesus had finished saying something - a parable, an instruction, or something of that nature - and three times he then departs. Another time, it's used when the disciples are questioned: "Does your teacher not pay the two drachma tax?"

It appears once in Acts, when Paul speaks of those who (presumably unknowingly) finished everything that had been written concerning Christ in crucifying and burying him. Paul uses it in Romans to ask if an uncircumcised man who keeps the law will judge those who have the circumcision but are transgressors of the law. He uses it in 2 Timothy to say that he himself has finished the course, fought the fight, and kept the faith. James tells us that if we are keeping the royal law "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" we are doing well.

But my very favorite usage of the word is in 2 Corinthians. It's one of my favorite passages anyway, and I find the parallelism to the cross to be amazing. This is a topic Kenny spoke of in his blog on the topic yesterday, and it's something we all do well to remember.

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness .' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I must not be online enough...

I know that I'm not online as much when I'm relying on others to track down interesting things to read.

This was posted on a site that Kenny recently linked to on his blog. I enjoyed it.


...I’ve come to believe that the sweetest sentence in the English language is not “I love you”: that one’s too simple; love is too often utterly blind. No, far sweeter are the words “you are not ugly to me.” I hear those words and think: really? Nahh, it isn’t possible. Too good to be true.

And then I read the rest of Job’s story, and I think: Far from being this awful tale of a cold God gambling over his creatures’ pain, this may be the kindest, most loving story I’ve ever read, short of the gospels themselves. For what happens at the tale’s end? God wraps His arms around the ugly one, the one who picks at his sores in the ashes. He calls him “my servant Job” – makes him a member of the divine Household. Beauty and ugliness are turned upside down, inside out.

I think this is an important piece of redemption that contemporary Christian culture mostly misses. We’re very big these days on the idea that Jesus died for my sins – and He did, and that matters enormously. But more is going on here than a transaction involving the Creator, lots of individual creatures, and a balance sheet. Supreme ugliness entered the universe a very long time ago, and attached itself to us and to our world in the deepest ways imaginable. Inexpressible Beauty could have turned His back on all of it, but He didn’t: He wrapped His arms around it – more amazing still, he dove into the worst of it, swam in it, emerged with it dripping from His very pores. And, somehow, the ugliness itself was changed. A line from The Shawshank Redemption captures the point remarkably well. Red describes Andy Dufresne’s escape, which required him to crawl through a long sewer line to get out of the prison complex. “He crawled through a river of shit, and came out clean on the other side.” That gets it right, I think. Times like this, I see myself, just a little, as Andy Dufresne, looking up at that cleansing rain. Only I'm not the one who crawled through that nasty river. Someone else did it before me, and for me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Loyalty - good or bad?

Does this sound familiar?

______ showed a tendency toward an insular management style, relying on a coterie of aides who have worked for him for years, his aides and associates said. His choice of lieutenants, and his insistence on staying with them even when friends urged him to shake things up, was blamed by some associates for the campaign’s woes. Again and again, ______ was portrayed as a manager who valued loyalty and familiarity over experience and expertise.

This sort of attitude has been a common critique of President Bush. But this quote was not about him, and I admit I altered it a little. The actual quote is from an article about Senator Clinton's presidential campaign in the New York Times.

Mrs. Clinton showed a tendency toward an insular management style, relying on a coterie of aides who have worked for her for years, her aides and associates said. Her choice of lieutenants, and her insistence on staying with them even when friends urged her to shake things up, was blamed by some associates for the campaign’s woes. Again and again, the senator was portrayed as a manager who valued loyalty and familiarity over experience and expertise.

My question for you is this: if you have President Bush in mind when you read it, does it strike you differently - does it seem more positive or negative - than if you have Senator Clinton in mind?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Basketball Officiating

Click here to watch a referee behind the play without a good (inside) view of the action call a foul on a cleanly blocked desperation shot to let UCLA tie it up against Stanford in a game that decided the PAC-10 championship.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lent: Week Five

"I thirst."

On his blog, Kenny compares this to a cold drink after a hard day's work. It's an interesting thought, but I'm going to take the opposite train of thought here.

I look at this, and I see Jesus on the cross, crying out words I didn't want to detract from by adding my own commentary, and I see him at the end of a weary road. I think he's feeling empty, if it's possible for God to be empty. All else is stripped away, and he is near death.

At such times, I think we are all reduced to the most basic things. Hunger. Thirst. Sleep. Your mind is tired, and just needs a break from the storms that have assailed it.

I think this is the weakest moment Jesus faces. Crushed, striped, pierced, suffocating and tired, the Creator can not even stretch out his hand for a drink, but has it raised by a sponge on a stick. It is a sad, final moment. The long march to Jerusalem is complete. The mockings, confrontations, beatings, insults, flogging and punishment is at an end. Only one thing now remains.


I'm willing to bet...

I'm willing to bet that you don't care (as judged by your actions) as much about the price of gas as you think you do. Case in point: right now, it's a safe ballpark assumption to say that gas prices have been going up 2 cents per day, every day. Do you (a) fill up every day, so that you get as much gas for as little as possible before the next price increase, or (b) just wait to fill up like normal when you are running low.

Let's asume that you burn a gallon of gas each day, and that you fill up once every 14 days (for 14 gallons). Assume that the price of gas started at $3.00 a gallon, and the price goes up 2 cents each day. If you fill up every day, you spend $43.82 on gas. If you fill up like normal, you spend $45.64. "Big deal," I hear you saying even now, "it's just $1.82." And you're right. But that $1.82 is the same as getting gas 13 cents/gallon cheaper. At a local Save-Mart, I can save 5 cents per gallon if I spend $25 in groceries, 10 cents if I spend $50, and 25 cents if I spend $100 (up to 15 gallons). I went for the 25 cent discount once, and did my regular grocery shopping there. I put in 12 gallons, and so saved $3. It's entirely possible I more than made up the difference in higher prices, but I don't follow those too closely.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The problem with power

There are two main constraints causing the electric car problems. One is range - how far can you go before you need to be back at home recharging? Until there are electrical fill-up stations, this is an issue for anyone wanting a car for more than running around town.

The other, and less talked-about problem is the capacity of the power grid. If everyone could, today, switch to electric, and all gas stations could become quick-charge outlets, we'd still be no further. That's because charging up all those cars will be a considerable drain on the power grid - a grid with so little spare capacity that everyone using A/C in the summer can cause rolling blackouts to conserve power. Electric vehicles will need a LOT of power, especially in aggregate. And if we're not building that capacity now, we won't have it when the technology otherwise exists to have electric substitutes for gas cars.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Flipside of Free Software

I recently noted my excitement at being able to use a free alternative to Microsoft Office to create a database to manage some important information. This weekend, I crashed headlong into the downside of free software (and especially free NEW software). The twin pests of documentation and bugs.

Documentation: "How Do I...." The more popular something is, the more people have written about various tweaks. But not-for-profit things like this don't have as much incentive to release detailed manuals - much of that is generated by end-users. I never did find a way to build the report Iwanted with the default program but, fortunately, the "Sun Report Builder" is a downloadable extension (also free) that gave me the control I needed. But, as it is version 1.0.3, I moved from the Documentation frustration to the Bug frustration.

I have two main issues with the most useful extension. (1) When I create a report with it, I can run the report, but I cannot go back in and edit it. This is fine now, but if reports get more complex, it would be nice not to sit down and re-create it from scratch each time. This is also an issue because (2) for some reason, saving the report doesn't add it to the list of available reports. This bug struck 3 times before I pinned it down, each time after I had carefully laid out the report. My couple-hour project turned into a day-long ordeal. It wasn't until - literally - 12:30 am on Sunday morning that I finally figured out that I had to save, then save a new document, in order for the first save to "show up."

But, at least I got the subtotals I needed. No, if only I could get the Boolean fields to display alternative text. Although, maybe...

I just had a genius idea, well, at least for a workaround. I rock. NOw, I just have to remember it until I get home. And then... I have to recreate the whole report. Because I can't edit the one I made Saturday/Sunday. Whee!