Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Evolutionists, some friendly advice: when you're in a hole, stop digging! 

Aha! Silly evolutionists, now there's TWO missing links where there used to be only ONE. Now, missing links between Homo habilis and this newly discovered species AND this new species and Australopithicus. Count em, TWO missing links now.


Saturday, April 03, 2010


Radiohead: Fake Plastic Trees Goldfrapp - Happiness

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sampling the Summit "Spring Sampler" 

The Summit brewery is just a few blocks away from my apartment and as I love all local comestibles, it's fitting I should try the brewery's Spring Sampler.

Great Northern Porter: 2.5 I'm not a fan of porters, too sweet and thick. But this porter doesn't seem very porterish so it's not horribly unpleasant. It seems a nondescript for a heavy beer. Maybe a heavier mouth feel if you're into that, I like a fizzy mouth feel.

Summit Great Northern Porter

Maibock: 2.9 Meh. Strong hops character, but not one I enjoy - maybe they're European hops. Also a bit too sweet for my liking. This would taste good after a workout, goes down quickly.

Summit Maibock

Extra Pale Ale: 3.2 If one knows one's beers a bit, one knows the difference between a lager and ale. Lagers and ales are differentiated not only because of the way they're brewed (fermenting temperature and type of yeast mostly), but also by the ressulting tasre. If you like water with alchol in it, but don't want to taste the alcohol, lagers are for you. If you like flavor, go with ales. You already knew that.

This beer, although the name would imply it's "special" seems suspiciously close to an American lager like Budweiseer as far as ales go. Maybe it's a bit thicker in mouth feel and has significantly more interesting hop character, but not too significant. Still, it's often the best tap beer in Minnesota restaurants, so I have it more than occasionally.

Summit Extra Pale Ale

India Pale Ale: 4.1: Winner! Oops, I forget how carbonated this is, poured too quickly. I'm a troglodite and usually prefer to drink straight from the bottle and without a napkin. This has been for years my standard beer to buy unless I want to try something new or buy a Bell's brew at 150% or more of the price. Its biting hops character is exactly on the cusp of of being interestingly flavorful and too bitter to be repeatedly and enjoyably drinkable. Also, this is a strong beer at 7.5% alcohol by volume. The alcohol is a discernible character, so if you don't want to taste the ethanol you're drinking, stay away. My taste buds say the strong and bitter hops character combines with the alcohol character to make it an asset. A beautiful beer. My favorite style is American India Pale Ale, and again, this is my most frequently purchased beer, so that it came out on top is no surprise.

Summit India Pale Ale

Now I'm going to go to beeradvocate.com/ and compare my evaluations with those from much more talented and knowledgeable connoisseurs. Up next: btmcelrath.com/ chocolate bar showdown. Absolutely love all three of their offrerings I've tried, especially "Salty Dog".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Correcting Michael 

I like Michael Moore as much as the next left-winger, but he's overboard with his criticism of the health care legislation that will probably pass in the next few days. Er, he's wrong. He claims everyone will be required to buy health insurance from a private company, quipping, "Or how 'bout I get a law passed that makes it compulsory for every American to go see my next movie? Woo-hoo! Who wouldn't love a sweet set-up like this windfall?"

He's wrong on two counts: Under the legislation, people will have to have health insurance or pay a fee, which is a surtax politicians would rather refer to as a fee than a tax. It won't be illegal to be uninsured, you'll just have to pay more taxes. Secondly, people will have the choice to buy insurance from new non-profit "exchanges" instead of choosing a policy from an existing for-profit company as he implies.

The second stupid point he misses on is,

"And how big will the fines be if the insurance companies do deny someone coverage for having a pre-existing condition? Are you sitting down? A hundred dollars a day! That's it! So if you're the insurance company, and Judy is a customer of yours, and Judy needs an operation that will cost $100,000, what do you do? You take the fine!"

One could make the same argument against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. "The fines are only a few hundred dollars per incident of employment discrimination! Some companies will choose to just pay the fine and keep not hiring or promoting black people and women."

I have a hard time believing Moore actually believes the only repercussion from violating someone's rights guaranteed by federal statute is the proscribed fine. The fact is, if denying someone coverage isn't illegal, you can't sue them. This bill will make it illegal to deny anyone coverage.

The actual choices insurance companies will have when considering covering someone with a pre-existing condition are,

  1. Cover them
  2. Deny them, pay the fine and just hope they don't end up against a civil lawsuit from everything and everyone from a hospital who operated on the denied patient. From the patient for lost wages to unnecessary pain and suffering. From the patient's family for wrongful death. Potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sure, like Michael, I liked the House version better and would have liked single payer even better. As someone else has said, "Let's not let an imperfect bill be the enemy of a good bill."

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Drink for a cold recipe: "Moldy Daisy" 

I made this up last night and felt 50% over my cold this morning so am repeating it tonight. It's delicious. I don't know if it contributed to my partial recovery, but like I told the checkout guy who asked about kombucha, "It doesn't hurt."

moldy daisy

Juice the lemons and press the juice out of the ginger with a garlic press - use a bit of the ginger fiber if you want. I used a lot. Dissolve the honey in the fruit juices by stirring, it disolves pretty easily and that way you don't lose the fizz of the kombucha.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Mom's cabbage rolls, Christmas 2009 

My mom learned to make this dish for my dad; it was one of his childhood favorites as a kid growing up during the Great Depression. My mom is Norwegian and my dad's ancestors migrated to N. Dakota from Odessa around and because of the 1917 Russian Revolution. I suppose the dish is sufficiently bland and simple to please folks of both heritages. My dad calls them "pigs in a blanket" - even though they contain no pork and are wrapped in cabbage, not a blanket. I haven't questioned the moniker until just now. For me as well, pigs in a blanket are a dish I've grown up with and loved just like my dad.

Somehow, cabbage rolls became an ongoing joke between me and my friend Melissa. I've recently read several recipes, none of which noted the rice should be uncooked so I'm glad I decided to have my mom show me how she makes them. She doesn't use a recipe - here's what she showed me as best as I can remember.

Soak the cabbage leaves in boiling water long enough for them to wilt. Mix,

Mom let me mush everything up with my hands, fun! I remarked that allspice seemed odd and I'd be inclined to use fennel. Mom said sometimes she uses different spices and fennel would probably work fine although she'd never tried it.

baby cabbage roll

The rice expands quite a bit as it cooks, so you have to account for that when considering the size of the balls. Use toothpicks to completely wrap the balls in cabbage leaves and place them in a pot.

Pour some sort of tomato stuff over the rolls. I think this time my mom just used a large can of tomato sauce, but you can use any canned tomato product. Tomato paste and diced tomatoes, tomato soup, whatever. Add some water too.

Cover and bake it in a 325°F oven for 2-3 hours, checking occasionally and adding more water if things are drying out.

After dinner went into the oven, I left to exercise at the small gym at my office building. When I returned a little before 6 - my parents' religiously regular eating time - my mom was standing in the garage with her coat on. Amused, I asked what she was doing in the garage.

"Oh, I'm glad you're here, they just took Dad away in an ambulance, I was going to wait for you 'till 6:15 then go myself." Mom still isn't accustomed to the notion that I carry my phone around with me.

Chest pain. We were worried about my dad's heart, he's had a couple heart attacks and has a pacemaker, etc. I do worry about my dad's health and have an annoying generalized anxiety disorder so was pleasantly surprised that I automatically shifted into calm-headed practical dude mode - I went inside and made sure the oven and stove were off and asked my mom about my dad's prescription medicines or anything else he may need. As I like to think I get this absurd practicality from my parents, Mom had already taken care of everything I could think of. Just so there's no misunderstanding I'm still all loose wheeled nut, but am thankful I seem to have a learned capacity for practicality when needed.

As we drove to the hospital, my mom retold what the paramedics had told her, which was enough to convince me it wasn't his heart and I tried to convey that conviction back to my mom. I think I was successful although both of us were obviously concentrating on being more rational than emotional.

This all happened a few days after Christmas and the ambulance was diverted from the closest hospital to the next closest. As we learned over the next few hours, many people are so adverse to seeking medical care on holidays that they decide to wait to feel better. Emergency rooms end up being packed in the days following.

It was a long time before a doctor came to see him and I reassured myself and my mom that this meant we weren't in a life-threatening situation. And by saying, "I reassured my mom," I'm mostly acknowledging my need to talk is greater than hers.

Much later on that night, we learned my dad had passed a gallstone which got stuck in the duct from his pancreas but passed by on its own, very double super bad painful. My dad is really good with pain, it was hard watching him writhe in it.

Dad spent a few days in the hospital until his pancreas stabilized enough to get his gall bladder taken out.

The first day he was home from the hospital he had a great appetite and it ended up he had a favorite meal waiting for him.

Post pancreatitis cabbage rolls

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pawlenty to offer abstinent Governor a cooler of beer 

I just received an email from the Pawlenty 2012 Campaign. Of note,

As for the Minnesota Vikings, Governor Pawlenty is running a poll on his Facebook page right now asking what he should offer Governor Bobby Jindal in the unlikely event that the Saints beat the Vikings this weekend. (A Vikings cooler filled with Minnesota's best microbrews is currently leading.) You can vote here.

Bobby Jindal doesn't drink. Go vote for a cooler of microbrews.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I seldom label my seedlings 

But I found an awesome chili pepper identification routine.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Obama healthcare rally, Minneapolis (part 2: excerpt) 

The jumbotron conveyed an unfortunate message:

Stable & Secure Health Care

But I'm sure most of us physically present (about 15,000 based the venue being about 3/4 full) knew the speech was delivered from The Minnesota Timberwolves' home court and presumably it wasn't as prominent to televised audiences.

There was also quite a bit of misplaced applause that should have been boos. Maybe I'm over-aware of it as I've grown to be enamored by Republican cheers for terrorists ("These terrorists are hell-bent on destroying our way of life! (audience: YEA! CHEER! APPLAUSE!) An example from today,

Maybe your employer doesn't offer coverage. Maybe you're self-employed and you can't afford it because it costs you three times more in the marketplace than it does for big companies. (Applause.)

But the speech was excellent. It was like his stump speeches which came across as conversational even though they were prepared. By my estimate there was a forty or fifty to one ratio of pro- to anti-reformers and only a few heckles I noticed. All but one were from people yelling that stopping our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the best way of paying for the changes, and I'd like to think the speech was good enough to get at least some of the anti-reformers thinking the ideas presented constituted a plausible approach to solving our healthcare problems. The same for those conservatives who may have ust been there to see the POTUS. I didn't catch the one clearly contrarian heckle, but the heckler left on his own accord, obviously spurred by the boos and groans of those close enough to hear what he said.

All but a handful of visually identifiable (by tee-shirt or button) detractors appeared to be the type of intelligent person only flawed by their irrational worship of the All-Knowing Free-Market God, not the crazies with the signs outside. Or maybe the status-quo special interests didn't have enough time to organize the crazies into the venue and we'll see them at future rallies.

You can read the whole thing here, and here is my abridged version.

... I don't need to tell you that our health care problems don't stop with the uninsured. How many of you who have insurance have ever worried that you might lose it if you lost your jobs or you changed jobs or you had to move? (Applause.) How many stories have you heard about folks whose insurance company decided to drop their coverage or water it down when they get sick and need it the most? (Applause.) How many of you know somebody who paid their premiums every month only to find out that their insurance company wouldn't cover the full cost of their care like they thought they would get? (Applause.)

... These stories are wrong. They are heartbreaking. Nobody should be treated that way in the United States of America, and that's why we're going to bring about change this year. (Applause.)

It has now been nearly a century since Teddy Roosevelt first called for health reform. It's been attempted by nearly every President and Congress since. And our failure to get it done -- year after year, decade after decade -- it has placed a burden on families, on businesses, and on taxpayers, and we can't stand it any longer. We cannot sustain it any longer. (Applause.)

If we do nothing, your premiums will continue to rise faster than your wages. If we do nothing, more businesses will close down; fewer will face -- fewer will be able to open in the first place. If we do nothing, we will eventually spend more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. That's not an option for the United States of America. So Minnesota, I may not be the first President to take up the cause of health care reform, but I am determined to be the last. We are going to get it done this year. (Applause.) We are going to get it done this year.

The good news -- here's the good news: We are closer now to reform than we've ever been. We've debated this issue for better than a year now. And there's actually some solid agreement on about 80 percent of what needs to be done. That's never happened before. (Applause.) We've got -- our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses and hospitals and seniors' groups -- even drug companies, many of whom were opposed to reform in the past. This time they recognize, you know what, this is not going to be stopped; we've got to get on board.

Now, what we've also seen in these last few months is the same partisan spectacle that has left so many of you disappointed in Washington for so long. (Applause.) We've heard scare tactics instead of honest debate. Too many have used this opportunity to score short-term political points instead of working together to solve long-term challenges. (Applause.)

I don't know if you agree with me, but I think the time for bickering is over. (Applause.) The time for games has passed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health care for every American. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

Now, because even after the speech [to Congress a few days ago] there's been a lot of misinformation out there, I want you to know about this plan that I announced on Wednesday so that when you go talk to your neighbors and your friends, and you're at the water cooler or buying Starbucks or whatever it is that you're doing -- (laughter) -- I want you to be able to say to people, here's what's going on.

The plan I announced will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. (Applause.) It will provide insurance to those who don't. (Applause.) And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. (Applause.)

Let me give you some details. First of all, if you're among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or you've got health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid or the VA, nothing -- nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doc. All right? I want you to be clear about that. Let me repeat: Nothing in this plan requires you to change what you have if you're happy with it.

What this plan will do is to make your insurance work better for you. (Applause.) So under this plan -- under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.) When I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick, or water it down when you need it the most. (Applause.) They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. (Applause.) We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, nobody should go broke because they got sick. (Applause.) And insurance companies -- insurance companies will be required to cover, at no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies -- (applause) -- because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer or colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, it saves lives. (Applause.)

Now, if you're one of the 10 million -- tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan is going to finally offer you affordable choices. So if you lose your job or change jobs or want to start a business, you'll be able to get coverage. (Applause.) You will have confidence that affordable coverage is out there for you, and we will do this not, contrary to what folks say, by some government takeover of health care. We will do this by setting up a new insurance exchange -- a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for an affordable health insurance plan that works for them. And because there will be one big group -- because there will be one big group, these uninsured Americans will have the leverage to drive down costs and get a much better deal than they get right now. (Applause.) That's how large companies do it. That's how government employees get their health insurance. That's how members of Congress get good deals on their insurance. You should get the same deal that members of Congress get. (Applause.)

Now, if you still can't afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we're going to provide you or a small business owner tax credits so that they can do it. And in the first few years that it takes up to the -- it takes to set up the exchange -- because it will take a few years to get this all set up, even after it passes -- but in the meantime, we want to make sure people get some immediate help, so we're going to immediately offer Americans with preexisting conditions who can't get coverage right now, we want to give them some low-cost coverage that will provide them protection from financial ruin if they become seriously ill. (Applause.)

Now, I've also said that one of the options in the insurance exchange, one of the options -- most of the folks who are going to be offering insurance through the exchange are going to be private insurers -- Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, all these. Well, I think one of the options should be a public insurance option. (Applause.) Now let me be clear. Let me be clear. Let me be clear: It would only be an option. Nobody would be forced to choose it. No one with insurance would be affected by it. But what it would do is, it would provide more choice and more competition. (Applause.) It would keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable, to treat their customers better.

I mean, think about it. It's the same way that public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students. That doesn't inhibit private colleges and universities from thriving out there. The same should be true on the health care front. (Applause.)

... I'm not going to back down from the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we're going to provide you a choice. (Applause.) And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the coverage that you need. That's a promise I will make. (Applause.)

Now -- now, a lot of you might think this plan sounds pretty good, or when you're talking to your friends or neighbors, they might say, yes, that sounds all right, but let me ask you this: How are you going to pay for it? And that's a legitimate concern. We've got -- we inherited some big deficits and some big debt. And we've had a big economic crisis that has required us to take some extraordinary steps. So we're going to have to get control of our federal budget. We have to do it.

So it's a legitimate question, but here's what you need to know:

First of all, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. No ifs, ands, or buts. (Applause.) Part of the reason I faced these trillion-dollar deficits when I walked into the door of the White House is because there were a lot of initiatives over the last decade that weren't paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make the same mistake when it comes to health care. (Applause.)

... As I said on Wednesday night, this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid. And Medicare is one of these issues that has been really distorted in the debate. So I want -- I spoke directly to seniors on Wednesday; I want to repeat what I said. We have stood up for four decades for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with medical bills they can't pay. (Applause.) That's the essence of Medicare. That's how Medicare was born. It remains a sacred trust. It needs to be passed on from one generation to the next.

That's why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan -- not one dollar. (Applause.) We will not be lowering benefits for senior citizens. The only thing that we will be doing is eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud, as well as subsidies that are going to insurance company HMOs -- (applause) -- subsidies that pad their profits but don't improve care.

... So don't pay attention to these scary stories about how your benefits will be cut. That will not happen on my watch. (Applause.) In fact, the folks who are making the accusations, they're the ones who have been talking about cutting Medicare in the past. I will protect Medicare. (Applause.)

I'm not going to -- I'm not going to allow the special interests to use the same old tactics to keep things the way they are. I'm not going to let people misrepresent what's in my plan. (Applause.) I will not accept the status quo. (Applause.) Not this time. Not now.

Minnesota, we are closer to reform than we've ever been before, but this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who think, you know, this is a good way to bring Obama down -- (boos) -- this is when they're going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people. That's why I need your help. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

(see part 1: my experience)

Obama healthcare rally, Minneapolis (part 1: my experience) 

I read a craigslist posting about what I thought would be a wildly successful teabagger protest at the Obama health care rally so made it down there as the sun was coming up, about 6:45 am. There was at most a dozen people assembled at the corner. As they looked both really boring and really stupid (I only anticipated the second attribute) I abandoned my idea of getting them on video ("Does it seem weird to you that almost nothing rhymes with 'Obama' other than 'Dali Lama," "I'm sure we agree Obama can't prove he wasn't born in Hawaii, right," "How many days do you think it would have taken Jesus to create the Universe if he would have tried to go really fast?") So I walked across the block.

There was a slow procession heading away from the Target Center towards the Theater District which I first thought was a march but soon realized was a line being formed, dozens of blocks long.

When the line stopped unwinding, we sat. There, I did have a conversation with a crazy who stopped to tell those around us about the recent alleged ACORN scandal. The exchange went something like this,

She: At two locations, they found ACORN workers giving advice on how to set up a prostitution ring. They said to bring in underage girls from other countries and [blah blah, a few more sentences seemingly based on talk radio commentary].

Me: That's not exactly how it went, but I imagine if you went around to seven or eight McDonald's and asked them where to get coke or heroin, you'd find someone willing to give you advice.

She: But did you hear the Census severed ties with them because of it?

Me: Do you think that's a good thing?

She: Yes.

Me: So what's your point?

She: ACORN does a lot of other stuff and they're a really bad organization.

Me: Do you know what ACORN does for the Census?

She: They send out Census workers.

Me: Not really just that, the Census is a really important thing and they work with people, people who can (winger begins to walk away)

Guy in front of me: Hey, what's the other side of your sign say?

(she flips it over to reveal a message along the lines of "ObamaCare: Not Now Not Ever! Bad For America" and continues on out of earshot)

This guy was great, he strafed the line a half dozen times and got lots of cheers each pass.

At around 9, this group showed up and tag-teamed yelled passages from The Gospel of John. They shouted with the cadence and delivery of a drill sergeant; their form was nowhere near as engaging as the guy with the sign. Some of the crowd listened, most ignored, none taunted. I'm saving a video to employ the next time a right-wing Christian claims liberals want to silence any mention of religion in the public square.

Lining up for the security check. I asked those around me if Bush ever did anything like this - a public event where anybody could come as long as they lined up early enough. The responses were all in the narrow range between "I don't know but I don't think so" and "No." The word was that the first people queued up at 10:30 last night.

Here's the anti-healthcare reform crew which the allegedly way liberal Strib reported to number 200. Conceivably, their girth could have increased tenfold between the time I went in and ebbed equally before I came out. (rollseyes)

This guy was holding a "48 or 30 million?" sign which students of wingnuttery recognize as alluding to the varying number of uninsured in the US depending on the study's methodology. The correct response to this taunt is "how many million uninsured people is an acceptable level to you?" Obama's speech referred to "tens of millions" of uninsured. Had this cretin heard the speech, I'm sure he would have been astute enough in his wingnuttery to observe that Obama's Socialist handlers have not considered the issue enough to have ANY inkling as to the acceptable number of people who must resort the the ER as their first line of medical care, as divinely revealed by God in The Constitution.

Socialist Alternative had a big presence outside with the biggest banner by far. On their first parry, they had everyone chanting "What do we want? Single payer!" but after a dozen or so seconds, the crowd had changed "single payer" to "healthcare." Their best chant was, "Take the profit out of sickness, health care for all!" I clapped loudly each pass and it got me thinking that although my near-term sights are now on a public option, agitating for an ideal may be the best way of getting to the first goal. After all, shouting "Socialism!" in reference to a Medicare-like option available to all has resulted in some success by anti-reformers.

The other side of the sign five photos above.

Another effective sign: "Competition is good. Therefore, let the government compete."

I chatted with the Teamsters guy controlling the flow towards the metal detectors and thanked him for helping out on such short notice - he said he was receiving phone calls about it at 11 last night. The event went off stupendously and Jolanda (mentioned below) said it wasn't decided if it would be at the Target or Excel Center until the last minute. Perhaps I'm seeing design behind uncontrolled events, but Obama seems to be playing this thing with great political finesse: allow your opposition to go wild during the recess ("death panels"), let your opponent become their own worst enemy ("Joe Wilson: You lie!", "But only 30 million are uninsured"), then when Congress reconvenes, forcefully clarify that the opposition's main objections are bogus ("free insurance for illegal immigrants") and introduce your idea in terms that the public strongly agrees with ("everybody should have access to a plan like Congress uses"). Public option, whoo-hoo!

I was elated to get a court side seat. Beside me was a family from Trinidad. We first discovered we live in the same neighborhood, Laura said I looked familiar and my hunch that she worked at my bank was correct! Jolanda has worked on a lot of campaigns and was the one who had some information about the last-minute preparations. We talked about the Scotch bonnet peppers from the Caribbean I grow and made tentative plans to eat together at Marla's Caribbean Cuisine, which they go to sometimes and I'd tried to eat at for the first time last weekend to find it closed over Labor Day weekend.

Although it didn't hit me at the time, I'm now really moved at a statement the most recently immigrated family member made, "I never thought I'd be this close to The President of The United States."

Everyone in the first rows of Section 101 was hoping Obama would use the space in front of us to walk around in, but he stayed at the podium - only diverging from prepared remarks to end with his "Fired-Up, Ready to Go!" story.

Jolanda in her awesome shirt.

The biggest take-away for me is that Obama is committed to a public option. The cynic in me says my expectations were intentionally lowered in advance of the Big Push, but at the same time I realize I'm more a voter than detached observer.

The optimist in me keeps reminding me my disappointment on other policy issues may be due to a lack of patience: I can glimpse a political calculus aimed at encouraging a split among those that have enabled the disastrous GOP policies over the last few decades.

Although I rather expected it, I was disappointed that there was a ridiculously non-denominational prayer to several "creator gods." If you're going to pray in a multicultural context, there's nothing wrong with and a lot right with, "We'll now start with a moment of silent meditation."

Here's video of the crowd going nuts watching Obama step out of Air Force One and me getting a name-check on the family next to me.

(see part 2: excerpt with pictures)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Assam promotes Bhut Jolokia chilli cultivation for export and control of rioting people and elephants 

Two of my favorite topics in one,

According to agriculture experts, the demand for Bhut Jolokia has increased recently, especially after it was established that it is the hottest pepper about two years ago. "The demand for Bhut Jolokia abroad is especially for its spice usage. In fact, it is also the tastiest pepper in the world. Moreover, different experiments on multiple uses of Bhut Jolokia has increased its demand," agriculture information officer Mowsam Haziraka said.

According to elephant conservationists, the chilli can be used as a powder to chase away marauding herds of elephants. Chilli cakes and fences have proved effective in keeping wild elephants at bay. So far, Bhut Jolokia cultivation is more or less confined to kitchen gardens. Wildlife conservationists have suggested that organized farming can only bring about a visible result in using the chilli products for driving out elephants.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009


A herd of wild elephants went on the rampage again, killing a woman and destroying almost all houses at a village in riot-ravaged Kandhamal district.br />
The wild herd, which is believed to have run away from the Lakhary elephant reserve in neighbouring Gajapati district, have been wrecking havoc in Kandhamal's Simanbadi, Baliguda and K Nuagaon forest range areas for the past three months. So far, they have killed at least at least nine people and damaged over 400 houses across 51 villages.

"Last year's communal riots pale before this present menace," Kanistha Pradhan (70) of Adagadu village in the tribal-dominated district said on Tuesday.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Three shows in three days: Day 3: Bat for Lashes 

August 7th: Bat for Lashes @ The Varsity

The first song of the first show of her American tour. My immediate and overpowering impression of the show was that it was a rather boring spot-on reproduction of her studio stuff - and indeed, the intention was obviously to reproduce the studio sound. It gets an A++ for that, double plus. Given her artiness, I'd expected to be surprised by an injection of something new into the live act. Further, that she's on a major label, I don't believe I'm going out on a limb by suggesting the suits have considerable influence over what I heard.

But after a day of reflection, I think the boring aspect mostly came from the fact it was a standing show instead of a sitting show, perhaps I would have been amazed at the faith to the album versions had I been close up in a chair at The State Theater. During a few songs, the band tried to get the audience to clap with passages, but it didn't result in any synergy. A caveat: She played against Passion Pit at another venue - so maybe

The boorishness of a group near me also put a damper on things. I almost came to fists with one of them as they tried to push ahead and once they decided there wasn't enough room for them "ahead" they pushed through again backwards. All those around us were irritated by their incessant announcements that they were really, really comfortable being gay by yelling "girlfriend" at girls and "bitch" at guys, whether the bitches were on or off stage. And they totally knew her name is Natasha Khan! THEY LOVE YOU NATASHA! Everyone else was happy with just listening as if they were seated. I'm embarrassed for their (polite) MPLS host who tried to explain, "They're from New York."

Between songs and more often than not, someone called out for them to play "Daniel." Ug.

Looking at this recording, I would have had a completely different reaction had it been at a more appropriate venue. I'll listen to her stuff differently now that I understand the perfection of the albums comes from pure musicianship instead of the opportunity to take the best of the best takes in the studio.

Mixed bag, the crowd and energy sucked, the musicianship was top-rate. Very glad I went.

Three shows in three days: Day 2: "No Deachunter" - Dan Deacon, Deerhunter and No Age 

August 5th: Dan Deacon, Deerhunter and No Age round robin @ (on?) Memorial Union Terrace

First things first: this was an outdoors show with what seemed to be an indoor PA system. It could have been literally two or three times the decibels for those of us standing towards the middle, but the show blew my mind anyway. Here's Dan Deacon's first song,

The concept, briefly: all three bands on stage at once [Dan Deacon (1) + No Age (2) + Deerhunter (4) = 7] playing each others songs simultaneously. Judging from the footage early in the tour and from what I saw, by this, the 6th show in the tour, they shifted more towards each band playing their own songs and turned the collaboration into contribution. Each band would play a song or two, then pass off to the next with the other bands coming in mostly only duringt extend guitar-drone-to-a-driving-beat passages. (Check out this awesome collaborative version of Deerhunter's "cryptograms" from earlier in the tour.)

Dan Deacon's shows intimately involve the audience - the chubby, aging and bald guy has a spontaneous charisma that's best explained my moving pictures,

Everything was thrilling to the bone - Deerhunter - "Never Stops"

Here's another review of the show. ZThe next night in Milwaukee, Randy of New Age threw out his shoulder.

Three shows in three days: Day 1: The Warlocks, The Morning After Girls and Gliss 

August 5th: The Warlocks, The Morning After Girls and Gliss @ The 7th Street Entry

All these bands are relatively new to me. I was particularly amped to see Gliss. Loved their set, but their wall of guitar sound would have come off better had the sound man been familiar with their studio work or responded to their question from stage "Is there enough reverb out there?" (no). This was their last song, it's somewhat uncharacteristic of their sound - more rock and less drone. Check out their stand-out songs Morning Light

The power trio all sang and switched instruments frequently. I believe they covered all possible combinations except the two where Victoria would have played guitar.

The Morning After Girls were outstanding and I left the show liking them more. Awesome songwriting which came off well live.

I couldn't find my larger SD card, so only got 10 minutes and none of The Warlocks. Their show was superb given the caveat that for almost every Warlocks song I can't help but think things like, "Yeah, cool, but this is a song that [My Bloody Valentine || Jesus and Mary Chain || Spiritualized] didn't write but might have." Check out "Come Save Us," and awesome track which only dips slightly into the Spiritualized vein. Maybe I'm being too hard on them, their songs are good and I wouldn't want to be tasked with coming up with song in this genre they weren't reminiscent of the bands that defined the genre.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thai elephant on speedy rampage 

A female elephant has killed seven people in Thailand's Trang province in the past month and continues to scare locals.

And ...

Trang Governor Somphong Anuyuthaphong also said that the husbandry department would check the elephant for possible addiction to narcotic drugs such as amphetamine.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

If you find yourself in a sewer with a giant alligator, remember this 

Postulate: One cat has eight tails.
Proof: No cat has seven tails. One cat has one more tail than no cat. Therefore, one cat has eight tails.

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