Thursday, December 30, 2010

Half-wrong, half-right, or just half-wit?

I made 10 predictions at the beginning of the year:
  1. The Democrats will lose 7 or 8 seats in the Senate in the November 2010 election. FAIL
  2. There will be a kerfuffle when images supposedly from airport backskatter X-ray machines are leaked to the Internet. Score
  3. A Schleck will win the Tour De France. FAIL
  4. The president will sign a Cash for Caulkers bill. FAIL
  5. More than 100 banks will fail in the US. Score
  6. General Motors will sell fewer cars than they sold in 2009. FAIL
  7. Ford and Toyota will sell more cars than they sold in 2009. Score
  8. We'll have a white Christmas. FAIL
  9. Spring Town Meeting will last 5 or fewer nights. Score
  10. Amherst will pass an override. Score

I said I thought each of them had a greater than 50% chance of happening.  I got 50% correct.  Oops.

What lessons I should draw from my failures, besides the general fact that I'm overconfident?

I'm a programmer, so I should expect to make off-by-one errors.  The Democrats only lost 6 seats. 

I should avoid making predictions about sports.  So even though I think the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl, I shouldn't predict that they're going to win.  But they are.  But I'm not predicting that.  Just so you know.

I don't know lesson to learn from my 'cash for caulkers' FAIL -- maybe that predicting what legislation will catch the fancy of our congress-critters is hopeless?  Two weeks ago I would have predicted that there was almost no chance Don't Ask Don't Tell would be repealed.

I should trust large organizations more; GM and Chrysler were not horribly mismanaged after being bought by Uncle Sam.

And I've lived here long enough to know that trying to predict New England weather is just plain dumb.

But I've learned my lesson, and I'm 100% positive that my 2011 predictions will be brilliant, insightful, and accurate-- guaranteed, or double your money back!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Charlie Brown Christmas (tree)

We're hosting Christmas for Michele's siblings; this is an email she sent them a couple of days ago.

Ok so I learned something this year.  Don't pick out a tree during a torrential rain storm.
The only day we had enough time to get a tree and set it up was last Sunday.  So even though it was raining -- off we went.

Well the heavens pretty much opened up the moment we arrived at the tree lot. Fine.  "We won't melt" Robin declared.  Fine.  Now I'm shamed into being a trooper by my 10 year old.   Except she has a hood and I cleverly forgot a hat. 

So off we went up and down the aisles of trees in the pouring rain.  You know what?  In the pouring cold rain all trees pretty much look the same.  So when you've forgotten a rain hat you tend to make the tree picking out process go as quickly as possible.  Robin's one constraint was that the tree be nice and bushy, so you can't see the trunk.

Upon spotting the first bushy tree
"That one looks good" says me
"OOoo" says Will (for the record he said this about every tree)
"This one is nice and bushy" says Robin
"Ok look there is daddy coming back from the ATM, let's get this one" says me as I scurry to the boy scout hut. 

The boy scouts were not out in the lot selling the trees and assisting in the customers' decision making as they normally do.  No. They were smart. They were in the boy scout hut huddled next to the wood burning stove.  Our declaration to the scouts that we'd picked out our tree was not met with joy over another sales, the benefits of which would go into the smore fund for the summer's camping adventure.  No, I believed that one of them actually groaned.  You see they were obligated carry the tree to our car and secure it to the roof with twine. 

Skip ahead a few hours.  We put the tree in the garage to 'dry' off a bit and now Gavin has carried it into the house and to the living room.  He is positioning it while I turn the dang little screws on the stand to secure the tree.

One screw isn't meeting resistance. 

me: "Gavin. There is a hole in this tree."
Gavin: "A hole?"
me: "yeah part of the trunk is rotted or something"
Gavin "well let's turn it 45˚ so the screw can bite into wood"  <-- a problem solver that Gavin!

We did and the stand is stable but the hole is still there.  And... the tree dropped two dustpans' worth of needles within a few hours.  I've never seen so much debris from a fresh tree.   Then I noticed several dead branches.  Also, if you touch the back side of the tree the needles readily fall.

No, we are not getting another tree.  This one will just have to tough it out.  We've got the lights up and the decorations and no one is to touch the back side of the tree.

And so you are all welcome for Christmas but don't make fun of our tree.  It looks fine.  It is doing its job of holding up lights and ornaments. A tree doesn't need needles to do hold up lights and ornaments, just branches.  Our tree has branches....

So don't make fun of our Christmas tree.
It isn't half dead it is..... health impaired.