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Quote for the day

From New York Magazine’s expose on John Edwards’ 2008 campaign and marital affair disaster.

“John will settle for attorney general,” Hindery e-mailed Daschle.

Daschle shook his head. How desperate is this guy?

“Leo, this isn’t good for John,” Daschle replied. “This is ridiculous. It’s going to be ambassador to Zimbabwe next.”

Read this in context here.

I’ve long wondered why some big company doesn’t set up shop in Detroit. Real estate is cheap. You’ve got a major airport, freeways, a football, basketball and baseball team and a large downtown full of office space. Seems like a great opportunity.

Well we know that no one has done that yet but here’s a great article in the New York times about small businesses setting up in Detroit. A creperie is among these new small businesses. Who would have thought?

Award winning war correspondent Michael Yon was detained and handcuffed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Yesterday by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel.

Yon was returning to the United States from Hong Kong to visit family when TSA officials stopped him during a routine security checkpoint.  “Officials asked me what was in my bag—nothing wrong with this question,” Yon said in an interview with BigGovernment.com.  “I told them it was normal stuff, clothes and toothbrushes.”

The Year of the Flood

I just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. I was surprised after I began reading it to find that it is a companion piece to Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and it includes many of the same characters and the same events only from different perspectives.

Honestly, I think Oryx and Crake is a much better book. The plot is tight whereas The Year of the Flood is really all over the place with a lot of magical coincidence (I just made that up).

One particular aspect about the book interested me quite a bit. In Oryx and Crake, we see a character try to create a perfect species. In The Year of the Flood, there is the attempt to create a perfect religion.

Atwood is taking this religion on the road with her oddly enough. The songs she wrote for the book are performed on tour by a choir. She also mentions in her acknowledgments that she has celebrated one of the feast days of the religion with her partner.

It is funny isn’t it that religion can be consciously created? You can will yourself into a new religion. I remember once when I was taking Classics in college my professor mentioned a man who had tried to adopt Greek mythology as his religion. He celebrated the right events and prayed to the appropriate gods based on what he wanted to accomplish. He found that he actually started to believe and would instinctively call out to certain gods without even thinking about it.

In The Year of the Flood a character does not believe in the religion that she is a member of, yet she continues the ritual despite that. By the end of the book we have indications that on some level she believes, and there are some events that could be construed as miracles which prove her religion.

Perhaps all religions begin this way.

Okay.

Happy New Year

Here’s my new point-and-shoot Canon in action. I’m still getting used to the camera and I’m still getting used to my new Mac Book which I got for Christmas. This is my first Mac, so please bear with me. It will take me a while to get familar with the new photo editing software.

I hope you are as happy today as Jake clearly is here skiing.

Me and Orson Welles

I managed to catch this film in Sacramento while I was visiting. It’s really fantastic. It walks a fine line between depicting Orson Welles as an asshole and a genius. That’s not easy. I also thought Zac Efron was adorable. I can see why all the tweens love him.

The best performance hands down is Christian McKay’s fantastic non-impression of Welles. It’s as accurate as an impression but it’s so full of life and sincerity. There’s no hint of caricature here. James Tupper’s Joseph Cotton wasn’t bad either.

Probably my only disappointment came during the closing credits when I found out it was based on a novel. It seemed so real, I was hoping it was an autobiographical piece.

Not a fan of his personality, but I always find Hitchens a great read:

In my boyhood, there were signs on English buses that declared, in bold letters, “No Spitting.” At a tender age, I was able to work out that most people don’t need to be told this, while those who do feel a desire to expectorate on public transport will require more discouragement than a mere sign. But I’d be wasting my time pointing this out to our majestic and sleepless protectors, who now boldly propose to prevent airline passengers from getting out of their seats for the last hour of any flight. Abdulmutallab made his bid in the last hour of his flight, after all. Yes, that ought to do it. It’s also incredibly, nay, almost diabolically clever of our guardians to let it be known what the precise time limit will be. Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law.

Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can’t—or won’t. The answer to the second question is: Because we can.

On Christmas Vacation

I’ll be in California for the next few days visiting my mom who has dial-up. Needless to say I probably won’t be blogging. See you back on December 28th!

Heard on the radio

Wow. Last night listened to crotchety old man Harold Bloom on npr about the decline of the humanities. Translation: people study books and poetry that he doesn’t like. However, if like me you like literary criticism and you have the stomach for listening to him (he is quite amusing actually) then here is the link.

On to this morning where on npr they featured a story about moving the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to an Illinois prison. How do they begin this interesting feature? By interviewing a woman whose son fought in the Iraq war. After she tells us about the sacrifices her family has made, she says that bringing terrorists to America is like a direct slap in the face to soldiers like her son.

Excuse me? Did someone at npr think that interviewing an intellectually challenged woman about completely unrelated topics would have anything to add to the discussion? In what real world is harboring prisoners a direct slap in the face to soldiers. How is it that this would a slap in the face merely because it’s in America? I just don’t get npr anymore. None of it makes any sense.

My review of Avatar

Don’t see it. Sorry, I hated it and I probably should have never gone. It’s extremely depressing in a colonial sort of way, and the feel-good ending doesn’t really change that. I would include details but I don’t want to depress anyone who liked the film. If you care to comment though, I will respond.

Now on to what I really liked. Michelle Rodriquez kicked ass. Now don’t get me wrong it’s a stupid part. All she does is look sexy, deliver cheesy Cameron one-liners, and do the action star thing, but she does it so well. In fact, she does it like a man. She is every bit of the action start that Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartzenagger, and Bruce Willis are. I’d love to see her in a James Bond style movie where she toys with men. I think with Rodriquez we actually would enjoy that very similar to Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Or maybe a Rambo0-type movie. One thing about the eighties action stars is that they talked very little. You didn’t see too many heart-wrenching scenes. There wasn’t a lot going on upstairs and it didn’t matter. They did their thing. I think someone needs to give Michelle Rodriquez the chance to do it.

Not only are roasted chestnuts perfect for the holiday season, but you’ll get a lot of accolades for bringing them to your holiday party despite the fact that they are easier than pie to make.

Cut a an X in each chestnut. Roast in the oven at 425 degrees F for a half of an hour. Pile them up in foil and take immediately to the party. If you’ve invited me over this season to a party, you may find that I’ll be bringing these. More info here.

Two short observations

Pat Robertson on NPR speaking about Oral Roberts’ 1987 plea to his supporters that they donate money to his church or God would kill him:

It was unseemly. We all have a mole or a wart somewhere in our lives.

What do you mean it was unseemly? He said God told him that he was going to kill him if he didn’t raise the money. Are you insinuating that Oral Roberts was lying? Is it so common for televangelists to lie that you can use that word unseemly instead?

Second observation of the day.

A new provision being rolled into the unified House health care bill would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 27, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday.

I think it says a lot about the state of this country’s health insurance problems that reform involves infantilizing adults in order to get them covered. And how classist is this anyway? This is a big benefit for upper middle class families who sent their kids off to college when their kids have not yet found work that includes benefits. Baristas anyone? What about poor 27 year olds? Chances are their parents don’t have insurance either. What a bunch of crap. Full disclosure: I was on my parents’ insurance until I was 23 years old.

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I’ve never seen it this way.

Here’s a great column from Glenn Greenwald:

Events like this provide an important reminder about how crucial and well-crafted the Constitution is.  Though rarely invoked, the ban on “bills of attainder” is no technical or legalistic right; it’s vital.  Allowing Congress — rather than courts — to pass judgment on parties’ guilt and then punish them for it is to circumvent all of the due process rights guaranteed in a judicial proceeding.  It virtually ensures that, as happened here, guilt will be imposed due to political passions and a lynch mob mentality rather than a careful and fair examination of evidence.  It also leaves weak and unpopular parties far more vulnerable to punishment.  The fact that groups far more powerful than ACORN have actually been found guilty of serious wrongdoing yet have never been de-funded by Congress –particularly defense contractors — illustrates that danger.

The reasons the Founders barred such bills of attainder are perfectly highlighted by the ACORN case.  During the reign of abusive Kings, it was a favorite instrument for enabling unpopular parties to be convicted, punished and deprived without benefit of a trial.  Under the Constitution, parties aren’t supposed to be found guilty of wrongdoing as a result of a Fox-News-led witch hunt joined by cowardly members of Congress.  The recent finding of the Massachusetts Attorney General that ACORN had not committed crimes in connection with the notorious prostitution videos underscores the danger of the state’s assuming someone’s guilt outside of the judicial process.  Congress is especially ill-suited to pass judgment on whether a particular party has violated the law, as they are far more likely to protect the powerful and popular and punish the weak and unpopular (which is one reason, incidentally, why it was wrong for Congress to retroactively immunize rich and powerful telecoms based on the consummately judicial finding that they acted in “good faith” when violating eavesdropping laws).

I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

It would be a crime to swipe the images, so I’ll just link to RumpRoast here.

I’m fascinated by aspects of advertising like where the ideas come from and who makes the decisions.  It’s interesting how advertisers can get it wrong so many times. What they thought was appealing just isn’t. I ordered a latte at the cafe the other day and watched the barista put on a Bodies the Exhibition cup sleeve. Continuing my trend to be a somewhat difficult customer at times I promptly removed the sleeve from my cup and said “I know this wasn’t your idea, but what makes Bodies the Exhibition think that I want to drink my coffee looking at that thing?” At least they weren’t making subway sandwich wrappers.

So here is an interesting ad which is a takeoff of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. If you don’t know about the controversy involving this video, then you should watch the video before reading on.

Okay, what are your thoughts? I have to say I don’t think it’s a very good advertisement. It certainly doesn’t make me want to buy Method cleaners and I do think it’s a bit creepy. Well apparently there’s been a lot of talk about this advert on feminist blogs and you can read Kate Harding’s take here. I really don’t have a feminist opinion about this, but I can say it’s not a very good commercial.

Paying to not watch TV

Here’s an interesting column on Ta-nehisi Coates’ blog where he talks about paying $1.99 per Mad Men episode on Hulu.

I think the problem in this thinking is the notion that people are going to Hulu because they don’t want to pay for TV. That’s part of it, but it’s a simplification. Again, speaking for myself, it’s not that I don’t want to pay for TV, it’s that I don’t want to pay for cable news recycling the same story, or Stuart Scott yelling “Boo-yah!” in order to get my Larry David fix.

What I want is to watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and then go on with my life–and I’ll gladly pay a premium for that privilege. I don’t want to have to flip through a hundred different channels of silliness in order to get to what I want to see. In other words, for me, the problem isn’t paying, it’s the lack of control.

I completely agree here. It’s not that I don’t want to watch tennis occasionally or Mad Men or Sex and the City. It’s that I don’t want to watch everything else, and I know that by having all those stations at my disposal I will watch those programs. When we had free cable TV I watched a lot of Keith Olbermann because it was there. Sure it was enjoyable, but I think I wasted precious hours of my life that could have been spent in a more positive way.

What I would really like is an a la carte television. I choose the channels that I want and that’s it. A la carte channels would also solve the problem of placing controls on what children watch. Just because Bratz is considered child-safe doesn’t mean that I want my (hypothetical) children watching it.

We’ve been primarily TV free for about a year now. I’d say about once a week I turn it on for a few minutes then turn it off. There is never anything good on anyway. Speaking of which there was some terrible femme-fatal Meryl Street/Roy Scheider movie on the other day. Don’t know what it was but it was really bad. That’s free TV for you.

My only regret is that I should be getting more accomplished with my life and I can’t say that I am. I do fill a lot of what would have been TV hours with radio, but the nice thing about radio is that you can do something else while listening to it.

Are there no workhouses?

I was reading a blog the other day that used the above title as a sarcastic jab at the Salvation Army in Houston who reportedly was requesting social security numbers to prevent non-citizens from getting toys.

Working in Information Technology, you learn that collecting social security numbers is by far the stupidest thing you could ever do as an organization. The liability of having those numbers is just not worth the minuscule value they may provide, but that’s aside the point.

You may recall the title of this post is a line from Dickens A Christmas Carol. I’m posting an excerpt with this fabulous exchange in the hopes that you may consider the meaning of charity this Christmas season.

The clerk, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.    ‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,’ said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. ‘Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Scrooge, or Mr Marley?’

‘Mr Marley has been dead these seven years,’ Scrooge replied. ‘He died seven years ago, this very night.’

‘We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,’ said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was, for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word liberality, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’

‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

‘And the Union workhouses.’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’

‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman,’ I wish I could say they were not.’

‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.

‘Both very busy, sir.’

‘Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very glad to hear it.’

‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

‘You wish to be anonymous?’

‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides-excuse me-I don’t know that.’

‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.

‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!’

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

I have only now finished season 3 of Mad Men. I don’t have cable and a friend gave me his recordings a couple of weeks ago. I was very intrigued by the episode where Pete is left alone for a week by his wife who is vacationing with her family. Spoilers after the jump.

Continue Reading »

Busy, busy, busy

I’ll be starting my new job soon. Some of that preparation has made it difficult to post. Plus, I really haven’t had anything original to say this last week.

I started running to work recently. Six miles there and six miles back. It’s a great run. One that is oddly much more fun than running just for the sake of it. That destination seems to somehow affect my psychology.

I bought a laser pointer for Danton who is loving it. He meows at this strange new red bug that makes regular appearances in our house. Why can’t he seem to catch it though?

Hopefully my new camera will be purchased soon and I’ll be able to start posting some pictures.

Smoked Turkey Day

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and we decided to smoke our turkey instead of bake it for our Thanksgiving feast. I was responsible for preparing the turkey which included injecting it with a butter marinade and brushing it with butter. It was by far the easiest preparation I’ve ever had for a turkey. Jake took everything from there and tended the BBQ adding wood chips and coals every so often as well as checking the temperature.

What did I learn about smoking a turkey? Surprisingly the flavor only had a hint of smoke. You could taste it on the skin and in the dark meat, but other than that it is pretty comparable to a baked turkey. For this reason I think next year I’ll prepare it with a similar recipe to what I do when baking which means massaging butter underneath the skin, adding herbs to the cavity etc.

My favorite part about smoking the turkey rather than baking it is that I was able to use all three shelves in my oven. With the root vegetables, the two stuffings, and the veggie casserole, there was actually no room to spare. I can’t imagine what I would have done with a turkey in there too. The roasting pans for turkeys are ridiculously large and they pretty much take up your whole oven. I think smoking the turkey is definitely the way to go if you only have one oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

New York Times

AP

Daily News Transcript

EOnline

I can’t remember the last time that I truly experienced fabulous journalism in The Seattle Times, but here it is. Rebekah Denn details the story of a local energy bar maker who finds how difficult it is to control his product in, to borrow Denn’s vernacular, the industrial-food chain. After salmonella contamination was found in peanuts, this producer decided to get his peanuts from a small local peanut producer in would-you-believe Western Washington. Not a place known for growing peanuts. I highly recommend the article.

TWO MILES from the Kingston factory where Lunde hand-cuts his Caveman bars is an incongruous sight for Washingtonians: a small, family-owned peanut factory.

Clark and Tami Bowen run the certified-organic “micro-roastery,” CB’s Nuts, with — literally — an open door. Anyone walking into the remodeled fire station can peer from the small retail area to the factory floor, watching the peanuts move from enormous hanging cloth storage bags to the carefully tended roaster to the other stages of processing and packing.

“These guys were a lifesaver,” Lunde says, dropping by CB’s one day on the way to work. Their nuts smell better than any others, he says. They look better, more golden and robust. They taste better — a lot better.

“It’s night and day by comparison,” Lunde says. “At CB’s, I can actually go down and see what they’re doing.”

Federally backed insurance

You may recall the lovely Dauphin Island from new stories after hurricane Katrina:

Dauphin Island is a barrier island located three miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the (Town of Dauphin Island) there are approximately 1300 permanent residents. The island is approximately 14 miles long and 1 ¾ miles wide at the widest point. The eastern six miles are inhabited while the western 8 miles are undeveloped and privately owned.

Dauphin frequently suffers damage from hurricanes and “[o]ver 5 million dollars of state and federal aid have been used to build berms on Dauphin Island.”

But what interests me about Dauphin Island these days is this:

Nearly 20,000 communities across the United States and its territories participate in the NFIP by adopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. In exchange, the NFIP makes Federally backed flood insurance available to homeowners, renters, and business owners in these communities. Community participation in the NFIP is voluntary. Moreover, flood insurance may designed to provide an alternative to disaster assitance to help reduce costs of repairing damage to buildings.

My emphasis. I didn’t do a lot of research for this post, so it could be that I’m missing something vitally important here, but I think it’s crazy that I live in a country where you can build a house on a 14-mile-wide island in the gulf of Mexico that is right down hurricane alley and the federal government will guarantee your flood insurance so that you can continue to live there without risk, yet the federal government will not help you obtain health insurance if you have no other option.  Your health or rather your ability to live or die is less important than your vacation home. It’s really quite crazy.