Saturday, January 31, 2009

Age of Consent

Best New Order sonng by a country mile... just wanted that on the record. This isn't the best video, but it's a live recording which is fairly fascinating.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Good news for the economy!

It only contracted 3.8%! No seriously... people were predicting 5.5%. But...
Although the initial result was better than economists expected, the figure is likely to be revised even lower in the months ahead and some believe the economy is contracting in the current quarter at a pace of around 5 percent. The current January-March period, they said, will probably turn out to be the worse quarter for the recession.

"The downturn is intensifying. The fourth quarter is worse than it looks," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's
OK, so maybe that isn't very good news.


Our long national comedic interlude is over...

Rod Blagojevich is now the former governor of Illinois by unianimous state Senate vote. So I guess it's back to worrying about the economy... though he still has his federal trial to await, just not from the Governor's mansion. I had heard his defense was fairly insane, so I was looking forward to Daily Show clips... but no dice... maybe they figure the man is so ridiculous as to be impossible to parody?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bipartisanship is dead - it's 1993 all over again

The big news yesterday was that zero House Republicans voted for the stimulus. Even after Obama went through all that trouble to solicit their opinions and make concessions to get their support... it still went through on a party-line vote. To liberal commentators this means bipartisanship is dead, while on the other hand conservative commentators find it to mean bipartisanship is dead. The natural analogy being 1993-1994, where Bill Clinton passed a signature item of his Presidency, the deficit reduction bill, on a party line vote and lost lots of seats in the midterms because the economy was still sluggish and GOPers gained momentum from their opposition. I have some sympathy for the idea that you should just be passing the best legislation you can, and there is no reason to make concessions if you've got the votes... just do what's best and own it. However, while that kind of psuedo-toughness excites people like Chris Matthews, jamming things through Congress like Bush was not the platform Obama got elected on... sort of the opposite, in fact... and I don't know if anybody noticed, but Obama is really popular... and the stimulus is at least pretty popular... all things, as Dave Weigel points out, weren't true for Clinton. I just don't see the calculus working out for Republicans right now... they're more likely to be seen as obstructionist to what is going to ultimately be a fairly popular bill (tax cuts do tend to be crowd pleasers), after a good faith effort to get them involved... I think their antics come across more as spiteful than as courageous... but I guess we'll see.

Certainly they stand to gain if the bill is seen to be a failure, but wouldn't that be the case regardless of their support now? Even liberals who supported the Iraq War were able to make pretty massive gains simply because they were the opposition party.

UPDATE: Hilzoy, eloquent as always, lays out what honest efforts at bipartisanship get you.
The function of trying to win bipartisan support, it seems to me, is to clarify things to the American people. If the House Republicans could be induced to support the bill, that becomes clear, and everyone would have been better off. If, on the other hand, they were bound and determined to oppose it, no matter what, that also becomes clear. Neither would have been clear had Obama not bothered to try.

To my mind, it is generally a good idea to act on the assumption that your opponents are reasonable people. (There are, of course, exceptions: e.g., when you don't have time.) It's the right thing to do morally. But it's also generally the right thing to do tactically. I think this is especially true when you suspect that your opponents are, in fact unreasonable. You should always hope to be proven wrong, but if you are not -- if your opponents are, in fact, unreasonable -- then by taking the high road, you can ensure that that fact will be plain to the world.

In addition, in a move that should surprise nobody, Obama is not going to let opposition to job creation and tax cuts in economically tough times be forgotten.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicken Scarpariello

I made this last night, and am very much looking forward to getting home and having the leftovers. I don't have time to blog the recipe in full right now (big grant due next week, and it's all hands on deck), but it's really just chicken, sausage, onion, and peppers(red and hot cherry)... which is a fairly reliable combination. It was pretty spicy too... almost sent me fleeing the kitchen when I was sautéing the hot cherry peppers.

I think my food pictures are looking better, but now that I'm not using a flash I have trouble keeping it in focus. I think I need to learn how to actually use my camera outside of the "Auto" setting.

Resident Evil 5 Demo

I haven't played it yet... I didn't even know it was out until detektor told me it was out... but I did see on Kotaku that you can add it to your download queue from the Xbox Live page... but, alas, it won't turn on your Xbox for you(at least I hope it doesn't - that would be freaky) so I don't know what good that does most of us who don't leave our consoles on 24/7. Seems like begging for a RRoD to me, but I guess you could turn it on the morning a big demo was due out... if you're that plugged in, which I'm not.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing some co-op this weekend since Anna will be up in Maine snowshoeing(seriously!) with her mother. Zombie survival games have never really been my thing, but after enjoyable experiences with multiplayer Horde mode in Gears of War 2 (which is the same general idea - streams of seemingly endless enemies and limited ammo) , I think co-op might be the way to go. We shall see, but I think it'll be good.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user M@rcello;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

GOP to oppose the stimulus

I guess it's not so surprising, since as a minority party they can oppose the proper course of action with virtually no risk. Though I have to wonder, like Steve Benen, if we're going back with a party line vote... can we take out the concessions to conservatives?

The Julie/Julia Project

I'd like to say The Julie/Julia Project had some huge effect on me and got me into cooking and blogging and blogging about cooking... but, in fact, I never heard of it until I was recently trying to decipher Julia Child's omelette technique and Anna mentioned there was someone who had cooked every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year. It's not really surprising I hadn't heard of it since I'm traditionally behind the curve on every pop culture thing... the fact that I started a blog in 2008 and not 2002 and that I've only really had a cell phone for like 3 or 4 years are exhibits A and B, respectively. I also don't get Facebook and don't see the point of Twitter... but in 5 years or so, when you're completely tired of it, I'll think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread(aside: Is sliced bread really that great? Is it so hard to slice bread? I'd say it's actually a fairly terrible invention that announced our departure from home cooking into lunchables or whatever).

So being someone who had never heard of the original blog (still in existence, though not updated - see the link above) a book that summarized it would seem pretty perfect. I checked out about a month worth of entries to see if I liked her style... which I do... she's a much better writer than I am, with a very distinctive voice... though she does say fuck a good bit more than I do :). It's much more about her marriage, friends, and job troubles than it is about cooking though... more of a diary/memoir that includes cooking disasters. I actually think the blog is a better vehicle for this kind of writing than a dead tree publication, but reading through every single entry and comments would be quite an undertaking... so the distillation that the book offers is probably the way to go for most people. It's fairly cute and a quick read... but I'm not sure I think it's a book worth owning unless you are particularly interested in that strange era where bloggers got really famous and made lots of money, but that's why we have libraries... and I can't say I have much guilt about not supporting her in blogger solidarity since she's got a movie of her life coming out with Meryl Streep in it. I think she's doing fine. Since we're urbanites of the same generation who drink a bit too much and who came to get serious about cooking around 30, I thought I would identify a bit more with her... and I think maybe I would if I read her blog from beginning to end, but for whatever reason the book felt more distant... but maybe it's just because I don't have a biological clock and don't hate my job. I dunno. So I guess I give it a "recommended with reservations"... though I don't have the ability to blithely assign an arbitrary score to it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

The GOP's New Patriotism: Praying for a terrorist attack, and hoping the President fails

The rollback of Bush's torture and detention policies began yesterday with four executive orders... Hilzoy's got the goods here and here. It's really great news... all interrogations will adhere to the Army Field Manual(even CIA)... those CIA black sites will be closed, with the Red Cross getting access to and identification of detainees... and finally, they will create a task force to examine extraordinary rendition practices and make sure we're not sending people to places they'll get tortured. Of course, like everything, we need to see how it's implemented, and there are probably loop holes that can be exploited... but it's certainly a great start to a new era.

Though, as you can guess from this post's title, not everybody feels that way:
Al-Qaeda is actively working to attack our country again. And the policies and institutions that George W. Bush put in place to stop this are succeeding. During the campaign, Obama pledged to dismantle many of these policies. He follows through on those pledges at America's peril -- and his own. If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible -- and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation.
You see? If any terrorist attacks happen from now until eternity, it's Obama's fault... just like 9/11, the anthrax attacks, terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq were all... Clinton's fault? Such a rock solid anti-terrorism apparatus!

From more on GOP scare tactics and new definition of patriotism we go to the Daily Show:

EDIT: Bonus Thiessen!
It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.
I think the man needs to pace himself... like he says, it's not even the end of inauguration week, people will start to think the outrage might be a manufactured political ploy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best French Onion Soup Part II

Shopping list and initial thoughts here, while the first part of cooking is here.

In truth, I made this soup in three parts, not two... the aforementioned "cooking onions in oven stage"... followed two days later by browning the onions and deglazing the pan (x4) , finishing the soup on the stove top, and then letting it rest over night to fully develop its flavors... finally serving the soup last night covered topped with croutes covered in Gruyère with the whole ensemble fired briefly under the broiler. However, the pictures didn't really come out from the stove top part... so I'm just going to roll it all into one post and you will just have to deal.

Tuesday night I took the refrigerated cooked down onions and put them over medium high heat. The idea being to, first, warm them back up, but to subsequently cook off all the remaining liquid so they would caramelize and start to glaze the bottom of the pan. You're supposed to "stir frequently" but I went for "pretty much constantly" to make sure I kept an eye on the fond development and nothing burned. Like I said, I don't have any pictures, but it took 20-25 before I noticed the delicious brown flavor goop collecting on the bottom (the recipe calls for 15-20, but I had cold onions and turned the heat down to medium because I was a little (over?)concerned about burning). Once you start seeing the light brown coating developing, it takes somewhere between 5-8 minutes before the glaze gets thick enough and dark brown enough that it's time to pour in a 1/4 cup of water and scrape it all up and start again. How dark you let it get is up to you, as you want some serious browning for flavor... just pouring in water and cooking it off isn't going to do anything for you... but it is a fairly fine line between brown and burnt. Regardless, once you deglaze and scrape everything up, you'll need another minute or two to cook off the water(stirring frequently/constantly this whole time) before a fond once against starts to develop and you cook for another 5-8 minutes before another deglaze with a 1/4 of water. You can repeat this step as often as you like... the recipe suggest 3 or 4, and I I got to 4 before I thought they were a dark enough mahogany to move on. The whole process is supposed to take 45-60 minutes, so if you're moving much faster than that then you should either turn your heat down or be a little more patient with the fond development. After your final deglaze, stir in a 1/4 cup of dry sherry and cook it off over about 5 minutes.

Now, here is where you are supposed to add your stock to finish off the soup... the recipe suggesting a combo of water(2 cups), chicken broth (4 cups), and beef broth (2 cups). As I mentioned before, I was making a vegetarian version, so the latter two were not an option... certainly I could substitute veggie broths, but I thought to go with just 8 cups of tap water as this was my first time making the soup. Vegetable broths aren't nearly as time consuming to make, so it would seem sensible to make it myself as opposed to buying it... but I really didn't know what flavors to bring in without seeing how it tastes. A mushroom based broth certainly made sense, but I wanted a little baseline before I risked overpowering my onions with other flavors.

So anyway, pour in your 8 cups of preferred liquid(s), throw in a bay leave and 6 sprigs of thyme that has been tied up into a little bundle with some kitchen twine. Turn it up to high and bring to a simmer before covering it and taking it down to low. Simmer all that for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. While the soup is simmering is the time to make your croutes and grate your cheese (8 oz) (unless you are planning on serving the soup the next day). For the croutes just cut half a baguette into 1/4" slices and place them in a 400 degree oven until "bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges", which takes about 10 minutes. Preheat your broiler, ladle in your soup into broiler safe bowls, float two croutes on top(not overlapping) of each, and then cover with cheese. Finally putting the bowls on a broiler pan/cookie sheet about 5 or 6 inches from the heating element for 4-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Let cool 5 minutes and voilà... Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée.

At first, when I tasted it on its own, I thought the soup was a little bland... but that's not quite right... it's actually more that it lacks a little depth by itself. The onion flavor is quite well developed absolutely delicious, but it's only one note, you know? Presumably this is because of the use of water instead of broth. However, once I got the cheese and bread involved I felt completely differently about it... and the soup seemed perfect. I think I'll probably still try a homemade veggie broth next time to see the difference, but it came out quite well in gratinée form.

It's a lot of work, but the glazing/deglazing part is pretty fun, you can break it up into more manageable chunks, and the end result is quite worth the effort in my opinion.

More digital inauguration commemoration

I guess maybe I should play off the fact that I recycled my commemorative invitation as just a side effect of my full embrace of the digital age... after all, why go out and buy a newspaper to get yellow and dusty in your attic when you can have all the newspapers via the internet?

My favorite part of that page is that it includes tabloids and Brazilian soccers weeklies that have absolutely no interest in the US President. See? It's not like everybody is excited.

About that junk mail...

I received the invitation pictured to the left about two weeks ago, and at first thought maybe it was a real ticket to see the inauguration... I mean, it had fancy seals and engraving and was on ridiculously thick paper... so I snapped the picture to show everybody, and had thoughts of flying down to stay with my parents in Baltimore and seeing the whole thing in person. It was very exciting for like two minutes. However, closer inspection revealed there wasn't much information about the events and no real instructions... and then I noticed the invitation only invited you to events "open to the public"... so my cynical side took over and I assumed it was some sort of marketing ploy for commemorative plates or whatever and threw it in the recycling bin.

Well it turns out that it was one of 1 million commemorative invitations that get sent out as part of a tradition dating back to Truman. At a million 999,999, it's not super rare or anything... but in retrospect I wish I would have held onto it as a keepsake... maybe gotten a little frame for it or something.

Oh well, I'll always have this blog to remember it by.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

False Choice? Let's have the debate.

A very interesting post from Ross Douthat regarding the "false choice" between safety and ideals mentioned below. He astutely, as always, points out that if you sincerely believe that Bush's interrogation policies have made us safer in very concrete ways, then you should demanding a Truth Commission to absolutely demonstrate that fact. I mean, Cheney said that abandoning current detainee policies "will, in fact, put the nation at risk" These are pretty high stakes then, no? Ticking time bomb and all that. Surely if torture is keeping us safe in our beds at night, then we need to see the evidence and then make the informed and public choice between security and our principles.

Inaugural Address: The Day After

It's true that yesterday's speech wasn't Obama's "showiest"... and I agree that it didn't "write its own page in the history books" by it's rhetorical merits alone. It may be that Obama is still stinging from criticisms that his speeches were all flash and no substance... or it just may be that now that he is President(huzzah!), it's time to lay out how he's going to govern in no uncertain terms. It was a call for us to grow up as a nation and to take personal responsibility for facing daunting challenges, and its honesty in that regard is why I still think it was an excellent speech... even after being separated from the hype for a day. My favorite passage of the speech was the following:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
Besides being a clear denunciation of the reprehensible policies of George W. Bush (while he was sitting right there - BURN!), it's a good allusion that I hadn't explicitly considered before. We often talk about threats to the United States as if they're completely new... and thus we have to change everything because terrorists want to kill us... but that's obviously a terribly myopic view, and it goes well beyond how many more orders of magnitude of an existential threat the USSR and Nazi Germany were compared to Al-Qaeda. It's easy to forget that basically from the Declaration of Independence through the War of 1812, our fledgling nation was under constant threat of annihilation by almost unimaginably superior forces... and yet they based their government on an ironclad Rule of Law that accepted no compromises for expediency... to the point that John Quincy Adams even got sworn in on a Constitutional Law book to show where is true fealty lay. Kinda makes it clear how they weren't just breaking laws, they were betraying they very essence of this nation... to live out their Jack Bauer fantasies. In related news, no blanket pardons issued yesterday. Hmmm...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kennedy has seizure at inauguration luncheon

Hoping for the best. Senator Robert Byrd apparently also left earlier because of illness. Dual medical emergencies is not what I was hoping for, I must say.

UPDATE: Kennedy is "awake, talking with family and friends and feeling well" and generally sounding pretty good according to the linked report. Senator Byrd also was never hospitalized and left because he was upset about Teddy.

"Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen"

Here's the vid of the Lowery benediction:

The intertubes are being hammered today, so you might want to save viewing this for later, but it's definitely worth the 5 odd minutes it takes to watch. The only thing that's missing is him slowly shuffling up to the stage, looking every bit a bent old man, and then fumbling with his note cards... and I was certainly going "Uh oh, this is going to be painful"... before totally knocking it out of the park. Stay tuned for the end, because that's the best part.

Lowery was awesome

Just got back from the Harp with those words on my tongue, only to find it's conventional wisdom already. I guess that shouldn't be surprising.

Anyway, I got to the bar about 11:20 or so... it was pretty empty, but it had only just opened, and CNN was on every screen. It filled up pretty well, especially for how big of a bar it is... maybe 50 people, not including staff? The communal excitement was... I have to say... kind of electric, and I've never seen such a crowded bar so silent with everyone staring at the TVs... kind of neat.

Both Obama and Roberts messing up on the oath? Priceless. [EDIT: Apparently it was all that dastardly John Roberts' fault]

Obama's speech seemed fantastic, but I want to separate myself from the excitement of the "moment in history" angle and the culmination of several years of obsessing over this election, and judge the speech on its own merits... so that will take a little time. However, I can certainly say the tone and themes were encouraging about Obama's intent to move boldly and quickly. In addition, it definitely had a nice liberal "America FUCK YEAH!" thing happening. But, more later... I do actually want to get some work done today.


Up until this morning, I hadn't really thought much about the inauguration because, while historic, most of it's going to be boring and involve lots of talking heads saying the same stupid things over and over to fill the time between events... it would seem logically better to get some work done while it's happening, and go back and watch the clips tonight once the boring stuff gets edited out... but then my boss stayed home because his "car is stuck"(yeah right!)... and now I'm sorta annoyed that I'm here at work, and I sorta feel like I should have stayed home so I could watch and complain about how boring the ceremony is and how stupid the commentators are LIVE.

The hospital begged us not to watch it online so people don't die because we broke the internetz or whatever... but to compensate they've set up a TV for staff, though I'm considering going over to a bar for a long lunch instead of crowding into a conference room. Will the bars be mobbed with people having the same idea as me? Empty as people "meh" and go about their day? I don't know, but I must say I'm pretty antsy all of a sudden, and am now all worried I won't be able to sit down or will somehow miss it.


Anything going on today?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raw footage of the Hudson river landing

Pretty amazing.

Best French Onion Soup Part I

The shopping list and initial thoughts are here, and final prep and serving are here.

Yesterday, before playing some GoW2 online and subsequently going out to see the Ravens get beat down... I started my latest attempt at French Onion soup. As mentioned previously, the idea of this Cook's Illustrated recipe is that you can cook the onions down in the oven more slowly so that you don't have to hover over the pot and worry about burning. The drawback being that cooking the onions now takes 2 and 1/2 hours before you even start making the actual soup... so instead of making the soup all in one go, I decided to follow the suggestion of the recipe and do the cook down before cooling and refrigerating the onions. That'll keep for a couple days, so I can eat some leftovers that are (hopefully not) rotting in my fridge before I finish the soup later this week.

You need a big oven safe dutch oven for this. The recipe says you need at least 7 quarts, and my 6.75 quart one was filled to the brim... so you can't really skimp much there. However, the onions reduce a ton so you could certainly get away with two smaller pots and then after your first deglaze combine them all into your biggest.

First up, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and put a shelf at the lower middle position... making sure there is room to accommodate the dutch oven. Then it's time to slice up 6 large yellow onions(not sweet), which yes, involves weeping like a little baby. Cook's was very firm in demanding that the onions be 1/4" sliced "pole to pole" (i.e. with the grain or root to stem) which I think is somewhat "new school" in onion slicing techniques. I can't complain as it did lead to pretty uniform slices.

Then it was time to spray the dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray (or preferably real oil in a spray bottle), throw in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter cut into three pieces, and then pile in the onions like so:
Then I just sprinkled with a teaspoon of salt, covered it, and put it the oven for an hour.

As you can see they've already cooked down quite a bit at the hour mark, but not much browning going on yet. So stir all that up and scrape everything down the sides before putting it back into the oven with the lid ajar. After another hour, pull it out of the oven and do the stir-scrape thing.
A fond is developing, as you can see, but it's still not as dark as we want them to be... which is fine since they're supposed to go another 30-45 minutes. It's hard to know what "very soft and golden brown" exactly is, but the picture in the recipe seems significantly darker than this... though I might be tempted to call that "golden brown". I ended up going closer to 45 minutes than 30, to get what I felt was deep rich coloring:

So is that over browned? Not really, since I have to do a lot of browning on the stove top still, but I may have started them further onto that process than the recipe authors intended... so I'll just have to be careful I don't burn them before that first deglaze... I'll have to be careful anyway, since I'll be starting with cold onions when I put them on the stove, so the cooking times will be off.

I'll update with the results in a few days.

$50 of beer on the wall

I need to get some less expensive tastes... $50 just seems way too much to spend on 12 beers. Regardless, the St. Bernardus was awesome as always. It's a quadrupel, so very high in alcohol content for a beer... 10.5% I believe. There aren't many examples of this style that are well executed from the States, but Three Philosophers from Ommegang and FOUR from Allagash are both very good, and a fair bit less expensive. I've seen Three Philosophers in Trader Joe's here in Boston, so it's pretty widely available at least. Though they both come in big bottles so if you're a "glass of wine a day" type drinker, you'll need one of those champagne stoppers. I have one and it works quite well, even if it's a bit cheaply constructed.

Scaldis(Bush Ambrée) is also a quadrupel, and this was my first time trying it. I'm not sure I have anything solid to say, except that I thought the alcohol taste was a little too strong and unbalanced... and unlike St. Bernardus, better beers than Bush Amber are easily available... I'd take a glass of either of the aforementioned beers over it. Not to say it was bad, but it's certainly not top of the class.

After two quadrupels, Duchesse De Bourgogne is quite a change of pace. It's a pretty unusual beer, and if you've never had a Flanders Red Ale before I certainly recommend giving it a try. They're quite sour... like a kick in the teeth, and they stun your taste buds for a long stretch, so it's not a style of ale to have with dinner. It's a bit of an acquired taste, I'll admit... but it's just so different that I think everyone should give it a try.

A plague onGratz to the Steelers

Brutal game. Certainly I hope Willis McGahee is ok. Otherwise, I didn't have much confidence coming into this game will Rolle and Suggs both hurting... and when Joe Flacco finally played like a rookie that was all she wrote. Anyway, with the Eagles losing(I cheered for the Eagles when Baltimore didn't have a team) to the Cardinals that leaves me mainly rooting against the Steelers... so Go Cards!

It would also be kind of sweet if the Super Bowl champion comes from one of the worst divisions in NFL history, and Larry Fitzgerald is some kind of freak of nature... so that's nice.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wait, do you even *like* sports?

In a long article bemoaning the fact that the playoffs have been so unpredictable since the NFL realigned into 4 team divisions, Kerry J. Byrne from writes one of the dumbest statements to ever make it into print:
Quite frankly, the widely criticized BCS offers a better system than what the NFL has given us since 2002.

It's hard to fathom what kind of logic can make this statement possible. In what world are disputed national championships super awesome? I guess it's conceivable that there are people out there would rather, say, see the AFC and NFC championships and then vote on which victor they think is better to determine the Superbowl Champion... but I never thought they'd get to write an article for SI. Why would you want a playoffs where top seeds always win? Why are surprise teams like the Cardinals something we want to avoid?

It's a very strange argument, not least because the fact that the Cardinals BEAT THE BEST TEAMS to get where they are. If they had lost by 30 points in the first round, then OK, maybe it's not fair they got a spot for winning a terrible division while a better team stayed home... but they went out and proved they belong. Is it the NFL's fault that home teams choked? What more reward for performance should there be than playoff games in front of your fans and a week off? You want them to get spotted two touchdowns 'cuz they won an extra game or two against possibly inferior competition?

The system seems to be working pretty fine to me and I think most fans... the only people who are up in arms seem to be gamblers. Not to say that changes couldn't be made to seedings and who makes it or not, but it doesn't appear to me that there is a good case for doing something drastic.

What do you want to be when you grow up little Sammy?

How about a Supreme Court Justice?
Wednesday's meeting was described as a relaxed, get-acquainted session. It included Roberts, seven associate justices and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

The absence of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was at the court Wednesday morning for arguments in two cases, was a mystery. He has, however, voiced lingering anger over Senate Democrats, including Obama and Biden, who voted against his confirmation three years ago. When walking on Capitol Hill, Alito has said, he crosses to the far side of the street whenever he nears the Senate Office Building.

All in favor of partisan witch hunts?

The Krugman:
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.
I'd be curious as what polling says about this. Do the American people want to get to the bottom of the abuses and lawlessness? If so, it would make a tough political choice a lot more palatable. I have to admit that if the cost of getting to see Cheney frogmarched into Federal prison is no health care reform or energy bill because of the bad blood engendered by a "Truth Commission"... then I think that price is to high. I certainly would like to see the guilty punished, and think a serious investigation would do a lot to restore our reputation in the world... but I don't want to see the next four years wasted for it.

That's assuming that Bush doesn't give blanket preemptive pardons to everyone involved Monday night... not an assumption I feel safe making.

A hero is he

"He did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river" and evacuating the passengers, Bloomberg said of the veteran pilot who lives near San Francisco.

With water seeping into the plane - and all his 150 passengers and four other crew members safe - Sullenberger walked up and down the center aisle twice to make sure nobody was left before he, too, fled the jet, the mayor said.

"He was the last one off the plane," Bloomberg said.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Turning point"

Is it true, as Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands assert in Slate, that the fact that a "top Bush administration official" admitted(on the record) to Bob Woodward that "We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani" means there is no possible way that Obama can sweep the Bush administration's interrogation practices under the rug? I certainly hope so. Accounts like this don't seem like they should go unpunished:

"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."

At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks," the report shows.

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands think that, with a former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and general counsel for the Department of the Army saying we've entered the legal definition of torture, the end game is clear:
The only real issue now is: What happens next?

The answer to that question takes you to a very different place when the act is torture, as Crawford says it is. Under the 1984 Torture Convention, its 146 state parties (including the United States) are under an obligation to "ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law." These states must take any person alleged to have committed torture (or been complicit or participated in an act of torture) who is present in their territories into custody. The convention allows no exceptions, as Sen. Pinochet discovered in 1998. The state party to the Torture Convention must then submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution or extradition for prosecution in another country.

Certainly nobody can say it's just leftwing peacnik pinko commie bloggers who think we bear the terrible shame of torture anymore... but will it be enough to force Obama's hand?

Soy Juice

via the IFA

Lewis Black ranting about food and nutrition:

Language NSFW in case you've never heard of Lewis Black.

Best French Onion Soup?

For the actual cooking, see Parts I and II

I've been wanting to make French Onion soup for ages... it's one of my favorite soups, and it seems really fun to make... but we didn't have broiler safe bowls for melting the cheese over the bread. Of course, you don't need that step and can make the soup without it (and we have)... and you could even argue that all that cheese is a distraction from the awesomeness of the onions (I don't, but you could). However, now that Anna is eating cheese, and it won't just be a dish I eat alone, I felt the time was right to buy some bowls and do it for reals.

I was planning on using a recipe we had tried before from that same Cook's Illustrated international cookbook that chicken in a pot came from. It's a pretty neat recipe that involves caramelizing and deglazing the onions countless times to develop a deep rich onion flavor... the best part (if you're dating a vegetarian)? No beef broth, just water. We burned the onions last time we tried it (though I thought it was still tasted pretty good, Anna disagreed) because we didn't really fully grasp what we were doing... but I think we're ready this time. However, unlike what happened with chicken in a pot, I decided to check whether there was an update to the recipe in Cook's Illustrated... and lo and behold! In the very same January 2008 issue, they published "Best French Onion Soup"(I guess it was French month?). It's actually the same carmelize/deglaze method that I find so intriguing except they cook the onions for hours in the oven first to develop a deep flavor, so that they only have to deglaze a few times. It calls for some beef and chicken stock, but instead of just substituting in veggie broth I'm considering going with water. I'm a little worried that vegetable broth would compete with the onion flavor, which is the whole reason to make the soup... so why not just water? That's my inclination anyway... I won't make it before the weekend, so I have time to change my mind.

Here's the shopping list
  • dry sherry, 1/2 cup
  • shredded Gruyère cheese , 8 ounces
  • unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons
  • baguette, 1 small
  • bay leaf, 1
  • beef broth, 2 cups
  • low sodium chicken broth, 4 cups
  • fresh thyme , 6 sprigs
  • yellow onions, 6 large
Oh, and if you don't have a subscription to the Cook's Illustrated website, and are too anxious to wait for me to make the soup... here's another blogger's experience with it as well as the complete recipe.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chicken in a Pot (Poulet en Cocotte)

I mentioned this recipe a couple of months ago and said I'd "report how it goes" and, of course... I never did... but I made it again earlier this week... so I have seized this opportunity to make some fresh comments and practice taking food pictures without a flash(need better lighting).

What's most interesting about this recipe(to me) is that the version Cook's Illustrated published in January 2008(warning $$$ required to view) differs significantly from the recipe in their International Cookbook(which is what I have been using). The magazine version uses celery and onion with garlic and rosemary as the aromatics that "casserole roast" with the chicken, while the cookbook goes for just shallots and garlic. The magazine also browns the chicken and veggies on the stove top first - which is a great idea - and cooks at a ridiculously low temperature (250 vs. 375 degrees) for almost twice as long (80-110 vs. 60 minutes 4.5-5 lb bird) - which is a weird idea. The subsequent jus from the magazine article is interesting as well, as it is merely strained and defated before being flavored with lemon juice... whereas the cookbook calls for adding chicken broth and white wine that get reduced with some added thyme and bay leaves before being thickened with chilled butter.

I guess the sauces go down to a matter of preference, as I can see the merits of either approach, and since I haven't tasted the simpler method I can't honestly judge. However, the idea of cooking at the chicken at a low temperature seems pretty silly to me... despite the fact that I haven't tasted that either, I'm pretty confident on this one... since cooking at 375 for an hour seems pretty foolproof from my experience, and has the advantage of being doable on a weeknight. The argument used in the magazine (protect the breast meat from becoming tough with the low temp) seems out of whack since the moist and delicious breast meat is the whole reason I keep coming back to this recipe. It is probably worth a try, however, next time I want to put a chicken in a pot... we'll see. The idea of browning on the stove top, however, is definitely a good one... and I'm a little chagrined I didn't think of it. The major "weirdness" of this French dish is how undercooked the skin looks by the time the chicken is perfect... browning a bit beforehand would probably do a lot to remedy this, and add a little more flavor into the juices that while make your sauce.

So next time I do this, browning is definitely the plan... but otherwise I think it's a pretty close to perfect recipe. Highly recommended.

UPDATE: But maybe what I really need to do is whip out my Mastering the Art of French Cooking and try it Julia's way. A little more showy, but certainly it sounds delicious.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Knife Honing

There's a knife sharpening conversation going on at IFA between Ezra and Matt which is apropos because I just bought myself a Christmas present of a Shun 8" Chef's knife and a honing steel.

While it's clearly a HAWSOME knife, it mainly demonstrated how dull our other knives are... we desperately need to take our other knives out to be professionally sharpened (Tags in Porter Square will sends them out for readers in the Cambridge area), but we also need to use the honing steel twice a month to keep the edge straight enough to between sharpening trips. Here is Alton Brown demonstrating proper use:

Doesn't seem like rocket science... so hopefully something I can handle.

It's alive!

Parts list found here, and part I found here.

OK, so here the final piece of the computer assembly puzzle... or at least tentatively final, as I'm considering running some benchmarks and seeing how it stacks up with some of those Tom's Hardware builds... and I'm also considering overclocking once I get another case fan, but more on that in a bit.

When I left off Thursday night I had the motherboard screwed in with all the drives and my graphics card in place. All I had left to do was hook up all the wires... piece of cake, right? Well not exactly... true, it's not exactly mentally challenging but there are a lot of wires to connect and some of them need to squeeze into fairly small spaces.

First up was the case fans, which had adapters to go directly to the power supply, but I wanted to connect them to the motherboard so I could monitor them... a fan stopping in a setup that generates so much heat could be pretty disastrous. Besides the CPU fan on the heat sink, there are only 2 fans with this case... a giant exhaust fan at the back and a small one at the bottom front at the hard drive bays... which is something I plan to remedy in the future. Regardless, it was a fairly simple matter to get those two plugged in. Next up was the connecting all my SATA cables. My two hard drives are both SATA 3.0, while the Blu-Ray drive is SATA 1.5... but apparently the 3.0 works fine with a 1.5 device. I also decided to use an external SATA port thing that came with the motherboard... not because I have external SATA devices but because my video card looked lonely. I ended up having to take out the drives from the bays, and remove my video card again, to get everything hooked up, including the power cables... so three cheers for the "tooless case" again since I didn't have to unscrew anything. The most annoying part was actually plugging in the SATA cables into the motherboard as the angle was a little tough and the pairs of ports are really close together. In retrospect it might have made sense to plug those in before screwing in the MoBo, though perhaps that just would have been annoying. I also plugged the external card into the 1.5 SATA ports for no logical reason since, as I mentioned above, 1.5 devices work fine on 3.0 and I have plenty of ports... oh well, something to fix next time I open the case up.

Next up is the power supply, which comes with a giant medusa like bundle of mysterious connectors. I'd already connected the the SATA drives on one cable, and the Blu-Ray drive on the other, so it was time for the motherboard power connections (2) and then video card. This would have been really easy if it wasn't for the fact that instead of having a single 8 pin connector they'll have two 4 pin connectors(or one 6 and one 2) that need to be plugged in simultaneously to fit. Harder than it sounds.

Finally, the LEDs and the power switch and other miscellaneous things from the front of the case like the speaker. I actually screwed this up because I thought the power switch cable was the power LED, so when I called Anna in to witness the dramatic powering up of my new computer... nothing happened. Kind of anti-climatic. Also, I'm pretty sure I have the hard drive access LED plugged in correctly, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Why? I don't know, but it's not something I care a whole lot about... though it still irritates me.

Anyway, here's what it looked like before being sealed up for the final time:

OK, so a little bit messy, but what do you want from me?

Vista installed fine, though it took installing the motherboard drivers before it recognized all the ports and could connect to the internet. I did have one heart stopping moment when (I think) I updated the BIOS via an internet utility and it hanged on boot. It was then I realized without a floppy drive I couldn't flash the BIOS and might be screwed... but telling it to go back to defaults seemed to do the trick. So I'm considering buying one of those card readers just in case since they only cost 20 or 30 bucks. I definitely want another case fan to pull in air from the side, because with only the two fans and a girlfriend who like the apartment really warm... my setup is running a little hot for my taste. I certainly won't consider overclocking until I get it a little cooler.

And here is my computer in its home entertainment position:

I picked up Crysis Warhead from Direct2Drive and that's a damn pretty game I must say(and pretty fun too - my type of FPS). In a completely unscientific test, my frame rate ranged from 30-70 and seemed to average in the 40's... but I think I can download the demo of the original and check it out with the same benchmarks Tom's uses to see how it compares.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ravens headed to Pittsburgh

Should be epic. I'm not super confident after the Ravens squeaked by with some lucky breaks, and the Steelers just dominated.

But hey, third time's the charm right? Right!?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Well it didn't explode

First post from the new computer... seems to be doing well... Vista is interesting. I'll have more later, but there is still tons of stuff to do.

Blagojevich Impeached

I don't believe this will affect the Burris appointment, but it should be interesting drama at least for those of us who don't live in Illinois.

2.6 million jobs lost in 2008

That, and other cheery employment news in your December jobs report.

I really hope Teh Congress can get their acts together and have something for Obama to sign on the 20th. I appreciate that you want to get things right, and some political kabuki needs to be played because that's how it works... but even optimists seem to think it's a foregone conclusion we're going to hit 9% unemployment, and double digits seem a likely possibility.

I was as upset as anyone with Bush's tactic of declaring every appropriation for a new hockey rink in Wasilla as "necessary to protect our American way of life from terrorists", but you know... this actually is an emergency... so maybe Obama could tell everybody to stop dicking around for a bit and get something done?

UPDATE: Oh, so I guess Obama rang the bell yesterday. I suppose I was too distracted by work and my computer to notice.

UPDATE II: Marc Ambinder handicaps it at 60% that the stimulus bill reaches Obama's desk by February 16th. Ugh.

2009 Best BC Joke of the Year Award goes to...

Bill Simmons!
The Todd Marinovich Award for "Worst performance by a rookie QB"
Put it this way, Matty Ice: When the Cards are jumping the snap for four quarters, then one of them goes on a radio show saying they jumped every snap count because you called every play on "one," then you probably should enroll in a "How to vary your snap counts" class at Steve DeBerg College this summer. Although I love the potential of a Boston College product not being able to count to two.
It's a little early yet, but I think he's got it locked up since the only other times I hear BC jokes are from my friends... and they're not that funny. ;) Probably a little too obscure of a reference to use at hockey games, no?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Too... tired... to... finish... assembling...

You can find the parts list here and part II here.

Yet more proof that I'm getting to be an old man. A few years ago this would have been an all-nighter... but my knees hurt and my eyes are tired of squinting at tiny writing. However, for some reason I'm going to stay up and blog about it. I think I have a disease (truthfully, it will chill me out before trying to sleep).  Anway, here are some snaps of the progress so far:

I started off by taking the empty motherboard(above) and attaching the adapter bracket so my Zelman heatsink would fit the new 1366 socket. After that, it was time to take out the chip placeholder and put in the real thing. Then I slathered on some thermal grease before screwing the mammoth copper monstrosity on top.

With all that done and it was time to snap in the memory in tripple channel configuration and put in my beastly graphics card. I quickly learned that putting the video card in was pretty damn stupid, as it makes the assembly impossible to maneuver... so if you're following along at home, don't put your PCI cards in until you've got the MoBo screwed into the case. But anyway... pretty sexy, eh?

The next step is screwing in the motherboard, which generally involves lots of cursing.  Once again, my problems here, though minor, involved putting things in their places too early.  I put both my hard drives, the optical drive, and the power supply in before I placing the motherboard, which just made it hard to screw the damn thing in...  not to mention that the graphics card was so big that it bashed up against the hard drives.  Luckily it's a "tooless case", so I hadn't used any screws to that point, so it was easy to move the hard drives down to the lowest slots and take out the power supply.

Beyond that, the only frustration was that Cooler Master included various mysterious screws of differing length with no real explanation of what they were for.  Presumably this is for all the different types of motherboards that can be accomodated by the case, and to be completely honest, I only really glanced at the manual before deciding it was worthless...  so maybe it would have been obvious if I RTFM.  Anyway, there was one instance when I used an entirely too long screw that necessitated removing the entire board and starting again...  hence the cursing.  But all in all, it wasn't too bad.

So here's where we stand now:

Everything is in place... pretty much... but I have yet to connect any wires, so there is still a fair amount to do tomorrow, before I even get to the "push the power button and pray I didn't screw anything up stage".  But anyway...  off to bed.

*Some Assembly Required

Cheny considers self warm, lovable

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Poltics and Food collide

via Ezra Klein

If only more politicians, chimpanzees, video game players and scientists talked about food, then this blog's themes would be much of a more cohesive unit... instead of just things I like to write about... but as it is, I'll take what I can get:

That's circa 2001 B. HUSSEIN Obama talking about food on an episode of a show that apparently never aired (see the Ezra link for more).

More on Panetta

The more I read about the people who are upset about Panetta being the pick for DCI, the more savvy of a choice it seems. First, let's get this "not enough experience" meme taken care of. Fred Kaplan gets Richard Clarke on record about Panetta in Bill Clinton's White House:

Richard Clarke, who was the White House counterterrorism director under Clinton (and, briefly, under Bush before resigning and then emerging as a celebrated critic), wrote in an e-mail today:

Leon was in all of the important national security meetings for years, both as [Office of Management and Budget] director and as chief of staff. He made substantive contributions well outside of his job description. And as OMB director, he was one of a very few people who knew about all of the covert and special-access programs.

Clarke's first point is crucial—Panetta knows, from experience, what a president wants and needs from intelligence reports, so he could represent the agency's views more cogently than many insiders might.

But the final point is important, too. These "special-access programs"—satellites, sensors, and other intelligence-gathering devices whose very existence is known only to those with compartmentalized security clearances—form a welter of costly, overlapping, ill-coordinated, and largely unsupervised projects that are run by private contractors to a greater extent than most people might imagine.

It seems hard to argue that this kind of experience didn't prepare him sufficiently when you pair it with his work on the Iraqi Study Group, in Congress, etc... especially if Steven Kappes, your intelligence professional, is kept in the deputy director spot.

That out of the way, back to why Feinstein and Rockefeller's dismay at the pick makes me more confident about the choice... Scott Horton nails it:
The bottom line is that Jay Rockefeller was an abject failure when it came to intelligence oversight. His term as ranking member and then chair of the Senate intelligence committee was one in which Congress generally, and the Senate in particular, failed to live up to their Constitutional mandate. The intelligence community was steered by the Bush Administration into a series of criminal escapades. Effective congressional oversight would have exposed these failings and brought them to heel. But the Rockefeller-Feinstein record was little short of disastrous. I’m delighted that the Obama team didn’t consult them.

And I suspect that Panetta was chosen principally for his managerial skills, but secondarily because Obama wanted someone who would have a more powerful voice in Washington generally, and in Congressional circles in particular, than either Rockefeller or Feinstein.
I'm sorry if it hurts their feelings, but Bush's Democrat enablers are not who I want picking who goes in to reform a failed and disgraced agency. As I mentioned yesterday, it seems to me that they're more interested in letting "bygones be bygones" than really getting to the bottom about how things went so terribly wrong... and that's simply not in the American people's best interest.

Gears of War 2 Impressions

I can't say it's doing much for me to be honest. It was a Christmas gift, so I've only just started playing... the first few missions and then about 1.5 hours of multiplayer (Onslaught? Horde? Whatever mode where waves of enemies come at you) with some buddies who love the game. Played the first one at a friend's house for all of five minutes... so I'm clearly not much of a GoW fanboi, though I have nothing against it either... but so far I find the second itteration to be utter meh. Co-op and other forms of multiplayer make it palatable enough to get my (or my mother's really) money's worth out of it, but the combat seems like a complete bore. Not boring because it's easy, which is certainly not the case because I suck and die all the time... but boring because it's actively anti-immersive. One of the "gameiest" shooters I've played since Galaga. All your weapons are utterly useless, seemingly taking two clips to kill the lowliest of enemies... luckily you're nearly invulnerable when you're shooting from behind cover... so firefights seem to consist of hiding behind stuff and shooting at the same guys for hours. Yay? The fact that the campaign is completely on rails and scripted in obvious ways... "OK, now I cross this imaginary line and people will come out from behind us to create 'tension'"... does not at all help matters.

Now, currently I suck at the game, so maybe as I play some MP I'll get into whatever nuance there is in the combat system... but it may just be that I'm more of a Call of Duty and Rainbow Six kind of FPS player it this point. I've never really liked Halo either, for similar reasons, so maybe that's just the way it is with me. I just enjoy feeling that the weapon I'm using has some lethality to it... shooting things 100 times to deplete their "shields" or whatever just seems silly to me... and "uber weapons" scattered about the map seems like a concept that should have finally died 5 years ago. Why can't all the weapons be good?

I want to be clear that I don't oppose Sci-Fi themed shooters in general... I just need to feel like my weapon is doing something. Give me all the hordes of enemies that explode in giant balls of guts you want, just not these giant monstrosities that take two clips without flinching and mysteriously keel over after the third.

On a (sort of) positive note the dynamic of the "waves of enemies" co-op mode was nice and made me think I might enjoy Left 4 Dead more that I thought I would. Maybe that will be my first purchase for the new computer (first part of the shipment was delivered last evening, though I didn't see the box until the morning)... after my experience with the lack of LIVE interest in the Orange Box, I'll probably keep my Valve purchases that have MP on the computer.

picture by flickr user Dunechaser used under a Creative Commons license

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Panetta to CIA

Now, I don't know Leon Panetta from Adam and he may or may not be any good, but I have to agree with Matt Yglesias regrading his reaction to Sens. Feinstein and Rockefeller being upset about the pick.
...the sentiment that Obama is somehow obligated to appoint a current senior intelligence manager to the job seems merely designed to ensure that no senior intelligence officials are held to account for anything that happened during the Bush administration. And if you think there’ve been no serious intel problems during the Bush years, that makes a lot of sense. But if you live on planet earth, that’s crazy. But if you want to go outside the IC to find a Director and still want someone who’s up to the job of running the agency, that’s a difficult person to find. But maybe you could find someone like . . . a former White House Chief of Staff!
I've always liked Senator Feinstein, but it truly does seem like she's upset that Obama didn't pick someone from "the club", who like her, would be complicit in all of the intelligence failures and abuses that have occurred in the last 8 years. No thanks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Computer Incoming

Here's the parts list if anyone is interested:All that with a Zalman CPU fan, a bracket to adapt said fan for the new LGA 1366 slot, and some thermal compound ran a little over $2K shipped(not including some mail in rebates). I've already got a LCD monitor (32") and a 5.1 speaker system I wasn't interested in replacing. It makes me a little bit woozy to spend all that money at once... but I want another computer that's going to last me 5 years at least, and the way to ensure that is to buy the best CPU and graphics card available... and that's basically what I did. I'm nervous as hell that I did something wrong and bought the wrong part, but I double checked everything and have my fingers crossed.

My one major concern is that I'm going to wish I bought a beefier power supply in a couple years... I might want to double up on graphics cards whenever Diablo III comes out and find 650 watts just isn't enough. Hopefully not.

Until then, I'm going to have to figure out what to play on it... I'm guessing the system will be a bit wasted on WoW. I'll blog the assembly whenever the parts get here... which will hopefully be by the weekend, but I didn't rush the processing or anything so we'll see.

Tax Cut Stimulus

$300 billion?
The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush's tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut -- the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush in 2003 -- contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.
As much as I like paying less taxes, 40% of the stimulus being tax cuts strikes me as a bad plan. Krugman lays it out:
...there’s a reasonable economic case for including a significant amount of tax cuts in the package, mainly in year one.

But the numbers being reported — 40 percent of the whole, two-year plan — sound high. And all the news reports say that the high tax-cut share is intended to assuage Republicans; what this presumably means is that this was the message the off-the-record Obamanauts were told to convey.

And that’s bad news.

Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they’ll demand 100%. Then they’ll start the thing about how you can’t cut taxes on people who don’t pay taxes (with only income taxes counting, of course) and demand that the plan focus on the affluent. Then they’ll demand cuts in corporate taxes. And Mitch McConnell is already saying that state and local governments should get loans, not aid — which would undermine that part of the plan, too.

A good faith gesture at bipartisanship at least gives cover if they come back with demands for even greater tax cuts... but yeah, it doesn't seem like a good sign to be giving so much ground before negotiations have even really begun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Burgers and Ravens

I'm getting ready to go out and cheer the Ravens on to victory(crosses fingers), but I haven't decided on where to go. Being that we don't have cable, I don't have a "stay home" option and it's between better food(R.F. O'Sullivan) and better viewing environment(Tavern in The Square). I'm leaning towards the latter since it will be nice to be around some Ravens fans instead of bitter Pats fans only vaguely interested in the game... despite the draw of delicious half pound burgers.

Anyway, this is basically the perfect matchup for the Ravens... a short passing team with no real deep threat ability (well Ginn could be a problem if Pennington can throw it that far). I predict an easy victory, but of course anything can happen. That's why they play the games etc etc.

Friday, January 2, 2009

iPods and Firewire

This Yglesias post... smugly mocking Zune owners for the whole "Leap year? What's that?" fiasco... brought to mind Anna's recent iPod issues.

If you've got any iPod accessories that use Firewire, be advised that the most recent iPods have dropped that completely... so when Anna replaced her broken nano with a shiny new one instead of sending it off to be fixed... it made the iGroove(docking station with speakers) I bought her a few years ago much less useful. It will play music from the new nano, but it won't charge it... which seems to make the whole thing a hassle to use instead of a nice convenience.

But hey, at least they come in pretty colors now... though if you have any beloved accessories you may want to consider if they depend on Firewire for any functionality before you upgrade.

Not quite back to blogging...

There's obviously a lot going on in the world these days, what with Israel bombing Gaza and the surreal comedy of Blago and Obama's Senate seat... but I've been concentrating on family and just enjoying a vacation, so, alas, I have nothing insightful to say. (Do I ever really?)

I'm mainly concerned with the fact that my home computer is having trouble booting up and making very sad and pitiful sounds seemingly indicating its imminent demise... but I will post as I get back up to speed and into the flow... but expect more on Monday.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Only 19 more days until we have a real President.