Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Game room poster designs

These are the signs for my game room at VSU, designed by Sarah. They rock. There's also a view in there of what the game room looks like from the doorway. I know -- needs more color, less school hallway look.

Stop looking at the room -- check out those checkboards!


The president of Cal. State Fullerton required all faculty and staff to take three furlough days last week. We took advantage of this unpaid time off to drive up the coast to a little town called Carmel. You might know it as the town of which Clint Eastwood was once the mayor. But that is not what attracted us. No offense, Mr. Eastwood. The Dog Lover's Companion to California seemed to suggest that Carmel was the dog friendliest town in California, and possibly the world. Whereas we usually leave our lovely pooch-a-roos at their favorite boarding place when we vacate, this time we decided to emphasize the "fur" in furloughcation and bring them along.

Based on the recommendation in The Dog Lover's Companion to California, we stayed at the Lamplighter Inn. Specifically, we stayed in the Concourse Suite, which had a fully fenced in backyard just for us.

Our bed and breakfast was just a couple of short downhill blocks from the Carmel City Beach, which allows dogs to run without leashes. They LOVED it! They made lots of dog friends and a few people friends. They tried to adopt a 7 month old yellow lab, but David convinced them two is company and three is a crowd. Apparently there was a big storm recently so there was a lot of seaweed on the beach and big waves. Augie and Izzy were highly interested in the seaweed. Not remotely interested in getting their paws wet. But there were lots of surfers to watch.

We took a day trip up to Monterey to check out the sea lions and got the added bonus of harbor seals! The sea lions are at the end of the Coast Guard's wharf next to San Carlos Beach. There is a fence between the walkway and the jetty where the sea lions bask. But one sea lion was right up next to the fence, like he was the was the bouncer. Augie and Izzy were just inches from an actual sea lion!

We walked along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, which is a little bike/walking path behind the touristy shops of Cannery Row. On the recommendation of The Dog Lover's Companion to California we stopped for lunch at the Trailside Cafe, located, perhaps not shockingly, along the bike/walking trail that included "Dogs welcome" on their sign. David had a salad, I had a sandwich, and Augie and Izzy split a hamburger. They were in puppy heaven. The seals were actually in the next town over from Monterey, Pacific Grove, in the little bay next to Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station.

We also made a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Actually, this turned out to be the exact same park David and I camped in for a few days on our 1995 road trip. Augie and Izzy got to pee on giant redwoods! Very exciting. The park had recently been flooded in a big storm, so many of the paths weren't open, but the roads around the picnic areas and the campgrounds were open, so we had a good walk.

David particularly likes the following picture because it highlights not only the hugeness of the redwood, but also the fact that this was primarily a vacation for Augie and Izzy and not so much of a vacation for him.

David did have to do a lot of grading, but he got to do it in a cute little cafe (check out their logo with the sea otter) up the street from our B&B. He also took the brunt of the dogs when they were super pully on leashes. But then again, instead of walking the dogs around their usual haunts he got to walk them along the ocean and around the cutest little town ever. I think between their morning walks with David, their day hikes with both of us, and their evening walks downtown to get dinner (we did take out . . . Izzy is a bit whiny for sit down dining - I highly recommend the New England clam chowder and the prawns at A.W. Shucks and pretty much anything from Little Napoli), I think they probably walked almost ten miles every day. They are tuckered. And David and I are well exercised. I don't think I've walked that much . . . well, possibly ever.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Cake

Rebecca made her awesome apple cake, first for a block party and then again when Mom was cruisin' through. Look at its deliciousness, and envy me. :)

Click below to see the recipe.

(Rebecca) This recipe was given to my mom by a German woman who was in her neighborhood craft group. It's been a fall favorite in our family since then.

1 1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 - 2 cups sugar (depending on the tartness of the apples)
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
3 cups flour
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
3 cups apples (peeled, cored, thickly sliced)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup golden raisin
1/3 cup currants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Cream oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to wet ingredients. Add fruit and nuts and stir to combine. The batter will be very chunky - a wooden spoon will work better than a mixer for this last step. Spoon into the pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool completely and then remove from the pan.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Garden Renovations

We have almost no yard, but what we do have was in bad shape. Our patch of dirt and weeds by the parking area was a sad welcome home at the end of the day. It's very shady though so we needed interesting shade loving plants. We bought a variety of things that bloom at different times of the year and will hopefully grow and fill in the area. We left room for a composter and firewood rack. Soon it will be a useful and pretty part of our property.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Canadian Adventure

I had a math conference in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. Vancouver had record breaking heat (several 90 degree days) and no a/c. We almost melted, but managed a few minutes of sleep and got to see some cool things. We then traveled to Victoria. It was much cooler and the conference was behind me so it was great. The last leg of the trip had us traveling back to Vancouver, renting a car and driving to Banff. Despite the rain, and unseasonably cold temps (in the 50's) we got some spectacular views and had a great time. Click on the slide show to open in a large window for better viewing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


My friend Bridget had to skip town for a family emergency, so she loaded me up with all the tomatoes and eggs I could carry. The tomatoes were really ripe, so our usual M.O. of adding sliced tomato to lunch and dinner was not going to use them fast enough. I synthesized all the marinara recipe information I could glean from Serious Eats into one recipe (which I share after the jump). Then I used the remaining tomatoes - mostly gorgeous yellow tomatoes - to make a salsa based on the recipe for salsa fresca in Mexican Light by Martha Rose Shulman.
The following marinara recipe (well, according to Mario Batali, it's not a true marinara, but its texture is closer to a marinara than a tomato sauce, which is thicker, less chunky, and cooked longer) is a hybrid of Mario Batali’s Basic Tomato Sauce, a marinara sauce recipe adapted from Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, and comments about marinara sauce from the readers of Serious Eats.

Marinara Sauce


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large or 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (this makes a fairly spicy sauce)
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 3 pounds ripe fresh plum tomatoes, or one 35 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
  • Salt
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano


1. Heat the oil in a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion. When the onions are about halfway done (about 5 minutes) add the garlic.

2. Add the thyme, crushed red pepper, and carrot; cook 5 minutes more.

3. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to just bubbling, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes. Break up tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until sauce is chunky and thick

4. Stir in the basil and oregano about 5 minutes before sauce is finished. Taste sauce, and season with salt and red pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or set aside for further use. The sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


We finally got rid of the horrible sponge paint in the spare bedroom. Bob and I spent the weekend cleaning, taping, priming and painting. But, it was worth it. I'm so glad to have a new room.

Update on the use of 20 pounds of peaches below.

I made individual hand pies for the neighborhood party. This was insane. They were tasty, but it was way too much work.

Most of the peaches were used for peach jam and for spiced peaches. I want to make more spiced peaches - they are very tasty with vanilla ice cream.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Food, Inc

We went to see Food, Inc. yesterday. In fact, we went to a Whole Foods sponsored viewing of the movie (we did pay for the movie) which included a panel discussion following the movie, free samples from Whole Foods and a wine tasting plus food from Whole Foods. Overall, the movie was as I expected - it took a lot of information from The Omnivores Dilemma (and presumably Fast Food Nation but I haven't read that yet.) It was fairly graphic in its presentation of slaughter houses so if you weren't a vegetarian before, you might consider being one now. Poor animals. The biggest impact that it made on me is that I'm not sure I can eat at a restaurant any more.

I was a bit disappointed that they didn't get any of the major corporations to comment on the content. Nor did they talk to anyone with a different perspective than 'the corporations are evil and they are making us sick.' I do believe that like most other large corporations, the focus is on generating the biggest profit and that the choices made are to maximize profit with minimizing risk. But, that means that there is some risk and when you are talking about food, that risk can be deadly. I also wish that the movie had more information from government authorities on their take on the situation. Why is the FDA so impotent? What is being done to change this? Is there any move to have oversight of agriculture corporations? One thing that is misleading is that the movie doesn't discuss the fact that most of the soybeans grown in the country are used for animal feed, not for people food.

The panel discussion was interesting (if too short) and included many local people:
Particia Stansbury (Epic Gardens)
Mark "Coach" Smallwood (Local Forager for Whole Foods)
Lisa Taranto (Tricycle Gardens)
Sally Norton (Nutritionist from VCU)
Jonah Fogel (Virginia Cooperative Extension Service)
Lisa Dearden (Center for Rural Culture)
Ellen Frackleton (Agriberry)

Coach was a low impact farmer and was recruited by Whole Foods to source local, responsibly grown food and meat for stores in the mid Atlantic region. I would have liked to have heard more from him. He was definitely a great choice as a spokesperson representing Whole Foods. All of the panel was in favor of supporting local farmers. The basic take home message was if you don't talk to the person making your food, you don't know what went into creating it. Even when things are labeled organic, the animals may not be treated the way you would think. Any food that is mass produced is typically pooled from many suppliers which always raises the risk of food safety. Also, everyone on the panel felt like there needs to be more government involvement in stepping up safety regulations and policing these large corporations.

I left the moving feeling fortunate that I have the money and time and availability of good food, that I can choose to know the farmers where my food comes from. I can cook most of our meals from scratch and I can make informed decisions about what we eat. Most of the country does not have this choice or the means to make this choice. I feel like I should come up with a way to use some mathematical modeling to explore risk/cost/safety issues...

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Veggie Hunter


Posted by Picasa

The hunter came home victorious; the whole village will feast tonight!

More of the bounty available at the link below.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

From cocktails

This is the product of the Mystery Photo Entertainment posted earlier. It's cucumber-infused vodka, which, it turns out, is ridiculously easy. (I followed the instructions here.) And it tastes awesome.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bipartisanship should be an effect, not a cause

Matt Yglesias got me thinking about this fascination with "bipartisanship".

Apparently, Congress and pundits favor "bipartisan" legislation, that is, bills you can get members of both parties to sign on to. Rhetorically I ask, but why? Surely we can all dispense with the naïve notion that the best solution, or the one most desired by the people, lies at the mean between the party positions. There are at least three reasons off the top of my head proving the preposterousness of that notion, and you can probably come up with more than me.

Really, bipartisanship is supposed to be a reflection of the value of a bill. The bill's not good because it's bipartisan; rather, the bill's inherently good, so good that people want to publicly support it, even if it's not what their party came up with. A bill might be bipartisan because a priori it's good.

Lack of bipartisanship is generally framed as a negative for the bill's originator: "Obama has failed to deliver on the promise of bipartisanship for his agenda." But there's a perfectly good converse view. If a bill's good, or popular -- the health care public option, for example -- opponents of the bill would be right to fear the lack of bipartisanship. If they're too dumb or stubborn to back what's good, then they're useless to their constituents.

An agenda setter should put good legislation out there, with no compromises solely to garner support from across the aisle. If it's good enough, and popular enough, then all the Congresscritters in vulnerable seats are under pressure to back it. Bipartisanship is an indicator that the bill was good in the first place; but it is only a correlated side-effect, not a necessary (or sufficient) condition for good legislation.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mystery photo entertainment

From Picasa

What's going on here?

Field Trip Friday

Katherine came for a visit and so I took Friday off from work and we went to see the butterfly exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. It was awesome. So many cool butterflies. The day was stiflingly hot, but the gardens were still pretty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

TNC cannot stop talking about slavery

If you read only 200 things Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this year, this should be one of them. Also, you will only have read about a fifth of the great stuff he writes.

Insightful, as always, but I don't think TNC is quite right here. Or perhaps he is overall, but some nuance is in order.

Specifically, I think there's a historical line that goes like TNC says "We tend to think", namely that slavery was kind of this regrettable cruelty that the world in general was tolerant of, until we got civilized and disavowed it.

But there is at least an acknowledgment, in the historical line I was taught, that America (like always) was exceptional. That line says, what with the explosion of cotton (which Eli Whitney's invention contributed to), the economy of the South became completely dependent on slavery as an economic fuel, kind of like we talk about being dependent on oil today. And that dependence shifted the culture, both toward a vigorous defense of the economic interests in slavery and toward dehumanization of slaves on a scale and to a degree beyond whatever the barbaric practices of yesteryear had been.

But that's just my impression from my history classes. I'm not sure there's a shared "American" conventional point of view on this.

Where I feel TNC has it right is that "we have never grappled with this," `this' being that most of the culture of America is formed from the fractious and unresolved shards that remain from centuries of dehumanizing black people, and the struggles both violent and nonviolent to erode and destroy them.

Again, referring to my own education, the mythology of America is the "melting pot" notion of disparate cultures coming together and peacefully sharing the opportunities of a new land. But this, it seems to me, is a gloss, a "and they all lived happily ever after" resolution of the unresolved issue that defines America. We (which of course is not really "we", since we weren't there, but the imagined "we" of this country) invented a new kind of racism, and have never been able to put that dire genie back into the bottle.

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Opinion and Policy on Gay Rights

There's a great chart displayed over at fivethirtyeight.com with public opinion on various gay rights questions by state, including whether those policies are actually adopted as law in those states. The original PDF is available here.

I'm struck by how consistent the popularity ranking of the issues is across states. With a few quibbly exceptions, from most popular support to least the issues are:

  1. housing antidiscrimination

  2. hate crimes protection

  3. job antidiscrimination

  4. health benefits for same-sex partners

  5. civil unions

  6. 2nd parent adoption for same-sex couples

  7. same-sex marriage

It's also interesting, but not surprising, to see that adoption of these policies is not nearly as widespread as their popularity. The most widespread policy by far is hate crimes protection, which is the unsurprising one. But there is no state that offers housing antidiscrimination (super-popular) that does not also offer jobs antidiscrimination (third most popular) AND the far less popular 2nd parent adoption -- 20 states have all three of those. Seven of those 20 states that provide those three do NOT provide health benefits for same-sex partners, even though it's much more popular than 2nd parent adoption.

I wonder if adoption policy has sort of gone "under the radar" and the decisions have been made based on what's best for adopted children, rather than traditional family stereotypes. I also wonder if partner health benefits might have a lot of "bang for the buck" in the sense of being politically achievable in the short term, and really improving the lives of many couples.

Provoke your thoughts -- about health care

This has been recommended by a bunch of bloggy people and eventually I broke down and read it:

Annals of Medicine: The Cost Conundrum: newyorker.com
(Shared via AddThis)

It is definitely worth reading and thinking about. And analogizing to, say, education.

The question it provoked most in me is, well, the question of capitalism. Go read it, and tell me if you think he's sort of saying "to get good, cheap health care, we need to reward doctors for acting in non-profit-seeking ways." How does that work, exactly? Do you reward them with money? Is he saying that we need doctors to not act in their own self-interest -- to be suckers? Or that the free market is not a good system for health care?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Secret Compartments

These are a couple of pictures of our most recent basement demolition. The wall at the front of the house was actually wood paneling over a rather nicer paneling, which had some built-in shelves. The open area at ground level is the access to the main water line. The open area next to the small shelf is -- I dunno. Maybe a window to the view of the brick wall?

Animation: Why Americans Need Health Reform

Short, cute, educational! Go watch this!

Animation: Why Americans Need Health Reform

Note: "health reform" isn't about changing health care practices; they mean changing how health care gets paid for.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cucumber Festival

It was a muggy day, but the Farmers Market was packed. There was a cucumber festival today. We didn't hang around for the cucumber eating contest, but I will stage my own at home. I planning on making some bread and butter pickles today.

In other news, my tomato seedlings had survived and are finally starting to flower. I may get a tomato yet. Note to self: start seeds in January next year!

UPDATE: Amy's cucumber won the costume contest! Very exciting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Click-throughs guaranteed!

How agency will protect consumers | Marketplace From American Public Media:

"HOBSON: Well, one administration official I spoke to today said there will still be fine print. But it'll be the kind of thing like on the Internet when you click the box that says, 'I agree to the terms and conditions,' and you click 'OK.' It will actually be OK, you won't have to worry that something in the fine print will trap you down the road."

I think (and hope) that Jeremy Hobson of Marketplace didn't intend this to mean what it sounds like. To me, it sounds like he's asserting that click-through agreements are nothing to worry about, that clicking the "OK" button will actually be OK. If there's a consumer protection agency vetting the click-through agreements, please let me know!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

California Adventure

Bob and I just returned from visiting Sarah and David in Fullerton. We had a great time. Highlights include a scavenger hunt on Hollywood Boulevard, dinner at Lance and Gordon's (forgot to take pictures), trip to the Getty Center, and a trip to San Diego to visit the Wildlife Park and the zoo. I separated out the pictures from the zoo.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back from the Great Virginia Race

Bob, Rebecca, and David (Chan, not Kelman) went on a Ravenchase across Virginia. Our first day time was, um, not so good. Our second day we did quite well, however, so we award ourselves the "Most Improved" trophy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

George Will: innumerate

I'm late to this, but Matt Yglesias called out George Will for throwing out ".01 percent" as a ridiculously high proportion of Americans to bike to work.

The actual fraction of Americans who bike to work is .4 percent. Which is a lot bigger.

You know, if someone just makes up words and/or applies random words to a situation without considering their meaning, that person is either illiterate or lying or both. And not even the socially acceptable lying or illiteracy. If you wrote a column for a newspaper and misdescribed a situation because you didn't know what the words you used meant, or because you picked words at random that you thought sounded vaguely like what you were reporting, you wouldn't keep a job writing columns for very long. Because literacy is a prerequisite for the job.

Shouldn't innumeracy preclude you from spouting numbers? George Will should perhaps leave the percentages to the staff of the local middle school newsletter, who are more qualified to handle them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I've been reading Pat Kane's The Play Ethic: a Manifesto for a Different Way of Living and he spends a chapter describing the work ethic, its role in the "new economy" (global corporations, erosion of pensions, rarity of lifelong careers in one company, etc.), and how people have tried to recast it or modify it for the post-industrial world. And he spends the book describing an alternative "play ethic", as the title suggests.

My question(s) for you is this: what is your work ethic? What is your play ethic? What is your learning ethic? How are these related, if at all? Would you say you have a "strong work ethic"? How about the others?

Don't plumb the depths here -- just answer what occurs to you. You can answer one, some, or all of the above. You can answer a question I haven't come up with. I just want to hear what you think about these terms and what they mean to you.


What have you been doing over your summer vacation, Bob?

Ripping up the basement.

Here's some pictures of the destruction, with some opportunities for forensic electricianship, if you're interested. Any comments about the state of the basement and our plans for future furnishing are welcome.

Those plans currently include: ripping out the furring strips that have been driven into the brick wall, as well as the strips on the ceiling; painting the brick walls with drylok, and putting a stud wall up to replace the strips; putting drywall up on the walls and ceiling, after putting canister lights or other recessed lighting up between the joists.

Our end goal is to have a nice-looking furnished basement room with >6'6" height just about everywhere (floor-to-joist height is 6'8"), and with soffits as small and high as possible (I can walk under the radiator pipes, but not under the soffit around them with ceiling tile and trim as it was.)

Thoughts? Suggestions? Dire warnings of homeowner doom?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flowers in the Sun

We went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens yesterday. It was our first visit and we were impressed. I took a lot of pictures. I will spare you most of them. Here are some of my favorites. The pitcher plants were really amazing. They are native to North Carolina, but I had never seen a display this large and healthy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Innumeracy Footnote

One would have thought that Judd Gregg would have a clearer grasp of the significance of 0.479%, which is the proportion of Obama's proposed budget cut to the size of the budget.

I'd think he might think that'd be a significant proportion, since the state he represents (NH) is comprised of... 0.43% of the US population.

Apparently, he thinks his constituency are a "few pieces of sand" compared to the "Gobi desert".

Perhaps you feel like I've singled out Judd Gregg unfairly. In which case, I've got two responses.

First: hey, I'm lazy. I'm not monitoring all the politicians for their ridiculous innumeracies. But if you let me know about it, I _will_ post what analysis I can muster -- it's obvious I can't help it. (And yes, feel free to replace "analysis" with "smackdown".)

Second: maybe I do hold Mr. Gregg to a higher standard. I met him, I shook his hand, he said he'd do his best to serve New Hampshire, and he went to my high school. When he's intellectually lazy, it reflects on me. Step up or sit down, sir.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Swimming in Produce.

Summer vacation! I'm forced to stay home while they move our offices to a different building. Not only has the weather been great, but I got to go to two farmers' markets today.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Innumeracy followup

It's remarkably annoying to try to count out 200 grains of anything. So I played it safe -- I counted out 50 grains, what I'd spilled was over twice that, so I threw two more sprinkles on top. So that's definitely over 200 grains, probably around 300.

In other words, one of those grains is in proportion to that pile at the same ratio as Obama's budget cut is to the budget. That pile, in proportion to the Gobi Desert, is how inaccurate Judd Gregg's statement was.

Mr. Gregg's my first casualty -- take notice, politicos. You bring up the sand, you're in MY HOUSE.

Not a drop in the bucket, not a few "pieces" of sand.

So, Obama's proposed some cuts in government spending. Because it's only $17 billion, and the 2010 proposed budget is $3.55 trillion, this is described as a "modest" cut. On NPR, it is described as "less than one-half of one percent." Which is slightly misleading ("less than" is pretty broad -- a lot less, or a little less?) NPR characterizes criticism "that his cuts were but a drop in a $3.4 trillion spending bucket". (The $3.55 trillion number comes from VOA News. I don't know why there's a disparity.)

Or, here's some actual criticism from NH Republican Judd Gregg:
"It is as if this was the Gobi Desert or the Sahara Desert, and you came along and took a few pieces of sand off the desert"

This innumeracy I cannot abide.

$17 billion out of $3.55 trillion is 0.479 %. If I used NPR's $3.4 trillion figure, it'd be exactly 0.5 % (not less). "Less than one-half of one percent" sounds small. Even the fraction - 1/200 - looks pretty small. (That's for 0.5%. The fraction for 0.479% is 17/3550, which looks, well, not obviously smaller than 1/200.)

A drop is one sixtieth of a teaspoon, and a typical bucket is 10 quarts, which is 320 fluid ounces. And there's six teaspoons in a fluid ounce. So "a drop in a bucket" is .00000868 %, or 1/115200. Which IS A WHOLE LOT SMALLER.

Yes, I KNOW it's just an expression. If NPR is using "just an expression" to REPORT NEWS, they must be using it to give people a concrete idea of the proportion between the ($17Bn) budget cut and the ($3.55Tn) budget. And they're giving them the WRONG CONCRETE IDEA.

And we haven't even gotten to the understandably biased but nonetheless unacceptably hyperbolic Gregg. Let's assume that Gregg's an idiot (because it makes him look BETTER) and that by "pieces of sand" he means handfuls (if he meant grains of sand, he's just lying. Or so thoughtless about what he says that he hasn't even considered whether it's remotely true or not, which is about the same thing.) So, what's the proportion of a few handfuls of sand to the Gobi Desert? Making some more assumptions about Gregg's inadequate understanding of deserts, suppose he thinks the Gobi desert is uniformly one handful of sand thick. The Gobi Desert is 500,000 square miles. If we round up a few handfuls to a square foot, a square mile is 27,878,400 square feet, so Gregg's proportion is 1/13939200000000, or .00000000000717 %.

You want to know what would be like a drop in the bucket? A cut of $31 million. With all the generous assumptions we gave Gregg's assessment, his comparison would accurately correspond to a cut of...25 cents.

Maybe Gregg can afford to overlook the difference between $17 billion and 25 cents. After all, he's only off by 10 orders of magnitude. That's one drop out of 579,437 buckets, by the way.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

First Veggies of the Season

Rebecca was up bright and early Saturday, to get the best vegetables from our CSA at the Forest Hill Park farmer's market. It's good to be back in the veggies!

(Note: the above slide show has captions -- click the speech bubble that appears in the lower left corner when you hover over the slideshow after you click it to play.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Homemade vs. Store Bought

Slate has a fascinating little piece comparing the wonders of homemade versus store bought bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, jam, crackers, and granola. It provides both a price comparison and a taste comparison, as well as links to recipes. She gives the thumbs down to homemade crackers, which keep getting pushed to the bottom of my "to bake" list. But now I can't get the idea of homemade bagels out of my head.

Found via Re-Nest at a post which also links to an index of recipes for pantry staples from the kitchn (Apartment Therapy's food spin off).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bob's mobloggin'

These are some pretty flowers in our backyard. They've bloomed now that the ivy's not choking them. Oh, and I'm blogging this from my PHONE. I'm like all twenty-first century.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day Aftershock

An aftershock apparently can be larger than the original earthquake. Just now we had a 3.9 about half a mile closer than the one earlier this evening. Here's the USGS 411.

Earth Day ROCKS

Just had a 3.8 earthquake in the neighboring town of Yorba Linda. Technically the epicenter was about 8 miles from our house. Here's the USGS 411. Shook the house. Freaked out the dogs. I got to practice my cowering under a desk, a.k.a. Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Highly effective.

That's the third since we moved to California less than a year ago (here are the posts on July's and January's).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No learning, no responsibility

This is a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

A kid may well blame himself for doing poor on a math test by saying he's stupid, but that doesn't mean he's taken responsibility, that he's acknowledged that he's capable of doing better the next time.

I bring this up because I thought it was insightful. It ties in well with one of the deep seated myths of math (and possibly other academic fields): "Either you can do math, or you can't." If you think about it, this simply denies the whole notion of learning. And if you assume you can't learn, that implies you're not capable of doing better. So, you're not responsible, right?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Brunch Menu

Last Saturday we hosted our first party in California, a little brunch to welcome friends' new baby. I cooked like a mad woman and was rewarded with many compliments. Following please find the menu with links to all the recipes I could find.

  • Wild Rice and Quinoa Breakfast Stuffing - Back in February Mark Bittman wrote an article in The New York Times about rethinking breakfast. This recipe and the two following are all from that article.
  • Wheat Berries with Sesame, Soy Sauce, and Scallions
  • Polenta Pizza - I made the variation with mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and fresh basil.
  • Quiche - I omitted the ham, since I wasn't sure if there were any veggies in the crowd. Everyone seemed to like it regardless. I heard no cries of, "You know what this needs? HAM!"
  • Chocolate-Oatmeal Cupcakes With Maple-Bacon Butter Cream - On the same day as the aforementioned Bittman breakfast article ran, the Dining section also ran an article by Julia Moskin about chefs taking inspiration from diner breakfast items to create intricate desserts. This recipe was the least insane of the recipes printed with that article . . . and, yes, there is bacon grease in the frosting.
  • Whoopie Pies - I made these about a third the size the recipe calls for and served them in cupcake liners, which made for easy eating.
  • Baking Powder Biscuits - my own recipe that I'll save for another day.
  • Super Seven-Spice Potatoes from The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes.
  • Brie en Croute - my own recipe that I'll save for another day.
  • Eggs, sausage, & bacon - no recipes required.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

This week in pictures

It's been a fairly typical week. Cookies for the Math Tea, coaxing my plants to grow so that I can have some life on the deck, and taking in a little fun via the Monument Avenue Easter Parade.

Black and white cookies were a big hit. Fortunately there were some leftover to make a delicious Friday night dinner. (In conjunction with some matzo ball soup.)

My wimpy plants are hanging in there, but not super happy. The peppers look the most robust, but even they aren't close to ready for the real world.

Sunkissed blooms on Monument Ave. It was a really pretty day and everyone's gardens were blooming.

One great dog tongue picture. It did not seem like it would be possible for him to fit his tongue back into his mouth.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Fullerton Furrday

Shortly after we moved here, two drainage devices on the corner of State College and Yorba Linda were painted to look like old fashioned orange crates. I have wanted to get a picture of the dogs in front of these crates ever since. Between that and my need for a picture of myself for another purpose, this week we finally did a little photo shoot.
As you can probably tell, Augie just got his summer hairdo. David insisted we go on our entire walk before the photo shoot, so my hairdo looks a little mushed from my hat.
Izzy and I are looking at the camera . . . a certain dog who shall go unnamed is busy licking his nose.
We tried a sunnier side of the box with ears down . . .
. . . and with ears up.
By this time Izzy felt that the photo shoot was unduly delaying his breakfast time.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Container Garden: Seedlings First True Leaves

Six weeks from their start date, my seedlings are still doing their thing (see, e.g., parsley above and basil below the jump). They're a little leggy because they're sun exposure isn't quite optimal. Right now the basil and parsley have developed their first true leaves. This means it's time to start the grow juice.According to Container Gardening for Dummies by Bill Marken and the Editors of the National Gardening Association (1998) (which is out of print and only has about a page on starting from seeds), at two weeks seedlings are ready for a little fertilizer. CG4D recommends the weekly application of a water soluble fertilizer mixed at half the strength described on the package.

The Gardener's Guide to Starting and Growing Plants from Seeds disagrees.

Once the first true leaves (the second set to emerge) develop, you can begin to feed your plants. Up until this time the seedlings have been being nourished from the seed itself. Fertilizing should be still done from the bottom at this point, using a very dilute 1/4 strength mix of soluble all purpose plant food once a week. When the plants have reached about 3 inches you can begin to water and feed the plants from above.
My tomato seedling still hasn't developed its first true leaves. I think the strain for sunshine might have been fatal.The two tomato plants I bought at the Fullerton Arboretum are doing O.K. Hopefully they will succeed where my tomato seedling appears to be failing.

Previous container garden posts:

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