Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Tale Of Two Chillies

A while back I bought two chilli plants at the farmer's market. The two types are Twilight chilli, and Super Chilli - both of which supposedly grow well indoors and don't get too big.

They haven't been quite as low maintenance as I'd hoped. First, they came with a aphid infestation - so I've been spraying them daily with water for quite a while (it finally seems to be under control). And then (in the middle of the aphid recovery plan) we traveled back east - and the plants didn't get water for a week. The Twilight handled it fairly well, but the Super Chilli not so much. You can see the two plants in this photo - one looks healthy and vibrant, the other ... was on its death bed.

The Super is coming back, slowly - there are now 4 peppers growing and a couple of blooms. It just looks sad because all of the big leaves are a pale yellow-green, but the newer, bright green leaves haven't grown to their full size yet.

Maybe all this will add a special flavor to the chillies.

Obama's Foreign Policy Team

Read about Obama's Foreign Policy Team:
[Obama's] choices for his foreign policy and national security appointments are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist, and pro-military circles without even a single -- yes, not one! -- chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party.
Remember the approval ratings of Democrats in congress? They were very low. Why? Perhaps because 60%+ of the population (probably much higher %age of Democrats) want the US out of Iraq, and the Dems did nothing.

Now we've got an Obama staying the course with foreign policy.

Let the disappointment begin...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Simone Can Open Doors With Round Doorknobs

She can now open doors with the round doorknobs.

I'm sure this will surprise some of our guests when they're using the bathroom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Conservatism Isn't Finished

I'm never as eloquent as professional writers. This has been in the back of my mind for a while. This is part of the reason I think Obama either won't get as much done as he wants, or he won't do what I (or the Democratic base) want.

Conservatism Isn't Finished - WSJ.com:
The reason those [red state/blue state] wars have raged ever since 1968 was because they help Republicans win elections. For Democrats to wish that they would please stop was about as useful as asking Genghis Khan to a tea party.
It's difficult for me to conceive how we can unify the country when one side is doing things like labeling Obama a Muslim (oh the horror), calling it's base "real America", refusing communion to Obama supporters, doubting the patriotism of those who think different.

Seriously, how does one bridge the divide when one side is so hateful?

It is like inviting Genghis Khan to a tea party.

And, to top things off. The Republican party has declared war on science. Rational thinking is no longer allowed.

Original Bailout - A Plan To Ruin The Government?

A couple of months ago I heard about The Wrecking Crew, a book that argues:
The same [Republican] politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies.
The idea that conservatives run up the deficit, sell of parts of the government, and run things into the ground. It sounds a bit cynical, but interesting.

Thinking about the latest fiasco: the global credit crunch. Look at the proposed solution. $700B of taxpayer money - to buy the toxic assets.

First, this is a great moral hazard - it lets the lenders off the hook for bad loans. Additionally, it completely bypasses any notion of individual responsibility - a staple of the Republican slogan.

Second, the issue with the assets is that nobody knows what they're worth. Republicans (and many other people), think the government is incompetent. So, why would Paulson want the government to take these over? An incompetent government is guaranteed to screw up pricing and selling these assets - so it's guaranteed to hurt the government. And, seriously, if the smartest folks at the biggest banks can't figure the value of these assets - how are some government number crunchers going to do it?

Third, buying the assets is completely reckless. It's guaranteed to fail - with no way to know the right price, the government is either over paying (losing tons of money) or under paying (screwing up the bailout). So Paulson was setting the government up to fail - even under the best of conditions.

Fourth, the original plan had no safeguards to preserve the taxpayers money.

Fifth, with all the hype about "socialism" and "fiscal responsibility" and "welfare" - this was (is) an obvious and direct redistribution of the money from the people to the financial institutions. It still boggles the mind that nobody talks about that.

So, with all these things (and others I'm sure I'm forgetting), Paulson (and the Bush administration), was putting forward a plan - trying to ram-rod it down our throats, that was guaranteed to weaken the government, and was poorly thought out. It was the epitomy of the horrible governing they always rail against.

I'm glad they're out of the office - it can't be soon enough.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Neat Hiking Trails Web Page

Northwest Hiker presents Hiking in Oregon

The site also covers Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Be Scared, Very Scared

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide:
Members of Congress, taxpayers and investors urged the Federal Reserve to provide details of almost $2 trillion in emergency loans and the collateral it has accepted to protect against losses.
Yah, you thought tax payers were only on the hook for $700B, plus some minor bail-outs. You forgot about all the loans the government said we'd give to financial institutions before the $700B bailout was announced. We're now on the hook for nearly $2 TRILLION. And we have no way of knowing what we've gotten for our money.

Last week I was sitting with two guys I work with and they said something about Obama moving us toward socialism and redistributing our wealth. I was stunned and tongue-tied. I've since then figured out what I would (should) have said - story of my life. Anyway, this is a clear and direct example of how our government is distributing the wealth upward.

Just lovely.

Transparency is key. Perhaps we do need to lend $2T, we just need to know where it is and what we got for it. Kind of like all the money that we've thrown at the Iraq war - we've lost money there and nobody knows where it has gone.

Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I doubt any of the money the government has lost is now lining the pockets of Joe the plumber, or any other middle-class, salt of the earth people. And you know it hasn't gone to any poor folks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

20 Yards of Leaves

The city lets you sign up to get a dump truck full of leaves (or 2 or 3 dump truck loads). I'm sure this saves them a ton of money - they don't have to manage composting them, and us folks get something back directly (as opposed to paying for the compost this could turn into).

The load size is about 20 cubic yards. That's a lot. If my math is correct, that's an area 32'x32'x6 inches deep. Pretty big (my first guess was about 4 times that much, so it's actually a relief).

Here's what the pile looks like:

One guess as to what I'm doing this weekend...

Mother And Daughter In A Cabinet

I liked the setup. It was kind of dark in the room, and I didn't want a flash. So I held still - it came out pretty sharp for a half second exposure, don't ya think?

One Hundred Push-ups Update

A while back I started a 100 push-up program. Every week has gone according to plan, until now.

Well, that's not quite true. The first week-3 was very difficult, the jump was a bit much for both Mary and me, but we persisted and did push-ups during the week we were on vacation. However, we both fell off the wagon that following week.

Two weeks passed, and I started up the program again, doing week 3 over b/c I tested at 30 push-ups. I tested at the end of week four and had progressed to 41. Week 5 was challenging: I logged over 550 push-ups for the week. I was able to do everything as scheduled - except the last set which I generally did in two parts.

Last night was the test after week 5, and the results were ...


I've got to re-do week 5.

I seriously doubt I'll be able to do 100 at the end of week 6.

But, I do know that I can do 200 push-ups in less than an hour, which is tons better than when I started.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Balanced Supreme Court?

I don't know that much about the Supreme Court. I listened to a book covering the important Supreme Court cases - which was interesting.

Anyway, I remember hearing talk of this article somewhere, so I dug it up. The main point that stuck with me was:
In 1980 Stevens often operated as the Court's median member; in many cases he (along with Powell) was the Justice Kennedy of that era. But Stevens is frequently described as the most liberal member of the current Court. If he qualifies for that position, it is not because of any significant change in his own approach, but because of a massive shift in the Court's center of gravity.
Kind of boggles the mind what we think of "liberal" now.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Simone In October

Just some pictures of Simone. She's reading tons - she knows most all the titles to her books (not by reading, but she recognize the cover and say them). She's also singing lots. There's an album to the Boynton song book, and Simone sings along (the "Cows" song is very cute).

Without further fawning, here are some pics:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters ... or heroes | Video on TED.com

Remember the infamous psychology study done at Stanford, where college kids were divided into jailors and jailees? That was Philip Zimbardo's study.

He has a very interesting talk about that, and how it relates to Gitmo.

Philip Zimbardo shows how people become monsters ... or heroes | Video on TED.com

Time For A Change?

Election is over, Obama won.

Many people are ecstatic about the potential for change, and FSM bless them, I'm sure there will be a change. How can we not have a change from one of the most incompetent unpopular presidents ever?

What strikes me most about this election was how little change in voting there was. Imagine the setup: most unpopular president ever, financial crisis, very unpopular war, same party candidate voted nearly identical to the most unpopular president - versus a dynamic, charismatic leader preaching change. Would you have predicted popular vote margin of only a 6%?

That's actually very disappointing. If you look back (ignoring W's two elections) you have to go back to Carter vs. Ford to find a presidential election where the popular vote margin was less than 6%. Seems like people still (for the most part) voted party lines.

Obama may be able to find middle-ground with the Democrats and Republicans, but I don't know that "middle-ground" is the change people were wanting. Obama certainly doesn't sound like FDR - though pundits are making comparisons, Obama certainly didn't win the election like FDR did.

Many pundits say he should govern from the center (though were perfectly happy with W governing from the extreme). I fear that's a road to disaster and disappointment. I fear Obama will do just that.

To me, it seems as though the Republicans play politics, and Democrats try to be the nice guys - which means Democrats get sand kicked in their faces, and Republicans generally win. For instance, when Republicans were in power, you constantly heard about the Democrats filibuster. Yet when the power shifted, Republicans have been filibustering - but you never hear of it. McCain and Palin made stump speeches out of lies (Obama raise taxes, against the bridge to nowhere, etc.), and even when called on it - they continued to say the same things. Hillary and Obama never did such things. So, after 8 years of being governed from the extreme by W, having Obama govern from the center would (IMO) simply be weak.

Perhaps Obama will lead in a direction the Democrats and Republicans haven't. That would be leadership.

The problem with running a campaign on "change" is that the slogan is very vague, and people are believing it means what they want it to mean - and Obama is going to have a terribly difficult time living up to all those diverging beliefs.

Scalzi said it best:
Your next president is going to disappoint you. Barack Obama does not fart cinnamon-scented rainbows. He is not trailed by angels and unicorns. Reality does not reshape itself to his wishes. Dude’s a human being, and a politician, and he’s going to have to work with other human beings who are also politicians.
Take a look at this short article which examines Obama's position on Iraq. In analyzing his most recent (at the time) speech this was the final point (the first being that Obama didn't mention troop withdrawal):
Third, and most troubling, Obama says that Americans will have to tighten their belts because of the "cost of the war in Iraq." Doesn't that mean that the war will continue?
As much as I want to believe Obama will make some radical, long-lasting changes (for the better), I fear his election can be attributed to what Krugman said: "there was a national wave against Republicans, suggesting that we don’t need a complex narrative."

I truly hope he'll bring about change for the middle (lower) class. I hope he'll focus on the environment. I hope he'll put some regulation back into the economy (or at least transparency).

Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

(For a detailed examination of Obama's foreign policy, read http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080721/dreyfuss.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sleepy Kitty

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Mmmm... sauerkraut.

That's the answer to the question, "What do I do with two large heads of cabbage?"

Just grate, mix with salt, and pack into a jar.

A couple of weeks ago we had dinner with friends, and they had a crock of fresh sauerkraut at their table. It was pretty tasty (Simone even seemed to like it). They talked about how easy it was to make. I'd considered it in the past, but was always discouraged by every recipe's mention of mold on the top and having to clean that off.

But, armed with a recipe, and 2 large heads of cabbage, I began.

Shred 5 pounds cabbage, mix in 3 Tbs salt, pack in jar. Done.

It was that easy. I used the "plastic bag filled with water" method of keeping the cabbage submerged under the brine. It has the nice affect of actually keeping the brine from getting any air, and thereby prevents any mold from building up. woo-hoo

I kept it in a cupboard for 2 weeks. I checked it every couple of days, packing the kraut down to get rid of air bubbles in the middle/bottom that were due to the fermenting. I tasted it a few days before it was done and it was actually kind of spicy. But now that the fermenting is done, it tastes like sauerkraut should taste.