Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How Can You Represent Me if You Won't Take My Emails?

Don't bother emailing your U.S. Representative right now. I just tried to email mine to urge him to support HR 1424 (and S 558) that will end insurance companies’ discrimination against those with mental illness or addiction problems. The official Write Your Representative site gave me this error message:

The House of Representatives is currently experiencing an extraordinarily high amount of email traffic. The Write Your Representative function is therefore intermittently available. While we realize communicating to your Members of Congress is critical, we suggest attempting to do so at a later time, when demand is not so high. System engineers are working to resolve this issue and we appreciate your patience.

P.S. Apparently I wasn't the only person to notice this.

Prove to Me the Sky is Falling

Adam Davidson and Melissa Block discussed fears about the financial crisis in a segment on All Things Considered yesterday. Davidson described the fears, but then dropped an interesting little tidbit:

Adam Davidson: That is the real fear. That is when this goes from being a typical cyclical downturn to a true crisis.

Melissa Block: The warnings about that have been so emphatic. There have been predictions of a crisis that would rival the Great Depression. Millions of jobs lost. Is that credible do you think?

Davidson: I will say that I am finding it hard to find economists who echo that from the left, right, or center. I think everyone agrees this is a really serious crisis. That it would be good for something to happen to lessen it. I am finding a lot of people who say this will right itself, that is what markets do. It might take awhile. It might take a year or two. But it will right itself. . . .
If a business journalist cannot find ANY economist to support the position that there is the potential for the current financial crisis to rival the Great Depression and/or to lead to millions of jobs lost, shouldn't that business journalist call such assertions what they are: fear mongering?

This example illustrates the point former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston made in an excellent segment of On the Media.
Brokaw and many other journalists on TV, and some in print and on the radio, assume because we were told there’s a crisis, there's a crisis. Now, the fact that we've had a couple of big firms on Wall Street fail, that’s capitalism.

If you look around, you'll notice that banks are still making ordinary loans to ordinary businesses. Your mailbox is still full of proposals to sell you credit cards and extend you debt. The Internet still has ads for these very toxic mortgages that are at the heart of this. They're being advertised all over the Internet.

You know, I don't have any doubt that whatever people in the market have said to Secretary Paulson has scared him. But remember that Secretary Paulson used to be the head of Goldman Sachs, the biggest investment bank in the country, and Goldman Sachs has announced that it’s converting itself into an investment bank, which will allow it, by the way, to get in on this 700 billion dollars.

That alone ought to have people asking questions. Well, wait a minute, what’s the pricing of this deal and who’s going to make money off it?
Rep. Dennis Kucinich similarly questioned the premise behind the bailout bill on Democracy Now. Does something this transparent even warrant being called a conspiracy?

Click here to see the rest of this post...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Greedy jerks (or profile of a mortgage company)

Last weekend I was playing around on Mint, which was depressing enough in its own right because our net worth is hugely negative, especially with the mortgage added in. In doing this, I was looking over our Wells-Fargo mortgage statements and I noticed that our bimonthly payments weren't behaving as expected. It turns out that Wells-Fargo only allows a full payment on the mortgage so when we paid half a payment on the 15th of the month, they held that money and DID NOT APPLY IT to our debt with them until the second payment was received on the 1st of the month. So, essentially I was giving them a FREE LOAN for two weeks every month. After further annoying conversations with the customer service person, it turns out that they pay themselves first for the escrow account and the interested owed and they will only do this in a complete payment. Since most of our mortgage payment is for taxes, insurance and interest, this doesn't happen until we make the second payment. This information was not told to me. It was only after I was on the phone for the second annoying time that I teased out this information. We are allowed to make any additional payment to the principle that we want, after the full monthly payment has been received.

Can you tell I'm still annoyed? Clearly my intent of given them the money was so that they would pay down what I owed them. They insist that other customers don't care about this and are just happy to have Wells-Fargo hold their money for them so they don't accidentally spend their mortgage payment over the course of the two weeks between when they get paid and when the payment is due. Since I'm not brain dead, I would rather earn interest on the money for myself and not let Wells-Fargo make even more money off of me. Jerks.

Happy New Year

Gratuitous challah bread picture. Our local bakery was baking fresh bread and I couldn't resist. It was hot when I bought and so tasty. I sense french toast in our future...

Haul from the CSA this week. Upcoming meals: beet and carrot salad, bread salad, and I can't wait to try the yellow flat beans. The normal green ones were yummy, so I have high expectations for these too.

In other exciting food news, our Trader Joes opened this weekend. It's a good 20 minutes away, so I won't be going for weekly shopping, but I'm excited to have one available. They were sampling their frozen chinese orange chicken and it's really good. I'm hopeful that now that there's one here, they'll expand and put one closer to us. Right next door to Trader Joes, a Whole Foods opened a couple of weeks ago. We got 4 mums for $12 to spruce up the front porch. Their fresh fish looked good. We have a nice seafood market close by, but they aren't open on Sunday and so I rarely make it there.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Round Up

In this round up: reusable grocery bags, reusable produce bags, yummy fat, super yummy chocolate, Rosh Hashanah dinner ideas, uses for coffee grounds, economic indicators to ruin your appetite.

Bolstering my concerns regarding whether purchasing new reusable bags for grocery shopping is really all that green, the Wall Street Journal provides an analysis of the energy required to make reusable bags as compared to the energy required to make disposable plastic bags. Via Re-Nest. But then I see all of Gentle Reader's beautiful new RuMe bags and think, "I'll use 'em plenty because they're so cute!"

Now that we've all got our reusable grocery bags, what do we do about those plastic produce bags? According to Re-Nest we should switch to reusable mesh produce bags. I've got a little green craft project in process presently to finish the edges of mesh onion bags for reuse. Anyone want me to blog about it?

One of the points in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food that I found particularly interesting was the idea of returning animal fat to our daily menu. Jennifer McLagan's new book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipies, appears to instruct us how to do just that. Via The Grinder and Serious Eats.

Gristmill's Lou Bendrick explains the "bean to bar" chocolate movement. Two reasons bean-to-bar chocolate is awesome: (1) it tastes better and (2) it's sustainable. He also provides a number of links to sources for this tasty, planet-saving wonder. I'm going to have to look into bean-to-chip resources for my ongoing adventures with the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Serious Eats compiled links to a number of interesting dishes that would be suitable for Rosh Hashanah and a cookbook that I might have to check out of the library.

Re-Nest has posted seven uses for coffee grounds that are not entirely ridiculous. I am contemplating numbers 1, 2, and 4.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research compiled a table of economic indicators comparing 2000 to 2008 in order to answer the question is the country better off now than it was before Bush. The answer is, perhaps not shockingly, no. Via Gristmill. Guess you don't need to tell Washington Mutual that.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Cocker Spaniel/Anteater Mix

Minoring in Sustainable Food

Ye Olde Alma Mater is the focus of a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article about college cafeterias serving sustainable food [you might be able to access this for the next couple of days or you might have to get a "day pass" to look at it or you can look up the issue dated September 26, 2008, at your local library].

Got some angsty undergrad who needs to direct their revolutionary attitude somewhere other than grade grubbing? Sick them on food services!

First, I'd like to bring to your attention that the move towards sustainable sourcing was the result of student activism.

Nationally, students have pushed hard for local-food programs, and the amount of local produce in the dining hall is sometimes used as a litmus test for a college's overall commitment to sustainability. Local food has been a hot topic in popular culture in recent years, thanks in part to books by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, movies like the documentary King Corn, and a popular if somewhat romantic sense that modern agriculture, which has become industrialized, should return to smaller, family-farm operations.
And how much of an asshat do you have to be to drop "if somewhat romantic" into the previous sentence? Clearly the author was a college student during the cynical, apathetic early nineties. I probably had a class with him. Anyway, this was a bottom-up decision in the academic world where the administration keeps getting older but the students keep staying the same age. Meaning, the administration could have just waited out the "fad," but they didn't. Yay, Administration!

The article raises three, I'd suspect the author would call "unromantic," reasons institutions are hopping on the sustainable agriculture train. (1) For a relatively small investment they get a lot of good PR. "Food is a highly visible symbol of a college's amenities and priorities." (2) Purchasing from local farmers improves town-gown relations. (3) In this age of paranoia, local sourcing improves food security. Giving the example of Cornell University, which buys 30-50% of its food locally,
A pandemic, an oil shortage, or, more likely, an ice storm could hobble transportation in the region, leaving the university stranded with thousands of mouths to feed. Under scenarios like those, local food would be much easier to bring in.
Bet they could even get a grant from Homeland Security with that sort of reasoning.

But along with improving the nutrition of the over-educated, there are some broader benefits to the institutional move toward local sustainable food. Emory University, "in Georgia, where about 1 percent of farms are organic," has hired a local farmer to be a farmer liaison to "woo[] farmers to create its own local-food movement." So a relatively big purchaser is out there pitching sustainable woo to local food producers. Emory also "enlisted a food distributor, Destiny Produce, which buys and sells food from organic and local farms, to help organize more local food production." And perhaps pushing this student-led change up the ladder as far as it can go, Emory is pushing its corporate food service provider, Sodexo, which provides Emory with chicken from out-of-state in Georgia - the top poultry producer in the county, to figure out how to provide more local foods to meet their goal of 75% local sustainable food by 2015.

For more information I've gathered some links for you.

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Academic Micro-Round Up

Given that I'm under the delusion that certain chocolate chip cookies brought to certain faculty gatherings may be related in the uptick in reader interest in posts related to academe, I present the following academic micro-round up including the New School's Social Research conference Free Inquiry at Risk and a CBC Radio program on the impact of paranoid politics on the university. P.S. There's new eduslang too!

First, if you're going to be in New York City October 29th through 31st, consider swinging by the New School's Tishman Auditorium for the Social Research conference Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times. At least click on the link to learn more about our eduslang of the day, "massification." Per Bob:

I had to look up massification, which is an insane word but it does describe a critical concept. It means "the democratisation of higher education", by the way, and I keep the funny "s" in democratization because I had to Google it and get an Economist article to actually find out what it means. Maybe "massification" is an unAmerican term.
Other than "massification", the conference seems to be about "the real problems universities in horrible places have", to make us all feel guilty about bitching about our universities where hardly anyone dies or anything.

Second, if you'd like to have more fodder for bitching about your own university where hopefully hardly anyone dies or anything, please head to CBC Radio One's Ideas program from September 22, The Suspect Society, Part 2. This second part of a three-part series discusses how the surveillance society has distorted higher education. It includes the story of a lecturer dismissed for answering a student's question regarding Zionism and the story of the artist/academic who was investigated by the FBI due to his exhibit on germs. Generally it fills in all the blanks in the story of the erosion of academic freedom after 9/11. If you're interested in this from an earlier point in the academic life cycle, I highly recommend Part 1 of The Suspect Society series which covers everything from day care surveillance cameras to Pre-Junior ROTC starting with 11 year olds and covers much in between.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Round Up

In this roundup: anti-malware software, cavort with The Rat on your birthday, shipping furniture cross country, sewing tables, energy inspectors, and how not to get ripped off at the Post Office.

Contemplating uninstalling Norton Anti-Virus and its surprisingly virus-like friends after reading AskMetafilter's discussion of anti-malware software.

According to Consumerist if you go to Disney World or Disneyland on your birthday it's free. So avoid October 23 - November 21, because Scorpios are complete asshats.

Contemplating shipping a bureau with mirror and a headboard to Bob and Rebecca after reading the discussion of shipping furniture across country at AskMetafilter.

Dreaming of a plywood extension table for my sewing machine after seeing Vicki's awesome new one at Field Trips in Fiber. Though I might just save up for a dedicated sewing table with an electronic lift that can move the sewing machine to a storage position, flatbed with insert, or free arm position.

After wigging out about the cost of electricity in California, I wondered if there was such a thing as an energy efficiency inspector. According to Re-Nest there is! According to the New York Times they've been around just AGES (where have I and Re-Nest been?) and now their technology is even better.

So if Pynchon and Pratchett have you primed for postal conspiracies, you'll love this. According to Consumerist, the U.S. Postal Service is coaching its employees to omit mention of less expensive shipping services, like first class mail.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Corporations as Voldemort

If corporations had a soul, the ability to love, i.e., if corporations were Harry Potter instead of Voldemort, would they need to be bailed out?

Following, please find a lightly edited discussion between Bob and Sarah regarding the idea of the corporation as Voldemort.

Bob: I think the question of "what is success?" seems to be an interesting one, a sort of secular version of "what is the right thing to do with one's life?"
Very deep.
me: I was just thinking about that in the context of the current financial crisis and Harry Potter.
Bob: You were thinking about "What is success?" in the context of the current financial crisis and Harry Potter? Like, clearly success defined as sheer financial excess doesn't work well for society, but success in the sense of killing Voldemort in a very surreal train stationy way does work well for society?
me: Not remotely.
More focused on the secular version of "what is the right thing to do with one's life?"
Can a corporation ever do the right thing?
The fundamental, and is some ways the only, difference between Harry and Voldemort is that Harry can love, his soul is intact. Corporations are like Voldemort because legally they are like people but they have no sense of right and wrong.
Bob: I like your corporations are like Voldemort metaphor.
me: But does capitalism essentially elevate the corporation as the model of how to lead one's life?
Bob: Of course, the legal fiction that corporations are people is just stupid.
me: Well, it's stupid, but it's entirely true.
Bob: True in what sense?
I mean, it's not true that corporations are people.
me: So is the reason corporate wrongdoing goes essentially unpunished, the reason this country feels compelled to bail out corporations that intentionally made extremely risky decisions because the vast majority of Americans no longer think what those corporations did was wrong?
Bob: My whole notion of what capitalism is has been a bit shaken by the whole bailout discussion of late. So answering your question about if it makes the corporation a model for ethics is tricky.
me: No, corporations are not people. But if you look at the origin of the corporation and the fundamental legal framework that underlies the corporation in America, it is all based on the idea that a corporation is a person without the person.
Bob: I don't think that's true. I think most Americans think the big corporate fatcats are bastards. They accept that Congress is going to bail them out, and maybe even accept that the bailout is necessary for their well-being, but I think they still think it's all the fatcats' fault and they should rot. But they aren't going to. Because life isn't fair and the rich always get richer.
me: They are blaming the individuals when they should be blaming the idea. If you make the people the scapegoat, then the corporation goes on unsullied.
If you can say, "Well, it's the CEO's fault," then you just cut of the hydra's head. It's still a hydra.
Bob: I see. So you're saying the very idea of a corporation developed as a sort of soulless zombie in legal terms, presumably for some economic purpose. The "personhood" of a corporation is integral to the idea of the corporation. But its falsehood is obvious on its face.
me: Yes.
Bob: Yes, I think you may be exactly right. But you are sounding a lot like a socialist, you pinko.
me: Essentially a corporation is a soulless person.
If someone could show me a way to imbue corporations with souls, I would be a capitalist.
Bob: So, isn't it necessarily true that a corporation could always claim insanity as a defense?
me: Fascinating idea.
This is one of the reasons I don't understand the criminal prosecution of a corporation.
Bob: So you might say that arguably capitalism is practically defined by the notion that somehow the workings of the market will go in such a way that corporations will "do the right thing", not through any soul of their own but because of their economic imperatives?
me: Yes, capitalism functions on the notion that the will of the free-market is good.
Bob: That does sound weird. Other than fines, what can you do to a corporation? I think of criminal law as involving punishments like jail, and you can't put a corporation in jail.
me: Nothing but fines. And that is part of the problem.
Bob: I mean, courts can do all kinds of crazy injunction stuff, but they can do that in civil cases.
me: Corporations consider those fines the cost of doing business.
Criminality is part of their business model.
But if corporations could be dissolved, that might have some impact.
Bob: Huh. So you reject this capitalist notion that the market will is good, and clearly think that corporations are a mechanism that empowers people to do unethical things. You clearly belong on a kibbutz or something, ya tree-huggin' socialist.
me: Well, except for the association of some kibbutzes with the occupation of land that should be a new Palestinian state, yeah I do.
Bob: Also, this whole conversation should go somewhere.
me: Meh.
What about this conversation warrants blogging?
Bob: I think the whole corporate entity thing is interesting.
me: Cool. Thanks.
Bob: Particularly relating it to Voldemort to get the kids interested.
me: Yes, because the kids read our blog all the time.
Bob: For all we know, the 10 other people who ever look at the blog are under 15.

Click here to see the rest of this post...

Clickers and White Bread

This past Sunday's New York Times Magazine was dedicated to academe. I haven't plowed all the way through it as I was stopped in my tracks by the first article, Geek Lessons by Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Note: Bob and I are in an ongoing discussion regarding the merits of clickers in the classroom, which is highly influenced by our second cousin's early adoption of said technology.

Following please find a lightly edited discussion of this article as it transpired via Google chat between Bob and myself.

me: OK, new topic, did you read that article from the NYT I emailed you?
Bob: Yes. It is FASCINATING.
me: And, possibly unrelated, please use the term "asshat" in a sentence.
Bob: He is smart, and yet rejects the clickers!
Bob: LOL
me: He's at UVA but thinks that only profs at posh schools (like CSUF[? because UVA is poor? "With $5.1 billion as of July 2008 for 20,834 full-time students, the University of Virginia ($245,000 per student) has the largest per capita endowment of any national public university in the United States."]) get laptops and then, what, only if they sign a product placement agreement?
He clearly has personal issues with his own administration and his evaluations.
But somehow the NYT feels his screed warrants the first three pages of their academia issue?
Bob: [provides and excellent example of "asshat" in context which has absolutely nothing to do with Prof. Edmundson, but does reflect poorly on the IT capabilities of academic institutions generally]
me: Ooo . . . nice integration of "asshattery" which is my favorite form of "asshat"
Bob: But he is not dumb. His first premise (the notion of the "uncool" being what academia is all about) is intriguing, significant, and suitable for an academia issue.
me: Well yes but then he defines uncool as, essentially, Luddite.
Bob: The issues of administrations and student evaluations impacting "the right thing to do" is real and important. His "bah to your technology!" take is an unfortunate turn in an otherwise decent paper.
Not unlike that cool guy who wrote "The Fire Next Time" (Baldwin) who diverted onto the evils of white bread for a while. (He called it "infernal rubber").

Click here to see the rest of this post...


The other day I mentioned to a non-academic (on so many levels)

"trying to lower my DFW rate." Said non-academic, who we'll just call

"Sarah" for the sake of argument, was completely baffled by my

eduslang. Sarah seemed to think I was concerned about the frequency

of my travels to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Silly Sarah. DFW are

grades; it means the percentage of the class that gets a D, F, or

withdraws. (D is typically equivalent to failing; most majors that

require algebra (or higher) make it a requirement to get a C or higher

in it (which is known as a "C-Wall")).

This is the sort of jargon that you'd either pick up on your own, or you'll never need it. But perhaps this post will either ease some confusion at a future department meeting, or just amuse you. I'm sure many sadly geeky jokes could be made about C-walls, for example.

Except for "eduslang", which is my own invention and therefore extra useless. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Study Shows Life Sucks for Sensitive, New-Age Guys

As reported in the Washington Post, a study by Beth A. Livingston and Timothy Judge published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology found that, even controlling for education level, type of job, and hours worked per week,

men with egalitarian attitudes about the role of women in society earn significantly less on average than men who hold more traditional views about women's place in the world.

P.S. I wonder if Christine Lavin will add a verse to her excellent song, "Sensitive New Age Guys" about the fact they're underpaid for their egalitarian attitudes about the role of women. What rhymes with "egalitarian"?

PBS Survey Clearly Manipulated by Right Wingnuts

The Emmy-winning weekly newsmagazine NOW on PBS is conducting a poll in conjunction with its recent one-hour special on how women in politics have changed America and the world. The poll asks, "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President of the United States?" After I registered my opinion this morning, the results were Yes 50%, No 48%, Not Sure 0%.

Please go register you opinion. Click here to go directly to the poll. There's also lots of links about Palin there, if you can stomach it. I mean, if you're interested.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm so mad at myself

So, a student wants to make-up a test.  I set up an appointment to give it, but then later realize I have a previous appointment (I'm supposed to provide games at the department BBQ).  So I email the student and tell them they need to reschedule, and suggest a time.

Of course, no reply.  My suggested new time comes and goes.

I stop by my office to drop off my stuff before I head off to the previously scheduled engagement.  The student is there, waiting for me but bizarrely says she thought I was going to the Barbecue.  (My email didn't say what the appointment was, but never mind). 

I said "So, you're here to take the test?" 

The student said "I'll be quick."  She's very confident that she'll do well despite having missed so many classes, because she's had this class several times and therefore knows all this stuff.

I give her the test.  Believe me, you cannot be more disappointed in me than I am.  It's now almost a half hour after the picnic has started.

In a nutshell

(12:06:16 PM) Reb: i can get free coffee at 2, but i'm not sure i can stay awake until then

(12:13:17 PM) Bob (Goog): Hm. You need to like get coffee now, and then _sell_ your free coffee at 2, which should pay for the coffee now.

I'm pretty sure that's how Lehman Brothers does it. Um, did it.

Furrday: Prewalk Atten-shun

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Summary of the Apocalypse

If you're not too clear on what all the hubbub is about with this whole Great Depression Part Deux, check out this nice Q & A over at the New York Times that tries to succinctly explain what the heck is going on with AIG & Lehman and the end of capitalism as we know it.

Round Up

Trying to find another song with "round" in the lyrics was devolving into Belinda Carlisle. No good can come of that.

In this round up: print your fabric designs, AskMetafilter and Dr. Bronner's as hand soap, dog field trips, dog fro yo, funny kiwi want ad, when did eggs get so complicated, processed food is evil, backyard farms and homemade cheese, bailing out AIG is wrong, free textbooks save students from future wage slavery.

In love with Angry Chicken's Whole Cloth Quilt. She actually designed the cheater cloth herself and had it printed up at Spoonflower, which is too cool for words. I've got a number of fabric design projects in various stages of development that could really gain some traction with some serious Spoonflowerage. I've been holding out to hear more reviews of the colorfastness and print quality. True Up compiled a number of Spoonflower Reviews and Tips including an excellent index of fabric design posts. OK, so really I'm just saving up my money ($18/yd is about twice what I normally pay for fabric).

Now that I've added AskMetafilter to my Google Reader, I have a new appreciation for Not Martha. She really does post the best of the best from AskMetafilter which is quite impressive given the vast number of posts that puppy generates a day. Contemplating dropping AskMetafilter from my Google Reader and just relying on Not Martha to sort the wheat from the chaff. But then I find the post on Uses for Dr Bronner Soap [WARNING: RAGING hippies responded with some VERY personal uses for this product which may induce nausea and Republican sympathies in MANY readers]. It answered my question: can I use Dr. Bronner as a hand soap? Answer: Yes, diluted with water and in one of those foaming soap dispensers. Now I just have to wait for someone to ask, "Now that I use only foaming soap dispensers, what do I do with my three non-foaming soap dispensers?"

First of all, I abhor the term "staycation." Linking to this post is in no way an endorsement of that term. It is, however, an endorsement of taking your pooch(es) on field trips (my preferred nomenclature). The in-laws insightfully gave us The Dog Lover's Companion to California by by Maria Goodavage. Sadly, I broke my toe shortly thereafter and we have yet to take advantage of its recommended dog day trips.

I will confess that we have bought frozen treats for our dogs in the past. But I share this link to an organic frozen yogurt for dogs not to promote such consumption, but to share the cutest wootest little adverpooch pic I have ever seen. Via Re-Nest. If I could get Augie to look up at the camera while eating something with his little fuzzy feet on either side of whatever he's eating, we could take over the world.

The funniest want ad ever via Serious Eats. I want to work the phrase "flip, grab a knife and become Mr Stabby" into every conversation. Is that troubling?

The New York Times clarifies the confusion surrounding egg labeling via Serious Eats.

Also via Serious Eats and the New York Times (which I get delivered to my house every day, so I don't know why I don't read it before the blogs do and then take all the credit), as discussed in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, food manufacturers are putting weird stuff in your food to and making spurious claims about the Frankenfood's health benefits.

Backyard farming + cheese making at home = Sarah's fantasy home life via Serious Eats. P.S. super cute cow picture -- bonus!

Begin Rants Here - - -

Feds Loan AIG $85 Billion [Breaking] via Consumerist. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks bailing out AIG is not a fiscally responsible use of taxpayer money. Of course, if you look at it as AIG cashing in on the vast amount of donations to Washington politicians, they got a pretty darned good return on their investment. Let's see, they got $85 billion for $9.7 million. If my math is right [big if, but hey, I'm not running a huge insurance company], that's $8.76 of bailout for every $1 of campaign donations. Can we fund public education? No. Universal health care? Hell to the no. Can we come up with $85 "B" as in "Banking regulation" Billion to back up bad investments? Apparently so. Makes me want to move to Canada. Except for all the unflattering plaid. But now that the government owns all the insurers, wouldn't it be so simple to just press the delete key. Poof! No more health insurance companies. Free universal health care for all! Oh, and isn't this communism? Let me get this straight, Venezuela is communist because it nationalized companies in the name of the people. The U.S. is not communist because it nationalized companies to keep capitalism from failing?

Bob: No one reads Orwell anymore...
me: They do, but they think it's a really weird episode of "Why I liked the '80s"

Economics Professor Self-Publishes Textbook To Subvert Overpriced Publishing Industry [DIY] also via Consumerist. Like Damien Hirst doing an end run around the Gallery-Art Dealer hegemony, R. Preston McAfee, a Cal Tech economics professor, is giving the power to the people. Well, OK, that analogy is a bit weak what with Hirst pulling down $200.7M (hey, maybe he should bail out AIG) in two days and McAfee giving it away for free. If only we could give all education away for free so the educated don't have to succumb to wage slavery. Like wage slavery is OK for the uneducated? No. But they can quit their McDonald's job and not worry about making their $300/month student loan payment before they get their first check from Burger King. Ignore my arguing against myself. I like this cutting out the inflationary middle man theme. Let's apply it to health care. No more health insurance companies! [Anyone sensing a theme since I finally watched Sicko?] The vast majority of individual bankruptcies occur after a major personal health crisis. Universal health care would prevent those bankruptcies. Think about it. Then call your representative.

Click here to see the rest of this post...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Your Veg is in My Color Theory

One of the exercises in the New Munsell(R) Student Color Set, 2nd ed., asks students to pull chips from the color charts to match all of the colors in a picture. So I pulled chips to match Rebecca's beautiful veg picture.

Clockwise from the start of the "yellow" squash colors: 5YR 8/6, 5Y 8/12, 5RP 3/4, 5RP 5/8, 5RP 8/4, 5RP 6/10, 5RP 4/6, 5GY 7/8, 5GY 4/4, 5G 3/4.

A few random observations:

  • I feel like there's a lot more going on with that yellow squash than I had the chips to represent. I feel like I needed chips for the intermediary hues between 5Y and 5YR to do that squash justice.
  • When I first looked at that green squash I thought, "blue green." But it was way more green yellow than I expected. I hear that's true of vegetation in general, it pushes to yellow a lot more than one might expect.
  • I could probably have pulled the entire red purple chart for those beans. They are so awesome! I would never want to cook them until they turned plain Jane green. It would be such a waste of beautiful red purple. This was the only veg that I didn't use chips from more than one chart. I just didn't think the Red or the Purple had much to say in the matter. What do you think?

Caveat: I did not print Rebecca's beautiful picture. I merely held up chips to my monitor. The New Munsell(R) Student Color Set, 2nd ed., spends a lot of words explaining why monitor color and opaque paint chips are entirely different beasts and never the twain shall meet. Or whatever. Then I took the picture of the chips in the light of a compact fluorescent bulb with no flash from the camera. DO NOT try this at home. It is highly DANGEROUS color in action. BEWARE the difference between monitor colors and opaque paint chips as well as the effect of a light source on the surface reflecting that light. Repent! REPENT! Sorry, getting geared up for our annual Halloween viewing of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More color theory

Most of the other vegetables this week were the typical ones, but there were these crazy colorful squash - very deep yellow and green. Also, not on my CSA, but too cool to pass up were the Chinese purple long beans. Apparently, you eat them like green beans. If you cook them long enough, they actually turn green.

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Color Theory: Completed Munsell Color Charts

I finally finished Exercise 1.4 in The New Munsell(R) Student Color Set. The exercise basically asks you to complete the book by filling in the blanks on the color charts with colored chips. I've blogged about Munsell's color theory before. I've also blogged about my specific experience assembling the color charts, back when I'd finished only the first three out of ten. Here I thought I'd share my pictures of the completed charts with a few observations.

5R with 30 chips. The chip that matches the 5R chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5R 5/14. I started with the 5R chart because a previous chart illustrating the concepts of hue, value, and chroma used one row from the 5R chart to illustrate chroma. Also 5R contains the most chips, 30, so I could check all the rest of the charts against that chart if there wasn't the same value and chroma on the adjacent hue charts.

5YR with 24 chips. The chip that matches the 5YR chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5YR 7/12. Then by chance I worked clockwise around the hue circle. This turned out to be a good plan because in that order the charts with the most chips come at the end. Charts with fewer chips are easier to arrange.

5Y with 21 chips. The chip that matches the 5Y chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5Y 8/12. Do my charts look right to you? Any chips seem out of place? This is the moment when I wish I could work on this with a class so I could have a group of well-trained eyes to double check my charts.

5GY with 20 chips. The chip that matches the 5GY chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5GY 8/10.

5G with 22 chips. The chip that matches the 5G chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5G 6/10.

5BG with 20 chips. The chip that matches the 5BG chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5BG 5/8.

5B with 20 chips. The chip that matches the 5B chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5B 5/8. It certainly got easier the more charts I completed. By the last few I had no trouble pulling out that first column /2 with the lowest chroma.

5PB with 27 chips. The chip that matches the 5PB chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5PB 5/10. Once I figured out that if I set up the chart as I thought it should be on medium gray paper then switched the position of chips I wasn't sure about those switches really pointed out mistakes better than comparing to other charts.

5P with 26 chips. The chip that matches the 5P chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5P 5/10. The only bummer is I'm almost 100% sure I got two of the same chip for my 5P chart. So I have two 5P 8/4 chips and no 5P 7/4 chip. I'm going to write to the publisher, Fairchild Publications, and see if they'll send me a single 5P 7/4 chip.

Finally 5RP with 28 chips. The chip that matches the 5RP chip on the hue circle of the Hue Value/Chroma Chart is 5RP 5/12.

Sort of unrelated, but also about color, check out Kris's Color Stripes, a very cool blog where an artist named Kris posts pictures and color swatches of the colors in the pictures. I found Kris' blog via Dear Ada, a wonderful blog of visual art.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bush Doctrine and The Socratic Method

Bob's promise to stop talking about Gov. Palin has only made me want to talk about her more. Not having television, I did not watch Charlie Gibson's interview with Gov. Palin. I first heard about it on NPR. Lots of folks have weighed in on this interview. I have a very specific observation to add regarding the line of questioning related to the Bush Doctrine and how it might affect voters.

In sum: Sarah Palin's complete ignorance only endears her to the completely ignorant voting public.

If you'd like to refresh your recollection of this line of questioning, please scroll down to the bottom of this post to see a transcript of the part of the interview related to the Bush Doctrine.

At first I thought all folks who teach would relate to the following assessment of voters' reaction to this line of questioning. But reflecting further I suspect my assessment is more influenced by my specific experience in law school under the Socratic method than any other educational environment. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Initiating a new topic, Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?" This is a classic law school question. It tests two things. First, do you know what the Bush doctrine is. Second, do you understand it enough to articulate an opinion on the matter which will show your deeper understanding.

So the first part is strictly definitional. In law school, this would be considered the easy part. Of course, if you hadn't read the assignment or simply drew a blank on the specific terminology, you'd be in trouble from the get go. If you've ever seen a used case book (which is the type of textbook most law classes use) you'll see the lengths to which law students go not to fall into this type of trouble. Law students don't just underline, they color code their underlines and highlights and write margin notes in clear letters so that when they're called on with this sort of question they can quickly flip to the page in the case with a special term written in the margin next to the highlighted definition.

When a law student stumbles over the definitional part of a question like this, usually the professor will harangue them until they find the definition in the case book or finally take pity and provide the definition themselves. Occasionally the student will have that "oh yeah" moment where they clearly indicate that they totally get the concept but just forgot the term. This is a good day. Occasionally the student will get the definition and still have no clue what's going on. This is one of those awkward moments that happens every hour in law schools across the nation, creating a whole profession of people suffering from Socratic Method Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Clearly, Gov. Palin either blanked on the terminology or didn't have a clue what was going on. In the complete transcript of that interchange I cannot find an "oh yeah" moment where she indicates she gets the concept but forgot the term. Technically, her failure to know the definition of the Bush Doctrine is a failure of her media prep team. As my husband, the poli-sci major, so astutely pointed out, no, the average citizen should not be expected to know the definition of the Bush Doctrine, but anyone involved in politics should.

Her failure to have an "oh yeah" moment implies two things. First, not only did her media prep team not drill the definition of the Bush Doctrine, they seemed to have failed to cover that material at all.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Gov. Palin failed to listen to Gibson's definition and craft an insightful answer in response. This is called bullshitting, and it is key to surviving law school and I hear it is a key ability for politicians as well. After her answer which clearly showed she didn't know the term, Gibson fed her the definition, "The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?" Anyone who went to law school knows that the correct response includes at least the phrases "anticipatory self-defense" and "preemptive strike." The key to surviving the Socratic Method is to use the information the professor gives you in his or her questions. Palin's response, "I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America." No key phrases. Barely an understanding that what we're talking about is the President as Commander-In-Chief. In law school, this is when everyone else would be preparing their answer to the same question because clearly the professor is going to move on to another student because this student has nothing more to offer.

But interview/class preparation is only part of my concern. She's not running for the post of successful law student. The important question is how does this interchange affect voters' opinions of Gov. Palin. My answer is again informed by my experience in law school.

A group of students undergoing the Socratic Method experiences a collective anxiety. Usually law professors call on students rather than waiting for students to volunteer to answer. When a student is asked a question like, "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?" the rest of the class is looking for the answer to that question knowing that if the first student doesn't know, they might be called on. If, like the vast majority of the U.S. population does not know the term "the Bush Doctrine," the vast majority of the law students don't know the definitional part of the answer you will hear mass page flipping searching for it. And if they don't find it, you hear the rattle of laptop keys as they Google it. And the few folks who already know the term aren't just sitting there thinking, "What a dumbass." They're formulating their answer to the rest of the question in a way that shows the depth of their understanding of the topic.

If the questioned student has an "oh yeah" moment, the whole class relaxes a bit. First, it means they're less likely to get called on. Second, it means the professor is less likely to get cranky and assign more reading. Third, if they can share that "oh yeah" moment they know all they need to do to prepare for the final exam is to memorize the term that goes with the idea they already understand.

If the questioned student totally misses the mark and can't recover after a definition is provided the whole class becomes more tense because their chances of getting called on increase. And in a less self-interested way, if the teacher doesn't move to another student, everyone has to sit there and watch their classmate get publicly humiliated for as long as the professor's sadism requires. If you didn't know the term and didn't have an "oh yeah" moment either, then watching your classmate's intellectual excoriation massively increases your empathy for that student. The professor is only doing his or her job, which within the Socratic tradition completely justifies publicly humiliating students. After class students who do not even know the questioned student will offer support and sympathy. They'll email the questioned student their notes from that date. They'll compliment them on simply not bursting into tears. They'll share their stories of being caught in a similar situation. End result: not knowing the answer vastly improves a student's name recognition and empathy from fellow students.

Applied to Gov. Palin and the Bush Doctrine exchange I think her complete ignorance improved her poll numbers more than a competent answer would have.

Here is the transcript of this entire line of questioning from the ABC News website.

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we're going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

GIBSON: But, Governor, I'm asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vote, Please.

Now is the time to cross your Ts and dot your Is to ensure you vote in November. The Obama campaign has put together an awesome internet resource that allows you to register to vote, request to vote absentee, and find your polling location. Click here to make sure your vote counts. It even tells you whether there is early voting in your area. For example, the site informed me that in Fullerton, California, Early Voting is available beginning October 5 and ending on November 4. Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Round and Round

What comes around goes a-Round Up. Yeah, I'm all about the heavy metal.

In this round up: NPR's speech coach, best brainy podcasts, natural makeup, anti-bacterial soap = the anti-Christ, consumer product health/ecology/social goodness review site, roasted tomato sauce recipe, blogging life in culinary school, blogging life in creative writing school, wanna-be Consumerist, universal health care or revolution - those are the options.

So you have to record a bunch of podcasts for a distance learning course, or you just want to impress friends on the phone, you too can learn the tips and tricks of NPR's speech coach. Via Not Martha.

I've come to realize that my more tedious work tasks are much less tedious when completed whilst listening to something like NPR. I contemplated looking into audio books. Then I saw Not Martha's link to the discussion of intellectually stimulating podcasts at the AskMetafilter.

Looks like I'm not the only person into less chemically evil beauty products. Grist has an article about the recession-defying boom in natural personal-care product sales. Via Re-Nest.

Per Re-Nest anti-bacterial soap ingredient triclosan is El Devilo, but it was two for one at Stater Bros., so I just bought me a gallon of it. Apparently my natural liquid hand soap buying is not recession-defying. But their Method hand wash isn't perfect. So there. OK, I'm just trying to make my hands feel less infested with resistant bacteria by putting down Re-Nest. But, dude, where's the love for Desert Essence’s product Castile Liquid Soap with Organic Tea Tree Oil?

Add GoodGuide to your informed consumer armory. This site rates personal care products and household cleaners based on their health, environmental, and social impact. Via Re-Nest.

Inspired by Chef Rebecca to roast all the tomatoes in my kitchen, I found this Roasted Tomato Sauce recipe on Serious Eats.

I think this blog, 19 Months, about going to the Culinary Institute of America will surely cure me of any tiny fantasy I might have of going to cooking school. Hell, I don't like standing in line at the grocery store, standing for the duration of your class day? Hell to the no. Via Serious Eats.

Sort of parallel, but probably not so much new journalism as new agey, my dear friend Jonathan is currently attending the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop and blogging about it and life during it. So if you ever thought you wanted your MFA in creative writing, but you want to kill that dream dead dead dead, click here. Not really. The blog's a fun read.

Totally contemplating parlaying my extreme spreadsheet of grocery prices in the Fullerton area into a Consumerist-esque weekly post. Thoughts, questions, comments, concerns?

I finally watched Michael Moore's Sicko the other night and while I'm not sure trying to get 9/11 first responders treated at Gitmo is really communicating a message to anyone who doesn't already get it, I liked the film.

More importantly Sicko clarified the issues and gave me the vocabulary to enunciate what I think this country needs: free, universal health care for life, to abolish health insurance companies, and to regulate pharmaceutical companies like public utilities. Not coincidentally, these turn out to be Mr. Moore's positions as well. In case you were getting confused by the jargon (I was), universal health care has also been called socialized medicine, single payer health care, Punishing the sick by jacking up prescription drug "co-pays" is a particularly poignant issue in my house. If you want to help, click here for a long, somewhat dated, list of opportunities to do so, including contacting your representatives and the presidential candidates (which still includes like everybody and their mother, well, and your mother if you're Chelsea Clinton).

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Furrday: Izzy Archives

About five years ago, this little bundle of joy (and his bio-brother whose speckled haunch you can see in the lower right corner - he's currently living the high life with a very well off lawyer in Atlanta and I think his name is Lyndon, the dog, not the lawyer) arrived on my doorstep.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flour Power

I was going to post yesterday about a neat little bit in the Organic Consumer Association's e-newsletter about DIY flour:

Grinding Your Own Grains
In response to an article on Victory Gardens posted on the OCA website and highlighted in last week's issue of Organic Bytes, a member of the OCA web forum posted the following comment:

"You might add that in addition to growing our vegetables we might also grind our own grains for truly fresh, nutritious baked goods. Most Americans have no idea what fresh bread tastes or even looks like. Buy organic grains only, and look into the many different types of grain mills available. You'll be very happy with the results."
But I thought, "This is just too far out there for real people." Well, it's not too far out there for the New York Times, which just today has an article about micro-millers who produce boutique local flour, as well as a growing grind at home movement.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Update: Reusable Shopping Bag Collection

Previously, you may recall, I cataloged for you the wonders of my reusable shopping bag collection. Yesterday, a brand new, super awesome, and most importantly sort of free, reusable shopping bag entered my life.

I attended my first meeting of the Flying Geese Quilters Guild. They are even more impressive in person than they are online and they gave me this awesome bag just for joining. OK, the membership wasn't free, but I suspect the price of half a year's membership (which is what I paid) isn't much more than the cost of this bag. It's certainly a more economical "free" bag than the SXSW or IQF/Chicago totes. It even has an exterior mesh drink pocket! And it might be sized to fit all sorts of quilting goodies. But until I'm in a quilt goody toting mode, its gussets and sturdy construction will allow much canned goodery.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cookie Update

Some success. But now, more questions.

So, these cookies were moderately flat and chewy/crispy. Approaching my preferred cookie texture. Which, is very exciting. I will definitely enjoy eating these cookies. Prior to baking the cookies this time, I tested the oven temperature and found that (1) my oven lies when it says that it is preheated and (2) my oven is about 25 degrees too hot. So, I baked these at a lower temperature after it was actually preheated. That made a big difference in the cookie performance. Also, I didn't cook them as much (I left them softer and lighter) and that was also a good thing. Before, I kept hoping if I cooked them longer, they would flatten out, but obviously that didn't happen. Of course, now the question is would the original recipe have turned out better if I had baked the cookies at the right temperature.

Bottom line, I still don't like the flavor of the dough as much as the toll house cookies. Next time I'm going to try and make the toll house cookies with the darker chips and sea salt.

Did you find that resting the dough actually makes a difference?

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Ready for Armageddon

Busy weekend of food preservation. We have jalapenos pepper jelly, pickled (bell) peppers, and pickled okra. The pepper jelly is hot, but sweet, and is great with some cream cheese on crackers as an hors d'oeuvre. My dad was drooling on the phone when I told him I made the pickled peppers. My grandmother used to make these as an accompaniment to cheese or a sandwich. They are garlicky and yummy. They don't really preserve the peppers, just make a tasty treat. I've never made or eaten pickled okra. But, I used an Alton Brown recipe so I have high expectations. Not pictures is some tomato sauce. I made that with some roma tomatoes and put it in the freezer for later on when tomatoes aren't in season.

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Sunday Morning Conversation

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson: This is Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting from Afghanistan.
David: I have a Soraya.
Sarah: I think there's a ointment for that.
David & Sarah: [totally inappropriate extreme laughter that may or may not have involved snarfing Earl Grey all over the Sunday New York Times]
Sarah: Oh, you mean you have a student named Soraya? I thought you were changing the "You're a [insert funny sounding noun]" game to the "I have a [insert funny sounding noun]" game.
David & Sarah: [totally inappropriate extreme laughter that may or may not have involved snarfing Special K all over the Sunday New York Times]
Sarah: Dude, you are never going to be able to deal with that student again, like ever.
David & Sarah: [totally inappropriate extreme laughter that may or may not have involved snarfing something else that rhymes with "K" and "Grey" all over the Sunday New York Times]
Sarah: Ow, my lungs hurt. We have to stop. I want to call Bob [originator of the "You're a [insert funny sounding noun]" game].
David: No one will find this as funny as we do.

Flat Furrday

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Genetically Modified Cookies

Not happy with the results of my first brush with the famed NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, I decided to tinker. My first step was to analyze the differences in the recipe of my current favorite Tollhouse cookies with the NYT recipe.

I have included a comparison pie chart (minus the teaspoon ingredients) with stuff entered in ounces. (I had to estimate the weight of flour for the tollhouse cookies because it's only listed in cups. But, with my use of proportions, I think that I'm close.)

As you can see, there isn't a tremendous difference. There is a higher percentage of flour and a lower percentage of butter and eggs in the nyt recipe, but it's not major. The one main difference that you can't see from this chart is the inclusion of baking powder in the nyt recipe. I have a strong preference for flat chocolate chip cookies, which is why I love the tollhouse ones so much. But, I thought maybe if I left out the baking powder from the nyt cookies, I would love them too. So, tonight, I made a batch without to see what would happen.

They we definitely more to my liking than the first time. But, they were still a little too puffy.

I didn't let this batch rest yet. I will try a new batch tomorrow and see how it goes. Also, as you can see, the batch I made is smaller cookies - I got 11 on a cookie sheet instead of 6.

One final experiment with this batch was with the salt. Bob thought the cookies before were too salty. This time I made some with my super fancy crystals that crumble salt and then some with the fine sea salt. Bob liked the fine sea salt but I still liked the crumbled salt because it is uneven.

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Tasty Politics

Couple of interesting items:

The CSA that we belong to isn't certified organic. They just started their farm last year and it takes a while to get that designation. Apparently, it's expensive too. Instead of trying to get the organic certification, they are instead working on applying for naturally grown certification instead. It sounds like a great program that protects consumers without costing the farmers. Basically, it's an organization run by farmers as an alternative to expensive USDA certification that most small farmers can't afford. It's a little depressing that Organic is so untenable for small farmers, and that those with responsible farming practiced are pushed out of the game, again.

You can actually read through the application for the farm .

Second, a local blogger who mostly writes about food has a nice post about community organizers . I'm still completely baffled by the republicans mocking of Obama's service.

Bob makes campaign promise

I'm done talking about Sarah Palin. As a curmudgeonly writer of ops without the -ed, that's not where I should be focusing.

No one in the country wants or expects Sarah Palin to become president in the next four years. That McCain's pick was a surprise, controversial, and generally mavericky (in a way that highlights why I don't want a maverick to be President), it was newsworthy. But the conventions are over, and insofar as anyone cares about this election, the VP candidates just aren't significant factors.

If you're a, you know, thinking person, there's issues, and these two candidates are pushing policies as clearly divided as we've seen in a long time. If you're a non-thinking sort of person, there's personal qualities, or character, or whatever you call that fuzzy stuff. And again, the differences between McCain and Obama are many and vast.

In fact, the hardest challenge is figuring out why anyone would still be undecided in this election. Assuming that they care enough to actually vote, what could they still be on the fence about? The only way I can see it is if they're attracted to Obama's personality but like McCain's policies, or vice versa.

So, and you can trust this just as much as you trust all the other campaign promises, no more Sarah Palin from me. But I will totally go on and on speculating about all those people who wish they could vote for a maverick who wants out of Iraq, or a lower-taxes pro-business powerful speaker who's younger than Alaska, or something.

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It's not politics, it's math!

No, really! Here, let me show you...wait, where are you going?...Come back!

Okay, for anyone who hasn't run screaming, here's the political/media intro. If you're like me, you've heard talking heads give one-sentence summaries of Obama's tax breaks for 95% of ....

finish that sentence. Then click the "...see the rest..." to see if we agree.

The pundits/reporters I've heard lately say "95% of the middle-class" (or middle-class families or middle-class taxpayers or whatever.)

This is in fact categorically false, if you think about it.

Obama's plan has tax breaks for "the 95 percent-plus of the American population that earns less than $250,000". That of course includes lower class incomes (no matter how you define that), and assuming you're not John McCain, all the middle class too.

Rebecca tells me that I just came upon a reporter parroting the Republican line about "95% of the middle class". Of course, this false characterization serves their purposes, since it engenders the question "what 5% of the middle class is Obama leaving out? Am I in that 5%?" when of course, if you really are middle class, you have nothing to worry about.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My Birthday Wish

A superpower - immune to mosquito bites. Actually, I'll aim big - no bugs would ever bite me.

Dell Inspiron R.I.P.

My laptop, a lovely Dell Inspiron I recieved as a gift from my in-laws at the beginning of law school, has passed away. It died from a direct hit of 32 ounces of tap water. The Geek Squad is pulling the data off it as we speak.
Here you can see my laptop's screen saver screen in the back left corner, behind the glamorous new addition to our household, David's CSUF Dell Inspiron 1420
with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, T5550 @ 1.83 GHz. I.83 GHz, 2.00 GB of RAM, 74.5 GB hard drive, rewritable DVD drive, and an integrated

I'm seriously depressed about losing my laptop. It was a steadfast friend all through law school and starting out in the real world. And now I'm in this new place where I don't know anyone and I've lost my companion.

So now I have to trick out ye olde desktop computer to my liking. Gotta strip off all the excess baggage and load up my camera software, which I'm having trouble locating. Gotta download Mozilla Firefox . . . or should I try Chrome? Any suggestions for pimping my computer?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cocktail Prettifying


Here's a little garnish to dress up your post-Labor day digestif or what have you. This particular cocktail is from Williams-Sonoma, Agave15's "Elderflower Twist" and tequila.

Click through for another closeup.


The drink is tasty. The garnish, in case you were wondering, is composed of a ruby red grapefruit peel (I picked it because of how orange it was), an apple-ball base, and a toothpick. And yes, the camera is a brand-spankin' new Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Digital Elph, which rocks.
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Going Green

You'll have to look at this sideways because Blogger sucks and refuses to post the picture in the right orientation.

Some delicious asian greens today. They told me what they were, but my brain was fried by 5 pm and I have already forgotten what they are called. What they were is mighty tasty in some Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry simmer sauce. (Store coming to Richmond outskirts within the month!)

I also oven roasted the little red tomatoes tonight. They are delicious. I'm not sure what we'll eat them on, but I'm sure that we'll eat them.

Up next on the agenda: pesto, pickled peppers and pepper jelly.

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Monday, September 01, 2008


Just in case you need MORE home-grown deliciousness, these are jars of grape jelly that Rebecca made from grapes harvested from the garden behind our house. It is, by the way, delicious.

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Politically Incorrect Thought Experiment

This occurred to me as the sort of hypothetical situation that is completely inappropriate for political opponents to put forward, but that doesn't mean it might not provoke some insights.

There's rumblings that McCain might accept his nomination from New Orleans. Which, while not as bad as it could be, is a disaster area. It's a somewhat dangerous environment. Suppose a sudden mudslide or structure collapse were to happen, and John McCain were grievously hurt or killed. (This is a pretty unlikely scenario, but go with me for a second.)

What would the Republicans do? There's a certain sense to the idea that you would promote the Vice Presidential candidate; after all, that's what, a half-year from now, the country would do.

Would they do that? If they did, what would be the likely result? If, for whatever reason, you think Sarah Palin shouldn't be the presidential candidate, how prudent was it to choose her to be the "back-up" president?