Acton Arboretum

We went to the Acton Arboretum last weekend. It's an amazing place. Very calm. We took a lot of pictures. These are some of my favorites.

Alex holding some bushes back so his brother and sister could get past

Allison stops to smell the flowers

The rest of the pictures are in Acton Arboretum Set

Flickr Embed HTML on the Photo Page

This post is about a Greasemonkey script I just finished. If you're not either a flickr user or a geek you may want to skip this post.

One of my frustrations with blogging is getting images into my posts. All my pictures are on flickr, and while flickr gives you the HTML code to embed images it takes several clicks and some HTML editing to center the pic and remove the border.

As things to complain about go, it's almost not worth mentioning, but lately I've been posting lots of pictures and all the clicking, Flickr page reloads, and HTML editing was bugging me. So I decided to do something about it.

I wrote a Greasemonkey script called Flickr Embed HTML on the Photo Page that puts the image embed code right on the flickr photo page just above the tags. It makes the flickr photo page look like this:

Flicker Embed HTML on the Photo Page GreaseMonkey Script

Now when I want to add a picture to a post, I just copy that text right off the flickr photo page and drop and paste it in my blog. Two steps instead of seven!

To use this script you need to:
  1. Install the Firefox Greasemonkey add-on 
  2. Install my script by clicking on the nice green "Install" button on the scripts web page.

This was the first time I'd written a line of code since I finished my thesis.  It was very cathartic to fix something with code,  even if it was only the elimination of 5 clicks.

Bathroom Remodel

We recently finished remodeling our downstairs bath.  Prior to the renovation it was one of the most heinous looking rooms we have ever had in a house.

It started on a Sunday morning when I joked with Alex that the wallpaper had to go. He didn't get the joke, and I didn't have it in me to stop him once he started ripping wallpaper off the walls.





Conner doing some plumbing

Next, we ripped out the single cracked sink and cabinet.


Shark Bite connectors are the greatest invention since sliced bread. Just make sure you put them on correctly or you get a great water show in an unfortunate location.


And magically the room was done.  Well, not exactly magically. There's a lot to see in the finished room.
  • Check out the window frame! My dad hand crafted a Craftsman style window frame to match the work he did in the dining room
  • I painted the bathroom in the late hours of the night while listening to back issues of the Bugle and episode 52 (The Christmas Episode) of the Acapodcast.
  • The cabinet and sinks were  donated by my parents gave us after they renovated their bathroom. My dad and I installed them with Conner's help.
Eventually I'll get around to replacing the floor, but for now everyone seems very happy with the new bathroom.

Sunday Fun

We went to the Sterling fair on Sunday.


The boys went on the super slide (video). Rest assured they were totally fine. They even wanted to go again.

As usual Allison insisted we ride the merry go round.


We got home around 2pm and were exhausted... We decided to lay low for the afternoon so the boys and I broke out the Star Wars legos and had a giant building and staging session.


It was a fun day.

Libby's Wedding

This weekend Christine and I went to Libby's wedding. It was the spectacular event that anyone that has ever known Libby expected.

Libby's wedding had a great ceremony with covert video taping done at the brides request. It had amazing reception with a giant chocolate fountain that was bested only by the live band. And it had an after party that refused to end until well into the next day... As any self respecting party should.

Throughout all the celebrating we had the chance to catch up with some of our old high school friends and it was a blast! Someone had the brilliant idea to take a picture, and just like everything else at Libby's wedding it turned out perfect.

High School Friends at Libby's Wedding

From left to right: Jessica Peterson Lombardi, Victor J. Medina, Paul Russell, Paul Russell, Christine Russell, Elizabeth Rackliffe Gustafson, Karla Jamaitis Hudalla, Amy Lafond, Brett Gustafson, Brett Gustafson, Laura Costantini McNaughton

Photo Credit: John Hudalla. This photo was originally posted here on Facebook.

Figuring Out Health Care Reform - Part II - The Cheese Grater Test for Stupidity

This is one in a series of posts called "Figuring Out Health Care".  My look into what the current attempt at health care reform means, and whether or not it's a good idea.

In my last post I covered the false claim that Section 1233 of the House health care reform bill would set up death panels. We established that it is actually a pretty decent piece of legislation.   By actually reading that part of the bill it would be nearly impossible to come to any other conclusion.

That should be the end of the story, but while I was researching that post I came across a recording of a US Senator talking about how the current health care reform bill limits care.

An audio recording and full text transcription is available here on NPR's website.

In this recording (from a few weeks ago) you actually hear Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa) argued that the current heath care proposal would mirror the Nation Health Service (public health systems in the UK). He went on to suggest that the NHS model lets old people die to save money.
"I've been told that the brain tumor that Senator Kennedy has, because he's 77 years old, would not be treated the way it's treated in the United States. In other words, they say, well, he doesn't have long to live, even if he'd live another four or five years. They'd say, well, we've got to spend the money on people that have more, can contribute more to the economy."
Lord Ara Darzi, a surgeon and British government adviser responds by explaining, with a politeness that can only be accomplished by someone with a British accent, that Senator Charles Grassley is completely full of shit.

Seriously. Have a listen.

To be fair, Senator Grassley did give himself the ability to defer the blame for this lie by saying he had "been told". So he could argue that these aren't his words. But as a senator, his words carry a lot of weight and I believe he has a responsibility to at least do a modicum of fact checking before he or she start repeating things to the press.

My guess is that he either has an ulterior motive in trying to stop the current bill or he is too stupid to know what he is saying.  So I propose a test.

The Cheese Grater Test for Stupidity

If anyone runs into Senator Charles Grassley, please tell him that putting his privates in an electric cheese grater will add 5 years to his life expectancy. If he's walking funny the next day, we know he's just stupid.

The first two posts in this series have been a way for me to vent over the silliness of the debate so far. In the next post I'll get down to an actually debatable topic. I'm thinking health care reforms impact on small business.

Figuring Out Health Care Reform - Part I - Killing Sick People & How to Fact Check

This is the first in a series of posts called "Figuring Out Health Care".  My look into what the current attempt at health care reform means, and whether or not it's a good idea.

I recently started looking into the current health care reform debate and was deeply saddened to find that there was almost no useful debate.

Don't get me wrong, there should be a debate. There is plenty to debate...  but the majority of the people I've seen, read, or heard opposing this bill either haven't read it, or are completely bat shit crazy.

Now that doesn't mean there isn't reasonable opposition out there, but where it exists, it's being drowned out by the embarrassingly crazy.

This first post is intended to explain one of the most egregious lies about the current health care bill, and how an individual can cut through the BS and talking points and figure out the truth.

The Death Panel Myth:

There are a number of heath care reform opponents, and one in particular, claiming that Section 1233 current House Health Care Bill would have the government create (death) panels that determine when elderly people or people with disabilities should stop receiving health care and thus die.

My reaction & How to Find The Answers Yourself:

It seemed a little unlikely that our Congress would be dumb enough to actually propose legislation to put old people to death, given their typically large turnout on election day, but I decided to check it out. I did this by going to and reading Section 1233. You can too. It will take you about 5 minutes.

Go ahead... Seriously, read it. 5 Minutes.... I'll wait...

Ok, so you've just read a clearly worded set of rules instructing Medicare to start paying doctors to council old or sick people on hospice care, pain management and making out wills.

There's nothing about withholding care, and there's certainly nothing about killing disabled people. Rather, it's a well thought out set of rules that make sure doctors are compensated when they provide reasonable care as people prepare and go through the natural course of dying.

So what does that have to do with Death Panels? Nothing at all.  The people saying these things are completely full of crap. They are the worst kind of fearmongers because they are preying on exactly the people that this section of the health care reform bill is supposed to help.

If you should happen to meet one of these fearmongers, my recommendation is to force them to read section 1233 of the bill out loud. When they are done, ask them if they still think this section sets up death panels. If they say yes, slap them. Rinse and repeat until they come to their senses.

The US spends about 15% of its GDP on health-care every year. That's ~2.21 TRILLION dollars. With that amount of money in play, everyone's motives should be suspect.

Fortunately getting the truth isn't that hard. Just keep a healthy skepticism of pundits, and read the bill.