Thursday, July 31, 2008

This can not be real

Yeah... uhm... I'll bet it won't forget. Damn. In the Republicans favor, the elephant wasn't clothed and thus was "asking for it".

via Wonkette

Blog Post Title of the Day

'Portrait of an Artest as a Crazy Man'

I'll admit you have to know a little about the NBA to think it's at all amusing, but that's definitely a winner in my opinion.

The Hannity Strategy

David Kiley:
What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie.
The ad mentioned here, is one I haven't linked to... and won't... it's actually worse than the one below, and contains outright fabrications... not just insanity. It will be interesting to see what the press calls him on if this continues. As I said, I think they're on the verge of rebelling, but loudly repeating lies until people start believing you is something that has worked very well for Republicans... it's pretty much all they know, and they've gotten good at it. The question ends up being whether people really are tired of the "same old politics" or not. We shall see.

Stick a fork in him

That's possibly the dumbest political ad I've ever seen. It's lack of even a remotely credible charge against Obama shows how desperate they are. This is where the Mainstream Media finally gets off the "Straight Talk Express" and starts going "WTF dude?"

Keep going with the ridiculous ads My Friend... that means more of this:

You've got to feel sorry for someone who is willing to completely trash their reputation to get elected. Stay Classy McCain.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You better LOVE these frickin' books

Just sayin'.

Also, NEW RULE: Jason does not walk to anyplace that is "just a bit farther that Darwin's" unless you gotz exact mileage and a map to give him. Jeebus.

What if Orwell was a blogger?

via The Dish

Gordon at Harry's Place lays it out:

The diaries will be published in blog form on the George Orwell prize website each day 70 years after they were first written, opening up a wonderful opportunity to acquaint and reacquaint with Orwell in a very accessible way, offering eyewitness accounts from the 1930s on everything from unemployment, fascism and communism, but also his musings on the natural world.

The project kicks off on August 9th and covers an important part of his life as a writer, beginning just before the period he spent recovering from tuberculosis in Morocco in 1938 and immediately following his time in Spain during the Spanish civil war, which led to the writing of ‘Homage to Catalonia’, my favourite Orwell book, and when he was writing his 1939 novel ‘Coming up for Air’.

I've never read his diaries, despite considering myself a serious fan of his work... so I'm pretty excited at this opportunity. Definitely looking forward to it. So many questions... did he have cats? Will there be pictures?

No-cook Pasta Sauce

I made a version of said "no-cook sauce" last night and was relatively pleased. Never had it before, and I honestly can't say I've had anything like it... but I tend to avoid pasta salads because of their general blandness. A no-cook sauce is something like a pasta salad, but all about the freshness and ripeness of the tomatoes and the general quality of ingredients.

I don't have the recipe in front of me, but it was incredibly simple and I think it amounted to: 1.5 pounds of tomatoes from the Farmer's Market, 1 pound of cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 8 ounces of mozzarella, 3 green onions, and one clove of garlic.

The recipe called for coring and seeding the tomatoes, which makes it a little bit more work intensive than you might expect... but when you are only cooking pasta and mixing the sauce in a bowl, you can't complain too much. Medium dice for the seeded tomatoes, and also for the mozzarella. Slice the scallions thin. Combine the tomatoes, oil, minced garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, into a bowl and then cook the pasta. Mix the mozzarella and scallions into the sauce and then add to the pasta.

Not too many recipes that are simpler than this, but ingredients are everything. I've only made it once, but I could instantly tell that I used generic olive oil and a "meh" mozzarella... the tomatoes rocked, and are certainly the most important part... but this is where you use the ridiculously expensive oil and see its value.

I'll definitely be making it again, as tomatoes are in season up here... it might even be a good opportunity to concoct how to get my herb garden involved.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

lfm lawyerz, no gheyz

via Kevin Drum

As a continuation of this post from yesterday, we get some exciting news about Teh Powers of Teh Internetz for use in the illegal politicization(and sexual discrimination!) of civil service jobs! Daniel Drezner has uncovered the vaunted search string a White House liaison was using to vet DOJ candidates:
[first name of a candidate] and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

Spotted Owl? Really?

I've never used Lexis/Nexis and don't have access regardless, so I have no idea how effective such a string would be in rooting out liberal lawyers... but I guess it's a little bit more crafty than asking an interviewee "Why are you a Republican?"

Knife and Preparation Skills Class

So I did decide to do that class on Knife Skillz at the Cambridge Adult Ed that I mentioned previously. It's two consecutive Mondays, with last night being the first 3 hour class... so I can give a bit of a review. The class maxes out at 16, with 13 signing up, and 8 actually showing. The kitchen in Cambridge is not so fancy (word on the street is that Boston Adult Ed is much better), and counter space seemed a little cramped even with only 8 people. Lars (the chef) brought a variety of your basic knives(chef knives, slicers, and paring knives) and a bunch of things to chop. I had never even really seen a "slicer" before, and certainly never used one, but he made a pretty good case for it being essential for cutting thin slices of anything. He went over the theory and what makes a good quality knife, and how you should store and care for them (magnetic rack shown above being his favorite). Also, he's a fan of the Epicurean recycled paper cutting boards... no feet so it'll slide, so you need to put a wet paper towel down underneath... the advantage being you can just flip it over and cut on the other side instead of washing the board. I gotta say I think I still prefer wood/bamboo but his points about problems with warping were solid... I think the answer is to just not leave it sitting in water, no?

Overall, nothing amazingly earth shattering was imparted, but it was really nice to see the correct techniques get demonstrated and get an opportunity to practice them with some hands on instruction. I've never really been taught the proper way to handle a knife... just sort of picked it up by watching people cook in person and on television, so obviously there were some serious corrections to be made. The obvious one is using the "non-knife hand" to secure what you're cutting and keeping the side of that blade in contact with your knuckles. I think we all know vaguely what you are supposed to do there, but actually doing it, while not being scared you are going to chop off your fingers, is another matter entirely. So it was good to get to practice that... though I'm not appreciably better at it after a mere 3 hours of instruction, I would say I have the fundamental idea down enough that I will slowly get more proficient at it over time. The other big one was "cutting not pressing", which I don't think I really thought about much before. Basically it just means to be pulling(with something the doesn't require much force, like celery) or pushing (when more force is required, like a potato) your knife as you bring it down. That's not exactly an alien concept to me, but I don't think I was consciously trying to ensure I was doing it all the time... and it really does make a big difference... especially as you are trying to cut something into strips before you dice it... pulling/pushing the knife will help keep those strips together, while just pushing down pushes everything out away from you and requires significantly more force (and is thus less safe).

In the end we cut a lot of celery, onions, and some potatoes and herbs. He demonstrated several specific onion cuts, including the dice I'm such a fan of, and how to julienne to a dice with the celery and potatoes. One good thing to learn was how to use a paring knife to prep an onion, which I had never done... in fact, I pretty much never even use a paring knife, so that was pretty handy... though it's yet another thing to that will take a lot of practice to become reasonably competent at. The last hour he used a lot of the vegetables we cut up to make French Onion soup and New England Clam Chowder which we then ate. There were still a lot of left over onions, but at least we were able to use some of it. At $123 dollars it is a bit on the pricey side, but not too unreasonable I think. So far I'd say it's worth it, but we'll see how next week goes.

photo by flickr user Andy Ciordia used under a Creative Commons License

Monday, July 28, 2008

“George Bush, great President or the greatest President?”

I'm not sure how much mainstream America pays attention to these kinds of stories, but a new report was released today about the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the Department of Justice. I think we already knew most of this, in at least broad terms, but the report does add some juicy details, like how Monica Goodling is apparently living breathing Stephen Colbert bit. You thought it was satire, but alas...
Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said.

While not being nearly as amusing, this is probably the most egregious example of their misconduct:
An experienced counterterrorism prosecutor, for example, was kept from advancing in favor of a more junior lawyer who lacked a background in terrorism.

I guess we should feel good that there was some friendly fire from the loyalty tests:
"Apparently the political screening was so pervasive that even qualified Republican applicants were rejected...because they were 'not Republican enough' for Monica Goodling and others," Conyers said.

Now, with a report alleging violations of civil service law by multiple people you might think there would have to be some legal proceedings or something in the works... but if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Yay corruption!

The Jack Bauer School of Law

A pretty depressing article by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick on how a fictional character was the model for torturing false confessions out of people:
If you're a fan of 24, you'll enjoy The Dark Side. There you will meet Mamdouh Habib, an Australian captured in Pakistan, beaten by American interrogators with what he believed to be an "electric cattle prod," and threatened with rape by dogs. He confessed to all sorts of things that weren't true. He was released after three years without charges. You'll also meet Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who experienced pretty much the same story, save that the beatings were with electrical cables. Arar was also released without explanation. He's been cleared of any links to terrorism by the Canadian government. Jack Bauer would have known these men were not "ticking time bombs" inside of 10 minutes. Our real-life heroes had to torture them for years before realizing they were innocent.
If we are going to base our national security policies on a TV show, why not Airwolf? That would be much cooler and involve significantly less torture.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boom goes the dynamite?

If you don't get that reference, you can click here. So, scant days after I posted something lamenting the lack of bounce my man Obama was seeing... Nate Silver tells us that Rasmussen has him up by 6 now, and Gallup by 7.

Single digits are no good; we can do better My Friends.

Still not lovin' police...

...but lovin' $350 headphones. You still lovin' the streets? Every day is D.R.E. Day as far as I'm concerned, but WTF man. And you can bleed me for a lot of headphone money. Maybe for my birthday.


Regardless, I hear they're a nice piece of ironmongery.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Dark Knight

So I went to see that tonight. I sort of expected to play the Keyboard Kommando and thus tell you what a farce the Heath Ledger thing was... you know, contrary to popular reports. But I can't.

That was it.

That was The Joker.

That's how it is done, and I can only hope the Batman writers at DC were taking notes. Yeah. I said it. The movie Joker was better than the comic book version... and yes I own Killing Joke.

The movie itself had some issues, but there will never ever be a question as to who is The Joker. From here on out there will only be imitators.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama seems to be kicking ass while McCain flounders; why don't the polls show it?

These polls, for example, show a tightening of the race in battleground states even while it seems Obama is knocking everything out of the park. Steve Benen isn't sure whether to be nervous or not, while Kevin Drum thinks it's time to start measuring for drapes in the Oval Office, and Josh Marshall says to look long term. I honestly don't know what's going on, but I waffle between acknowledgment that it's not even August yet and most people aren't paying attention... and, well, the guy is a black man who is loved by Europeans, so no matter how much the country wants to elect a Democrat, lingering racism and xenophobia could be exploited to still lose it for him.

There are, however, two competing historical analogies that are bouncing around to help explain what's going on. One is the 1996 comparison where McCain=Dole since they're both crusty old war heroes; this is the analogy favored by wet-blanket John Judis. If you buy this one, then Obama is pretty freakin' screwed... since Bill Clinton was up by 10-15 points this time of year against the bumbling Dole campaign. However, just like Ed Kilgore, everything but the McCain=Dole part of this analogy strikes me as wrong. Clinton was an incumbent and thus already a known commodity to the American people.

Kilgore goes on to list even more possible historical analogies, but I prefer his first... 1980:
While John McCain is not, like Jimmy Carter, an incumbent with a lot of problems, he's close enough to the actual incumbent and his deeply unpopular views and record to get very contaminated by him. And Barack Obama, like Ronald Reagan, is a candidate whose main challenge seems to be overcoming a relatively low threshold of acceptability by an electorate that wants a party change in the White House. It's sometimes forgotten that the 1980 race was actually quite close until the last couple of weeks, when Reagan appears to have crossed that threshold and voters broke decisively in his direction...

I think, much like Reagan/Carter, this race is probably going to stay close until the debates... where, while not nearly as good a debater(and McCain is pretty good) as set piece speaker, Obama should be able to pretty easily appear "presidential" enough for the undecideds to break to him. I think the bar will be set pretty low for him, so he should be able to easily clear it.

I would however, be much more confident with a 10-15 point lead right now.

Daily Show: Obama's Berlin speech

One of the better bits they've had in a while... worth the embedding.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Just saw this over at Cogitamus:

Pretty easy tools to embed a slide show onto your blog. I like it, though it doesn't do well with wordy descriptions like mine. Website here.

The Berlin Speech

Not his most bestest speech, but he threaded the needle pretty well with crafting a pretty interesting, yet non controversial, speech about international affairs... not an easy task. Also, that was a lot of Germans. Waving American flags even. Remember when they shut down the city of Mainz because they were afraid of Bush protesters? Good times.

Right now, the right wing talking points appear to be that trying to convince Europe that terrorism is a global challenge is unAmerican and disrespectful, and that the United States isn't a part of the world. Uhm yeah.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Uncomfortable Analogies

Fred Kaplan has a typically smart and well rounded take on why McCain's foreign policy credentials are going down the toilet as he makes mistake after mistake whenever he opens his mouth... but I have to raise issue with one statement in the article: red ants on a wounded puppy.

Uhm, OK, WTF dude. That's not only a "vivid" analogy, but also a perverse one. What did puppies ever do to you?

Wait, is God an elected official?

Also, McCain can apparently launch fighter planes OUT OF HIS HEAD. If that doesn't qualify you for President I don't know what does.

An example of McCain's wisdom would probably not be the assertion that 2006 actually happened after 2007. However, with his demonstrated ability to create mind planes, it can't be ruled out that he can bend the space-time continuum.

Post of the Day

Matthew Yglesias on the latest out of the wing-nut-o-sphere:
Not only is this a political flier meant to influence American voters via the Deutchland, it is seriously unnerving propaganda. What are the Obama people thinking? This is nuts.

Surely we can all agree that something is nuts here.



via Ezra Klein

The article itself is kind of lame and boring and focuses on how men don't think of cooking as unmanly anymore... uhm, yeah, and I don't think that is particularly new, but whatever... give credit to Gordon Ramsey if you want, I don't care... but I do find it to be an interesting starting point as to how food and cooking can work in relationships.

I started cooking for reals about the time I started dating Anna, and while I'm not sure it was an effort to charm her, it did give us an extra something to do together that was both fun during the process and even ended with us having something to eat. I think this is especially important for us since I'm an omnivore with a somewhat poor relationship with vegetables and she's a vegan... if we didn't cook together, food might have ended up being a barrier between us since we really couldn't share too much. We still cook on our own, and often make things the other can't or won't eat, but some of our best times have been dishes we've spent all day cooking together and I think it's a pretty key part of our relationship.

I think everyone who cooks knows that cooking for yourself really isn't the same as cooking with your partner or with friends... in fact, one of the reasons I blog about cooking is to try and bring some of that necessary social aspect into it even when I'm doing it just for me. What I've found sort of interesting is that all it takes is to have Anna around, even if I'm making something she won't eat, to make cooking more fun... I guess because she'll appreciate it even if she thinks it's gross? Regardless, when Anna is in Maine I eat much worse (i.e. lots of takeout) than I do when she is here... even though we probably don't cook together more than once or twice a month.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Magnificent

He's one of the Godfather's of scratch. When he juggles "Hold Up" it gives me goose bumps because that is some hard shit.

Counting to 4

I would never consider myself a Feist fan, but going on Sesame Street will always win you props:

Hipster parents are saved! Up to 4 anyway. You'll need Beck or somebody for the others I guess.

Too many belts, not enough onions

Tattoos are the emblems of our age. They bristle from the biceps of men in summer shirts, from the lower backs of women as they ascend stairs, from the shoulders of basketball players as they drive toward the basket, and from every inch of certain celebrities. The tattoo is the battle flag of today in its war with tomorrow. It is carried by sure losers.

I find it shocking... absolutely shocking... that Richard Cohen talks about tattoos like an old man.


via Ben Smith

Who do you think is winning the news cycle right now?

Architect of the Srebrenica massacre captured

Yglesias has the best post on this that I have seen because, despite the lack of analysis, he has all the relevant links that you'd need to assure yourself that today is a good day to be a humanitarian(isn't every day? Yes, but today is SUPER special). Pay special attention to the Washington Monthly article if you're like "Massacre-what-now!?" War criminal Radovan Karadzic is in the custody of Serbian security forces, and may he rot in The Hague to the end of his days.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Ron Perlman was in Ice Pirates?

Yes he was.

Just sayin'.


The current King of Sci-Fi.

Trump Cards

Marc Ambinder ask how the narrative on Iraq is shaping up:
A thought for the day: the political class has determined that Barack Obama was right about the Iraq war and that John McCain was right about the Surge. Does one right trump another? Or, as the war re-polarizes along party lines, do they cancel each other out?

And it's clear that the Iraqi government wants U.S. troops out more quickly than John McCain does, whilst U.S. generals want to send troops home more slowly than Obama does. Who trumps who?

Who trumps who? Well, I'd say that THE ECONOMY trumps Iraq. Now more than ever.

It doesn't really matter who "wins" on Iraq at this point, all that matters is that the idea that McCain somehow dwarfs Obama on matters of foreign policy is being throw out the window. Even among pundits with giant man-crushes on McCain's manly manliness. As long as Obama's foreign policy judgment and vision are arguably superior/equivalent to McCain's, then Obama takes it on points... since foreign policy is the only area McCain even had a shot at.

If you want to take a look at his economic credentials, read Frank Rich's Op-Ed:

The term flip-flopping doesn’t do justice to Mr. McCain’s self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there’s some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence, as if he were compulsively consulting one of those old Magic 8 Balls. In a single 24-hour period in April, Mr. McCain went from saying there’s been “great economic progress” during the Bush presidency to saying “Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago.” He reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks.

In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he’d accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he’s again saying he’ll do it in his first term. Why not just say he’ll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn’t matter since he’s never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.


Republicans: "We're F*cked"

The "big news" of the weekend was an interview the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, gave to the German magizine Der Spiegel, in which he endorsed Senator Obama's plan for withdrawal. The NYT translates the comments, directly from the Arabic, thusly:
Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq... Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.

Did he just say that Obama has a better assessment of the situation on the ground than John McCain? He sure did. Did the head of the supposedly sovereign and democratic government of Iraq say that it's time for troops to leave, with a 16 month timetable being a good starting point? Yup.

There seemed to me, to be only one plausible way for McCain(if we assume he wouldn't go the Super Slime route) to win in a year when all the fundamentals favor the Democratic nominee in a staggering fashion (i.e. economy, incredibly unpopular incumbent, etc.)... and that was to play to fears of terrorism and go after Obama's alleged inexperience in foreign affairs. He's not going to win on the economy, healthcare, or taxes... so what else does he have?

With Maliki's statement, McCain's adoption of Obama's plans for Afghanistan, and the Bush administration's acquiescence on opening up dialog with Iran... it doesn't seem like foreign policy criticism makes a whole lot of sense... though it appears the McCain may completely ignore the will of the Iraqi people and just talk about the surge until the end of time. I have my doubts that many voters really give a damn about the surge, as it merely prolonged a war they've wanted out of for years. The fact that the Iraqi people are asking us to leave seems to give everybody an easy out... except the neocons who wanted permanent bases(100 years), but they've already lost that argument. It's not happening, so it's only a matter of time until we get out, and both Iraqis and Americans agree that sooner is better than later. Will Americans be persuaded that a flexible time table is likely to trigger the Apocalypse when it's what the Iraqi's want too? I doubt it.

Apparently Maliki and Obama are meeting today, so it will be interesting to see whether any further clarification comes out of this. Will he make a statement in front of cameras reiterating the need for prompt withdrawal? Unlikely, since it appears Bush & Co have leashed him a bit... but it does add a little spice to the visit.

UPDATE: via Christopher Orr at the Plank, the AP is reporting:
Iraq's government spokesman is hopeful that U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010. Ali al-Dabbagh made the comments following a meeting in Baghdad on Monday between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day.

The timeframe is similar to Obama's proposal to pull back combat troops within 16 months. The Iraqi government has been trying to clarify its position on a possible troop withdrawal since al-Maliki was quoted in a German magazine last week saying he supported Obama's timetable.

So they've "clarified"(in English) from 16 months to 18 months? And if you start counting from January 2009 when Obama would take office, 16 months would actually put you in 2010. Quite the walkback, eh?

Oh, the quote in the title of this post is a quote from an actual Republican strategist, by the way.

UPDATE II: Now we have video.

Sounded to me like he said "end of 2010" which would put him something like 67 months later than Obama.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Every Dead Person Deserves Epi

So I finished my ACLS practical and the written exam and passed, so you best hope that I'm not running the code if you go down(don't worry I won't be). To my discredit, I really didn't treat it very seriously coming into Day 1... after all, I'm never going to be running a code and won't even be a member of a code team... I was sent to get ACLS certified a) because Spaulding was paying for it and b) if anyone does have an event in our lab, I will know how to do CPR and use the AED while we wait for the code team to come. All I really need is BLS, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be able to recognize rhythms and to know what is going on when the code is being run. Despite this, I was so lost and afraid that I was going to embarrass myself by failing, that I actually studied pretty hard last night, and thus the review on Day 2 was pretty smooth. It helps that it's really a fascinating field. One thing that was particularly interesting was that they did a good job of going over the evidence of efficacy for all the different procedures, and how strong or weak the evidence was for or against was for each. For example, Amiodarone is recommended as a second line agent after epinephrine in ventricular fibrillation, but it hasn't been shown to be more effective in that regard than Lidocaine and it is more involved to use... so it depends on your personal preference at this point, though that may change. So there's at least some indications of evidence based medicine being applied here.

In addition to getting myself interested in the field, I also managed to get myself on a Super Team with the head of PM&R (my boss's boss) and two other physicians, so I think that might have made it a little easier, as they threw the genuine complicated code at Dr. Zafonte and everyone else was ready to chime in with advice. I was given symptomatic sinus bradycardia as my code to run, and dove right for the atropine (0.5 if alive). The only mistake I (almost) made was giving nitro counter chest pain despite low blood pressure, luckily I asked for a little help from the peanut gallery on that one since I knew there were contraindicators but couldn't remember them.

Thankfully, neither the practical nor the written test required identification of A/V blocks, which are a bitch. However they did require us to go home and watch the YouTube video "Diagnosis Wenckebach" (think Justin Timberlake's Sexyback).

This will probably only qualify as AWESOME if you are a "health care provider"... otherwise it may seem a little stupid, but hey.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

The Watchmen trailer is out. (Be warned the site is Firefox unfriendly, meh) I'm getting a little superhero fatigue with Dark Knight, Hellboy II, and Ironman... but it's not out for almost a year, so I should be well rested by then.

Looks faithful to the source material, but I'm a little worried about this one for some reason... I guess it seems like it will be hard to get right. I mean, Batman and Tony Stark are complicated characters with some issues, but they've got nothing on Rorschach and The Comedian.

I will soon begin training to save your life: let us all pray that it doesn't come to that, as you would be screwed

I'm off today because I have to come in to work Saturday and Sunday to get ACLS certified(Advanced Cardiac Life Support)... so the powers that be recommended taking some time during the week to make up for the extra work. As per Anna's suggestion, I will probably work all of next week and save it as an extra day when I'm headed up to Maine... but today I shall be cleaning the apartment, getting a haircut, and maybe going to the grocery store.

I really don't need to be trained in ACLS, since I work in a hospital with a code team, but it can't hurt can it? I'm actually pretty excited by it as I've never learned anything beyond BLS(Basic Life Support i.e. CPR) I've spent much of the last 10 years looking at an EKG recording, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you the difference between A-Fib and V-Tach if you asked (thankfully that's because we have never run in to either, knock on wood).

So blogging may be light over the next few days.

I'm soooooooo glad that YouTube didn't exist when I was 13

What totally makes this video,as Tycho points out, is that he didn't only recreate all the Halo weapons in cardboard... he also, personally, recreates the animations... including reloading said cardboard weapons, because sci-fi cardboard weapons that don't get reloaded are entirely unrealistic.

I hope that it doesn't seem that I'm overly full of mock here... if I had been born 20 years later I probably wouldn't have made Halo weapons out of cardboard, but I probably would have been the friend that said "This is so cool!" It's plausible I would have held the camera.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yeah, but Obama made appeasement cool, you guys are just biters

The Guardian sez:
The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

Wasn't it only in May that talking to Iran was the equivalent of giving Hilter the Sudetenland? Then yesterday, the White House went an announced that it was sending William Burns to, uhm, negotiate with "terrorists". And now we're sending diplomats to Iran proper. I don't really know what to make of this. Has the non-insane wing of the White House finally managed to completely marginalize Cheney and his neocon buddies? I'd like to think so, as I've been expecting a surprise bombing of Iran ever since that Seymour Hersh article detailing the secret(well, I guess not that secret) planning of the crazies.

Part of me though thinks that this is some weird cynical ploy to continue with the new "No, really... hear me out, hear me out... I'm not joking... it's Obama who is running for Bush's third term!" line of attack. Like, "Obama wants to talk terrorist states like Iran... just like Bush!" At least I hope that's what happens, as it would be so absurd that I couldn't help but enjoy the surreality of it all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Netflix streaming on Xbox?

Oh yeah. Coming this fall apparently. Now, this development doesn't matter so much to me because my PC and 360 are all hooked to the same 32" LCD monitor that sits in our living room... and thus I've been watching Netflix and Hulu streaming video on the big screen for ages. However, there are 12 million Xbox Live members compared to the pittance of people who have computers hooked to their TVs, so this can only mean good things for "on demand" online video, of which I'm #1 SUPERFAN.

Don't get too excited though:
There are a few catches, though. Microsoft touted the streaming service as free, but that’s not exactly true. First, you’ll need to be a Gold-level member of Xbox Live, which costs $50 a year. And you’ll need to be a Netflix member, obviously. Even then, only membership above the base Netflix plan of $4.99 will get you access to the streaming service.

What's more, you won’t get a crack at every piece of entertainment in Netflix’s 100,000-piece library. Subscribers to this streaming/Xbox Live service may only choose from a smaller subset of 10,000 movies and TV shows.

I can confirm, however, that among those 10,000 movies and TV shows are Clash of the Titans and all the seasons of Voltron. Pretty sweet. Honestly, while there are some good things on it, it's pretty easy to exhaust the selection and to find yourself wondering whether it's worth watching something fairly terrible. The absolute best thing is that every episode of Heroes is instantly available, and they've been doing a good job of adding new and not awful movies. My hope is that with the Xbox partnership the licensing deals will be much easier to make, and thus increase the selection to something more like Unbox... but without the Unbox price model ($0.99-$3.99 each individual "rental").

One thing to make clear is that your internet connection determines the video quality... 1 megabit per second is the minimum, and is only "standard definition" (TV quality)... 3 megabit per second is what you need for DVD quality.

UPDATE: Here are the official bitrates from the site(from a page that is only available to members).
High 1.6-2.2 or greater Mbps
Good 1.0-1.5 Mbps
Basic <1.0 Mbps
My regular DSL line rates as "high" and I wouldn't say it's DVD quality, but I see no explicit claim to that affect... so I'm sort of curious as to what it really ends up being. I guess I'll have to watch a movie to do some more research, darn.

UPDATE II: OK, it looks like Pan's Labyrinth was DVD quality or really close... it was widescreen at least. Justice League: New Frontiers was standard though, even though it's newer. They don't pixelate and stretch standard definition though at least... and probably the reason I thought they weren't capable of DVD quality was that I haven't watched many of the more, ah, "dramatic" offerings, as I'm more interested in Escape from New York and Once Upon a Time in China.

"I am learning to get online myself" Part II-

via Jonathan Chait

From the Vanity Fair postmortem of the Clinton campaign, it seems that McCain wasn't the only major candidate with big decision makers still living in 1996:
Such was the hubris of Hillary’s team that they discounted Obama as a passing pop star to non-voters. reported that at a November 2007 Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa, where 9,000 people showed up, 3,000 were already for Obama. “Our people look like caucus-goers,” Mandy Grunwald sniffed, “and his [Obama’s] people look like they are 18. Penn said they look like Facebook.”

“Did they sleep through the 2003–4 election cycle?” asks an incredulous Joe Trippi, referring to Howard Dean and his new form of communication. As the pioneer who kick-started the bottom-up, low-dollar style of campaigning, tapping grassroots organizers and “newbies” for Dean through the Internet, Trippi was appalled that the Clinton machine stuck with a top-down, status-quo campaign. But the Clintons were out of touch with new forms of communication. Bill Clinton still doesn’t use e-mail or own a BlackBerry.

Why hadn’t they been using the Internet all along as a bulging cash register the way the Obama forces were doing? Hillary’s team had held a retreat in the fall of ’07 to huddle with propeller heads from Google and Yahoo, hoping to update their Internet savvy, but basically gave up on trying. “We tried direct mail but we couldn’t come close to him,” admits one member of Clinton’s brain trust. “Obama tapped a different sensibility. They had a more, uh, viral [i.e., spreads by itself] campaign.” The very word “viral” in his mouth sounded foreign.
Emphasis mine.

Now, me personally, I hope to never work in a job where I need to own a Blackberry to do it properly. I don't want to spend all my time tapping out terse incoherent one line e-mails like those crack heads do... but I understand that some people are important enough that they need to stay in contact with their underlings as they travel about and a cell phone is a little too intrusive and time consuming to manage. Bill Clinton isn't President anymore and he wasn't running for it this year, so maybe he's not one of those people... though if I was donating to his foundation I might wonder about his command and control of the organization.

We only have an N of 3 here, but it does seem that the one campaign that is completely integrated with modern technology is both extremely well organized and message disciplined, while the other two are/were mainly studies in chaos. I don't want to oversell the Power of the Internet, since it is mainly a resource for finding pr0n and posting pictures of your cat... but the contrast is interesting.

photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user Dan_H

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Boston bubble

Inspired by this Paul Krugman post, looking at data presented on Calculated Risk, I decided to look at the Case-Shiller data for Boston, since they kindly provided the link to the Excel spreadsheet which provides data for 20 metropolitan areas. I can't say I completely understand the index, but it's a housing price indicator that is normalized to the value at Jan 2000 (inflation adjusted as well), that is calculated from repeat sales so that it's more resistant to sampling problems.

What Krugman said to intrigue me is:
If real prices of houses in places like LA return to historical norms — and there’s no reason to think they won’t — many, many borrowers with conforming loans will end up with big negative equity anyway, and this in turn will produce a lot of defaults.

This crisis is a long way from being over.

Now, I'll ignore the the macro question, and leave that to... you know... actual economists and focus on the whether I should expect housing prices to continue to decline near where I live. I am a very happy renter, and am not possessed of the drive to own property as a validation of my existence or as an indication of success as a person... but at the same time it would be nice to be able to paint my walls at least. Maybe get a dishwasher (gasp!). So I've begun to consider condos in the Porter Square area... not too seriously, as we're nowhere near ready to do anything like that... but it would be nice to know whether prices will still be dropping in a year or two. One problem, is that the Boston area used in this index extends into New Hampshire... and I suspect there are differential effects on places within Boston and Cambridge and places far from the city, but you go with what you've got.

Here's my plot of the Boston data, displayed in a form similar to CR's plot of LA prices:

As you can see, our peak was a lot earlier than most places... hitting in 2006, whereas many areas have only been seeing noticeable declines in the last year. In the same pattern noted by Calculated Risk, the fastest appreciation and subsequent depreciation has been in the bottom two tiers.

Calculated Risk states:
In a number of previous housing busts, real prices declined for 5 to 7 years before finally hitting bottom. If this bust follows that pattern, we will continue to see real price declines for several more years - but if that happens, the rate of decline will probably slow (imagine somewhat of a bell curve on those graphs).

However, with the record foreclosure activity, prices might adjust quicker than normal (lenders are less prone to sticky prices than ordinary homeowners).

Really? It could be as long as 2013 before prices stop declining? Ouch. It did take 6 or 7 years for Boston housing prices to reach their peak, so it would make sense for it to take equally long to fall back down to "historical norms"... all Gaussian like. The one thing I wonder is how much of this bubble is related to gas being like $1.50 a gallon in 2000 and $4.50 a gallon now? If it's playing any kind of significant role, then I would think houses near public transportation (like where I live) would be less likely to lose value.

Liberal Blogosphere gets satire lesson

I think there are enough things going on these days and with this administration to get OUTRAGED about that I wasn't particularly moved by the "New Yorker Cover" flap/gate or whatever you want to call it, and thus just rolled my eyes as people with whom I generally agree complained about it.

However, Jon Swift nails the inanity so well I had to link him. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Tom Tomorrow also nails the problem of ”your so-called art does not advance our cause, comrade!”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Commence Fallout 3 drooling/hatin'

So, the new trailer is out with some footage of actual gameplay for the game Fallout 3 that is coming out for the 360, PS3, and PC in the Fall. Now, if you're the type of person who knows what No Mutants Allowed is, think the only acceptable Fallout 3 is an isometric turn based RPG, and/or thought that Fallout 2 sucked because it wasn't "Fallout enough", then I should warn you that this video footage might enrage you. However, you are probably following the game you hate with the fire of a thousand suns more rabidly than any fanboy, so this warning is both late and pointless. As someone who put hundreds of hours into both Fallout 1 & 2 AND Morrowind & Oblivion(unpossible!), I found this trailer to be fairly awesome. It's got some graphic video game violence, hence the annoying age question on the trailer, so if that's not your thing than you might want to avoid it... but I urge you to watch the opening vignette because it has none of that, and is an excellent piece of 50's futurism satire for which the series is famed (among nerds like me, anyway).

So, a lot of killing stuff and things exploding... which is sort of what every video game trailer includes (except maybe the new Puzzle Quest), but if you're not a fan of the Elder Scrolls games, this isn't going to reassure you that Bethesda is making a game where the "RPG elements" are significantly improved from Oblivion (for non nerds those are things like storyline and non-combat options like conversation trees). The problem with that critique is that the navigation of conversation trees generates very little hype and very few preorders, which is the express purpose of trailers. Honestly, I'd be happier if Bioware was making it too, but that's pretty much because I wish Bioware made half of my games and Blizzard the other half.

If you want to see a more extensive demonstration of combat, another video was released showing a narrated session:

I seems pretty interesting that you can either play it like an FPS or do more of a pause and queue orders style. I can't help but wonder how it's going to play, but it certainly looks like a seamless integration.

UPDATE: Here's a video from G4tv. It's pretty much the same walkthrough but with a lot more talking/exposition by executive producer Tod Howard. A few new elements were the demonstration of the lockpicking mini-game and character made launcher that could fire teddy bears.

Scientists confirm: Derek Jeter Sucks

An interesting article up on Slate today that all non-Yankee fans will enjoy:
Articles in the "Jeter sucks" canon include: James Click's "Did Derek Jeter Deserve the Gold Glove?" from the book Baseball Between the Numbers, Tom Tango's "With or Without Derek Jeter" from the Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008, Bill James' "Jeter vs. [Adam] Everett" from John Dewan's The Fielding Bible, and Mike Emeigh's "Derek Jeter and the State of Fielding Analysis in Sabermetrics, Parts 1 Through 8" (really). The gist of all these articles is that Jeter generally makes the plays he gets to (in fact, it turns out he's slightly better than most shortstops at charging slow ground balls and handling balls hit right at him), but he gets to many, many fewer than he should. As fielding-stat pioneer Michael Humphries explained it to me, "Basically, he's OK at easy plays and terrible on all others, in other words, all the plays that matter." That patented jumping, twisting throw to first? Probably just a byproduct of his limited range. As the Onion once declared, "Experts: Jeter Probably Didn't Need To Jump To Throw That Guy Out."

Despite my engineering background, I've never been much of a stat guy... I don't gamble and don't play Fantasy Football/Baseball so they don't really mean much to me. Arguments of the "You think player X is good, but stat Y shows that he is in fact terrible" can be fun of course, but they tend to go around in circles as it tends to depend on which stats you think are important(QB rating or yards per attempt for example). Here though, we seem to have a unified front on the matter of Derek Jeter being a terrible fielder, which is not something I had heard before (but I haven't been following baseball too closely these days). The author brings up some good points about how fielding percentage is a pretty awful way to gauge defense, since it doesn't really measure how many plays you actually make. It's an argument I remember people making about Cal Ripken Jr., that despite the fact that he hardly ever made errors he couldn't make "tough plays" because of his lack of range. The response to that was that he positioned himself to make everything look easy and acrobatic plays unnecessary, but to my knowledge there was no objective stat for any of that back in the 80's... which would be interesting to look at more along the lines described in the article.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time."

In the oddest news of the weekend:
“They go on for me,” he said. “I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.”

Asked which blogs he read, he said: “Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously. Everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics.”

At that point, Mrs. McCain, who had been intensely engaged with her BlackBerry, looked up and chastised her husband. “Meghan’s blog!” she said, reminding him of their daughter’s blog on his campaign Web site. “Meghan’s blog,” he said sheepishly.

As he answered questions, sipping a cup of coffee with his tie tight around his neck, his aides stared down at their BlackBerries.

As they tapped, Mr. McCain said he did not use a BlackBerry, though he regularly reads messages on those of his aides. “I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail,” Mr. McCain said.

Like hilzoy, I find the fact that he is "learning to get online" himself mainly just weird. In my job, I've come across a fair number of computer illiterate people... but I've never met anyone who has had to put much effort into learning how to get online. Often, it's the one thing I wish they didn't know how to do because they do it so badly and get my computers coated in icky spyware. I've also known a lot of doctors who farm out their computer related tasks to assistants, but I don't think I've met one who didn't do most of their own internet surfing... and you'd think if somebody was coming into your office, double clicking on internet explorer, and then typing in "Drudge Report" into the search bar, you might be able to pick that up by osmosis.

So I can only guess that he doesn't even own a computer and had, until getting made fun of for it, absolutely no interest whatsoever in the internet. I've got the Grandpa Simpson post up top, but the comparison seems a little unfair to Abe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Puzzle Quest in Spaaaace!

Perhaps not the most exciting gameplay footage in existence, but this is a day one purchase for me if this preview is to be believed. No official release date, but the preview says Q1 2009.

More of the Same + Space = Happy Jason. The only real question is DS or 360? Maybe detektor will deem to buy this one so that I can pwn his ass in spaaaaaaaace!

Order of the Stick RSS feed

If, like me, you love the webcomic Order of the Stick but are somewhat irritated by Rich's unscheduled and haphazard updating style(he has good reasons for it, and it's not like I pay for it, but still), then you should be pleased to know that he finally is offering a RSS feed to make following it easy.

UPDATE: According to the site, the RSS feed has been available for a while now, and it's only fools like myself who have been unaware of it. Regardless, making it more obvious is a welcome thing.

Good Old Games

via Ken at Popehat

Looks like somebody is going to do a digital distribution of classic PC games. Their price model is $5.99 and $9.99 for Vista/XP compatible versions of games like Fallout 2. As you might expect, I submitted my e-mail address for the closed Beta just about as fast as I could type it.

You know what game I hope they get? Interstate 76. Don't tell the folks at Good Old Games, but I would probably pay 50 bucks to play that again. That's the first game I ever experienced "internet multiplayer"... I even entered a tournament. Good times.

Existential Threat

If robots can pwn us in air hockey, exactly how does anyone propose to stop them? Some commentators will tell you that a zombie uprising is what we should be preparing for, but I'm here to say that robot air hockey players is what we should truly fear. Someone think of the children.

via Andrew Sullivan

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dorr Mountain Hike

So Anna and I did this hike up Ladder Trail to the summit of Dorr Mountain in Acadia National Park last Saturday. If you click on that link, you may notice that the directions are a bit, uhm, "sparse"... and unfortunately, I was unable to locate a good trail map online... so I will try my best to explain it without.

Similar to Mansell, this trail is quite steep and has innumerable stone steps:

I found this to be particularly strenuous, relative to Mansell... it's certainly doable for a wide range of people, but if you are as out of shape as I am you will probably need some breaks as you climb up (bring plenty of water!). The good side of it being a hard hike is that you really feel like you accomplished something when you get to the top. An older woman with knee problems did end up turning back while we were there, so be aware. Also, while not as popular as some trails, it is pretty well known and well trod, so you are unlikely to get the mountain to yourself. We ran across maybe a dozen couples on out mid-afternoon on a Saturday jaunt, which is certainly not too bad... but if you want solitude, check my Mansell mountain post.

The ladder for which Ladder Trail is named is this scary bugger:

It may not look like much, but behind you as you climb up the wobbly thing is a sheer drop to certain death, so it got my heart racing a little bit... and I don't think of myself as someone who is afraid of heights.

After we got to the summit we didn't actually follow the posted directions, which call for a little back tracking before getting to where you turn off for the descent. Our different route was completely accidental, but I actually think it turned out for the best. Instead of backtracking and coming back down the eastern face of the Mountain, we descended the northern face. This afforded us some really picturesque views of Bar Harbor which we wouldn't have gotten if we went the listed way. It tacked on a few extra miles I'd guess, but they were mostly the descent and a flat trail back to where we met up with where we would have come out if we followed directions.

The trail finishes with a surprisingly fun rocky path around a body of water known as The Tarn.

I think both of us pretty much expected the trail to be basically a formality as we made our way back to the car because it was so flat, but it turns out that it was a pretty neat rock hopping experience.

So, all in all a very fun hike and well worth doing if you are in the area and like strenuous hikes. You can see the rest of my hike pictures here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quite possibly the awesomest thing ever

I like that Heaven has Go Karts. But, what, no mini-golf? What a rip off.

And apparently God is a Yankees fan... though I guess He's had His mind on other things the last few years.

via Strange Maps which is a very cool site

The definitive list of McCain flip-flops

Steven Benen has compiled it. Just a reminder for anyone confronted with the new meme of Obama as a "flip flopper"... which, while being completely ridiculous has apparently gained some traction in the media because the press is incapable of holding more than one idea in their head at the same time. Personally I find it kind of amusing that this is all the conservatives can come up with.

And I leave you with some Straight Talk:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mansell Mountain Hike

This was an incredibly well documented trail that is off the beaten path in Acadia... a combination that is pretty hard to find and impossible to beat. Anna found the description online here, and it really is top notch. If you've ever tried to follow a trail from guidebooks you know the quality of their directions can vary widely, but generally ranges from "unlcear" to "misleading", and thus this description was a find of rare value.

Since we were doing this on a holiday weekend, and specifically on the 4th, it was pretty important to find a sparingly used trail... and Mansell certainly fit the bill. Though, if people were more aware of its existence, I'm pretty sure it would see a lot more use. If you look at this map of Mount Desert Island (MDI), you can find Long Pond in between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor. If you look a bit to the east you can see Park Loop Road, which circles Cadillac Mountain and is the main attraction to most visitors to the park... being outside of that is probably where you want to be if you want some measure of solitude (though there are certainly some lesser used trails inside the loop as well).

Defintely the coolest part of this trail is the fact that the ascent is almost entirely composed of a stone staircase that blends wonderfully into the surroundings. It's pretty awe insping as your climbing it to consider how stonecutters in the 1930's shaped and moved all of these stones in the pre power tools era.

This is a pretty steep and strenuous trail, so you have to be in some sort of shape (though if I can do it, so can you) to accomplish it and I wouldn't advise anyone with bad knees to attempt it as you are climbing a lot of stairs (though it has nothing on the Ladder Trail, which I will cover tomorrow).

I should note that it does have a section that is steep enough that they bolted a ladder and some rungs to the rocks.

As you can see though, it's not exposed, so it's not really that bad unless you are simply terrified of heights.

And of course, once you get to the top (on the way up as well), you are afforded some pretty views.

The descent on the western side of the mountain was a lot more rough, with no stone steps, and was a nice change of pace. It was a lot more like your typical hike down a mountain and through a forest, and it eased our effort down as we recovered from the climb up.

You can see the rest of my Mansell Mountain Hike pictures here.

Maine Blogging

So I had a wonderful weekend up in Maine with Anna... the weather was perfect, and it was truly excellent to get that extra day of the long holiday weekend. We hiked in Acadia National Park on both Friday and Saturday. Both were "strenuous" hikes that I got a lot of good pictures of, so once I get them culled down to a manageable and non-repetitive selection to put on flickr, I'll blog about them in detail. Unfortunately, somehow my Forerunner 305 was out of juice when I got it to Maine. I'm not really sure what happened since I didn't run all last week and it was just sitting on the charger... was it seated improperly and thus slowly leak charge? Did I accidentally turn it on when I put it in the bag and leave it running the entire bus ride up? I'm not sure, but regardless of the reason, I don't have the GPS and heart rate data I was hoping for. It's a shame because I really felt like I was working pretty hard on that second hike and I'd have liked to have seen exactly how hard it was with the heart rate monitor. Oh well, next trip.

We had dinner on Friday night in Bar Harbor at Eden, a vegetarian restaurant that is leaps and bounds better than anything veggie in Boston... and then we did our Patriotic Duty and watched things explode in pretty colors. Saturday night after our hike we cooked at home and had mojitos.

Sunday was basically just a little relaxation and a long bus ride back to Boston for me... with surprisingly little traffic. All in all a great weekend.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A bigot is dead

While I was gone, Jesse Helms has gone to Hell. Hallelujah!

I know this is a blog associated with my professional name, and thus I should be careful... I also know that it is inappropriate to dance on anyone's grave... but Jessie Helms was an unrepentant racist homophobe fuck, and the world is a better place without him. My only regret is that his god didn't take him to burn in hellfire sooner.

EDIT: If you think I may be a bit over the top in my negative feelings towards Helms, and you are thinking "He wasn't really that bad was he?" or "Sure he was racist back in the 60's, but a lot of people were back then" then I urge you to read hilzoy's collection of quotes and stories regarding the man. One thing I will never forget, and soured me forever on him, is that he made a great show of turning his back on Nelson Mandela. This was in 1994, not 1964. He loved him some apartheid. Burning in hell is too good for such a man.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Off to Maine

I'll be heading off for a long weekend in Maine very shortly. I hope to come back with some pictures and a GPSed hike in Acadia. I also just picked up Final Fantasy Tactics: A2 for my DS, and if traffic is as horrible as I think it's gonna be then I might even have a review to write when I get back.

Hope everybody has a good 4th.

photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user WilWheaton (ya'rly)

Bush tours the disaster area

via Andrew Sullivan

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Knife Skills

There is a new review of Norman Weinstein's Mastering Knife Skills up on Slate. It immediately caught my attention because my knife skillz are terrible, and it's one of the things that slows me down the most in the kitchen. Seriously... whatever you think the prep time is, you better double it if I'm dicing your veggies. I've been meaning to sign of for a course at Cambridge Adult Ed, but $123 is a lot of money for two classes(6 hours of instruction though), and if there is a book/dvd that does as good a job or better, then why not get that?

Unfortunately, while she says it does a good job of explaining some solid techniques for her knife ignorant husband, she seems to indicate nothing beats being taught in person... so maybe it'll be the knife course after all, though I'll probably at least check the book out in the bookstore.

I do want to highlight one thing she mentions in the review, and that's how to dice an onion. I actually learned the technique from Julia Child's book a few months ago and I have to say that it is, indeed, THE BEST THING EVAR. Doing a mince of an onion was just not something I was really capable of until I learned how to do it this way. It's definitely easy for even a beginner to comprehend and do reasonably well. She links to a crap Martha Stewart video that I got too irritated to even wait out to see the onion dicing, so I thought I'd give you a YouTube that is both beautiful and simple in illustration of technique.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bad medicine?

The New York Times has a pretty interesting article up about CT angiography and whether or not it's completely useless. Actually not really, it's a fairly balanced article, to my eyes, that seems to examine all the angles. I should note that while it's relatively close to my field, I don't know the cardiac imaging literature at all, so I can't really comment on whether it's any good... though we did work with a Doc who wanted to do them on everybody... whatever population or intervention we were thinking of doing had to somehow include a CT, but that probably had more to do with his personal obsession than the technology itself. Certainly if you look at the video with the article, you gotta admit it's really cool looking... so it's gotta be good, right?

My impression is that they're overselling the cancer risk, but the fact that it's expensive and possibly worthless clinically and causing asymptomatic people to get stents which might also be useless... seems fairly troubling. And paragraphs like these make you wonder whether we incentivize this stuff exactly wrong:
Fees from imaging have become a significant part of cardiologists’ income — accounting for half or more of the $400,000 or so that cardiologists typically make in this country, said Jean M. Mitchell, an economist at Georgetown University who studies the way financial incentives influence doctors.

Besides generating profits themselves, the scans enable cardiologists to find blockages in patients who have no symptoms of heart problems. Doctors can then place stents in patients who would not otherwise have received them, generating additional revenue of $7,500 to $20,000 per patient.

I also like the "I don't need no stinkin' evidence" doctor.
Cardiologists like Dr. Brindis hurt their patients by being overly conservative and setting unrealistic standards for the use of new technology, Dr. Hecht said.

“It’s incumbent on the community to dispense with the need for evidence-based medicine,” he said. “Thousands of people are dying unnecessarily.”

That's right, Dr. Hecht has a hunch that this is really helping people and you should just trust him. He actually might have a point if the situation is that trials are currently underway to determine the benefit and just haven't been completed... I can see how you might want to use the new technology, if the risk was minimal, based on your judgment... but if it's actually the case that studies have already been done that have found no benefit, then he's talking crazy. I don't know the answer to that, but it certainly is an issue that waiting for solid evidence of efficacy might delay new technologies to market... but given the downsides of unintended consequences, I'm not sure there is a better way to go.

UPDATE: Looks like I missed a paragraph or two that indicate studies have never really been done, and now that Medicare is going to pay for it regardless, it doesn't appear there will be any.

More maps of Boston, 1800 vs. 1875

This is a map from the website Early America that shows what Boston, Cambridge, Roxbury, and Brookline were all like around 1800. You'll have to click on it to see any of the details, but it's a pretty good size image, and should be easy enough to read. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the Back Bay... the area to west of Boston on the map... a place that screams "Boston" to me... doesn't exist. Newbury Street is water, and Fenway Park is, presumably, fens. There is also a lot of Cambridge that's water as well... the area that's now by the Charles, which consists mainly of MIT. The Dorchester Flats eventually becomes Southie. The flats near Noddle Island are what become Logan airport.

It's interesting to see that Brookline was it's own little town... or collection of houses, anyway... I guess that's why they are so snotty about maintaining independence. Also... the Muddy River is actually a river and not just little ponds and culverts by Longwood!

What I also found interesting was that you can see proto-Porter Square (where I live) in the upper left corner where the road out of Cambridge intersects the road from Lexington... nobody lives there yet, but they were clearly anticipating my arrival on the scene.

So here is an 1875 map and you can see a lot of the differences... I snagged this from Harvard, which has a lot of digitized maps of Harvard and Cambridge if you're good at searching the HOLLIS catalog. Regardless, it's clear a lot has changed in 75 years or so... the creation of Back Bay, while not completed, is all planned out and proceeding apace. Look how straight those streets are! What our Duck Tour guy said was you could actually start at the Common and walk down Newbury Street and see the development of 19th century architecture as the land was slowly reclaimed over the decades. You can also see that South Boston was created at the point to make sure we could have the movie Good Will Hunting. Cambridge has simply exploded in growth, but Brookline still looks a little sleepy... though I guess even now it's mainly houses, though densely packed. Somerville seems to have happened at some point as well. There is no Mass Ave or Comm Ave yet though... which is a little confusing since I think of them both as being major landmarks.

Anyway, that's our Boston History Moment for the day, as I don't really feel like talking about politics.