Sunday, August 31, 2008

More Palin

One of McCain's top advisors set out to address the issue of whether Palin was ready to be VP:
She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long
How reassuring.

One other point that should be made about the lack of experience on the national scale: this isn't just about national security but about her ability to take advice and act accordingly. Regardless of whether you're physically in Washington, involvement in national politics brings with it a certain awareness of just how reliable the host of think-tank 'experts' are. You get to know which ones are just partisan hacks who have a knee-jerk response to whatever you say or do, and which ones actually think about the situation, potential ramifications, and the best course of action guided by an honest assessment. Palin isn't involved in national politics, and by most accounts wasn't even interested until she was tapped by McCain. She has no idea who in Washington will tell her 'yes' or 'no' just because she's a Republican, and who will actually try to give her good advice guided by the facts. Even if her intentions are noble, she risks surrounding herself with idealogical zealots who only care about pushing their own agenda, facts be damned, and she'll end up implementing that agenda. And we all know how that's played out in the past.

Signs of the End

Every once and a while, you get a sign that the apocalypse is coming.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Reaction

Noah Millman has what's supposed to be a flattering description of Palin:
Palin fits a different model. She’s not a President-in-waiting; she’s a President-in-training.
He then goes on to argue that that's ok, because if McCain kicks the bucket in early 2009 she can just ask someone else to be president, and if he kicks the bucket in late 2012 she'll have had lots of training and will be ok.

This is peciluar.

With all the hoopla about whether a VP brings a certain state, accents a candidate's strengths, or compliments the weaknesses, the one single purpose of a VP is to be ready to take on the job of POTUS at a moment's notice. And even her supporters don't think she's ready to do that. As Matt Y points out, Sarah Palin's been governor of Alaska for less time than McCain's been running for president, and really hasn't shown much interest in anything beyond Alaska's borders before two days ago when she was announced. McCain's big argument against Obama is that he's unexperienced and not ready. Personally, I don't believe that, but until this announcement I could believe that McCain did. With this pick, he pretty much reveals that to be a purely political argument that he thinks will get him the White House.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Random Thoughts

NPR has interesting and thought provoking articles. Today they were talking about birth rates in Europe, and how they're low enough that Europe's population is actually shrinking. The general perception is that this is a bad thing, but I still wonder myself. The Earth is a finite place with finite resources that can support a finite number of people. It's simply a mathematical impossibility for the planet's population to keep growing and be supported. So the question we should be asking is "how many people can the earth support, and at what quality of life?" To my knowledge, that isn't something that I've seen anyone do research on.

Another interesting fact NPR mentioned was that Iceland has both the highest birth rate in Europe and the highest number of children "born out of wedlock". What I want to know is how many of those "born out of wedlock" children are "single parent" children, which was what the commentators seemed to imply, but never actually said. Just because a kid's parents aren't married doesn't mean that they aren't living in a stable, loving, two-parent environment, and this is one area where the definition of "marriage" really makes a difference. In some countries, like the US, being married means a complex combination of religious rituals and legal arrangements that convey significant benefits and heavily incent marriage over non-marriage. Other countries don't. I'd really like to see more discussion of "single parent" versus "stable environment" versus "out of wedlock", and what those rates are.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Delay's Hail Mary

For those of you who aren't familiar with Tom Delay, he's basically a corrupt politician from Texas who, among a lot of other things, resigned in disgrace from the House a few years ago when money laundering charges were brought against him.

It appears he has a new defense strategy. You see, when he and his buddies laundered the cash, they didn't hand each other physical dollar bills ... they handed each other checks. Seriously, I'm not making this up. From The Statesman:
Money-laundering charges against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two indicted co-conspirators may be dismissed because the 2002 campaign finance case involved checks and not cash, a lawyer for DeLay said Sunday night.

"We win," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lawyer, "because there's nothing but checks in the case."

Apparently in 2005 the law was ammended to specifically include checks, and Delay's lawyers are arguing that because checks were not specifically included in the language before then clearly it wasn't illegal.

Oh.

Please.

If this is the best Delay's team of lawyers can come up with, then the case against him is more open-shut than I thought, which is saying a lot.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Picture Dump

Mom!

I can haas box?

Katie!

What's that on my booby?

Nappin - yous doin it wrong!

Things you Hear in the City

Some old guy, who I swear could have voiced Hank's father in King of the Hill, after a jogger with a dog crossed his path.

"All dogs should be put to death! One bullet to the head, and bang! Filthy creatures! ..."
(some guy, I think his son, was walking with him and now desperately trying to quiet him down)
"...I don't care if people can hear me, I deserve to be heard, and I'll do it myself!"

then later, doing his best imitation of the old guy from Family Guy with a thing for Chris...
"Woowheee, look at meeeee, I'm 69 years old and walking down the street! Woowhee I'm 69 years old! Woowhee, don't you want to be 69 years old?"

At this point I finally got out of earshot. No, he wasn't drunk, or if he was he was drunk at 3PM in the afternoon.

Faux Caviar 1, Nik 0

I usually don't have culinary disasters. Sometimes my meals are disappointing, but very few rise to the level of disasterous. Before this weekend I had 3: the fish-n-chips, the garlic scones, and the flourless cookies. After this weekend, the tally's up to 4: fish-n-chips, garlic scones, flourless cookies ... and faux caviar made with tapioca.

Some background: on Friday afternoon I had lunch with Justin, Danielle, and Jen at Ipanema, where we (rather predictably) ate quite a bit. Friday night also happens to be the night that they come over for dinner, and we decided in advance that we wanted something simple and light after the big lunch. So we got to brainstorming, and came up with salad with crackers and brie. But then I brainstormed some more, and remembered that I like caviar, that caviar goes well with crackers, and that Richard from Top Chef had a faux caviar recipe that uses tapioca and that the judges raved about. "Aha!", I thought, "another chance to prove my culinary greatness!" So, armed with ingredients and recipe downloaded from the Top Chef website, it was off to Ukrops for the big event.

Now, as much as I like to shop at Ukrops (they remind me of SKH), sometimes they just don't have what I'm looking for. In this case, they didn't have the two kinds of soy sauce called for, or the tapioca. What they did have was "Instant Tapioca", and regular soy sauce. I should have called the whole thing off right then and there, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Wrong.

First of all, the Instant Tapioca box says to "Shake Well before Opening". I'm not quite sure why, but shake it I did, and recieved a shower of tapioca mix all over the kitchen as my reward. Second of all, there wasn't any "cook the tapioca" directions on the package. 3 different ways to make full pudding or pie filling, but no directions for plain cooking. So I improvised, 2 cups of water per cup of mix, get it boiling on the stove, mix in the sauces and spices, and viola, faux caviar!

Then I tasted it ... and it was G-O-D-A-W-F-U-L. Not just blah, but BLECH. The consistency was like chunky hair gunk, it tasted like overpowered fish sauce, and looked like the most unappetizing thing I've ever seen. But I figured if anyone would eat it, Justin would. So I tried it on him, clinging to the hope that he would at least grudgingly eat a bit of it and I would be spared utter humiliation. Nope, he spat it out. Literally. And that's when you know something is really bad; when the eating machine, who orders the 2 pound sirloin that covers the plate and then asks for more, when he spits something out as soon as he tastes it, yep it's bad.

*Sigh, chalk up a loss. But, now that I've admitted failure, it's time for fun with pictures! To give you an idea of just how gross the texture of this stuff was, I've taken some pictures.

In the bowl, looking deceptively viscous.

Holding up a mug.

Still holding it's shape after an hour or so out of the bowl.

"Your metaphor is digging into my cankles!"

Gosh I've missed cable.

Monday, August 18, 2008

An interesting tidbit of knowledge that doesn't directly impact me (or anybody who reads this blog I suspect): Delaware recently became the only state not to have any commercial airline service. None. Zero. Zilch. If you want to get to Delaware, you either take the train or drive.

Weird.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Georgia vs Russia

Some blogger on Georgia vs Russia. As they say, go read the whole thing. It's fairly reasonable.

This kind of thing has been an nagging concern of mine during the leftward shift in foreign policy over the past couple of years. The neocon philosophy of super aggressive militarism has been a disaster, but that doesn't mean that the best foreign policy is the one farthest away from Bush's.

For example, a lot of people are arguing that the US needs to deal with the fact that Russia is going to have a 'sphere of influence', and that there's a limited amount that we can affect that. Which is completely true. But accepting a Russian sphere of influence isn't the same as accepting Russian tanks rolling through the streets of independent nations. So many are saying that the Soviet Union is gone, we aren't fighting the Cold War anymore, but it's pretty clear that the thugocracy running Russia is still fighting a war.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Yellow Happiness Soup Blogging

Hmm, just tried Nigella's Yellow Squash Soup of Happiness, and I'm a bit disappointed. The turmeric is a bit overpowering for my taste, but that's easily fixed. Something not so easily fixed is that in order to cook to rice you basically need to boil away the chicken stock, and you're left with more of a thick sludge than a soup. And it does not feed 4. Has potential, though. Reduce the turmeric, add another yellow squash, maybe some chicken, and then serve over a good helping of sticky rice, could be quite nice.

Cat Blogging & Spinach Pie

I tried something new for dinner with Danielle and Justin this past Friday night: beef and spinach pie. It's actually a Greek spanikopita recipe that I modified by adding pulled beef and mushrooms, and then baking in a traditional pie crust. There are a few tweaks I want to make, but overall it turned out fairly well, and I felt quite homey making it during the day.

I did hit one snag, though. When the beef was done and it was time to start the pie filling, it turned out that someone else already had other plans for the kitchen. Oh well, as my grandma used to say: "If it ain't worth cookin around a cat, then it ain't worth cookin!" Ok, my grandma didn't actually used to say that, I just made it up, but I thought it was funny.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Russia vs Georgia

When I first saw the headline I thought it was referencing the Olympics, but apparently Russia and Georgia are pretty much at war with each other. Did anyone else know that? I sure didn't.

In case you don't want to click on the link, Georgia gained independence from Russia in the 90's when the USSR broke up, and as part of the breakup the province Ossetia was internationally recognized as part of Georgia. However, most Ossetians would rather be part of Russia than part of Georgia, and most actually hold Russian citizenship. Ossetian separatists have been using violence to make their point, Georgia's been using its own military to strike back, and Russia has vowed to defend Russian citizens.

As of this morning there are Russian ground vehicles in Georgian territory, and Russia has been performing air strikes on Georgian military bases. Georgia, for its part, claims to have shot down several Russian planes and is actively fighting back.

Could get worse before it gets better.

Careful with the name, guys

From the NYPost
GENEVA, Switzerland - The largest particle collider ever made will be launched next month and will fire beams around a 17-mile circular tube, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics said yesterday.

The $3.8 billion Large Hardron Collider will recreate the rapidly changing conditions in the universe a split second after the so-called Big Bang.

The collider is Hadron, not Hardron. Freud must be turning in his grave.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Paris Hilton Strikes Back

Say what you will about Paris Hilton, but boy, don't ever get her angry. In case you've been living under a rock for the past two weeks, McCain made an ad about Obama being some kind of vacuous world-celebrity, and used Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears to drive home his point. Well, Paris didn't like that too much.

The original McCain ad:


Paris strikes back!
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die


I have no idea if that was all her, or if she paid someone a lot of money, but that ad is freaking hilarious.

Also hilarious, but in a rather depressing sort of way, is that for the first time in this campaign someone actually made a positive ad that explained, simply and eloquently, a smart energy policy that I actually agree with. And that someone was Paris Hilton. In pig-tails. Wearing a bikini.

For the record ...

no, I have never been told that I am hot like hot sauce, or hot like any other table-top condiment for that matter.

I are a chocolate cake!

For some reason I can't quite get that most-likely-a-girl result out of my head, so I took another quiz to find out which junk food I am!


Like chocolate cake, you are friendly, dependable and make a great friend. You're the perfect person to turn to in times of need!

I are a girl?

Hmmm.. interesting little tool that takes your browser history, compares it against known male-female viewing ratios, and predicts whether you're male or female yourself. Alas, it appears to have gotten me wrong (if anyone makes a sarcastic remark about it actually getting me right I'll whack you upside the head). Apparently my occasional dabble in the culinary arts is just too much female for CNN to handle.

Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 57%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 43%


Site Male-Female Ratio
google.com 0.98
youtube.com 1
cnn.com 1.35
flickr.com 1.15
allrecipes.com 0.57
mandtbank.com 0.85

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Recipes!

Ok, after the rant below, time for some fun stuff!

On the drive into work on Monday I listened to someone named Nigella Lawson describe her favorite summertime recipes that use lots of vegetables and little else. They sounded good and I looked up the recipes, here are the links. Go forth, and marvel at the genius that is the Yellow Squash Soup of Happiness.

Mushroom Pasta, Lime Zuchinni Bread
Yellow Soup of Happiness

Suskind's Revalation

Wow. Ron Suskind is about to publish a book that claiming that the White House ordered forged documents linking Iraq and al Qaeda in the runup to the Iraq war. Money quote:
Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.

The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official “that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.”

If this is true, it isn't just outrageous, it's impeachably outrageous. The President of the United States and his advisors were actively trying to start a war with another country, and were going to forge documents to "prove" something they knew wasn't true in order to have that war happen, real-world consequences be damned. And the worst part is, these are the same people who were in the middle of Iran-Contra and got a free pass in the form of a Regan pardon, and they'll probably get the same thing again when Bush leaves office. These people are criminals who had a direct hand in causing the death of thousands of Americans and possibly millions of Iraqis, all to prove how macho they were. And they're going to give themselves a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Sometimes I just can't find the words.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Watch a Painting come to Life, CAD Style

Benefits of Urban Living

Matt Steinglass has a pretty cool post up about how, in the course of a few weeks, he got healthier simply by living in an urban environment. It makes so much sense: urban areas with crowded streets and limited parking naturally favor walking over driving, and with more walking comes healthier living. Judging from appearances it may not look like I do a lot of walking, but I do, and I enjoy it far more than driving. If it were logistically feasible for me not to own a car and use public transportation, even if it meant tacking another 20 to 25 minutes onto my commute, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I hate driving, and avoid it whenever possible, even when not driving is more expensive than driving.

There is one thing that I'm kind of curious about: Matt says he lost 1.5 kilos in 3 weeks time. That's roughly a pound a week, or 5 miles a day, every day. He must have done a lot of walking.

British Traffic from Space

Way cool.