I’ve been in several meetings lately where someone has uttered the phrase, “Hot topics.” Whenever I hear it, I start quietly singing the “hot pockets” jingle for the gooey microwaveable stuffed snack:
So, yesterday I told Cynthia that I’ve been passing on the story about our friends’ dog. That’s when she said, “Oh, it wasn’t their dog, it was a friend of THEIRS… in BOSTON.”
That’s a BIG red flag. So I googled the story. Sigh: Among the many results.
Boy, do I feel stupid! (Still a funny story, though…)
Today is voting day. This morning I took my daughter to the polling place, which is in a church right across the street. It’s kind of fun just walking across the street to go vote. Every time I do it, I feel kind of special, even though the general elections in D.C. are anti-climatic. Since D.C. is 90 percent Democratic, all of the races are usually decided in the primaries.
Anyway, Samantha came with me for the first time. She asked what we were doing and I told her we were choosing the people who help run the city and the country. I’m sure she didn’t quite understand, but that’s okay.
When I first started voting in Washington, I was surprised by the process. The first step is to tell the poll workers my name. They look it up in a book and ask me to sign it. No ID or anything. Then I write my name on a little card and hand it to another poll worker. In years past, that poll worker would hand me a paper ballot and direct me to the “machines.” Recently, though, I’m given a choice: paper or touch-screen. Easy choice: paper. I’ll explain in a moment.
Anyway, I took the paper ballot, walked over to the little stands and used a standard non-technical pencil to fill in broken arrows. Then I feed the ballot into an optical scanner.
As I did all this, Samantha played with Lamby and ambled around my legs. It wasn’t until I got my “I voted” sticker, that she perked up. “I want a sticker!”
“Please,” I reminded her.
“Daddy, please I want a sticker!”
I asked the poll worker for another sticker and she gladly handed me another. Sammy put it on Lamby’s chest.
When I used to go to the polls with my mom, I remember the big machines with curtains and levers and such. It seemed so dramatic! So when I became a voter myself and used the paper-and-pencil system in D.C., it seemed so backwards.
But in recent years, I’ve changed my mind. The paper ballot is so easy. Just use a pencil to fill in a broken arrow. Mark the ballot directly. Use a scanner to count the marks. How simple is that?
The touch-screen systems are dangerous. They might work perfectly, but there’s no accountability. I can’t log in later to see how it recorded my vote. Print-out receipts are meaningless. The computer can record a vote for candidate A, and print out a receipt showing that I voted for candidate B. And in most states, recounts can rely only on the actual ballots, not paper receipts. So they are dangerous because it requires blind-faith trust. And that’s not what democracies are built on. Democracies require accountability.
So thinking about it now, D.C.’s system actually seems near perfect. The only system I’ve heard that’s better is to use a touch-screen system to print the actual ballot. Then the voter checks that filled-out paper ballot to make sure it is correct. If it’s not, shred it and start over. If it is, the voter submits it to an optical scanner to count it. It’s something University of Maryland professor Avi Rubin describes on a recent Science Friday.
The last time I voted, in the September primary, I noticed our Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, using the touch-screen booth. I wanted to go up to her and say, “Stop! This is a bad a idea!” But I didn’t.
Anyway, I hope as a country we can move to something like what Avi Rubin describes. It’s so much more sensible and puts all this nonsense behind us.
So after voting, I guided Sammy back to our house. Once inside, I gathered my stuff for work and her stuff for school, still thinking about voting. Then I noticed one of our cats sporting an “I voted” sticker. It was time to move on to more pressing concerns.
“Sam, kitty cats aren’t for stickers.”
My wife, Cynthia, took our daughter to a friend’s house for a playdate today and came home with a great story. Our daughter and the other little girl go to the same school, so they like to get together on the weekends to play dress-up and dolls and such. Anyway, my wife returns, laughing as she enters the house. “I have got to tell you this story,” she says.
The parents of my daughter’s friend had recently been away on vacation and had hired a young graduate student to dogsit in their absence. They had two dogs: both big, friendly, and getting older. One of them was not so well.
Sadly, during the vacation, one of the dogs died. The grad student called the homeowners and told them the news. That’s okay, the mom said. We knew he was getting old, we’re just sorry you had to be there. Could you take him to the vet and leave him there to be cremated? The grad student said she would.
Problem was, the grad student didn’t have a car. And she didn’t have anything big enough to use to carry the dog to the vet. She looked around the house and found a big old suitcase. That would have to do.
She packed the dog’s body into the suitcase and lugged it to Metro. Now, this dog was big — 80 to 100 pounds big. The grad student didn’t weight much more herself. So she struggled with it all the way there; down the escalator and aboard the train.
When she got to her stop, she started carrying the suitcase toward the escalator. She labored with it, wondering how she would manage to get it up the stairs, when a man came up to her offering help. She gladly accepted. What a relief, she thought, not to have to carry it up by herself.
What you got in here? he asked.
Um, school stuff. Books, laptop, papers, she lied. What could she say? Oh, I have the stiff body of somebody else’s dead dog! No, that wouldn’t do. He bought it and helped her to the top of the escalator. Then, still holding the suitcase, he took off.
The grad student stood there, frozen. A stranger had just stolen a dead dog. Only he didn’t know it. He thought he snagged a pricey laptop and expensive school books. She didn’t know what to do. “Hey, that’s not what you think it is! It’s just a dead dog!” No, that wouldn’t work.
After the shock wore off and the man had disappeared, she went back to the house and called the dog’s owners to tell them what had happened. The poor grad student was apologetic, but the owners understood. Once the news settled in, they all just wished one thing: that they could have been there when the thief opened the bag.
Recently, my wife and I noticed a little blood on our daughter’s clothes.
“Sammy, you’ve got blood on your clothes!”
“What’s blood?” she asked.
Uh, good question. Hard question. How do explain blood to a three-year-old?
“It’s the liquid inside your body, honey.”
“Oh.” She thought about that for a minute. “Why?”
“Well, blood goes all around your body, delivering oxygen to your fingers, your toes, your eyes and ears,” I answered, as if that would clarify things. She looked at me.
“Put your hand on your chest, like this,” I said, as I placed my palm over my heart.
“I don’t want to!” she said.
“It’s okay, I just want you to feel your heart. You’ll feel it pumping your blood around your body.”
“Okay, daddy.” She touched her chest. “I want to play a differnet game now.”
Today is Saturday. Also known as Laundry Day.
My three-year-old and I were sorting the dirty laundry into three piles: whites, colors, and darks. Ignoring the possibly politically incorrect naming of those clothes piles, she was doing a great job of helping me prep the laundry.
Once the clothes were sorted, we pushed the whites down to the washing machine. The washer is a front-load model, so we swung open the door and started stuffing the laundry in. She grabbed a towel. I tossed in a robe. She pushed in some socks. I flung in Lamby.
“I don’t want Lamby in there!” Sammy said. Lamby, her soft, white, plush stuffed lamb, was draped over a mound of soiled whites. her plastic eyes gazing back at Samantha. The little lamb looked like she feared for her life.
“No, it’s okay,” I said. “She’s dirty. She’ll be cleaned up as good as new.”
“She’ll get squashed!” Sammy protested.
“No, no, she’ll be fine. Really.” I felt like reassurring her, Cheney style, that this household waterboarding was a “no-brainer.”
“But I don’t want her to get squashed!” She wasn’t buying.
“Ok, ok. I’ll take her out.” So I grabbed Lamby, rescuing her from certain cleansing. As I did that, I grabbed a towel, draped it over my hand, stuffed Lamby underneath it, and put the wrapped toy back in the washing machine. Bad daddy.
We continued loading the washer. After the last sock was crammed inside, Sammy looked around. “Where’s Lamby?”
Uh oh. My wife laughed from the other room. “Um, she’s over there,” I lied, pointing to the bedroom.
“I don’t see her!”
“Sammy, look at this!” Distraction always works. I showed her how to load detergent into the machine.
“I wanna see!” Hook line and sinker. We added detergent, turned on the machine, and I was Scott-free.
“Where’s Lamby?” Crap.
“Uh, I’m going to take a shower. Why don’t you go read a book with your mummy?”
“But where’s La…” I didn’t hear the end, as I closed the bathroom door and turned on the fan. Very bad daddy.
Some words just roll off the tongue. Like “sausage.” Wow, that’s a great word. “Sausage.” It even looks good. Others, not so much. Slacks. Pants. Davenport. Bureau. Oh, and my all-time most unfavorite word: panties. I hate that word.
“Honey, Spot just blogged all over the dining room carpet!”
Anyway, as I was saying, this post probably sets the tone for what you can expect here. Random stories. Perhaps funny. Probably not. I expect readership in the 1-2 range. That’s as in the number of readers, not their ages.
Quick story: tonight I picked up my car from the shop. It seems to be a regular occurance. I’ve researched Quicken and have discovered that we’ve could have paid for a small imported sedan with all the money we’ve spent on auto repairs in the last 20 months. Anyway, I picked up my Volvo station wagon from the shop and drove it, oh, 25-30 feet to the Shell station at the end of the block. I parked it, filled it with gasoline, checked the car to see how the repairs had been done, and then get in to drive away.
I turned the key and… nothing. Wha?? Turned it again. Radio came on. Lights blinked. Car did not start. Again. And again. And again. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I had the car back for 10 minutes, no, 5 minutes and it was already broken again???
The mechanic in the gas station — not the place where my car was “fixed” — came out with his portable charger. We hooked it up. I turned the key. Nothing. Turned it again. Nothing again. I tried the other key. I tried flipping the key over and trying again. Was I in park? Yes. Was the gas cap screwed on? Yes. Was I losing my mind??? Yes!!!
So, I locked the doors and jogged to the end of the street, hoping the mechanic who had worked on my car hadn’t left for home yet. Thankfully he was still there. He grabbed his portable battery charger and came with me to the car. Um, we tried that already, I thought. But, I played along. I turned the key and it started right up. Argh!
But here’s the good part. Really. Mike the mechanic, had me drive back down to his shop, where the lights were off, and he opened things up and installed a new battery. This is well after work on a Friday night. I expected, “leave it here, we’ll take a look at it on Monday,” or something equally unhelpful. But no, he took a few extra minutes and fixed things up right then and there. Good guy. Of course, I have paid him a small fortune over the last couple years on that car. I hope he names his boat after me. Or his kid.
By the way, I like the word “pantaloons.” Weird.