Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The country I live in

Oh and

Can I just say that the Loonie costs 1.04 cents US to buy? Wonderful news to Rhona and I, who got married 5 years ago, and exchanged the money we got. In essence, we 'lost' 60% in 5 years.

I know that math seems wrong, but it right. Honest.

Monday, October 29, 2007

NFL in London

The NFL played a game of "American Football" at Wembley Stadium in London on the weekend. This headline, from Sky News, got my attention this morning:

"Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder has admitted not knowing people speak English in London."

That's awesome. He did go to Florida State. But I guess he didn't take geography. I suspect the people from Florida State will not want to use him to tout their scholarly wares.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What does a cow say?

For the last three weeks, we've been asking Autumn what a cow says:

"wwmoooo". She laughs.

This is the reason:

Thankfully, Saturday was a pre-Halloween test-run. And while this part wasn't the highlight (as you can tell), things got better. We walked up and down our street as all the stores offered candy to other little costumed kids. The people in the stores handed us chocolate bars knowing good and well that our little cow wouldn't be eating it -- we would be. It's almost extortion, really. Anyway, as you can see, things got better.

As you might have guessed, she never once told us what a cow said. Until we took off the costume.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's about time: politics

From a speech on the senate floor this morning, this is proof that my $25 was well-spent on Senator Dodd.

Mr. President, for six years, this President has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t respect the role of Congress nor does he respect the rule of law.

Every six years as United States Senators we take the oath office to uphold the Constitution. Our colleagues on the House side take that oath every two years. That is important.

For six years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case and point is the current direction this body appears to be headed as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this Administration have been made in the name of national security.

The Bush Administration has relentlessly focused our nation’s resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill conceived war has broken our military, squandered resources and emboldened our enemies.

The President’s wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq and has made our nation less secure and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated in the world.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib – where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane and humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the nation, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay have instead become the very symbol for our weakened moral standing in the world.

Consider the secret prisons run by the CIA and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions – who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than the laws he had sworn to uphold.

And consider, of course, the Military Commissions Act – a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known – the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture – the list goes on.

Each of these policies share two things in common.

First, they have weakened our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism – if for no other reason than they have made it harder, if not impossible, to build the international support and cooperation we need to fight it.

And second, each has only been possible because Congress has not been able to stop this President’s unprecedented expansion of executive power, although some in this body have tried.

Whether or not these policies were explicitly authorized is beside the point. In every instance, Congress has been unable to hold this Administration to account for violating the rule of law and our Constitution. In each instance, Republicans in the Congress have prevented this body from telling this Administration that “a state of war is not a blank check.”

And those aren’t my words, Mr. President – those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who was nominated by Ronald Reagan.

And today, it appears that we are prepared to consider the proposed renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – a law that in whatever form it eventually takes will almost certainly permit the Bush Administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens.

Legislation, as currently drafted, that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped this Administration violate the civil liberties of Americans and the law of this country.

Mr. President while it may be true that the proposed legislation is an improvement on existing law, it remains fundamentally flawed because it fails to protect the privacy rights of Americans or hold the Executive or the private sector accountable if they choose to ignore the law.

That is why I will not stand on the floor of the United States Senate and be silent about the direction we are headed.

It is time to say “no more.”

No more trampling our Constitution.

No more excusing those who violate the rule of law.

These are our principles.

They have been around at least since the Magna Carta.

They are enduring.

What they are not is temporary. And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them.

My father was Executive Trial Counsel at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals during 1945 and 1946.

What America accomplished at those historic trials wasn’t a foregone conclusion. It took courage – when Stalin and even a leader as great and noble as Winston Churchill wanted to simply execute the Nazi leaders, we didn’t back down from our belief that these men—as terrible as they were—ought to have a trial.

We did not give in to vengeance.

As then, the issue before us today is the same.

Does America stand for all that is still right with our world? Or do we retreat in fear?

Do we stand for justice that secures America? Or do we act out of vengeance that weakens us?

Mr. President, I am well aware that this issue is seen as political. I believe that Democrats were elected to strengthen the nation – elected to restore our standing in the world.

I believe we were elected to ensure that this nation adheres to the rule of law and to stop this Administration’s assault on the Constitution.

But the rule of law is not the provenance of any one political party – but of every American who has been safer because of it.

Mr. President, I know this bill hasn’t even been reported out of the Judiciary Committee yet.

But I am here today because if I have learned anything in my 26 years in this body—particularly during the last 7 years—it is that if you wait until the end to voice your concerns, you will have waited too long. That is why I have written to the Majority Leader informing him that I will object to any effort to bring this legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

I hope that Senator Leahy is able to remove this language – he is a dear friend and I know his respect for the rule of law runs deep.

But if he cannot, I am prepared to filibuster this bill.

President Bush is right about one thing: this debate is about security. But not in the way he imagines.

He believes we have to give up certain rights to be safe.

I believe the choice between moral authority and security is a false choice.

I believe it is precisely when you stand up and protect your rights that you become stronger, not weaker.

The damage that was done to our country on 9/11 was stunning. It changed the world forever.

But when you start diminishing our rights as a people, you compound that tragedy. You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution. It is that simple.

Mr. President, history will likely judge this President harshly for his war of choice and for fighting it with a disregard for our most cherished principles.

But history is about tomorrow. We must act today to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Mr. President, this is the moment. At long last, let us rise to it.

Question from Right Field

If you write a check to yourself from one bank and deposit it in another bank do you have to endorse it? I, Matt Hames, write a check to Matt Hames, sign it with Matt Hames, and then deposit it into Matt Hames' account using a Deposit Slip that I, Matt Hames, fills out.

So, thoughts?

Turns out, you do have to endorse it. Thus, I'm telling the bank that yes, I endorse the check to me, made out by me, in front of you.

Banks are stupid.


A President who didn't get elected the first time, who may not have actually won Ohio (and the Presidency) the second time, with a 25% approval rating, who has managed to do absolutely nothing of substance in 6 years, is about to start another war that just might make things in the Good old USof A a little less stable.

Here's the thing: the war in Iraq, the one that Paul Wolfowitz promised would pay for itself (he was wrong, and for being so wrong on the numbers, they put him in charge of the world bank), will most likely end up costing each of us (Autumn included) $8,000. that being said, outside of a little outrage, the war really doesn't impact us. We get up, go to work, come home, watch some tube, play with Autumn, and repeat. In Iraq, of course, there hasn't been normalcy for a long time, but that's a whole different point.

The point is, when war in Iran comes, and it will come in the next few months, that's when things change. Don't believe me? The Senate already almost unanimously voted to call Iran's Army a terrorist force. Even Chris Dodd, the guy I think has recently showed leadership, voted for it. And thus, one day soon, Iran's army will engage the American Army, either because the American Army enters Iran, or some other reason, and President Bush will come on tv and announce tactical bunker busting munitions (with nuclear material in them) and launch them on Iran. And then, all hell will break loose.

Consider for a second. This whole war on terror came from 19 guys based in Afghanistan, most of them Saudi Arabian (none of them Iranian or Iraqi). The response has been to invade then leave Afghanistan. Invade and stay in Iraq. And now most-likely, invade Iran. All the while, the guy who claims responsibility for the whole thing is somewhere in the country you left, or in Pakistan. To think that people in Pakistan and India will sit back and continue to watch America run willy-nilly around western Asia is like thinking Iraq's oil will pay for this war.

I wonder when the day comes that Autumn's country won't be at war in her life. I'm afraid it won't be soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on Amnesty

Or should that say moron amnesty? This is a simple chart from the guy I guess I support. And while it might seem like I'm a one-issue guy, I'm not really. This is called leadership. And when it comes to leadership, actions matter more than words. Even though Obama is now against Amnesty, and there's no doubt Hillary will eventually be against it, neither one showed leadership. In my humble little Canadian opinion, that's what's needed from our leaders. Some leadership. So, here's the thing. Click on it to find out what to do, if you want.


This blog is an unprecedented tool for connectivity. And it's merely one tool. I've tried to set my parent's up with Skype, a free internet service that lets you call each other, using your computer, to talk.

Then there's Flickr and Tabblo, more places to share photos of Autumn. There's YouTube and LiveVideo, where you can watch videos of Autumn.

On the surface, this seems like Autumn's life is an open book. But that's clearly not the case because a few blog posts and a few pictures don't constitute her life. But they constitute a level of connectivity that seems at once huge and minuscule at the same time.

What tools are you currently using to connect to people? To friends? Are you using anything?

This is how I stay connected. This seems like a good thing for England in the next World Cup.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Washing out mouth with bar soap

At the search engine Dogpile, you can monitor in real time what people are searching for. I was just there grabbing a screen shot for something I'm working on when I noticed someone searching dogpile for "Washing mouth out with bar soap".

I got my mouth washed out with soap for saying this word. The simple fact is, I have not said this word in front of my mom since that day. In light of this fact, it's hard to argue against 'washing mouth out with bar soap.' Somewhere, someone must have said a dirty word.

I gave money to a Senator

I don’t blog too much about politics these days because it makes me sad. My congressman voted to repeal Habeas Corpus when his party wasn’t in control of congress and his vote didn’t help them repeal a writ that’s been on the book for almost 1,000 years. Outside of helping my sister understand Bruce Springsteen's rants, there's not much a blogger can do.

Plus, the current congress is a complete do-nothing congress. They are trying to ride a coattail of discontent from voters about the Republicans. It seems they are sitting back and doing nothing on purpose so that things are as bad as possible in 2008. Don’t stop the war and then call it the Republican War in Iraq. Don’t fix the assault on the constitution and call it the republican assault on your freedoms.

The current batch of Presidential contenders are very uninspiring. They debate, and the debates are boring, staged, and silly. The national press attacks democrats for stupid things. Hillary for her laugh. Edwards for a haircut. Obama for a lapel pin. Meanwhile, on the right, one of the leading contenders is another actor who plays the role of good-old boy, even thought he’s a millionaire former lobbyist turned actor.

This week though, I got inspired. Senator, and Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd actually did something. In the on-going FISA scandal, the President is accused of spying on Americans since just after 9.11 with the help of the telecom companies. A federal judge has already ruled that these companies knowingly broke the law. so they went to congress to get retroactive immunity. A decidedly un-American thing.

Anyway, since the Dems don’t seem to want to find out if the President was illegally spying in Americans, a group of lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the telecom companies. This is a good resource to read about it.

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, who personally took immense amounts of money from telecoms, crafted a bill last week that would give the telecom companies retroactive immunity.

And Chris Dodd stopped it. So I gave him $25. And you can too. Go, give him $5. Tell him to stand up for the constitution. Show him that real leadership isn’t saying the stuff you’ll do, but it’s doing something. Maybe Clinton and Obama will get the message. Perhaps Edwards can talk about it (even though he’s not a sitting Senator.)

It's a sad day when you need to reward senators for doing their job. But that's where we are. So reward him.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Too cool

A U T U m N_McElman_070716_2505 H a M E S

have your fun here:

Autumn's away

We left her in Brampton with her grandparents for a couple of days. We did this for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one is that we want her to have a real, authentic grand parent experience. Both Rhona and I had grandparents that lived in the UK. That's just the way it was. To see them was a huge thing. Autumn has the luxury of weekly visits by Rhona's parents, and semi-regular visits by mine. We think that's important.

Still, we miss her. Last night, we inexplicably watched Monsters Inc because the cute little girl "Boo" reminded us of Autumn. Watching a cartoon monster play peek-a-boo with Boo made us miss her even more. But I know I appreciated the movie a little more.

Funny how things hit you differently. Here's a picture.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The American Idea

For its 150 anniversary, Atlantic Magazine asked people to contribute to the magazine their thoughts on the American Idea. In 300 words or less. I'm not sure what the American idea is, but after 5 years of living here, I'm thinking about what it isn't.

It isn't a team game. It isn't one idea that all strive for. It's actually the opposite of that. It's the American dream (no other country has that). But it's singular. The country doesn't have a dream. In the classic American Dream narrative, a person picks themselves up from their bootstraps and succeeds. This is a powerful notion, since the US broke from a country (England) that was all about class. Indeed, the way one speaks is a signal of where they are from, and consequently, the class and the level they will achieve (think of Henry Higgins).

This rugged individualism has created a country whereby it's simply understood that we're all in it alone. There isn't a feeling that we're in it together.

Think about education. About health care. About just about all of the social safety nets that exist in other country. Here, it's up to the individual to foot the bill. The problem is, of course, kids get thrown out with the policy. if a child is born to people in the poor section of town, they don't get health care and they don't get an education. For them, the American Idea isn't a good one.

autumn loves her dad

whether it is trying to put on his shoes or playing peek-a-boo with him while he is in the shower... there is no doubt that Autumn loves her dad. When 5.00pm approaches and we look out the window as his car approaches she actually starts squealing and howling like a monkey... thank god for dad.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cry *cough* cry

When Autumn really gets going with the tears, she starts to cough. And man, does it sound bad.

Last night, at precisely 2:01 AM, we decided to let her cry it out. We've been tossing around this idea for months now. Some nights it doesn't come up, she sleeps through them. Other nights, she's up 2 or 3 times.

All the times when she cries, the impulse is to run to her and make things better. I know that for the rest of her life, when she's feeling bad, or needs help, we'll come running. That's what parents do. So not running to her feels counter to all the signals running through our bodies.

She would cry, then go quiet. For almost 5 minutes there would be quiet. Then, wailing. And coughing.

At around 2:30AM, we called it. She wanted a little milk, and her diaper was full. We changed the diaper, gave her a bottle, and went to sleep. From there, she slept until after 7:00Am. But, we are no better off than we were last night. Tonight could be another one of those nights. The option: give her a bottle right away, she goes back to sleep and so do you. Wait another 30 minutes, listen to her have a coughing fit, and give her a bottle. Or, perhaps, wait it out.

Any ideas?

Monday, October 15, 2007

the costs of no health care

40 million people in America are uninsured. Meaning, when 40 million people get sick, they seriously contemplate a doctor's visit.

The argument against universal health care, also known as Socialized medicine, is that the government isn't in the business of keeping people healthy. Indeed, get socialized medicine and watch the waiting times go up and services go down. That seems patently obvious since adding 40 million people to a service would , in some ways, cause strain on the service.

Now for a second think about all the money being spent to 'protect America' through the war in Iraq. (This isn't a post about if only we'd spend the money here, instead of there, so stay with me.)

That money is being spent on protecting us. One can argue rightly of wrongly, but that's the crux of the Argument.

Now go back to the thought in the opening paragraph. What if one of the 40 million uninsured is hit with a biological weapon? What about bird flu? They show off symptoms, but due to the costs, they hold out, hoping that Chicken Noodle and lots of water will beat it. All the while, they are transmitters.

My point: Can you make an argument that, in these times, universal health care is actually something that can protect us?

Autumn images

Saturday, October 13, 2007

One year ago today

It's currently 55 degrees in Buffalo. It's actually warmer in St. Paul, where I am, but it's a niver day in buffalo today than one year ago today. Here are some pictures of that day, one year ago when 4 feet of snow fell on us.

Cell phones

I've been trying to opt out. I would rather not have a cell phone, period. Yes, we get used to being able to be contacted at any time. Traveling to St. Paul (a nice city), the cell phone came in handy. But then I read this:
The scientists who conducted the research say using a mobile for just an hour every working day during that period is enough to increase the risk -- and that the international standard used to protect users from the radiation emitted is "not safe" and "needs to be revised."
From here. I've never been sure about this technology. But I am sure of one thing, I think I'll keep autumn off the phone for a while.

Friday, October 12, 2007

good to see

Welcome back boys. My favorite part, "If you're still watching this to the end, thanks for sticking with us". Way to sell the game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

last leg of travel

I'm in the luggage check of the Minnesota airport, and I kid you not, but there's a cop walking around with a semi-automatic rifle. Like an uzi. Last time I saw an uzi was in Istanbul, Turkey.

An Uzi. In the airport. Oh, and the loud speaker dude let us know the terror threat level (it's orange). I honestly didn't know they were still offering threat levels.

We're not home anymore.

her two front teeth

Here's another picture of Autumn. This one struck me. It's one of the first pictures I can remember where you can see her two front teeth. The old chicklets are coming slow on the peanut. But coming they are. I'm calling this a first.

I miss them already

How cute are they? Honestly? I can't seem to make the picture be the right way, I'm giving up. I'm sitting in an airport in Chicago, waiting for a connecting flight. More later, I need to find a better seat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This is hilarious

This is one of the funniest things I've read on the internet in a while. Careful, there are bad words, but it's hilarious.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lucy and Autumn

I made some movies this weekend. It's been on the to do list. That's the reason for the prolific posting. Lucy parks near Autumn when Autumn is eating. Here's why. (Switched to YouTube for better quality)

For those clamoring for more movies

Notice how much she enjoys the "where's your belly button" thing. It's the best way to turn her attention away from mom leaving. And Where's Autumn is priceless.

She'll love this when she's 21

It's true, we really shouldn't do this. She has no control over what we put on her. So if Dad puts on tights, pulls them up over her little belly, and then takes a picture, he should get a good talking to. Parent's are weird.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What a week

This one will go down as a doozy. But we made it through. Autumn is still feeling a little bit woozy. She's not eating right, last night she didn't sleep right. However, she's bouncing back. And Rhona is bouncing back.

This is the kind of week that has you analyzing your support system a little. Ours was good. People came through when we needed them. It helps that granddad is retired. but he came when needed. And Pam came. It was good. And we're all good.

By the way, the Sabres are playing their home opener right now. It's hockey season.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

top 2.7 million reasons to eat local meat

I started writing this on Tuesday morning -- the day from hell. It's now Wednesday night and Rhona is back home from the hospital. Things are okay. We're watching her, but we get to do it at home. Thanks for all your wishes. We don't know what was wrong. Which is scary. But she's better.

Here's the post I started Monday:

Rhona was sick yesterday. She had really bad stomach pangs. Plus she vomited all over the place.

Now, I'm not saying that she got e.coli from some of the 2.7 million pounds (pdf) of beef that was voluntarily recalled on the weekend because of e.coli infection. Not saying that at all.

But I am saying this: if you know where your beef comes from, you don't have to look at the date on the package to see if it fits in with the dates of the meat being recalled because it's infected with poo.

But if poo infection really was responsible for Rhona's illness, then we're gonna have to be more adamant.

the day from hell

It says something about a day that when your 15 month daughter, who has a fever of 103 vomits all over you, and herself, that it wasn't the stand out thing that happened that day.

First the good news. Autumn is okay. Her temp is back to 98. The doc thinks it's viral.

Rhona is still in the hospital. She will be kept in, one more night at least, for observation. They are being extra cautious. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

when it rains

So here's the day so far. Rhona has had a sore stomach since late Sunday night. On monday, I took her to the doctor, and they examined her. They found nothing. The pain though, didn't go away.

Cut to today. Autumn went to day-care like she does. Rhona had a follow-up appointment at 12:15PM. At 11:30AM, day-care calls because Autumn has a fever of 103. I pick up Autumn, Rhona goes the doctor.

Autumn and I spend the afternoon together as Rhona gets sent around town to specialists. Autumn throws up all over me, twice, but her fever breaks to 101.5. Still high, but a much less panicky high.

Ah, but the news gets better. The last specialist tells Rhona he wants her in for observation overnight. It sounds like it's nothing -- a doctor being overly cautious. But it still means a hospital stay, and those suck.

To recap: Autumn has a fever. Rhona has something, we don't know what (it could be her appendix, it could be her gall bladder, it could be a really bad salad or beef.)

It's sort of a freak-out. Thankfully, granddad is on his way. One day soon I will write how so often in my life, when I've needed help, my dad is there for me. Since I started it, I'll say my dad is my hero. And not just because he's dropping everything and coming to help. Because he's always dropped everything and come to help. And not just me. If you need him, and by 'you' I mean just about everyone he knows, he'll be there. I have no idea how he does it. But he does. My mom too.

Even when all this happens at once, I'm reminded I'm a lucky guy. We'll keep you posted.

The 8-minute commute

Today's Buffalo Rising links to a study by Texas A&M on traffic congestion in the US. As one who knows anything about Buffalo can attest, there isn't much congestion here. A 20-minute commute is a 20-minute commute. There might be an accident on the road that adds a bit of time, but for the most part, the traffic reports are laughably boring.

"Everything's fine as you past the big blue water tower".

This comes on the heels of the weekend when I read this at Salon (you have to watch an ad). It talks about regulations in the US that demand parking:
Our story begins in the 1920s with the birth of a piece of esoteric regulation, the "minimum parking requirement." Before parking meters and residential parking permits, cities feared that they were running out of street parking. So municipalities began ordering businesses to provide parking and wrote zoning restrictions to ensure it. Columbus, Ohio, was first, requiring apartment buildings in 1923 to provide parking. In 1939, Fresno, Calif., decreed that hospitals and hotels must do the same. By the '50s, the parking trend exploded. In 1946, only 17 percent of cities had parking requirements. Five years later, 71 percent did.
In this article, Buffalo is cited, "Half of downtown Buffalo, N.Y., is devoted to parking." That means, we not only can get to where we want rather quickly, we almost always can find a place to park. Indeed, on my way to my car, I walk through a parking lot, and I pass two more of them. Buffalo is, indeed, a city full of parking lots.

And a parking lot adds nothing of value to a city. Nothing. Our company subsidizes the parking. I sort of wish they didn't. That would force people to contemplate different options. Maybe they would still pay. Maybe they wouldn't. Maybe they would consider a different options. Like living in the city, carpooling, or even transit. Because while Buffalo isn't that congested, less cars on the road would be better.

Maybe we could then build things on the parking lots.

For Autumn

This is Autumn's reality. Perhaps since I work in the industry, I can help her through it. Help her see through it. We'll see.

Update: Below are the words of J.K. Rowling, the writer of Harry Potter:

“I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny a thousand things, before ‘thin’.”