Thursday, December 23, 2004
Dean also explains some of the good points of the electoral college. Josh Marshall gives the standard critique of the electoral college and sets up a small state empowerement straw man to shoot down. I would like to point out a couple of advantages that Dean (much less Josh) doesn't elaborate that I think are important. One, the electoral college limits the effect of voting fraud. Two, the electoral college limits the impact of local passions and regional candidates.
Fraud can impact the most votes where one party is totally dominant and voting fraud in favor of that party is essentially condoned by the population of the locality. Imagine an election as close as the 2000 election. As Dean points out, the recounts and issues would cascade nationally as votes in every state could have affected the balance. As Dean does not point, Texas with a Republican Governer, legislature, court, and local election officials could easily have manufactured enough votes for Bush to offset the Gore total. But then of course Massachussetts with Democratic Governor, legislature, court, and local election officials could have manufactured offsetting votes. It would be competitive election fraud to the maximum and for any party or large polically uncompetitive state to unilaterally disarm would be suicidal in any remotely close election. The only solution would be central federal control over elections, which has its own opportunities for pernicious behavior. Under the electoral college system, the states where fraud matters in presidential elections are states that are evenly devided where checks on voter fraud are more likely to be found through party diversity (a Republican governer and secretary state and a democratic election commission and supreme court for example).
We can see the virtues of an electoral college in their absence in Ukrain or within American states. In Ukrain the Russian leaning eastern section of the country was able to manufacture votes for Russain supported candidate. If Ukrain had an electoral college like system, the manufactured high turnout and high ratio of votes for one candidate would have less effect on a national election.
Limiting the impact of local passions, is as important as balancing large and small states. Without the electoral college, a single state or regional candidate could take votes from one of the national parties in one state or region and change the national election result. Or perhaps a state party organization could be so weak, corrupt and discredited they make a very poor showing in a large state and disproportionally affect the national result. Over the years we have seen the regional impact States Rights parties, Green parties, temperance parties, etc. have had. The electoral college limits the impact of those parties to the states where they are strong and relevent, and does not amplify their impact through a single national popular vote decision.
Even though Feinstein is only grandstanding here, she is way off base. Calling for the abolition of the electoral college system is irresponsible.
I compared Sanpfish, Shutterfly, and Ofoto based on prices and offerings. The main thing I was looking for was their pre-made book pricing. Snapfish has a large format book at a about $1.00 a per page (double sided is a dollar per side). This seems like a better deal than the other services. I think these bound books are the way to go. No messing creating albums. I'll find out over the next few months. Snapfish also has the cheapest 4x6 prints. All the services seem to go for the gusto in pricing their 8x10's (over $3.00 versus under $1.00 for a 5x7).
I'll let you know what I learn about using Snapfish versus printing your own stuff on photopaper versus what I remember about getting prints at Costco from that film stuff people used to use.
So, it was off to research the latest Multifunctions from HP and Epson (we are down on Lexmark because we bought one and had two of them malfunction before we bought the PSC 750). CNET recommended the Epson Stylus CX6600 in this review . So, we went with the Epson even though we have been fans of the HP Deskjet line since the days were called a Deskjet without a number and the Deskjet 500 and we were pretty happy with the PSC 750 even though it only lasted about two years.
We loaded it up and brought it home from Fry's. I was a bit dissappointed for two reasons:
1. The Kodak glossy photo paper does not work with this printer. Red and yellow colors show cracking on the Kodak paper. It's fine on the Epson photo paper, but photos on the Epson paper I have tried don't look as saturated as the Kodak paper.
2. The state of the art doesn't seem to have advanced much in 2 years since the PSC 750. The Espson is about the same speed, does things with similar quality and has similar capabilities at about the same price. Aren't we supposed to be advancing in the computer field?
I am hoping for a little lower cost per page because of less expensive Epson ink and individual cartridges. I am also hoping for less fading, but in just two years I haven't had a chance to be bothered by fading, so that is a theoretical benefit only at this point.
The Epson does have slots for photo cards, so that is a nice advance on my old printer (especially since our computer has no memory card slots). But I was hoping for more speed, same or better quality at the same money as two years ago. According to reviews, the HP's at the $150 price point have really slow printing for photos (8 minutes for an 8x10!). So, to get more speed than I have now in an HP I would have to go to the 300 price point. Not appealing right now.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
We printed the card out on photo quality paper at home. I don't recommend doing it that way unless you have a faster printer than we do. I loved the result of having the years picture's on an 8.5 x 11 sheet, but it took a long time to print it all (including running out of color ink in the middle of the job).
The .pdf of the card is here.
Here is the letter we sent out:
Dear Friends and Family,
We missed sending out cards last year. We were lost in our house remodel and just trying to get through normal life. The remodel is finished in the sense that we moved into and had the final inspection so we're done with the city (there is always more to do). Because we were able to move our office stuff into our new bedroom, we have room for each of the kids to have their own room and still have a large playroom/guest room. The playroom/guest room works really well because we got a bed that folds up onto the wall (a murphy bed). When its folded up there is lots of room for the kids to play and Timmy to make a mess without disturbing the rest of the house. My brother Paul is staying in the guest room right now until he knows where he will be working longer term.
Remodeling was much more disruptive to our lives than we could have ever imagined. We were our own general contractors with Ralph's Uncle Ralph and Ralph's cousins (Uncle Ralph's two sons Ryan and Mark) doing the vast majority of the work and designing the remodel. We did some things ourselves like installing Pergo floors, putting in closet organizers, some painting, some trim and fitting. I hope never to do such a major construction project while living in a home again.
Kristin, Grace, and Timmy are doing great. Kristin is turning into quite the scholar/athlete. She is keeping up her soccer playing while taking on basketball for Holy Family's 5th grade team. She is keeping up her grades really well even with the pretty demanding homework in the fifth grade. We are just praying this kind of thing continues. Grace also played soccer this year enjoying playing goal keeper in particular. Ralph was the assistant coach for Grace's team this year, so we were pretty wrapped up during soccer season. Grace is also a Brownie girl scout and is doing well in second grade. Both girls were on a swim team in the summer.
Timmy is in pre-school now. Since he was born in May, he'll be younger (5 months younger than Grace) when he starts Kindergarten. I think he will be ready though.
Things at Ralph's company, Sun Microsystems, were pretty tough over the last couple of years. The usual “doing more with less”, downsizing, etc. In addition, Ralph differed with his manager about how to manage his team and areas of responsibility. He tried hard to work it out and wore himself down quite a bit, but ultimately he was laid off in July. He is looking for a position now in marketing with another technology company.
I have been doing a lot of volunteer work at the school including doing a math enrichment program for 4th grade and helping out in the classroom last year. I really like getting to know the kids and parents at the school. I have been trying to find work that would allow me to spend enough time with the kids, but so far haven't found anything. I had an eBay store going online, but haven't found profitable items to sell.
We were fortunate to have two vacations this year. The first was in June with the kids to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. This Fall Ralph and I went to Italy. We were attending the wedding of Dave and Sabrina. Ralph met Dave in college and he has been our close friend since before we were married. They were married in Sicily and are now living in Deruta (in the Umbria region) working in the family ceramics business. We spent a few days in Rome and a few days on the Amalfi coast in addition to the time we spent in Umbria and Sicily. Of course, we ran ourselves ragged because we we wanted to see so much, but it was a wonderful trip.
Ralph has been doing a “blog” where he put up pictures from the trip, trip descriptions, pictures of the kids, and a few political reflections. He is also put links to letters of Christmas past. If you want to read more about our trip to Italy or see a few more pictures, his blog address is:
We are wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season and all the best in the new year.
Michele, Ralph, Kristin, Grace and Timothy
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Christmas 2002
We are grateful for a relatively uneventful 2002. The children are growing and thriving, we are coping with three growing and thriving children, and I still has a job.
Timmy is every bit the 2 year old. He is working through toilet training making charming discoveries; for example, he has discovered he can not hold it indefinitely. He has quite a wide vocabulary, much of which can be understood with careful listening. I am convinced he understands everything we say.
Grace is nearly 6 and is in Kindergarten. She is getting to really enjoy Kindergarten. She loved her pre-Kindergarten and teacher, so it was an adjustment with her new teacher, larger class and more demanding environment at Holy Family. She is doing well though and is joining the Daisy Girl Scouts, taking gymnastics, and swimming in the summer.
Kristin is nearly 9 and is in the 3rdgrade. She is still very much the soccer player and has her bedroom walls covered with signed posters from the CyberRays, Earthquakes, and Santa Clara Broncos soccer teams. She is singing in the choir at church and doing very well in school considering she talks so much and only occassionally listens to her teacher. She reads quite a bit, especially when she is not allowed to play her Gameboy or watch TV or when she is trying to stay up past her bedtime. Kristin received her first communion and was confirmed this year (our parish received special permission to perform confirmation before first communion.)
Michele is a “stay-at-home” mom, though she is rarely at home; she should perhaps be called a “kid-chasing, errand-running, activity-chauffeuring, school-volunteering” mom. Michele has successfully some of her sanity over the past year. Our vacation in Puerto Vallarto in the Spring and yelling at the refs during Sharks games might have helped with that.
I went from being a Product Line Manager to a Group Marketing Manager at Sun Microsystems. It seems to be one of those promotions where you keep doing the same thing and don't get a pay increase. I haven't been traveling as much though (just a couple of trips early in the year) so that is a plus.
We are hoping that events of year have been happy ones.
Michele, Ralph, Kristin, Grace, and Timothy
The home page hasn't been updated in some time. Long live the ease of updating a blog!
Some relevent blog archive like things are:
Holiday Letter 1999
Holiday Letter 1998
Holiday Letter 1997
So, the 2000, 2001, and 2002 holiday letters aren't on line. What will the children do to fill in those childhood years when they write their autobiographies? I'll have to find them and put them up here.
Dear Family and Friends,
We are wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2004. We had a full 2003.
In January we lost my grandfather, George Clinton Murray (Grumpers to me and the kids). It was a blessing that the kids got to know their great grandfather and he enjoyed them. He nearly shared a birthday (-1 day) with our youngest and the 95 year separation in their ages really gave Grumpers a kick. We went to Wisconsin in May (after things thawed) for Grumpers funeral and the kids had an opportunity to see the Midwest side of their heritage and meet some relatives they hadn't had an opportunity to know. We were able to celebrate Grumpers life and family in a very meaningful way.
The last half of the year has been dominated by the remodeling of our house. We are converting the garage into a bedroom suite and laundry room and adding a new garage in front of the old one. Ralph's Uncle Ralph and Ralph's cousins Mark and Ryan have been doing most of the work for us. We hired a few contractors and have done a bit of the work ourselves. The project has kept us hopping and dreaming of the day it will be âfinishedâ. I put finished in quotes because the nice new work only points out how shabby the other parts of the house are, so there really is no finished. Before the end of the year we will move into our new bedroom and have a nice guest room/playroom with a queen wall bed in our old bedroom. That is an important milestone.
Before the heavy lifting started we took our vacation to the Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. We all enjoyed the parks, the sight seeing, and the bath water warm pool at the timeshare in Saint George, Utah. The driving was a little rougher than expected because our mini-van turned up with problems in the pre-trip check and we had to take our compact sedan (no DVD, much more crowded). The kids (and us) did way better than I expected. It was more reminiscent of the family drives when we were kids.
The kids are all doing very well. Timmy is 3 and is in his first year of pre-school which he loves. He is potty trained both night and day which is quite a relief. He is very good natured and gets along well with his sisters until they start playing too vigorously and he gets hurt. So far, nothing serious, knock on wood.
Grace will be 7 January 1^st . She is in first grade and is doing very well. She picked up on reading just in the last few months and is making great strides and really enjoying school. She played soccer in the fall and had fun with it and is still enjoying brownies and any art project she can get her hands on.
Kristin will be 10 in February and is already a true pre-teen. Fortunately, she is really starting to take an interest in doing well in school (instead of just doing what we make her do). Her soccer interest is still strong and she had a good fall season with Coach Andy's team (some of the girls she's played with since she was 5). Video screens (TV, Gameboy, internet) also have an extremely strong pull on her attention.
Ralph's job at Sun Microsystems has had its ups and downs this year. There have been a lot of changes in the software organization and some of Ralph's strongest supporters have left the company. He didn't have to travel much this year but did take a trip to Asia just before Thanksgiving. He went to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai and he found it very interesting since he had previously only been to Japan in Asia. As he said, it got him out of the office for a week.
I have been volunteering a lot at the school working with groups of the kids in math and running an enrichment program for some of the fourth graders who would benefit from some more challenge. Volunteering with the kids helps keep my hand in teaching and gives me hours I need to renew my credential. Its rewarding working with the kids and seeing how they take things in. I cut back to just the enrichment program to focus more on the remodel the last couple of months but will probably volunteer some more time in the New Year.
Hope you are well and can make the most of 2004.
Michele, Ralph, Kristin, Grace, and Timothy