Saturday, August 30, 2008

Castle Crashers

If you have a 360, you need to BUY THIS GAME NOW. Especially if you are on my Friends List. 4 Player Co-op over LIVE... and I think you might be able to have multiple players locally, even when you are playing on LIVE... need I say more? If you're not on my Friends List, read this blog, and bought the full version, then feel free to add me(even if you didn't buy the game you are welcome to add me)... Gamnercard to the right.

This is the 21st Century Gauntlet, but even more awesome. Simple controls, but with a degree of finesse that is welcome... great music, and Viva La 2D!

If my recommendation doesn't move you, just try the demo... you'll be begging to spend those points half way through it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

38 million

That's how many watched Obama's speech... not including PBS, C-SPAN, or online viewing (presumably a pittance relative). That's nearly twice the number who watched Kerry four years ago... and it was better than the Olympics opening ceremony, Academy Awards, and American Idol final this year... and you know what that means:


McCain VP rumors

Seeing a lot of buzz for Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, who I would have named as the ideal candidate but whom I thought was dealing with a corruption charge. I'm not sure that's something you want hanging over your VP's head in a "change" election, but maybe the fact that she was the whistle blower on other GOP corruption inoculates her? Dunno. She'll certainly fascinate the media, no doubt.

  1. Fresh face that Wonkette has a HUGE crush on.
  2. Reminds Hillary fans that he didn't pick her as VP, and tamps down the "historical candidacy" angle for Obama a smidge.
  3. Not to be sexist, (now watch as I proceed to be sexist) but it increases the chances that Biden comes off as a mean ole jerk as he decapitates her during the VP debate.

  1. She's young and inexperienced, so that dampens the attack against Obama.
  2. Her GILF-ness highlights Old Man McCain's Mr. McGoo like crotchety-ness.
  3. Will be utterly destroyed by Joe Biden in debates, but that could be an advantage (see above).

UPDATE: Palin still in Alaska according to ABC. I know as an Obama partisan I should be trying to shout over the McCain VP selection hysteria, but it's just so fascinating that I can't help myself. If it's not Pawlenty, Romney, or Palin... who is it? Is it *really* Lieberman? Ridge? Jindal?

UPDATE II: Looks like ABC might have gotten punked, other networks are calling it for Palin.

The Speech

Reactions that I've seen so far have been a little mixed... and I'm not sure how much is too cool for school vs. fanboi(me clearly) and how much is legitimate... but I think it might just be me and Pat Buchanan(!) who thought it was super-awesome-best-EVAH!!!!! Here's Pat:

What year is this?

Michael Crowley at TNR:
One mildly skeptical note: Obama's decision to close with a riff on Martin Luther King. Even if he (interestingly) didn't name King, and even given the significance of today's date, was the the civil rights movement really the ideal conclusory note for tonight's critical, very middle American audience? His closing line, a citation of scripture was certainly shrewd. But surely MLK references were a safer bet in the primaries.

I am having trouble coming up with a rejoinder to this idiocy that is not intemperate.

Who is it in America, exactly, who doesn't view Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero? I've never met that man or woman, so I'm sort of curious as to who would be offended by this. Southern America, despite our differences, I give you full permission to harass this idiot until he apologizes for the implication of racism in his lame remarks. Way to bring the stupid TNR. Ugh.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama! Obama! Obama!

10:00 - Dick Durbin is on now, and speaking better than I expected.

10:03 - He's pretty much the very defintion of "average politician" and yet he gave a pretty good intro... especially when you consider the snoozefest that was everybody but the big names. Why is it so hard for them to have a little fire?

10:13 - This is quite a good intro video... gotta admit I got a little verklempt when Michelle Obama said something to the effect of "And that was it. That was when I fell in love with him."

10:15 - That's a lot of people and flash bulbs welcoming Obama... you know what that reminds me of? Hitler. Just thought we should get that out of the way early.

10:19 - Only 2 minutes in, but he is on his game tonight. Damn. So relaxed and smooth.

10:22 - "We are a better country than this." To me, that's the essence of patriotism, but somehow I think NRO thinks differently.

10:28 - "It's not that John McCain doesn't care, it's that he doesn't get it."

10:30 - Honestly there are just too many ZING!'s to catalog here, but I'll do my best. I just missed a couple though.

10:34 - Stumbled on a couple of words there, which might bring him down from A+++++ to mere A++++ territory.

10:36 - Ten years until oil independence? Ambitious, but great. Not sure if he's said that before, but I've never heard it explicitly.

10:40 - Somewhat poignant of a promise about pre-existing conditions and healthcare... for me anyway, since two important people in my life are both uninsured and with serious health issues.

10:46 - Bringing the BIG GUNS on foreign policy. Echoing Kerry. Fantastic.

10:47 - "Tough talk and bad strategy." Nice.

10:52 - Going to bat for gay rights... not embracing Gay Marriage, mind you... but all about rights. I'm almost woozy that we've reached the point that this can happen.

10:59 - Wow. If the talking heads didn't love that, then I don't know what to say. He flubbed exactly two words in an amazing speech. I'll have to watch both again to be sure, but I'd say he cleared the bar of the 2004 speech by a country mile.

The Goracle

"I believe in recycling, but that's ridiculous" in regards to McCain's love of Bush policies.

He just said that the oil industry was drilling the GOP for all it's worth... a racy double entendre for the Nobel Prize Winner, and I love it.

Ohhhh... Lincoln analogy... might be a step too far. Don't know if I would have gone there.

Pretty solid speech all told. Definitely did the McSame thing, which has been a strong theme tonight.

Wolcott on the prospect of McCain-Lieberman '08

Together on stage, he and McCain would look like a gay Metamucil ad.

LOL. Read the whole thing.

via Andrew Sullivan


If the snippets of Obama's speech that Steve Benen obtained are accurate, then I predict a collective orgasm from the Mainstream Media and progressive bloggers everywhere... with the sole exception of Mark Halperin, who will let us know how an awesome speech by Obama is, in fact, GREAT NEWS FOR JOHN MCCAIN!!!

Not being able to give away tickets to the rally you're announcing your VP is, as we all know, the sign of a great leader.

Sheryl Crow just finished... and she both sounds and looks exactly as she did when I was in college and my roommate had a crush on her. This is not necessarily a compliment... just an observation

Stadium looks pretty much full and we're still about 2 hours from Obama's speech... worries about security lines seem to be for naught.

UPDATE: Kaine was OK, but fairly meh... makes me happier and happier about Biden. Richardson has a good and attack-doggy speech but his delivery has seemed uneven for most of it. He picked it up at the end. Liked the line "McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes, but we'll pay for his flip-flops" but he flubbed the delivery a bit. Stevie Wonder then Gore are the schedule for the rest of the hour I think.

McCain VP pick speculation

As a liberal who lives in the Communist state of Taxachussets, I have virtually no insight into minds of the GOP electorate... but for some reason I feel like I need to say something about who McCain will announce as his Vice Presidential pick tomorrow.

Since the whole point of announcing someone tomorrow is to take back the news cycle after Obama's big speech, you can't announce some boring random Governor nobody has heard of like Pawlenty. The biggest "Stop the presses!!!" pick is clearly "Independent" Senator Joe Lieberman who you may remember from such classics as "Al Gore's running mate in 2000" and "Lost his Senate Democratic primary in 2004 and then ran as an Independent". Lieberman is basically a hardline neocon these days who throatily endorses their policy of bombing everything that moves in the Middle East, and thus is widely reviled by the "not insane" portion of the state of Connecticut's electorate. However, I'm not sure how many people outside of those who obsessively read political blogs are aware how conservative he's become. Also it would reinforce what is the reason this election is even close... his "mavericky Straight Talk" reputation that he developed in 2000. The reason why I thought it was such a terrible idea for him to go all Rove a few weeks ago was precisely because it damaged his brand... he might unite his conservative base, but lose the press and thus independents as he became "a typical pol who would say anything to get elected". Picking Lieberman would cause the MSM to collectively swoon and fall in love with The Maverick all over again. Also, as Ezra noted:
A Lieberman pick also offers McCain some inoculation against the McSame tag that's begun dogging him. Running with the guy who beat George W. Bush in 2000 may not be proof that McCain isn't a Bush acolyte, but it certainly muddies the charge. And it's a charge that McCain needs muddied.

I think that's pretty true, and since people seem to be able to close their eyes and pretend that McCain is the same man he was in 2000(or even 2004) it's possible that Lieberman would be viewed the same way... as the "moderate" he so often claims to be. So McCain can play the part of the moderate independent thinker of bipartisan cooperation, and with Lieberman's experience, he can still paint Obama as "dangerously liberal" and as someone who can't keep you safe in a dangerous world.

Of course the BIG problem is that he has a Pro-Choice voting record. However, I think Patrick Ruffini is right that because Lieberman would be picked as a show of bipartisanship, his stance on abortion is irrelevant... he's not setting the GOP party platform... he's there to make sure we're bombing Iran by February. But, like I said, my insight into minds of conservatives is virtually nil... so maybe it would cause the party to explode. Who knows?

It's a risky pick, but I think it gives him his only path to winning the election.

Of course, this new poll suggests Lieberman would totally sink McCain... even in Florida(!)... so I'm probably wrong as usual.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

So I made this back on Monday, hoping to end my streak of recipes not turning out... and I knocked it out of the park, if I do say so myself... though there were of course some mistakes and things I would do differently, as always, but we'll get to those at the end (though as you can see in the picture above, I probably should have browned it more).

The recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated July & August 2008 issue... which strangely arrived after I received the September & October issue. On this one, I really have to complement the effort of the author, Rebecca Hays, on dealing with the problem of watery and bland vegetable gratins... her method worked like a charm, but let me warn you that it's a total PITA. It takes at least 2 hours (about an hour of prep and an hour in the oven), and you don't even get much of a break while it's roasting because you have to make the topping. It's a pretty serious effort for a side dish... but it is delicious, and you do have time at the end to pan fry some meat/fish while the topping browns and then cools (I just had leftover chicken with it because I was pretty spent at that point).

Here are the ingredients:
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1lb zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 1lb summer squash, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 1.5 lbs tomatoes, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and cut into narrow strips
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced/garlic pressed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large slice of white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 oz grated Parmesan (1 cup)
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (1 cup)
  • 1/4 chopped basil leaves

The secret to this recipe is salting the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes and squeezing every last drop of excess moisture out of them. The steps are as follows:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and oil a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon oil.
  2. Toss zucchini and summer squash with 1 teaspoon salt and then put them in a colander over a bowl. You need them to release about 3 tablespoons of liquid, which takes about 45 minutes.
  3. While that's happening, slice up your tomatoes and lay them out on a double layer of paper towels on a counter. Sprinkle the slices evenly with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let them stand for 30 minutes.
  4. Now you have to slice up your onions and start caramelizing them. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Throw in the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook them stirring occasionally, until soft and dark golden brown. 20-25 minutes.
  5. This is where it gets a little tricky, because your zucchini and squash will probably be ready for the next step but your onions won't be done and you don't want them to burn. Just keep an eye on them, or just wait until the onions are done before moving on... I doesn't hurt to let the salted veggies to sit 15 minutes longer, it just means you'll be in the kitchen later.
  6. Put down a triple layer of paper towels on another counter and lay the squash and zucchini slices out on it. Put another triple layer of paper towels down over top and "firmly press" on each slice to squeeze out as much liquid as you can... you don't have to worry about damaging them really, as they are pretty firm veggies.
  7. Move back to the tomatoes and place a double layer of paper towels over them, and also press down pretty firmly on them to get water out (obviously tomatoes are a little more vulnerable, so don't smash them - you want intact slices).
  8. Combine 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Use half the oil mixture to toss with the zucchini/squash in a large bowl, then lay out the zucchini/squash on the bottom of the oiled baking dish. Spread the caramelized onions over the zucchini/squash. Then spread the tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows over top.
  9. Spoon the remaining thyme/oil mixture over the tomatoes, and you should have something that looks like this:
  10. Bake in the oven until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are brown on the edges, which takes about 40-45 minutes.
  11. While that's going on, process the bread in a food processor until finely ground... ten seconds or so. (About 1 cup of crumbs) Grate your cheese, mince your shallots, and combine them all with the crumbs and 1 tablespoon oil.
  12. Take a breather or wash some dishes if you are industrious.
  13. When I took the baking dish out (probably more like 50 minutes instead of 40-45) it looked like this:
  14. Sprinkle the topping evenly on top, and return to the oven until lightly brown 5-10 minutes.
  15. Chop up your basil while it's browning, and then sprinkle it on top before letting it cool for ten minutes.

So, like I said, this turned out really well... there was virtually no liquid, and the vegetables tasted amazing. What would I do differently? Well I would cut up the squash correctly first! I read the directions wrong and cut them into half moons for some reason... though it didn't seem to affect how the squash cooked, and only made the presentation a little worse. I think I also took my onions off a little early, since I was so scared of burning them... they weren't quite as flavorful as they should have been. I also don't think I had quite enough of them... I would add probably another small onion next time. Similarly I don't think there was a much topping as I would like... more bread crumbs and more cheese please. Maybe 1.5 cups of each? And like I said in the beginning, I should have let it brown longer.

And there you have it. If you want to make it, I would do it soon though while tomatoes are fresh... I don't think this would be nearly as good with supermarket tomatoes in the dead of winter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

John Kerry, Democratic Bad Ass - What took you so long?

This is the best video I could find of his speech, before I go to bed, but if you check it out there is no doubt you'll be impressed.

It's a bit of a double edged sword, because you know that if Kerry carried himself like this 4 years ago, we'd be talking about reelection and not praying to end our 8 year National Nightmare... but at the same time, I think losing the run for the Presidency freed him to take the liberal agenda and champion it harder than anyone other than Teddy... there's a good chance he ends up as Secretary of State, and that would be pretty sweet, but part of me hopes I get to keep voting for him... not to be schmaltzy, but he makes me proud.

UPDATE: Replaced random YouTube with TPM version that contains the speech in its entirety.

UPDATE II: Interesting tidbit from Josh Marshall, suggesting that Kerry wrote the whole speech himself. Impressive if true. Oh, and I forgot he was up for reelection, so I do get to vote for him at least one more time... and I can close my eyes and pretend it's 2004.

Bill Clinton - Obamaphile

He's still quite the charmer... he didn't rabble rouse, which would have been pretty awesome... but I thought it was a pretty good speech. While he certainly tooted his own horn more than anything... he still seemed pretty solid in his support of Obama. The section I liked most was when he brought up how people thought he was too inexperienced to lead. Ah but his inexperience led to too much peace and prosperity, which is why we are so screwed and why we need to start more wars.

And wow, my other Senator, John Kerry, is on freakin' fire. As far as his AWESOMENESS, losing to Bush was the best thing that ever happened to him. I'm still kind of pissed he found his AWESOME after making us suffer these last 4 years... but better later than never.

EDIT: Chet Edwards? He is OK... but I feel like we're getting a parade of the "too mediocre to be VP"... Bayh and Reed were earlier and were also "OK" at best. They're setting up Biden to need to bring down the house.

"McCain opposes equal pay"

That seems to be the main message coming out of last night at the convention... that and opposing energy independence. Ramesh Ponnuru considers the former a "smear":
Right: Opposing the Lily Ledbetter Act means approving of unequal pay for women. What a disgusting comment.

Lily Ledbetter, who spoke last night, was a woman you may remember who was involved in that really atrocious Supreme Court decision of last year(Ledbetter v. Goodyear), where the court decided that you only have 180 days since the initial act of discrimination to seek redress in court... even if you don't find out about it until much later... and since Ledbetter had been receiving unequal pay for decades, she was outside the window and thus screwed. I have no idea whether that's a correct reading of the law or not, but it's quite obvious wasn't a just reading, and it seems ludicrous to say that you have 6 months to discover whether or not you're receiving discriminatory pay or not... it's a terrible loophole that should be closed... Democrats agreed, and they did what you're supposed to do according to conservative legal scholars: they made a new law. The House passed it, but Senate Republicans filibustered, with the threat of presidential veto backing them up. John McCain supported the filibuster.

Does that mean McCain opposes equal pay? Well, as Kevin Drum says, he sure doesn't seem to mind it much. Right now you essentially have no recourse if you are the victim of wage discrimination, and John McCain doesn't appear to give a damn... he certainly didn't propose any changes to the bill, or offer a counter proposal.

So maybe if we say "John McCain doesn't support equal pay for equal work" then Ponnuru will be satisfied? Somehow I doubt it.

It's very likely that I'm wrong about this, but this strikes me as an incredibly damaging message for McCain if it gains any traction. Though it seems a lot of women just refuse to believe that McCain is Anti-Choice, so maybe it will be the same way here.

Democratic Convention Day 2

So I actually tried to watch this time via the Democratic Convention's direct feed... so no talking heads... and now I know why the media peeps talk over most of it... just a constant stream of people you don't care about giving boring speeches, while you wait for the big guns. Anyway, I gave it about 30 minutes until I muted it and went back to reading and occasional glances up to make sure nobody important was talking. Unfortunately that means I missed Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana, who I had been pimping for VP... in retrospect I'll admit he was certainly too risky a pick... big upside, and good speaker though. He's a rising star (at least I hope he is), so you might want to check this out:

Otherwise, I caught Warner... and man was he boring. He's the white male politician "out of central casting", as they say... and that was a bland speech. I understand he's popular in Virginia, and his race for a Senate seat is crucial... but meh. I muted him and waited for Hillary, which is how I missed Schweitzer.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand was really really good... and I usually can't stand her speaking style(though she has really come on as a speaker lately). She certainly did everything I could have asked. No complaints and only cheers from this Obama partisan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Liberal Lion Speaks

So I would be incredibly remiss to not note that my Senator (who is currently battling brain cancer), Teddy Kennedy, spoke at the convention.

Here is the bio sketch that aired before he spoke:

Damn that's a nice sailboat.

And here's the speech:

Both Steve Benen and even Andrew Sullivan were pretty moved.

Dem Convention Day 1 Reax

It seems most of the bloggers I usually read are pretty annoyed that Day 1 was apparently touchy-feely "meet the candidate" boring bio stuff and not constant bashing of Bush-McCain. I didn't watch it as I was busy making a Summer Vegetable Gratin (which turned out well, so I'll be supplying the recipe)... but I can see both sides of it. Yglesias asks why they can't introduce the candidate why throwing jabs at the same time... and Josh Marshall seems pretty disheartened by the lack of offense. I suppose there is truth to that, but I thought the night was really about Michelle Obama, and I'm not sure how many jabs she can really throw. It seems more important to show her as human and down-to-earth etc., than chant "John McCain more of the same" a few extra times. Andrew Sullivan says it like this:
What was necessary tonight was rebutting the only real weapon the Republicans have: dragging Obama into the mud, throwing every extremist attack they can at him, painting him as a commie, alien, anti-American freak. For good measure, they had tried to paint Michelle as an angry black radical.

I haven't yet watched the speech, but Andrew was a fan, and Chait called it "Hallmark TV at its best"... which, while lame, is pretty much what you have to do here.

I understand that the 20 to 30 something blogger set wants to see blood in the water every night, but it's important to remember that this wasn't about you. This was for you mother or grandmother who isn't sure about "that Obama character" and might be moved by Hallmark moments and touching biographies. This is about knocking down the smears for people who've never seen her outside of an e-mail chain.

You've got Hillary tonight and Biden tomorrow... I'm pretty sure you'll see some strong attacks... relax.

Oh, and here's the speech:

UPDATE: Since It's impossible for us to form opinions without pundits, I'll give you snippets from the immensely positive reactions to Michelle Obama's speech.

Howard Wolfson:
Last night was not a night for policy or attacks on John McCain. It was instead an effort to shore up the image of Michelle Obama and help Americans become comfortable with her as First Lady. It was a homerun.

Dana Stevens at XX Factor:
She's Jackie Kennedy with a working-class back story! What else do you want from the woman? Emily's remark about the speech's race subtext can't help but ring sadly true: If you don't like Michelle Obama after this speech, do you like any flavor of ice cream besides vanilla?

Dahlia Lithwick also of XX Factor:
She did what everyone else in this campaign is terrified to do: She risked looking sappy and credulous and optimistic when almost everyone has abandoned "hope" and "change" for coughing up hairballs of outrage. Every Democrat in America seems to be of the view that optimism is so totally last February; that now's the time to hunker down and panic real hard. Good for Michelle for reminding us that to "strive for the world as it should be" is still cool, and for being so passionate about that fact that she looked to be near tears.

John Dickerson:
That's the biggest speech she's ever given, and she was poised, not slick and inauthentic. People don't know who she is. And what they do know about her may not be favorable, based on the frenzy over her remarks about being proud of her country for the first time. Those who watched now know she is a mother and a wife. She also showed how alive her husband's message is in her own heart. She's got the Obama bug, and it was obvious. She was more passionate about her husband's message than he sometimes is.

And finally here's Juan Williams on Fox almost losing it as he contemplates what it means to see an African-American woman up on that stage:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Humor and Negative Ads

I've been of the opinion that Obama best negative messages have been when he's used humor. I should note that a "negative" message in politics doesn't necissarily mean nasty smear - it's just when you go after the other person instead of tooting your own horn; it can be substantive (though it isn't here really). So more examples of humorous negative attacks would be "it's like they're proud of being ignorant", and how they jumped all over McCain for not being able to remember how many houses he and Cindy own. In all cases I think they work because they're funny, and that's why they stick with you... but then I'm an Obama partisan and in the Daily Show demographic, so my viewpoint is probably skewed.

Bike Sharing

Matt Yglesias has an interesting(with video!) post up about a new pilot bike sharing program for DC. Looking around, I found that Boston is looking to implement a much larger program by 2010. Certainly it's an interesting concept, that's been very successful in places like Paris.

Personally, I would prefer something like electric car depots, though it's obviously more expensive and divisive, as I'd rather have the ability to do some serious shopping in a reasonably Green fashion, than have access to a bike, but there certainly times I can imagine using a bike share... enough to pay a yearly fee? Probably not, but it would be worth considering.

At the moment, I'm not aware of any bike sharing proposals for Cambridge... but lets assume for a moment they were planing on covering Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline adequately and not just the Fenway and Downtown area... when could I envision using it? I guess it would be handy for getting to East Cambridge or Inman or Union Squares; areas not easily accessible by T. It would also seem nice to be able to bike over from Harvard to Allston and not need to bother with the bus. It also might be nice to say, take the Red Line to MGH and then grab a bike and tool around on the Esplanade... maybe drop your bike off at Newbury Street, do some shopping, and then grab another for a return trip. Generally it sounds pretty nice for doing touristy things... though I imagine it could also be great for commuters, since you can normally only bring a bike on the T or Commuter Rail on off peak hours.

One thing that would have to happen is to make the area much more bike friendly. I've been seeing more bike lanes going up lately, but I don't think it's nearly enough yet, as I personally think people who bike in Boston traffic are freakin' nuts. However, more bike lanes combined with a pervasive system is certainly an interesting concept.

photo by flickr user zimbia used under a Creative Commons license

Weekend Cooking Update

So, results were pretty lackluster from my attempt at Herbed Roast Chicken... I'm not sure whether it was the recipe or me, but it was pretty disappointing. The basic recipe was to butterfly the chicken, cook it skin side down on the stove in a skillet, and then transfer the skillet to the oven to roast for 25 minutes before taking it out to flip it and coat with the herb butter mixture and then return to the oven to finish roasting. Well, I had a terrible time flipping it and ended up tearing off the skin on the breast as it all stuck to the skillet. The chicken was still moist and tender, but one of the reasons to do all that rigmarole was to end up with crispy skin. I also found out I'm not a huge fan of tarragon... oh well, live and learn.

I also picked up the ingredients to do a Provençal summer vegetable gratin to do today, so that will hopefully come out a little bit better and be worth documenting in detail. I'm on a really bad streak here, and hopefully this will snap me out of it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama-Biden '08

It's Biden. Should be an interesting couple of months, to say the least.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yglesias has a fun post that references it, so I thought I'd bring you the real thing:

Not hard to imagine why he was so loved, is it?

"It can tell us everything about America, except why we are proud that we are Americans."


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weekend Cooking Project - Herbed Roast Chicken

My Cook's Illustrated subscription finally started (note: I provide the link to Amazon and not Cook's Illustrated website because when I first tried to subscribe via their website I got bombarded by Cook's telemarketers trying sell me all of their gazillion products so stopped it and decided to buy through Amazon instead) and I received the September/October issue earlier this week. It's got several interesting recipes, like a creamy tomato soup that uses bread instead of cream for the creaminess... and an intriguing "pizza bianca" that seems sorta like focaccia but apparently isn't... however, the recipe I plan to try is the Herbed Roast Chicken. Basically because I really like to butterfly a chicken for some odd reason. It also has the fun of browning the butterflied chicken in a pan on the stove top before putting it in the oven, which I also enjoy. I also get to try a roux again, though this will be of the light variety for thickening the sauce.

So I think on Saturday I'll head over to Savenor's and get another of those expensive air-chilled chicken... since I haven't been cooking that much, and skimping on ingredient quality has had some disappointing results lately, I don't feel so bad about splurging on the chicken (unless I screw it up, of course).

The ingredient list is so:

  • 1 Chicken (5 lbs or less) - I will go much less as (3-4 lbs) since bigger chickens have less flavor
  • 1/2 cup salt for the brine - No sugar? Hmmm...
  • 1/4 cup tarragon leaves (fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme - Don't need to buy that thanks to the herb garden
  • 6 scallions - Only the green parts, so maybe I'll use the white in a salad?
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1-1.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons unbleached flour
  • 1 lemon

So certainly not a daunting list. I'll have to figure out what to make as a side dish though... unfortunately I won't get to a Farmer's Market before Sunday. Pretty much everything is in season, but I'm not really sure what would be good here. I'll have to brainstorm.

Bush lets Terrorist Win

We're getting out of Iraq. So sayeth the Wall Street Journal:
The draft agreement sets 2011 as the date by which all remaining U.S. troops will leave Iraq, according to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Humood and other people familiar with the matter.
President George W. Bush is almost certain to accept the agreement, according to U.S. officials.
The security deal came together after the Bush administration made concessions on several long-held positions. The White House softened its stance over a pullout date after it became clear that Mr. Maliki was adamant that the agreement contain at least a vague timetable for a U.S. withdrawal.

Kevin Drum highlights the possible political fallout. Should be intersting to see what happens... but withdrawal has been the reality since Obama went to Iraq, and McCain has been indicating that his talking point will be that this withdrawal plan is great because it acknowledges the "realities on the ground", but Obama's prescient plan is bad-no-good surrender monkey stuff because he was "playing politics" and got lucky because of the Awesomeness of The Surge. I don't think that really makes any sense, but I imagine he's going to keep on saying it. Also note that, from the article, the Iraqi Parliament has to ratify the agreement and they're not currently in session... so who knows when it becomes "official"?

To be honest, I'm not sure this helps Obama as much as Kevin thinks it does... yeah he was right, but McCain can still crow about the surge, and can talk about leaving with honor... and now there isn't much daylight between them in regards to ending the war. I don't think that's a good thing... it was much better when McCain was talking 100 years and Obama was talking withdrawal. However, it may not matter much as the economy seems a bigger issue right now. We shall see.

Why Joe Biden is *fun*, but probably a bad VP pick

via John Cohn

Here's a YouTube of Biden at one of the debates, and it shows off his best qualities and hints at his worst:

He gets the great quip("he only says three things: a noun, verb, and 9/11"), gives a nuanced answer on national security in plain language (regarding the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon vs. Pakistan becoming a failed state), and toes the line of the impolitic when making fun of his fellow debaters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What!? There are no *confidence intervals* in politics!

This is how you honestly present data folks. I know a lot of people out there don't like Professor Wang's Meta Analysis, but I don't see how you can fault a man who provides confidence intervals, while most sites you look at whistle and shuffle their feet when you mention "error" in any sense.

It's a very similar trend to Nate Silver's, but here I've got an actual sense of the probabilities.

Love it.

Best archer, or best archer under pressure?

Over at the Atlantic, Carl Elliot has a very interesting article about beta blockers as a performance... enhancer?! Beta blockers are used to treat hypertension and cause a reduction in heart rate (as well as the heart's response to exercise). The natural assumption would be that this would lead to a decrease in aerobic capacity because of the reduction in cardiac output... however a (very) limited search suggests the evidence is pretty equivocal whether that's the case in a healthy athlete. Regardless, I know that I wouldn't want to be on a beta blocker if I was about to run the 100m dash.

However, Dr. Elliot's point isn't about the affect on heart rate that beta blockers have... it's the affect on the effects of anxiety.
In the mid-’70s, a team of British researchers tested the effects of a beta blocker on the performances of skilled violinists and other string musicians. They made sure that the musicians were playing under maximally stressful conditions by booking them in an impressive concert hall. They also invited the press to attend, and recorded all the sessions. The musicians were asked to perform four times each, twice on placebo and twice on beta blockers, and their performances were scored by professional judges. Not only did the musicians tremble less on the beta blocker, they also performed better. Usually the improvement was minimal, but for a handful of musicians it was dramatic.

From a competitive standpoint, this is what makes beta blockers so interesting : they seem to level the playing field for anxious and non-anxious performers, helping nervous performers much more than they help performers who are naturally relaxed. In the British study, for example, the musician who experienced the greatest benefit was the one with the worst nervous tremor. This player's score increased by a whopping 73%, whereas the musicians who were not nervous saw hardly any effect at all.
And then on to the crux of his argument:
Beta blockers are banned in certain sports, like archery and pistol shooting, because they're seen as unfairly improving a user’s skills. But there is another way to see beta blockers—not as improving someone’s skills, but as preventing the effects of anxiety from interfering with their skills. Taking a beta blocker, in other words, won’t turn you into a better violinist, but it will prevent your anxiety from interfering with your public performance. In a music competition, then, a beta blocker can arguably help the best player win.
Pretty interesting take. He goes on to talk about shooting in basketball under high pressure, and how it would seem like cheating if we could make everybody clutch. However, because of the possible aerobic capacity effects mentioned above, I would think a better example would golf. That's a sport where people would flip out if somebody was taking a pill to calm their shaking hands and make their palms not sweat as they came up to the final putt on the 18th hole.

At this point, I think I have to say that dealing with the effects of anxiety is a big part of any sport, and I have a hard time not seeing a pill that helps with it as cheating.

Black Roux, Bad Gumbo

So I was trying to make gumbo before I got sick, and the most interesting and challenging thing about gumbo appears to be the roux. As the wiki says, it's flour added to hot fat that is stirred constantly until it the raw flour taste is gone and it reaches the desired color. There is apparently a yin-yang between thickening power and distinctiveness of flavor... that is, your "white" roux doesn't taste like anything, but really thickens your soup or whatever... while a very dark/brick roux has a strong and distinctive flavor but doesn't really do much thickening at all. You often uses a lighter roux to thicken a gravy or something where the juices of what you are making the gravy from should be dominant, but in a gumbo it's cooked until it's very dark. Making such a dark roux is fairly challenging because you have to cook it for such a long time, stirring constantly, without burning the flour or letting the oil get too hot. Some people cook it on quite a low heat and stir for an hour minimizing risks of burning, while others cook it on a high heat and try to get it done in like 10 minutes. I decided to go for the middle road of medium heat and 20-25 minutes of stirring.

Early on it looked like this:

It should never look like this... I seem to have taken it past the dark/brick stage on to the black stage:

I didn't realize at the time, of course, since I've been to New Orleans all of once in my life and certainly am no expert on Cajun/Creole cooking... nor on regular cooking either, but let's set that aside... and I was working from a cookbook description that said things like "cook to the color of an old copper penny" which seemed pretty vague at the time. After looking at some pictures on the web I get it more now, and know what I'd be looking for when I try it again. Anyway, I went on to cook the gumbo with a black roux... completely oblivious... and, to be honest, didn't even notice it was burnt... though I didn't find it particularly impressive either. I plead the fact that I was getting sick at the time, and probably had dead taste buds... but anyway, there were numerous problems with my gumbo attempt, beyond the roux, which I plan to fix for my next attempt.

Things to fix
  1. I only went to Shaws to get my shrimp, and thus they were frozen and mostly peeled, leaving me only the tails to make my shrimp stock. Weak. I need to make the extra effort and get to one of the two excellent fish markets in East Cambridge, even though they are out of the way to get fresh shimp with their heads still on.
  2. I also didn't get andouille sausage, and went with kielbasa which is pretty damn bland in comparison.
  3. Make the roux right.

Hopefully in the future I can report back with something that is a little less of a fiasco.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama VP pick preference

So, he's gotta pick somebody (doesn't he?) before the convention starts next Monday... but I don't really feel like reading the tea leaves of his schedule to try and makes guesses at this point. The last few weeks of ginned up faux-controversies has, for the most part, caused me to take a step back from politics and enjoy my summer a bit more as we wait for the rest of the country to start paying attention. They'll do that during/after the national conventions, and that's when I plan on obsessing again... however, since we seem to have a pretty stable list of contenders for the VP slot at this point, I might as well share some thoughts.

The presumed front runners are: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

A Bayh pick basically doubles down on Obama's strength in the Midwest, and perhaps improves his appeal to more conservative voters. Tim Kaine would be doubling down on "outsider/change", while hopefully helping take Virginia. Biden tries to address Obama's perceived weaknesses in experience and foreign policy, but brings nothing electorally.

None of them excite me, but even a pick of the pretty conservative Bayh wouldn't upset me... so how's that for "meh"? I'm still holding out hope for a dark horse, but I guess Biden is the one I like the most... because he's pretty funny, very intelligent, but has a pretty direct and blunt way of speaking. He's also a clear expert on foreign policy... which might cut against the "inexperienced" meme that has followed Obama around for so long. While I don't like reinforcing the idea that Obama needs to have someone like Biden holding his hand, at least Biden would be a great attack dog whenever McCain and his insane neocon buddies say anything... well... insane. Another interesting angle is "connecting with working class voters"... Biden is from a working class background, and lives very modestly for a Senator... his blunt and direct manner could also help him explain complex economic and foreign policy issues in ways that Average Voter can understand.

There are a couple of problems: the biggest is that every time he opens his mouth, he's risks saying something that makes you shake your head and cover your eyes(i.e. calling Obama "clean and articulate")... and the way 24 hour cable news can focus on slips of the tongue for days at a time, that's a pretty large risk to take (the month of August has only reinforced how silly they are). Another issue is that he is not a "change" pick... he's been a Senator since he was 30, and is pretty much in the pocket of credit card companies (they are his constituents though, to be fair).

I also have been advocating for a younger, more dynamic candidate, who could serve as a successor and future head of the Democratic Party... Tim Kaine is young(50), but not too terribly dynamic from what I can tell... but perhaps it is best to think first of an election that is less than 3 months away? I'm not all that concerned about Obama's inability to pull away (yet), but "better safe than sorry" is not bad advice here. Biden is probably the strongest at shoring up Obama's perceived weaknesses, and I think he is a very good speaker and debater... one of the best if you can reign in his tendency towards being a bit of a windbag(but what Senator doesn't like to hear themselves speak?), and just cross your fingers about gaffes.

I don't know... of the three, he seems to me to have the biggest upside for 2008, but also carries some risks. But then again, the VP pick probably doesn't even make any difference, so the speculation is useless.

Regardless, we should know in a few days who it is.

Six Flags New England

So yesterday Anna and I went to Six Flags New England for the day. It had been a long planned trip, so despite the fact that I was still recovering from a stomach bug, we headed out the Mass Pike to Western Mass. My boss had taken his kids out there last year and came back raving about the merits of the Flash Pass... which is a little beeper like device that you can rent for the day that lets you wait in a "virtual line" on the big popular rides (like Superman, Batman, etc). You pick a ride from anywhere in the park, and when your wait time is up, the beeper will buzz and you can head over to the ride and go right up to the front of the line. The regular Flash Pass doesn't save you any time; you get what the expected wait is... you just can ride on the less popular rides or get food or whatever. You also don't have to go immediately when the buzzer goes off, it will hold your place indefinitely, so I suppose if you just wanted to make sure you got to ride Superman several times in one day, but weren't concerned about the others as much, you could use it exclusively to reserve a space on that ride while waiting in conventional lines otherwise. A basic unit that is good for one person will set you back $26, with each additional person adding $11 (while still having to pay for admission to the park which is about $30 a person... and parking which is $15).

However, that's only the Basic Flash Pass. You could spring for the GOLD Flash Pass which cuts your wait times by 75% (up to? not sure about the fine print)... which costs $56 for one person and $29 for each additional... so fairly ridiculous... but the GOLD Pass is what Anna and I did and I think our tickets, Pass, and parking came out to $160-$170 total. An expensive day, no doubt, but no worse than an super fancy dinner with three or four courses and a bottle of wine or two... in either case, not something we do more than once or twice a year, so I don't mind spending a little extra... and, in fact, I hadn't been to an amusement park since I was a teenager, so there was reason to go all out.

In addition, my feeling is that the absolute worst thing about these kind of places is waiting in line for two hours for two minutes of excitement. With the the fancy pass, the worst wait time I ever saw for a ride... on an extremely busy mid-August Monday... was 30 minutes(i.e. 2 hours for the plebes)... and most were more like 10 or 15(40-60 minutes), which is about the time it takes to walk across the park to it. Though I did sometimes see wait times of "?", which I'm not sure whether it was a glitch, temporary shutting down of the rides, or waits so long that they feared riots if Flash Pass users were seen jumping to the front.

Now, unfortunately, my stomach was still a bit dodgy, even on Monday... and I'm getting old... so I couldn't just ride Superman ten times in a row like your average 14 year old might... but even though we only got in about 5-6 rides over the course of our stay, we got to ride everything we wanted to... so I still say it was worth it.

picture by flickr user Joe Rollerfan used under a Creative Commons license

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Phelps vs. Aquaman?

He did it. 8 gold medals in one games and more medals overall than anyone can shake a stick at... so there is only one test left for our Olympic Hero...

I can't honestly know how good Phelps is in the seahorse riding and giant clam/squid fighting competitions, but my money is still on the Olympian. However, I must say that he's likely to under perform in the "Get taken as a hostage 2 minutes into the show, and serve as bait for the rest of the Superfriends" event. It's really going to depend on the judges there.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mack the Knife

Consider Louis:

and Ella:

I have to admit that I prefer Ella here... Louis has all the drama, and nails it by the numbers... but her verve, and the fact that the actual words are just a broad outline for her performance... and then... she even does an Armstrong impression to top it all off... that all means: Ella teh winnerz.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Someone call the Fire Department

Joe Klein... a former fan of Senator McCain's "sterling" character... has some words:
But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the "putting America first" front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I seem to have caught The Plague

Sorry for the lack of updates but some sort of heinous stomach virus (that I completely blame my coworkers for) has colonized me. I'm feeling a bit better today, but I think that means I get to sleep uninterrupted by bouts of vomiting (was that too explicit?)... so probably limited, if any, further posts today.

I did just watch some more of that Michael Phelps character on NBC's website... and saw the US team beat a world record by 5+ seconds... what is up with swimming that you can beat a world record that badly? You hardly ever see a track and field world record broken, and those guys get caught taking steroids or doping all the time. Are those weird unitard swimsuits that AWESOME?

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's always Nazis with these guys

Matthew Yglesias (now at his new site) roundly mocks the neocon obsession with Munich:
It seems to me that rather than specifically informing us of each and every time something happens in the world that reminds neocons of the Sudetenland crisis, maybe they should let us know on those rare occasions when a world event doesn’t spark a Munich analogy. That would be a dog bites man kind of story. Meanwhile, if we launch a war with Russia — which would seem to be the point of busting out the analogy — then how are we going to find the time to launch wars with Iran and China? And what about Syria?

As I've said previously, I don't know a whole lot about what's going on between Georgia and Russia except that things don't look so good for Georgia right now... but I think I'll go to people like Richard Holbrooke for analysis, and not people who see Nazis hiding behind their couches at night and who think land wars in Asia are a good plan. Holbrooke does invoke WWII briefly, but he and his co-author actually put out a plan of action instead of just being a provocateur for Cold War part II:
What can we do? First, Georgia deserves our solidarity and support. (Georgia has supported us; its more than 2,000 troops are the third-largest contingent in Iraq -- understandably those troops are being recalled.) We must get the fighting stopped and preserve Georgia's territorial integrity within its current international border. As soon as hostilities cease, there should be a major, coordinated transatlantic effort to help Tbilisi rebuild and recover.

Second, we should not pretend that Russia is a neutral peacekeeper in conflicts on its borders. Russia is part of the problem, not the solution. For too long, Moscow has used existing international mandates to pursue neo-imperial policies. We must disavow these mandates and insist on truly neutral international forces, under the United Nations, to monitor a future cease-fire and to mediate.

Third, we need to counter Russian pressure on its neighbors, especially Ukraine -- most likely the next target in Moscow's efforts to create a new sphere of hegemony. The United States and the European Union must be clear that Ukraine and Georgia will not be condemned to some kind of gray zone.

Finally, the United States and the European Union must make clear that this kind of aggression will affect our relations and Russia's standing in the West. While Western military intervention in Georgia is out of the question -- and no one wants a 21st-century version of the Cold War -- Moscow's actions cannot be ignored. There is a vast array of political, economic and other areas in which Russia's role and standing will have to be reexamined. Moscow must also be put on notice that its own prestige project -- the Sochi Olympics -- will be affected by its behavior.
Seems fairly pragmatic and not centered on starting a new war, which is nice.

No YOU'RE the celebrity

I basically think this add is just about as childish as McCain's celebrity add with Britney and Paris... but I guess it does a good job of pointing out how ridiculous it is for any candidate for President to complain about how popular the other person is. You pretty much have to be kind of a celebrity to get millions of people voting for you to lead the free world.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

LaDanian Tomlinson can't swim?

That's what Michael Phelps is alleging, at any rate:
He chatted with Peyton Manning for an hour at the ESPY Awards a few years ago, then swapped stories with LaDanian Tomlinson, teasing the running back about his inability to swim. For the most part, he feels like one of the gang when he hangs around with athletes who are at the top of their profession.

Wow, that certainly downgrades him in my upcoming Fantasy Football draft. You can drown in, like, an inch of water or something.... so I guess not being able to swim makes drinking a glass of ice water perilous.

Regardless, Michael Phelps went to my high school, so you can basically attribute everything he wins in the coming days to me. I accept cash. Thanks.

Friday, August 8, 2008

War between Georgia and Russia?

If you were as caught by surprise at the escalating tensions and violence between Georgia and Russia as I was, you might find this Q&A from the BBC informative. It pretty succinctly lays out the back story of some apparently long simmering tensions. I really have no opinion whatsoever on this conflict, except to hope that it is resolved with as little loss of life as possible... but you might want to check out James Joyner for updates, since he seems really on the ball here.

UPDATE: People complain about trolling, but this thread is pretty awesome. Via Wonkette.

The Party of Stupid

Excellent Krugman column today that relates to the "It's like they're proud of being ignorant" Obama video below.
Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

He then goes on to warn liberals of the dangers of thinking that such obviously stupid ploys can't succeed... remember how Bush was lionized for being average? For not being intellectual? And what about the Iraq war?
Bear in mind that members of the political and media elites were more pro-war than the public at large in the fall of 2002, even though the flimsiness of the case for invading Iraq should have been even more obvious to those paying close attention to the issue than it was to the average voter.

Why were the elite so hawkish? Well, I heard a number of people express privately the argument that some influential commentators made publicly — that the war was a good idea, not because Iraq posed a real threat, but because beating up someone in the Middle East, never mind who, would show Muslims that we mean business. In other words, even alleged wise men bought into the idea of macho posturing as policy.

I'm not, however, as convinced as he is that this drilling thing is going to be a potent issue... and I especially don't find his criticism of bipartisanship to be convincing, since it's precisely a bipartisan compromise which has the best chance of taking it off the table. I understand where he's coming from, but if the other party is going to get excited about stupid things that won't make any difference, then isn't it a better strategy to give it to them so they just shut the hell up? It's not going to make a difference, and you can use caving on the issue to get something worthwhile done... it seems a little odd to call out Republicans for stupid macho posturing to end up saying the only way to beat them is to use... macho posturing. We have the advantage of being right on the merits, but blind partisanship seems to feed more into their meme than ours.

Cam Cameron can't make Kyle Boller not suck

I didn't watch this game (though I probably could have with little trouble since it was against the Pats), so my impressions are only coming from other people, but this Mike Preston quote jumped out at me:
Boller started for the Ravens last night in the team's 16-15 win. It was a vintage Boller performance. He made some really great throws, put the ball where only a receiver could catch it. He showed mobility and a command of the offense.

And then he did some really stupid things, such as failing to tuck the ball away or staring down a receiver, which led to the interception.

I've been defending the guy for years, but at some point you just gotta let go. I guess Troy Smith didn't look any better, and Flacco played like a rookie... not to mention it's only one preseason game with a new offense... but at the same time, it's not just one game for Kyle Boller, it's been 5 seasons of the same stuff. Great throws followed by fumbled snaps. Ugh.

Maybe it's Chad Pennington time?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reasons yards are better than parks

An urbanite, like myself, Megan McArdle doesn't really get why people even want yards:
I get the purpose of a yard for children and dogs to play in, and summers on the patio. But I don't get the point of the vast expanses of lawn that lie fallow in the more upscale suburbs. They require vast upkeep for the benefit of . . . looking at green, empty space. And the tradeoff seems to be a world where you can't get anywhere without driving and your neighbors are distant apparitions. Am I missing something? Or do others perceive features where I see bugs?

I can think of at least two things I miss about not having a yard: Gardening and Grilling. I enjoy my window herb garden, but it's obviously got some limits. Now it's true that there are communal gardens in Cambridge, but there really aren't that many plots when you consider the density of the population... and for grilling, there isn't much of a solution except taking a little hibachi out to the park, which I'm not even sure is legal, and it certainly isn't ideal.

My proffered solution to this would be Green Roofs:
We could then have a place for sunbathing, gardening, and grilling open to the residents of a building, so it's a little bit more private than your average public park... but it's not wasting space that could be used for housing more people.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Way

It's easy for us political junkies to forget what a master of The Art Barack Obama is. We're so scared irrationality is going to beat us, that we don't just stop and say "WTF is this nonsense?" Obama does:

I think he would do better appealing to NASCAR and Everyman/woman, people who know how to change their own oil, than "energy experts", but it is a good riff, no doubt.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

O Rei do Futebol

I never had much respect for "old guys" when my dad or whomever would tell me about the wonderous exploits of somebody from back in the day... everybody is bigger, faster, and better now, right? Those cats would get steamrolled if you brought them back.

Well, not exactly all of them... Ta-Nehisi adequately covers Gale Sayers, so I'm going to throw in the video that made my jaw drop regarding Pele:

Unbelievable. Did you see the part where he was getting hacked constantly, and still scored at will? He was like a man amongst boys... nobody can seriously entertain the concept that he wouldn't kick everyone's ass today as well. I mean, I know there are people who think that, but they can't have possibly watched this video.

Princeton Election Consortium

This is likely only going to interest hardcore election nerds, like myself, but here goes:

FiveThirtyEight kinda sucks. For those that don't recognize the name, it's an electoral projection site that tries to predict future election results based on a complex model constructed from poll numbers(state and national), demographics, various arbitrary weights, and Nate Silver's blood glucose level each Tuesday. OK, OK... that last one isn't true... but it might as well be. He has constructed an incredibly overwrought model that is nearly impossible to interpret... it could be be the Wizard of Oz, for all its black box-ishness... which is why I don't link to him, despite the fact that it seems like something I'd be all over. I do like his commentary, but I find his model ponderous, and thus don't use his stuff to try and support/knock down any arguments.

Well, lo and behold, Kevin Drum alerts me that there is someone else who shares my qualms(plus more!)... and he knows statistics... and he's doing his own meta-analysis!

I will warn you, he's not doing "predictions"... he's doing "what if the election was held today?" musings, but with statistical rigor. He's also entirely dependent on state polling, which, right now, is somewhat sparse... though this will turn from a weakness to a strength as we approach the election.

Regardless, Princeton Election Consortium gets my meaningless endorsement as THE place to go if you want to know the state of the race, but you want more than "he's winning".

Good Old Games revisited

Last night I received an e-mail from Good Old Games, which you might remember from this post, which states that they're pushing back their beta and are going to be sending out keys in the next couple of weeks... seeming to indicate that anyone who submitted their e-mail address will get a key, but I'm not sure. If you are interested in gaming like it's 1995 you might want to get your e-mail up in there, if you haven't done so already, just in case.

Knife and Preparation Skills Class Part II

So I had my second class(out of 2) in the Knife Skillz Class last night, and it was actually better than I expected. He even forgot the meat (pork tenderloin, chicken) and spent a lot of time cutting up stuff for fruit salad, which interests me roughly negative infinity... and I still got a lot out of it. I specifically asked him about dicing tomatoes, since I had so much trouble with coring, seeding, and dicing them with my No-cook pasta sauce last week, and luckily that was part of the lesson plan.

He showed us tons of ways to cut tomatoes, but unless you're going for the whole slice (or wedges) of tomato in something, I can't really think of a time when you want the gunk and seeds in whatever you are cooking. His technique gives you pure tomato flesh without the hassle of squishing out tomato seeds by hand, which leaves you a pulpy mess before you even get to the cutting. Unfortunately, I cannot find an online example of the it... but essentially, you cut off the top and bottom, as per usual, and then make a a vertical slice through skin and flesh but not any deeper... then you sort of roll it out while cutting around the core, so you have this big long strip of tomato flesh bereft of seeds and core. I doubt that was a very clear explanation, but since (even though I specifically asked about it!) he didn't give me an opportunity to try(there were limited tomatoes and there are roughly 1 million ways to cut them), maybe I can document my attempts at the technique as I muddle through it in the future. I'm definitely a fan of it though.

The thing he had me try was this:

Which I'll freely admit is pretty cool, but I'm not sure how often I'm really going to need to make tomato concasse. But, hey, now I know... and so do you.

I'll use a second Chef Jean Pierre video to show what was basically the rest of the class:

He's a little hardcore about getting all the white stuff out, which we weren't (and I won't be in the future)... also, that is not a julienne... at least according to Lars(teh Chef)... a julienne is a specific cut and it doesn't mean "cutting into thin strips before a dice" (what I thought it meant). A julienne cut would be thinner and shorter... matchstick size... and matchsticks are not as big as your finger. I think the idea was that if you're making crudités for your cocktail party, you are NOT julienning and HOW DARE YOU!? even imply such a thing. Chefs are weird.

But anyway, the inverse of that is how you do fruit with a hard exterior (melons and the like). You do essentially the same thing, but the parts you keep and throw away are opposite.

Otherwise it was just: cut it into slices, slices into strips, strips into dice. I found carrots to be a strangely satisfying thing to dice... perhaps because I was afraid of them before... but I think I'm going to need to find an excuse to dice more of them.

For the Blogger on the go

Don't have time to have some snacks while sitting in your underwear proving that there is somebody is wrong on the internet? Cheetos Lip Balm is here to answer the call. It gives you that sexy Cheeto scent without all those CHEEZY calories... not to mention soft, soft lips for kissing your pillow.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"To this day I don't know who influenced me more--Gary Gygax or James Baldwin."

That's a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic's new blogger, and it's one of the big reasons I've become such a huge fan of his stuff over the last few months. He's also from my home town, though I grew up in the suburbs(Catonsville and Towson), whereas he grew up in an area I was told to NEVER GO. Anyway, he name drops The Manual of the Planes and contemplates Wu-Tang Clan's influence on the future of American literature, and this is why you must read him.

I wish him well at The Atlantic and hope you check him out. Once I get my lazy ass around to cleaning up and improving my links, his blog will occupy a place of prominence.

Chait wins this round

I guess that's why they pay him for his opinions.

A nice "contrast" (i.e. ATTACK!) ad from Obama:

As Steve Benen notes, the only thing that is mildly misleading in this ad is that McCain's proposed tax cuts will effect ALL corporations... not just oil companies... but it's hard to see how that plays into a win for McCain.

UPDATE: And now is comes out that Hess family and Execs donated $285,000 soon after McCain reversed his position on offshore drilling.

Swiftboating Obama or clutching at straws?

There seem to be two competing opinions coming out there in the wake of McCain's recent negative ad campaign: 1) Obama needs to go on the attack or he's going to end up just like Kerry in 2004 or, 2) these attacks smack of desperation and will only serve to ruin McCain's "brand". You can see Jonathan Chait for the "ATTACK NOW or all is lost!" hypothesis, and for someone (other than myself) who thinks the attacks were sad and pathetic, see Andrew Sullivan wonder "How Shitty Was McCain?"

John Heilman lays it all out in an excellent article:
What Schmidt and his associates have apparently concluded is that McCain’s weaknesses—on the election’s most salient issues and as a candidate—are so pronounced and Obama’s vulnerabilities so glaring that the low road is their guy’s best, and maybe only, route to the White House. They’ve concluded, in other words, that even if McCain may not be able to win the election in any affirmative sense, he might still wind up behind the big desk if he and his people can strip the bark off Obama with sufficiently vicious force.

If this sounds like an admission of a certain kind of defeat, that’s because it is. But in the prevailing political circumstances—the hunger for change in the electorate, the abject bankruptcy of the Republican brand, McCain’s positions on the wrong side of the public on the war and the economy, his age, and his pitiful performance skills—it may reflect a cold-eyed realism that’s an asset in any campaign. Moreover, at least in the short term, it actually seems to be working. Measured against the generic Democratic ballot, Obama continues to underperform dramatically. And since shifting to a more harshly negative posture, McCain has gained ground on Obama in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to recent Quinnipiac swing-state polls.

All of which, naturally, has more than a few Democrats in a state of mortal dread, although they tend not to be the types with GOT HOPE? bumper stickers on their Volvos. Making them all the more queasy is what they regard as Obama’s tepid and too-placid responses to the most scurrilous of McCain’s j’accuses. “Obama says he’s ‘disappointed’ in McCain when he charges him with near treason, patronizing him, as if he’s got a twenty-point lead with a week to go,” says one tough-minded organizer on the left. “It’s shades of Swift Boat.”

Ah, but see, in my opinion, the first paragraph negates the last sentence of that quote. What were the major issues of the 2004 election? Gay Marriage and Iraq. Neither Bush nor Kerry had much daylight between them on policy regarding either issue... Kerry supported the invasion(initially) and wanted to "stay the course" in Iraq, and neither supported Gay Marriage... except that Kerry represented the state whose liberal activist judges had just struck such a grievous blow against heterosexual marriage. People weren't happy with the economy, but it really wasn't that bad... not by today's standards anyway. So, despite the fact that people were pissed at Bush at how much he bungled the invasion of a country that wasn't even a threat, he could rely on the Republican brand on national security issues if he succeeded in tearing down Kerry... which he and his scum peddlers did... and there would be no other issue on which Kerry clearly came out on top.

And how does that compare to 2008? As Sullivan notes, Obama's European Adventure kicked McCain's foreign policy credentials so hard in the nuts that Paris Hilton is all they got. If Obama had left them any bit of daylight, do you think they would be trying to turn the fact that 200K Germans came to see him into some sort of Bizzaro negative? The only other option they had was to make up an outrageous lie that they've been repeatedly called on. Iraq and foreign policy was the last chance they had, and it's been clearly blown out of the water.

So, in the end, I have to ask those that think that a negative campaign is going to win it for McCain... how do scurrilous attacks against Obama make voters want to vote for McCain? It certainly makes for more "leaners" in the short term, but I just don't see how it makes people want to pull the lever for you. I'm sure you have a lot of people saying right now "I'm not sure about that Obama guy, maybe we should go with McCain because he seems like an honorable fella"... but I'll wager two things will happen in the next three months... the press is going to bail on McCain hard (presuming he keeps this up), and the American people are going to see Obama going toe to toe with McCain in the debates... thus erasing Obama's negatives and McCain's only remaining positive.

I won't argue that going negative was McCain's only possible course of action(other than losing gracefully)... but as his old buddy, John Weaver, said "This is not a cost-free exercise". Now he's going to get his clock cleaned at the polls and forever damage his reputation... not that I'm complaining. Go for it My Friend.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Muckity Muck

Eugene Robinson on McCain's decent into the muck.
It's awfully early for John McCain to be running such a desperate, ugly campaign against Barack Obama. But I guess it's useful for Democrats to get a reminder that the Republican Party plays presidential politics by the same moral code that guided the bad-boy Oakland Raiders in their heyday: "Just win, baby."

The latest bit of snarling, mean-spirited nonsense to come out of the McCain camp was the accusation, leveled by campaign manager Rick Davis, that Obama had "played the race card." He did so, apparently, by being black.

Heh. I guess it's good to point out that this kind of stuff works, so the Obama has to be on guard to parry everything... but I really do believe that enough people are tired of the Rove style politics of scum and muck that all this will do is tarnish the "Straight Talkin' Maverick" image of McCain. I guess I really do fear a repeat of 2004, which is why I can get incensed by these types of attacks... but I'm trying to stay optimistic. As Joe Klein said:
I mean, we've got two wars, an energy crisis, an economy teetering on the edge of real serious trouble--and this is the campaign John McCain wants to run?
Given the realities, I just don't think flag lapel pins are going to do it this year. At least I hope not.