Thursday, December 31, 2009

Behold, the Acai-politan!!

Ring in the new year with good health and gay vibes!

(pronounced ahh-see-politan, and yes I know that's not how it's spelled, but it's my drink so I get to call it whatever I want!)
1 part vodka
1 part cranberry juice
1 part Acai berry juice (generously provided by my Aunt Jeannie)
1/2 part orange liquer
splash of lime juice

mix with friends and enjoy!

The universal consensus is that I should not quit my day job to become a mixologist. Hmph.

X-mas Presents I'm not Quite Sure Where to put

Hmmm... those who know my apartment: any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Computer Issues II

My work computer is having issues, too. Apparently, it's discovered a way to transcend space/time itself, and receive data from the future!

Actually, it's far more mundane: it's internal clock has stopped working, and it's stuck. You'll have to take my word for it, but when it was Tuesday morning at 9:45AM, my computer thought it was Sunday afternoon 5:14PM. Stupid computer.

Fortunately, dealing with work computer issues is much much easier than personal computer issues. I can take it downstairs, and they'll fix it. Special bonus: I still have the oldest laptop model in circulation, and since tech support is tired of dealing with all the associated issues, they're just swapping them out for the newest model! At least that's what I've been told ... in a few minutes I'll head down and check it out.

Shiny new computer!! Yay!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bread Pudding - Fail

*sigh, it has not been a good week for the epicurious adventurer.

To begin with, the plum pudding was less than stellar. And now, my amazing idea for Christmas gifts to the extended family isn't working very well either.

Butter, sugar, milk, bread, and cognac ... seriously, what's NOT to like about bread pudding? And in cute little canning jars ... it makes the perfect gift that people enjoy and then get rid of.

Well.... I found a recipe that looked good, and tried out a batch in the crock pot. Or actually, I think I tried a batch and a half of batter in a batch sized container, because it expanded quite a bit.
Then I took it off of the heat, and it promptly collapsed.

Well, not one to be deterred by a simple failure, I cut the batter in half, and set the timer again. This one collapsed too:

Hmm... I think I need to go in a fundamentally different direction. Either a) go for more of a french-toast-like chunkier pudding, or b) get everyone virginia peanuts.

An Open Letter to Richmonders

Dear Richmonders who have no idea how to deal with snow. This is an open letter to all of you. Pay attention, this could make your lives much easier.

  1. If you own property with a sidewalk, it is YOUR responsibility, not the city's, to clear the sidewalk. It is 8 blocks from my apartment to Kroger, with many properties along the way. Exactly 4 properties on Nansemond cleared their walks (including, to their great credit, the Verizon building that Verizon's trying to get rid of), and exactly 0 properties on Thompson cleared theirs. Do your civic duty and buy a shovel.
  2. Yes, the sun will help considerably, but only if you give it a start. If you want your car to be nice and clean on Monday morning, that means cleaning off the snow on Sunday morning so that the sun can do it's job during the day. A single day's worth of sun in the middle of winter will not completely melt 10 inches of snow off of your car that's parked in the shade.
  3. If you do clean your car off, move the snow onto the grass ... DON'T just shift it onto the parking lot. If you do, it will slightly melt, and then refreeze overnight, and then you'll have a wall of ice around not just your car, but also around the cars parked next to you.
  4. If your car is stuck and spinning its wheels to no avail, the correct solution is not to spin your wheels harder. It is to a) turn your wheels back and forth to get some grip and b) ask for help if that doesn't work.
  5. Just because you have a truck doesn't mean you can drive in snow like you drive in clear weather. And to the idiot pickup driver who nearly caused a 3-vehicle crash at Nansemond and Grove by trying to make the red light and then lost control and skidded sideways through the intersection ... you are really REALLY lucky the only thing that happened was that the other 2 cars blew their horns at you.

Christmas Dinner Roundup

It's been an interesting week.

To start with, I thought work was going to slow down considerably, but instead it seemed to speed up. Part of it was my fault - I agreed to prepare for something that I really had no time for - but mostly it was just a bunch of random stuff popping up all over the place.

Friday night was my Christmas dinner with Justin and Danielle. Because of work I was really really behind and didn't have their gifts, but it turned out they didn't weren't ready either, so we agreed to move Christmas back by 2 weeks. :)

We had ham and macaroni & cheese (so I guess maybe that makes it my birthday dinner), and I also decided to that maybe it was time to start a new tradition and attempted a recipe for British Plum Pudding. Besides being difficult to construct (how the hell does one chop kidney fat 'powdery fine'?!?!?) it also had to steam for 18 hours in the crock pot before it was done.

And after all that effort, what did I get? Not much, actually. It looked absolutely amazing (you can't really see the flame, but trust me, we sprinkled brandy over it and lit it)

The taste, though, wasn't too swell. Maybe I screwed up, maybe it was the cognac, or maybe the Brits have this weird pathological aversion to eating food that actually tastes good. Who knows? Anyway, lesson learned for next year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Cat Blogging


2 days of baking and lots of trips to the store = holiday yumminess

Monday, November 30, 2009

Af-Pak Thoughts

Looking over Obama's proposed 35K troop increase, I'm honestly not sure quite what to think.

On the one hand, thinking about the past is the classic sunk-cost fallacy: whatever time and effort we've put into Afghanistan/Pakistan is irrelevant at this point, and what matters is what makes the most sense right now and going forward.

On the other hand, I can't just dismiss our involvement to date. When we went into Afghanistan 8 years ago, we changed a lot of stuff, and integrated American presence into the every day lives of the country and it's people. If leaving means that many people's lives will change for the worse, and if our continued presence can prevent that (two very big if's) then I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of just wiping our hands and saying "see ya!" Of course, there's a temporal aspect to that as well: if our presence needs to continue indefinitely (which realistically, it can't) then it's a matter of having bad stuff happen now, or later. And since there's additional cost to us (both money and lives) the longer we stay, that points to a quicker exit. But nobody can say with certainty that there's absolutely nothing we can do.

In other words, we need to value an indeterminate number of American lives and American money against an interderminate number of Afghani lives and Afghani money for an indeterminate number of years. Argh. I do not envy Obama this decision one bit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Enter Keys and Congressional Districts

My enter key doesn't work anymore, and it's very annoying. I haven't been able to figure out how to get a paragraph inserted via html, so you're going to have to put up with a lot of strung-together text. Also, I was searching around for info about my congressional district (where I found this awesome map btw), and found that districts #3 and #7 represent greater Richmond. Looking at it, though, I realized something. In the span of 2 miles, when driving home from work, I 1) start out in #7 when I'm on I64 2) enter into #3 when I hit the 64/95 interchange 3) go back into #7 once I get onto 195 4) go back into #3 as I exit 195 5) go back into #7 as I cross Broad St and 6) finally get back into #3 when I cross under 195 to get to my apartment building. Yowzas.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nary a Brain to be Found!!

I know what you're thinking: the world is full of idiots. Which is true. But not what I'm getting at here.

Danielle and Justin are coming for dinner tomorrow, and the planned meal was Eggs and Brains. More on why after the break, but sufficed to say Justin requested them.

So off I went tonight, looking for brains.

Tried Kroger - nope.
Tried Whole Foods - nope (and they said even when the whole sheep comes in, including the head, the brains are removed).
Tried Ukrops - nope.
Tried Tom Leonards - nope.
In a fit of desparation (and because I know Justin will ask), I tried Walmart - nope.

So, no brains. Oh well - Liver and Eggs will have to do.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sunday Justin and I drove down to Petersburg to try Dixie Diner, a dive he found online. We got there, and found Eggs and Brains on the menu, so naturally, Justin had to try it. I tried some too and it wasn't bad, although it was mixed in with the eggs so you couldn't really taste it.

Also, Petersburg is an odd little town. Dixie Diner can best be described as Goth meets Renaissance Fair, and the Sherrif's Office owns several blue-painted school buses. Why the Sherrif's Office would need these vehicles is unknown, but they were there.

Finally, there is a restaurant there called Le Venue de Bombay. Cause everyone knows French and Indian cuisines are a natural pairing. :P

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Sister in Austria: Part III

Apparently there is a German version of SpongeBob Squarepants. According to Katie, it is "kinda creeeeeeeepy".

After watching the below, I have to agree. The SpongeBob-on-acid scene at 1:03 is particularly freakish.

One Clever Stat too Far

In general, I think it's a good thing that NFL broadcasters have a weath of data available at their fingertips. But sometimes they try too hard.

"Not since 2004 have the Jets opened a season 3-0!!!" shouted the commentator, apparently under the impression that this little tidbit of info is among the most important tidbit of tidbits ever.

Seriously, "Not since 2004"??? OMG, that makes it like, what, 2 seasons out of 6 that this happens? My gosh, how incredibly rare!!

I propose a new rule for broadcasters: you don't get to start a sentence with "Not since..." unless the next words out of your mouth describe a point in time more than 10 years ago.

Sunday Cat Blogging

Lucy Goosey Rabbitfoot

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Sister in Austria: Part II

OrionSky019 (12:17:13 PM): Soooo
OrionSky019 (12:17:24 PM): apparently the austrians are not nearly as amused as I am, when I walk out of the wrong bathroom..
OrionSky019 (12:21:29 PM): ya, that's right, i'm an international idiot
OrionSky019 (12:21:58 PM): i got the STRANGEST look from this elderly man
OrionSky019 (12:22:05 PM): haha i think his eyes got about as big as the moon

Authentic Mexican!

As opposed to the apparently unauthentic Asian. Silly Target.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Sister in Austria: Part I

Her exact words:

"Mozart should only be heard in a place as beautiful as this."

UPDATE: Originally this was titled "My Sister in an Austrian Music Hall", but I decided to make this into a series, chronicaling my sisters adventures across the sea.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Foul Mood this Morning

For whatever reason, I seem to be in a very foul mood this morning. I don't really know why, since I have several reasons to be happy (Giants humiliating the Cowboys in their fancy new stadium; dinner with good peoples tonight).

I do, however, have several theories:

  • I didn't get enough sleep last night. Weird, since I went to bed around 12 which is when I normally go to sleep, but I am very tired, especially my eyes. This leads directly to the next item:

  • I woke up 2 hours later than I wanted to, and had to rush around this morning.

  • There are idiots on the road. Hey idiots: here's an idea! If two of you are driving side-by-side on the highway and you both need to get into the others' lane, don't keep both slowing down assuming that the other will speed up. Take the goddamn initiative and fix the backup that you're both causing by continuously slowing from 65 to 60 to 55 to 50 to 45 to 40 to 35 mph on the freaking highway ... and for heaven's sake if you see it isn't working then don't keep trying it! Morons.

  • I listened to the radio on the way to work, and their show this morning was about parents not making their kids eat what was prepared for dinner, and instead just microwaving some chicken nuggets because the little buggers fake vomit the food out. This pissed me off as well.

  • Futhermore, the annoying glowy-orange reminder that Outlook insists on popping up on my toolbar is the bane of existence. This pisses me off as well.

  • A direct result of the first two: I just checked the mirror and I have huge bags under my eyes. *sigh.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday Night Blogging

Todd just said "I want to take pills that make me constipated for three or more days."

Also, there is a new Barbie movie coming out. It is "Barbie and the Three Muskateers". How far have we fallen as a civilization? How far? How far?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging

Right before snapping this with my camera, Lucy was curiously sniffing these turkey decorations, and I could just see the wheels turning: Does I eats this? Looks like bird ... but no smells like bird, very confoosing ... uh oh, Daddeh is takins out da camera, gotsta look pretteh.

This is actually a gift for my mom, but she probably won't look at this blog before Thanksgiving anyway, so I'm safe.

Football Epiphany

Many many years ago (I don't even remember if Will was born yet), when I lived in Lancaster, my parents took the family to see a Millersville University football game. We sat on the vistor's side, mainly because my sister and I were still young enough to be thoroughly amused by rolling down the hill by the bleachers, which we spent the better part of the game doing.

My parents ended up sitting close to a big black guy, who clearly had a son on the opposing team. The guy yelled constantly, calling out the refs, cheering on his son, standard parent stuff. Then, at one point, he bellowed "BOOOOOOOOO!!!! Grounding, grounding!", and when I say bellowed, I mean BELLOWED. In all honesty, that was the first time in our short lives that my sister and I realized humans could sound like foghorns. And we found it incredibly hilarious.

So, like good little kids, we pointed and laughed our asses off. Looking back on it, my dad was probably sweating bullets that this big black guy was going to get pissed off and come over and punch him out, which wouldn't have been funny, but at the time Katie and I just couldn't stop laughing.

For whatever reason, that particular memory has stayed with me for decades, and every once in a while something will trigger it, and I'll chuckle to myself.

Tonight something triggered it, and I chuckled ... and then ... EPIPHANY! After all this time, something like 15 years, I know what grounding is! And I understand what the guy was bellowing about.


That is all.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Republican Response Liveblogging?

Sure, why not?

9:07PM - Oh my. Who picked this guy? It sounds like a campaign ad. And why is he standing openly?

9:08PM - Nope, bored.

Obama Address Liveblogging

Obama's about to start his healthcare address to Congress. Naturally, I am live blogging.

8:01PM - Introducing the cabinet and diplomatic corps.

8:02PM - Blitzer is saying to expect hearty applause from Democrats, but some stony silence from Republicans.

8:03PM - Michelle Obama's dress. Very pink. Eh. Someone needs to tell her she looks her best when her bottom doesn't flare out like that.

8:05PM - Wow, they're playing a clip of Bill Clinton's '93 address, and I'd forgotten how young Clinton actually looked 16 years ago.

8:07PM - Good point by one of CNN's talking heads: there are 5 healthcare bills being considered right now, and Obama's probably going to propose a 6th. It's going to get complicated.

8:12PM - Enter Obama. You know, I've always wondered why there isn't a larger door into the House for these sorts of things. There's just a small 4 ft wide entrance with a plain octagon inset overtop.

8:15PM - Did Pelosi just ask Obama to grab her a copy of the script?

8:17PM - Starts off by talking about the economy and how we still have a way to go. I wonder, is he going to link this with healthcare, or is it a stand alone issue?

8:19PM - "Didn't come here to clean up a crisis, we came here to build a future." I see, so no link :)

8:21PM - Some points about health insurance, and how it has problems, like cost, lack of stability, pre-existing conditions, recision, etc. Stories about insurance failures, a woman needing a double masectomy denied because of acne. This is good stuff.

8:24PM - Hmm... describing rising costs as a hidden tax, 1K a year, because of uninsured. Interesting formulation. I wonder if it's designed to bring over Republicans, which, I'm sorry to say, is a lost cause.

8:25PM - Applause from the left for the Canadian option. No applause for the right's option.

8:27PM - Obama says Congress agrees on 80% of what needs to be done. If that's true, it's pretty telling that the remaining 20% is what's stopping us.

8:28PM - Some gentle scolding to Congress about partisanship. Lots of applause.

8:28PM - 3 Simple Goals: More stability for those who have insurance. Provide insurance for those who don't. Slow the growth of costs.

8:30PM - "Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have." A good try, but really, "Nothing requires"? Sounds technicalityish. Who put that in?

8:30PM - No more exclusion of pre-existing conditions. No more recission. No more caps. A limit on out-of-pocket expenses. I like this all, and yet ... altogether I wonder how insurance competition is going to work out of all this?

8:33PM - Insurance exchange is the 2nd part. Good line about how exchanges are what Congress uses, and should be what everyone can get. Tax credits for those who can't afford.

8:34PM - Ahhh... the short-term insurance against financial ruin from McCain's presidential campaign. Good policy, good politics.

8:35PM - Don't know if it's the 2nd part or 3rd part, but Obama's plan includes a mandate. He's completely correct that this is necessary to make everything work, especially to keep the insurance business viable.

8:37PM - Ohh, now he's going for Palin and the Death Panels. Calls her out as a liar, plain and simple. Also clears up the illegal immigrant thing, to loud boos ... not sure who from. Interesting if it came from the left. Interesting if it came from the right. Also clears up the abortion thing, to applause.

8:39PM - Here comes the public option. Frames it up as holding the insurance companies accountable, and ensuring competition.

8:42PM - Hmm, public option would only be available for those who go onto the exchange and can't get employer insurance. He also insists that he will require it to be self-sufficient.

8:44PM - Oooohhh... addresses "progressives" on policy, admonishes "Republicans" to bring forth "reasonable objections". Ouch.

8:46PM - Obama promises not to sign a plan that will increase the deficit. Good. Spending cuts if savings don't materialze ... yikes.

8:47PM - Ouch again. Plants blame for the deficit squarely on Bush. Doesn't call him out by name, but it wasn't subtle.

8:49PM - Talks down the Medicare myths. Promises that Medicare benefits will not be touched, and reminds seniors that the scary stories are coming from people who tried to abolish it earlier.

8:51PM - Ah, now we get to the nitty gritty. The plan will be paid for by surtaxes on expensive insurance plans.

8:52PM - "Defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs." Yikes, who wrote that line? Incidentally, this gets back to my idea about a healthcare bubble - namely that we've simply advanced way too quickly and can't pay for anything.

8:55PM - "I will not waste time with those who've made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it." Good line. Promises to call out people who spread lies.

8:56PM - Whoh, Ted Kennedy wrote a letter a few months ago, and asked for it to be delivered upon his death ... and called for health care reform.

9:03PM - Obama rounds up his speech with national greatness stuff. Honestly, I find this stuff kind of boring. I don't need him to tell me how awesome I am :P

Fall is Back

It's a brisk 70 degrees with a chill wind outside ... and I'm LOVING IT.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Cat, She is Weird

Apparently my gym bag is exactly the right size for napping.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Exciting News on the HIV Front

Some very exciting and potentially game changing news in the fight to find a cure for HIV/AIDS: a doctor in Germany appears to have cured a man's HIV using a bone marrow transplant designed for Leukimia patients.

The story: an American with both Leukimia and HIV went to Germany to undergo additional treatment after his first round of chemo didn't work. There, Dr. Gero Hutter (who specialized in Leukimia, but not HIV/AIDS) recommended a bone marrow transplant: risky, but maybe the only way the man would survive. Trouble was, the man also had HIV, and his chances of living decades longer weren't much better.

Then Dr. Hutter had an idea. Back in the 90's, it was proven that men with the CRR5 gene mutation were almost entirely immune to the HIV virus, since the CRR5 protein was what allowed the virus to attach itself to the body's cells. And as luck would have it, there was a bone marrow donor in Germany who had that exact mutation; the transplant was approved, and finally carried out.

And 3 years later, after extensive testing and without any anti-viral cocktails, the virus is undetectable in the man's blood, if it's still there at all. For all intents and purposes, the man is "functionally cured".

Now, there are caveats galor to this. It could be a fluke. It could be a different mutation that we haven't identified yet. It could be the intensive radiation therapy that killed off most of the man's immune system before the procedure. And bone marrow transplants aren't exactly simple to perform.

Nevertheless, in this particular case, it seems to have worked, and at the very least it's a promising new lead to follow. Hutter and others are starting to look at different kinds of gene therapy as possible alternatives to marrow transplants, and their research may finally lead to the cure for one of humanity's most perplexing diseases.

Here's hoping.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Well, They're Out

It's over and done with: my mouth now has 4 fewer teeth in it than it did 24 hours ago. So far the recovery seems to be going pretty smoothly: the bleeding stopped a few hours ago, there's a small amount of aching/pain but it's bearable (of course the pain meds probably have a lot to do with that), and not much swelling, although I'm keeping ice on it regularly.

I'm definitely taking it easy on the food and drink for a while. I have some ginger ale and have been sipping that, I've also been nibbling at the rice pudding every 15 minutes or so. Right now I don't feel that hungry, but if I keep going at this rate I'll have had about 1/2 a cup of rice pudding as my only nourishment for a whole 24 hours.

Going under anethesia was weird: the doctor put the IV in and told me it wouldn't take long for me to feel light headed - and he was right, in a few seconds I started to feel a little buzz. And then ... nothing. It didn't feel like I was going to sleep, one second I was wide awake and the next consciousness and awareness just flat out stop ... and then I was waking up in the recovery room. Definitely a weird experience.
One disappointment: they didn't give me the teeth to keep, which I kind of wanted. Oh well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Nervous

Now that Lucy's dental work is done, I'm free to worry about mine.

This Friday morning the wisdom teeth - all four of them - will come out. I'm kinda nervous since it's the first time I've been under general anesthesia, but rationally I know I'll be fine.

My subconscious is messing with me though: now that I've started the 12 hours of no-food-or-drink-before-surgery, all of a sudden my mouth is very dry and all I want is a nice icy glass of water, but of course I can't have one. And tomorrow when I come out of surgery I'm sure icy water is one of the last things I'll want. Harumph.

A week full of teeth pulling

I am happy to say that Lucy is back from the vet and is perfectly fine, although not without one or two developments.

Right around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon I got a call from the vet, and thought "Great! It's time to go pick her up!" Nope - turns out her gums were worse than the vet thought, and she needed to have a tooth pulled or else it could get much more serious. Well, when you get a call like that, of course you tell them to go ahead and do it, which I did. But then I spent the next 3 hours worrying and waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting.

The vet never called me a second time to tell me she was ready. When it got to be 5:30 I decided to call them myself, since I know they close at 6 and I really wanted her to come home. So I called, but got the answering machine, and finally decided the heck-with-it-all, I'd just drive there and see for myself.

All along the way I was worried and nervous; not because I was really afraid that something was wrong, but I just wanted to know what was going on.

Well, I got there, and turns out they were having a very busy day and just hadn't had the chance to call, which was fine, since everybody has those days and deserves some slack. Lucy came through just fine too, only she has to have some antibiotics twice a day for a week ... and in less than a day she's already learned what the dropper is and runs the second she thinks I'm going for it. Fortunately, I am still smarter than my cat and can catch her pretty easily, and once I have her it's relatively simple to grab the scruff and force the dropper in her mouth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Random Tuesday Musings

  • Last month I paid off my car loan, and today I got the title in the mail from the bank. Weird how something as simple as a piece of paper can be so significant.
  • Relatedly, I had the car inspected today at McGeorge Toyota. and I drove myself so I decided to wait for it in their lounge. I was expecting a "lounge" with some chairs and a few magazines ... I was NOT expecting an array of comfy lounge chairs, several tvs, snacks and drinks, and complimentary wifi. Wow. What do they do if you actually buy a car from them?
  • The far right has gone crazy. More on that later.
  • Tomorrow morning I have to drop Lucy off at the vet, and then pick her up later in the afternoon. She's having her teeth cleaned, and needs to go under general anethesia, which makes me kind of nervous. I feel horrible that she's going to be all alone at the vet with strange people sticking strange stuff in her, and just a few minutes ago I had to take away her food in preparation for tomorrow. I will feel MUCH better when she's home tomorrow evening.
  • On Friday I'm having a dental procedure of my own: all four wisdom teeth will be removed while I'm under general anethesia, which I've never had before. Oddly, I'm less nervous about my procedure than I am about Lucy's, but I'm sure that will change. Insurance is picking up most of the tab so that's good, but they won't give the prescription for the painkillers until after the procedure ... when I'll be doped up and shouldn't be "signing anything or making important decisions". How, exactly, am I supposed to have a prescription filled while I'm in that state?

UPDATE: Lucy's sitting where her food bowl usually is, and looking at me with this I'm-hungry-and-I-don't-understand-why-you're-not-giving-me-food-like-you-always-do look. Ugh.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Are You Being Served?

I had no idea that Mollie Sugden had died. Seriously, no idea, and I (and the world) am worse for it.

I guess the best compliment I can pay her is that when I watch Are You Being Served, I forget that she's an actress playing a character, and see a 1970's Ladies'-Ready-Made-Senior-Sales-Person-Mrs-Slocobme.

RIP Mollie Sugden.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

It Has Not been a Successful Weekend

Besides the Mint Syrup fiasco, it was going to be a good weekend: brunch at a new restaurant with a good friend from work!

Only: the good friend had technical problems and missed my email, it turned out to be one of the hottest weekends this year, and nobody told me it was the watermelon festival. So I basically got dressed up, sweated my ass off in the hot sun, only to encounter a situation where we wouldn't have been able to have brunch anyway.

Oh well. At least someone knows how to spend the Sunday:

Friday, August 07, 2009

Mint Syrup .... FAIL

Mojitos are one of my favorite drinks, but keeping fresh mint on hand is difficult and muddling it in the glass with a wooden spoon is a hassle. I've thought about buying some spearmint extract, but couldn't find it at either Kroger or Ukrops.

So I had an idea: why not make my own? Seems simple enough, right? Some mint jelly, some hot water, mix them all together, and *poof*, instant mint syrup just waiting for a mojito to go in!


You know all those tv ads where you see the top of the blender pop off and everything fly out? Never happened to me ... until tonight. For whatever reason, when I pushed the pulse button it created a LOT of pressure inside the container, the lid popped off and half the mint jelly mixture flew across the kitchen. Sticky. Yuck.

But, I still had half-a-blender worth of minty syrup left, and it certainly smelled like mint, so I thought I'd try to salvage, and maybe come up with something good.

Mix some rum, some ice, some minty syrup, aaaaaaaaand ... some Sprite Zero. Because if I'm going to cheat, why not go the whole way?

This drink wasn't just fail. It was TEH EPIC FAIL. I don't know if it was the syrup, the rum, or the Sprite, but the taste was like a Mojito sweetened with Splenda. I mean, it was just horrible. I added a bunch more lime to cut the flavor, but still, not so great.

*sigh* oh well. Tomorrow I will go and buy a mint plant, and a muddler.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wow, It's been a While

So long, in fact, that doesn't even prepopulate in my address bar!! Yikes.

Well, you probably don't want a 2 month recap of my life. So I will say:

Right now, I am watching Kathy Griffin on Comedy channel. With a gin and soda.


Although ... she just talked about her Emmy dress. And I kinda have to say ... eh, not so much.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Person of Authority & Maniquens

I did several things after work today:

I went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond for Andrew & Michelle's wedding gift. Halfway through, some lady came up to me and started asking me questions about the store. When I just stared at her with a quizical look on her face, she asked "You work here, right?" Um, no, and I have no idea why she would think that (especially given I was wearing my "summer casual" work attire), but this kind of thing happens to me fairly often. Apparently I look like a Person of Authority.

I also went shopping at S&K Men's Store for a new suit jacket. All the ones I have are either from when I was 20 lbs heavier or 20 lbs lighter, so I need a new one for this weekend. S&K is going out of business, so everything is drastically reduced, and I ended up finding one that wasn't too expensive and a good fit. I also found these:
I have no idea why suit maniquens need packages, but there you go. The tags on them say $60, but something tells me that might be negotiable, especially considering the market for them is probably a bit limited. Maybe I'll go back later in the week and barter with them.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Random Sunday Thoughts

  1. Impromptu 4 hour trips with one of your best friends can be very fun, particularly when it results in good seafood for lunch and an icecream sunday.
  2. For whatever reason, I keep getting into peoples' way today. On the street, in the parking lot, in the grocery store, it just keeps happening.
  3. Herbivour men in Japan are not interested in sex.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Didn't Know That

Matt Yglesias debunks an urban rumor that I myself believed was true: that the building height restriction in DC has something to do with the height of the Washington Monument or the Capitol. Turns out, it's far more mundane:
The actual rule is that a building can be no more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street it’s on. Given that DC folks both seem very attached to the policy and also mistaken as to what the policy is, I’ve often wanted to propose that we actually adopt the rule that people think we have, limiting buildings to the height of the Washington Monument. This would approximately triple the permitted density in the central business district.
I had no idea it was that simple, and thinking about it, I pretty much agree with Matt. DC is an incredibly popular city, lots of people want to live there, and artificially limiting building height like this is an example of zoning run amok.

The Great Ping Pong Quest

In the order they were located:

#1: Under the bed
#2: Under the wine cabinet
#3 & #4: Behind my mini-filing cabinet
#5, #6, & #7: Under the living room couch
#8: Behind the stove

There are at least 3 more in the apartment that continue to elude me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Does Sam Schulman Even Know Anyone in a Gay Relationship?

Seriously, that was the question that kept running through my mind while reading Sam's latest essay in the Weekly Standard. I definitely encourage you to read the whole thing, because you really really need to. However, here's the synopsis:

Gay Marriage is a Bad Idea Because:

1) Marriage is fundamentally about deciding who can and cannot have sex with a woman
2) Gay marriage means two brothers could have sex, or that an Italian may marry an Irishman
3) Sex before marriage is bad (which isn't actually an argument against gay marriage)
4) Marriage means you're an adult (which also isn't an argument against gay marriage)

If you think I'm making these up or exagerating, please, by all means, go and read the essay. I'm not. He even helpfully numbers them for you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Crazy Cat Blogging

Lucy versus a pingpong ball!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Very Disappointed

Refusing to release the rest of the prison abuse photos is the probably the first big dissappointment Obama's delivered. He asks us to believe that they are both unsensational and inflamatory at the same time.

This argument was crap when Bush used it, and it's still crap when Obama uses it. If they're unsensational then there's no good reason not to release them, and if they're inflamatory then that's a reason to release them.

After all, it's not as if we're disinterested parties. These were actions by the US government, and by extension the US people, and I for one want to know what was done in my name.

Monday, May 11, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Found an interesting blog post on public enemy #1 in the world of health: high fructose corn syrup. The blog's author is a physiology student, so I'm inclined to take most of what he says as fact, and he says that high fructose corn syrup isn't really that bad:

The increase in HFCS has correlated with an increase in obesity in the US, but correlation is not causation. We've also had an increase in the number of people leading sedentary lifestyles, the number of people who own cars and drive everywhere, and the number of McDonald's chain restaurants. Correlation is not causation, and though the jury is still out on high amounts of HFCS, it doesn't look like it's much worse than anything else we're doing.

The whole thing is well worth the read, but the basic gist is that HFCS, by itself, isn't very bad. Its fructose/glucose ratio is only slightly higher than regular sugar and isn't something to worry about, and it isn't some kind of unnatural concoction like sucralose or splenda or asparartame.

Instead, the problem is basically a second order consumption problem: the stuff is fantastically cheap to make and use, which in turn makes sweetened goods fantastically cheaper to produce and sell, which in turns leads to fantastically increased consumption of sweets. Which in turn leads to fantastically increased waistlines.

Moral of the story: everything is good in moderation

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend At Lancaster III: Barnstorming the Barnstormers

About two weeks ago, I received a cryptic call from my mother:

"So, how would you like to do me a favor while you're up here during the weekend?"

Apparently my little brother's volleyball team had signed up to work the concession stands at a Lancaster Barnstormers baseball game as a fundraiser (the stadium only employs a handful of full time workers; volunteer groups work the stands and get half the proceeds in lieu of being paid), and now they were short a few people. So, mom wondered, wouldn't I like to help out the team? "Sure", I said, "sounds like fun!"

And it was tons of fun. I enjoy doing things like that. However ... turns out my little brother wouldn't be joining us behind the stands, as he was too busy entertaining the female:

Way to support the team there Wilbo! :P In all fairness, it was her birthday, and he had special tickets for the game before the team signed up for the date.

But of course we had to wear funny outfits, which meant funny pictures! This is Mom and Dad:

No comments about the hair. And yes, Pizza Hut is the official pizza of the Barnstormers.

Weekend at Lancaster II: Lunch with PopPop & Drive to Lancaster

Instead of driving straight to Lancaster, I stopped at Harrisburg to visit PopPop and have lunch with him. About a year ago he moved out of my parents' house and into Essex House, a retirement home that's closer to his great grandchildren. He'll be 90 in October, but he's still as sharp as ever, and I always try to visit with him whenever I'm up in PA.

Of course, it's a retirement home, and let's face it, sometimes old people can be amusing in their own special way. Lunch that day was Brunswick Stew, and none of them had the slightest idea what it was (think chicken pot pie without the pastry). So as soon as it came out, all 100 residents were facedown in the stew, poking it to figure out what it was:
What is this? Is this chicken?

I think it's chicken.

It can't be chicken, it's too dark! I think it's pork.

That's dark chicken meat!

I don't think it's chicken, call the girl over, find out if it's chicken.

And then there was PopPop's friend who ate with us, who was really pretty fun to talk to, he just had a funny moment:
A few nights ago I watched some tv show about a guy ... can't remember his name ... he did something big on the internet ... can't remember what ... do you know him?

Anyway, had a great lunch with PopPop, great conversation, good times, and then set off for Lancaster. I thought that because 90% of my driving for the day was over, that I was essentially in the clear, and the rest of the drive would be uneventful. Boy was I wrong. A few miles down the road I encountered a woman in a turquoise green convertible driving the wrong way down the highway. Don't ask me how she got in there, or what she was thinking, all I know is somehow suddenly all traffic on the highway screeched to a halt, and there was lots of beeping as she puttered by at 20 mph. Honestly, sometimes I think the human race is doomed.

Weekend at Lancaster I: The Drive Up

Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there! Your offspring offer their utmost thanks to you for bringing us into existence.

I spent the weekend up in Lancaster visiting with the parents. Our family does a Sunday brunch with some close friends every Mother's Day, and so I decided to drive up Saturday morning, stay the night, have brunch, and then drive back Sunday afternoon. It's also a chance to visit with my grandfather, who moved out of house and into a retirement home about a year ago, so I made plans to stop by and have lunch with him on Saturday.

The drive up was mostly uneventful, except for one thing. I drank a lot of coffee Saturday morning, and about halfway between the DC beltway and Hagerstown I had to pulloff for a bathroom break. No problem, I thought, I know there's a rest stop in just a few miles, and I'll go there. But as I approached, there was a giant sign advertising that the bathrooms were closed. Still not a problem, I thought, I'll just get off at the next exit and go at a gas station. Well, the next exit turned out to be 15 miles away so things were getting slightly more urgent, but the exit advertised gas stations, so I took the exit, and then followed the arrows that directed me to go north.

And then the arrows disappeared.

Ok, I thought, still not a problem, I can see in the distance there's some newish looking storefronts, so I'll just drive to them and there'll probably be something there that I can use. Nope. It was an unfinished dual-use retail/residential urban-style walkabout development that's all the rage these days. And it was also completely empty. So I turned around, drove a quarter mile in the other direction, and went from ultra-modern to hicksville. BUT, it was a hicksville with a gas station! "Finally!", I thought. I pulled in and went inside ... where an old lady with about 3 teeth left in her mouth told me that the 'bathroom' was the PortaPotty out back that hadn't been emptied in about 2 months. Gross. Somedays, I'm very happy to be male.

Monday, May 04, 2009

What are We 'Best' At?

Over at The Corner, Jonah G publishes this little gem from a reader:
Senator Specter... You went to Canada for all your cancer treatment, right? RIGHT!?
It's pretty standard for wingers to boast that we've got the 'best' healthcare system in the world, but without getting into the mess of public vs private vs single payer vs insurance companies, it's worth thinking a bit about what 'best' means.

When it comes to healthcare, 'best' doesn't actually mean most effective or efficient, neither of which describes the American system. Instead, 'best' essentially means 'we can do things no one else can do'. This definition of 'best' isn't limited to healthcare, and probably stems from America's deeply engrained sense of exceptionalism, and is so deeply engrained that a lot of people don't even realize how much it influences their argument.

When I was debating healthcare with my parents a few months ago, one of my mother's arguments was something along the lines of "the first open-heart surgery was in America", which was supposed to be an argument for our system's superiority. What it really is, though, is an argument for the above definition of superior. No one's arguing that our healthcare system can't do amazing things; it certainly can, and all else being equal, I would like to be able to do amazing things. But what I and other reformers are arguing is that all else is NOT equal, and that our focus on the amazing is coming at the very real expense of the non-amazing. We have state-of-the-art technology, wonder drugs, and miracle treatments ... but we also have 1 out of 5 people going without any kind of healthcare at all. These two things are not independent of each other. Healthcare resources are scarce, not infinite. If you use them up on extremely specialized and expensive treatments, that comes at the expense of other, more standard treatments.

For a very personal and tragic example, look at Natasha Richardson. It's widely known that the technology to save Richardson's life exists, and if it had been used, she would probably be alive today. Winger blogs have trumpeted the fact that the Canadian system failed her as proof that the American system is superior. But it's just not that simple. The technology that could've saved Richardson's life is expensive, about $20,000 per use. And Richardson's specific condition is very rare, about 1 out of 1000 people who suffer similar injuries have it. So the cost of saving just one life isn't $20,000, it's $20,000,000. And every $20 million you spend saving one person's life is $20 million you don't spend on other people. Canada could spend that money saving one person's life, or it could spend that money providing diabetes treatments worth $2K to 10,000 of its citizens. The Canadian view is that it should be spent improving the quality of life for 10,000. The American view is that it should be spent saving the life of 1. Both of these come with their benefits, and their tradeoffs.

Of course, simply understanding this really doesn't make the issue any easier to grapple with. How do you possibly say that the discomfort of 10,000 people is or isn't worth one person's life? And even though these procedures are terribly expensive today doesn't mean they always will be, nor that they aren't valuable. Polio vaccine was extremely expensive and unreliable when it was first developed decades ago ... now it's part of the standard suite of vaccines all children get as they grow.

But even if understanding isn't sufficient, it's still necessary. If you argue in favor of expensive specialization to treat rare and complicated conditions, you have to be candid about the fact that it's coming at the expense of basic healthcare for millions of people.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Case of the Forgotten Doughnut: Update!

Ok, after some research and a call or two to the parents, we are down to two main possibilities:

1) Maiers Bakery Doughnuts, a local chain in Reading, PA
2) Stroehmann Bakery Doughnuts, a local chain in Lititz, PA

It's a testament to how local these chains are that google.images doesn't have any pictures for their doughnut products, so I can't confirm either of them that way.

But, next weekend is Mother's Day, which means I'll be up in Lancaster, which means I can do some first-hand investigation, and bring back some samples!

Seven Sins by Geography

Some enterprising researchers at Kansas State University have plotted the 7 Deadly Sins ... by geography. While their methodology leaves a little to be desired, it's an definitely an interesting visual representation. For example, it appears I live at the crossroads of gluttony and lust (blue = good, red = bad):
Pride is the root of all sins, but since KSU couldn't do a causal analysis, they settled for a correlative one instead, and aggregated the other six sins into Pride. Interestingly, the Bible Belt is teeming with sin, while the mid-westerners all appear to lead completely virtuous lives:
One thing that's kind of weird: outside of the bible belt sin is concentrated in large metro areas ... except around Chicago and Boston. Both show up strong red when you look at Greed, but I can't find any strong blue in other sins to offset the red. In fact, the entire state of Massachussetts comes out pretty clean.

Oh, and if anyone points out that the Philly side of PA is red while the Pittsburgh side is blue, we will no longer be friends.

Pho So 1, and The Search for the Elusive Cream Filled Doughnut!

Friday night was the biweekly dinner with Justin and Danielle, and this week we decided to go to Pho So 1 for some good, old-fashioned, hole-in-the-wall, excellent noodle soup. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it, and as always, Pho So 1 did not disappoint. BUT, this week was even more exciting than normal: for the first time ever, our dinner bill came to over $30!!

How did we manage that, you ask? Well, Justin, being Justin, decided that one large bowl of pho wasn't enough to sate his appetite ... he also needed a large bowl of barbecued pork and rice. So even while Danielle and I were still having trouble finishing our soups, he was already mostly through his second entree. The man can EAT, and I don't think I've ever been prouder to call him my friend (it's a guy thing).

Anyway, on the way back we got to talking about doughnuts, and I remembered an amazing cream-filled doughnut from my childhood that my dad would always bring home on Sunday mornings. Light, flakey, yeasty, and with amazing cream inside. Naturally, we decided that heavy cream-filled doughnuts would be the perfect dessert for spicy noodle soup (and in Justin's case bbq pork as well :P), so we went looking for them at Kroger. Alas, Kroger didn't have what I was looking for, and so we went back to my place disappointed.

Kroger, though, was only the first step in the quest. You see, even though I could picture them in my mind, I couldn't remember what brand they were. So I called my sister, described them, and asked if she could remember the name. She thought I was crazy. Hmph, and she calls herself a Heberlein!

Then I went online, and started searching, hoping that maybe I'd get lucky. This led to several insights:

  1. Searching for 'amazing cream filled doughnuts' on Google.Images without SafeSearch turned on returns a lot of pictures that make you go "eeeewwwwwwww!"
  2. Even if you tell Google you don't want images of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, approximately 99.87% of all images returned will still be Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
  3. The American Institute of Baking does a biannual analysis titled Doughnut Statistics and Trends which includes all sorts of interesting data, such as the fact that a brand called Entenmann's Extreme Popems (not to be confused with regular Entenmann's brand) is #7 in the US in terms of dollar sales of doughnuts. Huh, fancy.

As you can probably guess, my online search was fruitless, but I remain undeterred! I am determined to share the glory that are the [insert name here] cream-filled doughnuts with all my friends! And they will love me for it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shorter Andy McCarthy from NRO last night:

1) Iraq was too in cahoots with al Quaeda! WAS TOO!!

2) The CIA report says we have no idea whether torture actually worked. Which really means that we have no idea whether torture didn't work, which really means that torture had to have worked on some instances!

3) Who cares if there's no ticking time bomb? Let's shove the little fuckers in a box, cover them with insects and spiders, and hey, maybe we'll get lucky and they'll know something!

I really don't feel like responding to any of these in any detail, so let me just say this. Even if I were to concede all of his points (which I don't), it wouldn't make a bit of difference. It doesn't matter, and I don't care. Torture is still morally abhorrent and illegal, and we as a civilization should have nothing to do with it or anything that looks like it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Something New

I'm gonna try something new. Starting today, I shall now post on teh stupid.

Witness Congressman Joe Barton try to trick Secretary of Energy Steven Chu into admitting that, because there's oil in Alaska, global warming is a myth.

Seriously, watch it.

This might be funny, if only Rep Barton wasn't one of the 0.001% of Americans in charge of our country.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Creme That Egg!!

this is awesome

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Maybe NOM Needs Doppler Radar

Seeing an end to life as we know it in the wake of Vermont legalizing same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage decided to make a (rather sappy IMHO) ad letting everyone know what they could expect if this is allowed to go any further:At first blush, some of them seem quite serious: punishing a church because they won't recognize a gay couple? That doesn't seem right. However, as you've probably guessed, there's more to each of these stories than meets the eye. HRC goes into more detail, but here's the basic gist:

1) A doctor who must choose between her faith and her job
This is a reference to California's Benitez decision, which ruled that doctors who perform elective procedures cannot refuse to perform the procedure on moral grounds if the patient is legally allowed to undergo it. In this particular case, it had to do with a doctor who refused to perform an in vitro fertilization on a lesbian.

2) A New Jersey church that's punished by the state
This is a reference to a church that owns and operates a beachside pavilion as a money-making enterprise. The pavilion is open for public use, and has been used for concerts, weddings, and Civil War reenactments ... but the church refuses to allow a gay civil union ceremony. Per New Jersey law, if the church operates a public place, it must abide by public anti-discrimination laws, and the church was fined accordingly.

3) A parent whose child's school teaches that gay marriage is 'ok'
The school in question had a program which taught students about all the different kinds of families they might encounter; from married to divorced to single-parent to foster-parent to bi-racial to military to grandparent to gay. In Massachussetts (where the school is located), gay marriage is legal. Thus the school included a gay couple as part of the program. The mother flipped out, and demanded that the school eliminate the gay couple (but not the rest of the program) because she didn't agree with the law. The school refused.

While you're at it, you probably want to check out National Review's editorial against the Vermont legislation. Quite telling, really, but I'm too tired to write about it now.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Most Awesomenest Line Ever!

Leslie Jordan, from his stand-up last night at the Equality Virginia Banquet:

"With all due disrespect to the religious right, ain't none of that 'choice' shit going on in this head!"

I think I have a new favorite phrase :P

Dumbing Down God

Well here's an interesting idea: pay a computer to vocalize synthetic prayers for you
"We use state of the art text to speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying," the company states. "Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen."

Prices, however, are dictated by the length of the prayer. As noted in the Information Age Prayer FAQ, "A discounted prayer will cost less than other prayers of similar length."
Call my crazy, but isn't the whole idea behind prayer that it's a personal one-to-one with the almightly? Apparently, we've now reached the point where people will spend 10 minutes a day getting their outbound voicemail message exactly right, but will outsource their prayers to a computer with horrible diction.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sandra Lee's Kitchen

Oh. My. God. Nothing on this planet should be that pink.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Live Blogging

8:01PM - Obama gets right to it. He's warning us all that there isn't a quick fix, and it's going to take a while.

8:04PM - Hmm, interesting framing of the budget, as something that will build a stronger foundation but avoid the illusion of wealth. He really wants people to know that he's working on cutting the deficit.

8:06PM - He mentions the AIG bonuses, and chooses the middle road: Wall Street has to realize it can't gourge itself on the public dime, and the public needs to not demonize anyone who's ever worked on Wall Street.

8:08PM - First question was a softball question about the new regulatory authority Obama's requesting for non-bank financial firms. Even if it's a softball, it still points to an obvious point: if it walks like a bank and quacks like a bank, it should be regulated like a bank. Part of why AIG got so bad was that there weren't any regulations governing it.

8:10PM - Second question is harder: is Obama asking the right people to sacrifice, and why is he cushioning the blow for the executives? Obama (rightly) replies that they're working on the executive thing, and to give him some time. With regards to the American people, he says they are sacrificing now, and that his budget priorities will pay off for the American people later.

8:13PM - Just a random thought. Before the Q&A CNN had a word-cloud up on their wall to illustrate Obama's prepared remarks, but the shortness of the speech pretty much eliminated any usefulness it had.

8:16PM - Will Obama sign a budget that doesn't include a middle-class tax cut or cap-and-trade? You know, I hate these 'gotcha' questions, which are designed only to get a soundbyte and nothing else.

8:26PM - You know what? This actually isn't that interesting. I'll read the transcript tomorrow.

Obama Prime-Time Primer

Obama's doing a prime time address, so it's time for live-blogging! And tea. But before the festivities start, I suppose it's only fair to put out what I think about the economy and the banks.

The AIG Bonuses
Mostly neutral, I guess. Almost everybody is mad about them. But almost everybody that I know doesn't actually know what they are. These are not "bonuses" as most people understand the word: they are not hey-you've-done-a-great-job-here's-a-million-bucks. These were agreed on in 2007, when most AIG analysts saw the writing on the wall and thought "I don't need this, I'm outa here!". AIG probably couldn't have functioned if all of its employess exodused en masse, and so AIG made a deal with them: stick around for another year and we'll pay you some extra cash at the end of the year. Some accepted, some didn't. And those that accepted are now seeing the shit hit the fan. Yes, the fact that some execs are getting million dollar bonuses is outrageous. The fact that some mid-level analysts are getting a few extra thousand is perfectly fine.

Geithner's new plan is to offer (forcibly if necessary) the banks a way to get rid of their toxic assets by putting those assets up for auction, where private investors will bid on them with leveraged government money. Most of the criticisms of the plan are from the left: that the investors will get most of the profit while the government will accept the risk which will lead to inflated prices; and an argument that basically boils down to 'enough already and nationalize!'. I don't agree, for a couple reasons. First, if the assets really are so bad, the government is going to lose a lot anyway. And if the assets are good, then the government would have unnecessarily absorbed the banks. Which brings me to my second point, which is that nationalization really should be a last resort.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Can Haaz a Maddoff Emailz Pleez?

The Bernie Maddoff trial is wrapping up, and the prosecutors decided to give the judge a collection of emails from Maddoff's victims to give the crime a more personal price. Not a terrible idea, in of itself.

However, if you're going to do it, you probably want to have someone with a modicrum of common sense screen the emails. Via TPM, one of the emails the prosecutors submitted was from a very rich Congonese national who fled from Africa to Dubai and who's looking for a safe place to store his millions while he makes his way to America. If you would be so kind as to wire him your account numbers so he can make the deposit, he'd be ever so grateful.

Some poor staffer is about to (deservedly) get an extremely unpleasant phone call from his or her boss.

The Laws of Physics are No Match for my Cat

Seriously, how is it that Lucy, who takes up less than a single square foot of space when lying down, always finds a way to spread herself across the entire bed while leaving no blankets for me?

And why on earth am I, a far more massive creature than she, deathly afraid of reprisals if I should be foolish enough to try to move her?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gym Woes 3

1) I'm getting fairly good at proglonged low-impact aerobics. Short-term bursts of anaerobic activity continue to be bad.

2) When Todd and I finished our workout on Sunday and went down to the locker room to get our stuff, we observed what appeared to be a kernel of cooked corn laying on one of the benches. Seriously, neither of us could come up with anything else it might be, and we were NOT about to touch it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Amazing Discovery of the Day

Those little Tide bleach pens actually work! Ain't technology great?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday = Funday!

Just a reminder: today (actually last night) is Daylight Savings Time. Clocks jump ahead, and we lose an hour of sleep :(

Usually I hate when we lose an hour and I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow when I get up for work ... but oddly enough, today I just didn't feel it. All the other years I'm definitely aware of the lost hour, and always look at the clock and think "how can it possibly be that late?" Today was just the opposite, I kept looking at the clock and thinking "gee, it feels later than what it really is"

So what did I do with my perceived extra time? I took a walk! And not just any walk. I took an impromptu seven and a half mile walk down a road I've never walked or driven on before, and discovered some great places in the process.

A few miles west of 195 on Grove there's a great little group of shops and cafes that I had no idea even existed; reminded me a lot of Kennybunkport, where my family went on vacation when I was younger. Definitely going to take the parents there next time they're down.

And then, at the intersection of Grove and Three Chopt, there is an absolutely GOOOOOORGEOUS Episcopal church. I took a picture with my phone, but that comes nowhere near to doing it justice, and there's a whole courtyard behind that walkway. It's just absolutely beautiful.

And finally, while walking back on Patterson, I got the chance to read some store signs that I normally just drive past. One in particular caught my eyes: "Dental Arts". Figuring out exactly what this might be is left as an exercise to the reader.

A Special Gift, for a Special Someplace

You know that person who has everything and who's impossible to buy for?

The OhMiBod Gspot:
OhMiBod Gspot vibrates to the beat and rhythm of your favorite music. Its hot pink curves, satin finish and chrome detail is designed to hit that magic "G" note in all of us.
Explore the possibilities.

And Republicans say Obama is taxing the innovation out of our economy.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Interesting Fact of the Day

Taco Bell serves more than 35 million people in the US every week. Is it really the case that 1 out of 9 Americans eat at Taco Bell once a week? I know I've seen one around somewhere, but I don't really know where there's one in Richmond.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Starbucks People Watching, Part 1

You meet weird people at Starbucks.

Today I was behind a young (teenaged) couple. He was tall, she was short, but was one of those people who have a really long neck that can twist and turn like you wouldn't believe. She was standing beside him, but every so often she would crane her neck around so she was face to face, without moving the rest of her body.
"Do you like muffins!?!?!"
"You know what I like!?!?! Krispy Kreme, with the cream inside!!! Buttercream!!!"
mmmm... delicious buttercream...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wendy Richard; 1943 - 2009

Wendy Richard, who played Miss Brahams on the absolutely fabulous British comedy Are You Being Served? died Thursday, Feb 26th from cancer. She was 65.

We'll all miss you Miss Brahms!! :(

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

Today is a day to put aside worries,
And celebrate a guy who wrote lots of stories!

He wrote many books, both big ones and small,
About right and wrong, about winter and fall!

What can we do, to honor this man?
We can play music, banging pots and a pan!

We can sled down the hill, build some grand forts,
Pretend make-believe, play games of all sorts!

So have fun today, go on, act like a goose!
And make sure to say, Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Google celebrates in its own special way:

Meanwhile, the principled conservatives at The Corner, in a post titled The Lorax and His Lies, use the occassion to complain that the Lorax is actually anti-capitalist screed:
Regarding your comments on the Lorax, you are surely correct about the story's intention to malign capitalism. I have, however, found an alternative (and far more palatable) interpretation that I use when reading the story to my son.

The Once-ler's actions make total sense if it is impossible for him to acquire property rights to the Truffula Trees. Any moderation on his part in cutting them down merely leaves an opportunity for another Thneed-maker. Furthermore, the climactic reveal of the last Truffula seed reinforces this interpretation, as the protagonist is implicitly given those property rights (setting up the potential for responsible Truffula harvesting).
So remember, the next time you sit down to read The Lorax to little Johnny or little Susie, you are obligated to take a few minutes at the end to explain how the real lesson of story isn't that you should care about the environment, but that the Once-ler's actions were perfectly reasonable given that property rights to the Tuffula trees weren't well defined at the beginning of the book.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Rational Despondence Taking Hold

It might surprise people to know that, despite my extremely dry and sarcastic sense of humor and my reflexive criticism of new ideas, I'm really an optimist at heart. I honestly think everything's going to work out just fine and we're all going to be better off when it's all over (whatever it happens to be at the minute).

I have to say, though, that my optimism is starting to show a few cracks. I freely admit to being one of Paul Krugman's irrational despondence believers; aka those who think that a combination of margin calls and mark-to-market valuation (neither of which, mind you, are bad ideas) are artificially driving CDO asset prices down lower than what they're really worth. They may only be worth 50%-60% of what the banks originally paid, but the banks are being forced to value them at something like 15%-20%, which is causing problems, and I mean, c'mon, there's no way they're that worthless, right?

Well, as it turns out, they really are. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times did some digging on just what exactly all those CDOs are worth, and the results aren't pretty. Key pieces:
From late 2005 to the middle of 2007, around $450bn of CDO of ABS were issued, of which about one third were created from risky mortgage-backed bonds (known as mezzanine CDO of ABS) and much of the rest from safer tranches (high grade CDO of ABS.)

Out of that pile, around $305bn of the CDOs are now in a formal state of default, with the CDOs underwritten by Merrill Lynch accounting for the biggest pile of defaulted assets, followed by UBS and Citi.

JPMorgan estimates that $102bn of CDOs has already been liquidated. The average recovery rate for super-senior tranches of debt – or the stuff that was supposed to be so ultra safe that it always carried a triple A tag – has been 32 per cent for the high grade CDOs. With mezzanine CDO’s, though, recovery rates on those AAA assets have been a mere 5 per cent.
This isn't just bad, this is like freakin armageddon. $300 billion, about 2/3 of what used to be the banks' most prized assets, are performing so badly they're in a formal state of default. And when the banks do their best to recoup the losses by seizing and selling the underlying assets, they're getting about 20 cents to the dollar. And remember, all these things were supposed to be virtually risk-free!! Something close to $80B of assets the banks all thought they had are simply gone, *poof*, like that. But you can bet the $80B in liabilities that financed those assets haven't gone away.


This is hitting pretty close to home, and not just on the optimism front. I studied this stuff in college and seriously considered working for Wall St before I fell in love with CapitalOne. Heck, I probably know (and partied with) a bunch of people who designed and worked on these things. Maybe they know something that I don't, but I keep asking the same question: what happened? I mean, there's a reason they're called asset-backed securities; they're backed by assets. If the security doesn't perform, you seize the assets, liquidate, and recoup most of your loss. And yet it's pretty clear that's not happening. Was my entire Masters of Engineering degree all based on a gigantic lie?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Liveblogging Part 2 - Bobby Goes National!!

Next up: Bobby Jindal, the up-and-coming young Republican governor of Louisiana, to give the Republican rebuttal. This guy is largely viewed as the next Obama, but for Republicans, and has made a big show of refusing some of the stimulus money that passed Congress a few days ago.

10:24PM - Jindal sounds like he's lecturing to a group of students, with a really REALLY rehearsed speech.

10:26PM - Ok, are we seriously going to have an entire speech of this? It sounds like a commercial.

10:27PM - I take that back, it sounds like a campaign commercial.

10:27PM - Ok, memo to Bobby: don't use the government's response to Katrina as an example of why government isn't a good idea. America's pretty much internalized that Bush was in charge then.

10:28PM - Ok, decent bit about buearucrats.

10:31PM - I'm not sure what the bit about private health insurance was about. If you're going to say that you're in favor of private insurance, then you should know that the prohibitting factor for most people right now is that private health care is too exensive.

10:34PM - Jindal talks about Republicans losing the trust of the people after they've strayed from their principles. That would be a bit more believable if it didn't come right as a Democrat took the presidency.

10:36PM - 9/11!!

10:36PM - 12 minutes. Wow, that was short.

Final Verdict: eh
The rebuttal is always difficult, but honestly, I don't think Jindal did himself or the Republicans any favors tonight. The entire thing sounded too much like a campaign commercial ... too many talking points with really few details with a weird voice inflection that made it sound like he was always ending the address.

It was also very short. My best guess is that they had something in there about Obama raising taxes, but after Obama's clear explanation of who would get tax increases and who would get tax cuts, they probably had to cut it out, since it would've just seemed stupid.

Triumphant Return of Live Blogging!

There hasn't been an opportunity to live-blog since the election ... until tonight!!Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodnesssoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcitedsoexcited ... here we go!!

8:24PM - Oh dear, I turn on CNN and the first thing I see is something called the "Economic Real Feel Index", which is some utterly incomprehensible combination of unemployment rate, personal income, personal savings, and some other factors that they ran through MUCH too quickly. Could be useful to provide some context, but they need to spend more than 45 seconds explaining it.

8:36PM - Anderson Cooper has his hands in his pockets.

8:38PM - Cooper and Blitzer tell us that Bobby Jindal (governor R-LA) will be delivering the Republican response, and that he will probably say he'll be refusing some of the stimulus money. It's an odd game of chicken Jindal's playing. On the one hand, if previous reports are accurate, Jindal's only refusing 2% of the total aid to his state, which isn't exactly a staggering risk. On the other hand, if you advertise that you're not going to take stimulus money and your state's economy tanks, you can kiss your political future goodbye, even if you actually took pretty much all of it anyway.

8:45PM - One thing worth keeping in mind: as of today, Obama's been in office for a grand total of 5 weeks. People wondering where all the promised change is hiding need to take a deep breath and chill.

8:47PM - Kerry's hair got gray, almost silver even. Weird.

8:49PM - Some senators have been at the Congress since 8:30 this morning to stake out an aisle seat. Gives you an idea of just how anxious some are to be seen with him.

8:50PM - Candy Crowley's lost weight. Good for her.

9:03PM - Justice Ginsburg, who's recovering from surgery related to pancreatic cancer, is getting a standing ovation. Well deserved.

9:04PM - Laura Bush's dresses were always quite conservative. Michelle Obama's dresses decidely less so, but quite tasteful.

9:05PM - WHOA .... Hillary Clinton's pant suit is H-O-T-P-I-N-K. Is the attempt to draw attention to herself conscious, or unconscious, I wonder?

9:16PM - Obama messes up the start of his first congressional address by trying to talk over Pelosi. Whoops.

9:17PM - Pelosi's dress is very Californian.

9:18PM - Strong start. After acknowledging that we're in some pretty difficult times, he says "We will rebuild. We will recover." which only reinforces that there's something very wrong now.

9:20PM - Goes right into a laundry list of what else is wrong, like energy, healthcare, schools, etc. "Surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy." Heh, that's gonna raise some conservative hackles.

9:23PM - What's the shiny thing in front of Pelosi? Looks like some kind of intricate memo holder.

9:24PM - 57 police officers are on the streets tonight in Minneapolis that would've been laid off if not for the stimulus. Good piece of data.

9:25PM - Good line about tax cuts.

9:25PM - "Cause nobody messes with Joe." If that doesn't go on a mug somewhere, someone's not doing their job.

9:27PM - Spends just a little time reassuring that savings are secure, and that it's lending and credit flow, or lack of it, that's the real problem. He did it in a good way too, not dismissing it, but just matter of factly saying it's not a problem.

9:30PM - Says pretty clearly that he doesn't care if Wall Street goes down, no-strings-attached bailouts won't solve anything, and that banks will be held accountable. Standing ovation now for the dig at CEO's.

9:32PM - Obama does a much better job of talking to Americans instead of to Congress than his recent predecessors did.

9:34PM - Obama talks about the budget pretty frankly and openly, and that there are going to be tradeoffs. Eh. To be perfectly honest, I will believe that when I see it.

9:37PM - Good bit about how government isn't a problem, but has historically been a catalyst for all the major accomplishments in our nation's history.

9:38PM - Obama's first term theme: energy, healthcare, and education.

9:39PM - Electric cars built in Detroit ... that run on batteries made in Korea. Heh.

9:39PM - Sets a goal for doubling renewable energy in 3 years, plus thousands of miles of power lines. Wow, ambitious. Ahh, we will do that by putting some kind of tax on carbon, which Obama just asked for. That will definitely help, and provide a good boost to revenue as well.

9:41PM - Car stuff. Completely random though, but it occurs to me that I've been watching too much Stargate lately, and it's actually a bit of a shock to me to remind myself that we don't know of any civilizations in our galaxy besides our own, and we're working completely in vacuum.

9:42PM - Time for heathcare, both in the speech and policy-wise. Standing ovation for CSHIP, which covered 11 million children, and which only got through once Obama became president.

9:43PM - He plugs electronic health records. This is one thing that I really can't understand why we haven't done anything about yet. If you walked into a bank and asked to open an account, and they pulled out a giant book and started scribbling information into a ledger, you'd walk right out. Yet our health records, arguably the most important personal records in our life, are permanently kept in rows of file-folders with spidery handwriting that nobody can read, are frequently lost or damaged, and never around when you need them in an emergency. Why the information necessary to save your life isn't up to the standard of preferred-shopper key tags eludes me.

9:45PM - Healthcare legislation next week??? Dude, Obama, you're only human. Don't take too much on at once.

9:49PM - Plugs higher education. Lots of good stuff, including incentives for some kind of national service, which is explicitly NOT necessarily military.

9:51PM - Oooo... here we go with the debt. This should be interesting.

9:52PM - "With the deficit we inherited" got a standing ovation from the Democratic side. ZING!!!

9:53PM - $2 trillion in savings over the next decade? Wow, that's pretty good if true. Hmm, eliminate unneeded farm subsidies, no-bid contracts in Iraq, and Cold War era weapons systems. Each of which is necessary, and each of which has incredibly powerful interest groups opposed to any cuts. Cautiously optimistic on this one.

9:54PM - Taxes. Less than $250K, no tax increase, and actually a tax cut, with checks on the way. It was good that he called that out.

9:56PM - Tax free universal savings accounts. Congress, and I, don't know what exactly to make of that.

9:57PM - Yes, we are finally, finally, including the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan in the budget. A lot of people don't realize that they weren't included in the budget, and that Bush used an accounting gimick to keep their costs out of his deficit numbers by using emergency appropriations bills. This will start to make reality real again.

9:59PM - He says he will expand the size of the Army and Marines, but for what, exactly? If we're truly pulling back from Iraq we don't need a million plus soldiers, and we're already dredging the bottom of the barrel.

10:00PM - "The United States of America DOES NOT TORTURE." That simple statement, seemingly so incontroversial, needed to be said, and will do a lot.

10:06PM - Eh, he's getting sappy now.

10:08PM - The silver thing is an intricate paper in/out box!! When they did the shot from behind you could tell.