August 31, 2005

So New Orleans is kinda gone

Governor: Everyone Must Leave New Orleans

A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escaped Katrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets on Tuesday, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.

'We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in,' Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's 'Good Morning America, 'and the other issue that's concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue.'

I have a friend who just moved to New Orleans; he was supposed to start at Tulane last week. I'm sure he's fine, physically, but he had a spectacularly shitty summer, and really was due for a break.

But I Thought Racism Was Over?!

Evidently white people "find", but black people "loot".

August 30, 2005

Keeping It Real

Saw this over on, and I knew I had to post it for my boyz, the Stunaz. You know who you are.

" And instead of college they got us slangin after highschool /For the love of the money and everything that it will buy you"Posted by Picasa

Fun With Hits

It's that time again, where I go through Site Meter's stats and find all the fun hits that we got from random Google searches. By posting them here, of course, I'm raising the likelihood that we'll get more hits from them, but whatever. We only had a couple variations (though since I don't pay for Site Meter they don't give me all the info) lately. By far, the biggest hitter for us in Google searches is "Thundercats the Movie", though searches relating to the Penny Arcade Expo and it's "Omegathon" competition also got quite a few. In the Weird Department, we have "sex, no" and "how to log a picture of my house from satilites", which I'm quite fond of.

"And nothing fuels a good a good flirtation/ like need and anger and desperation"

More Gas

John Tierney has an editorial in the Times today that relates to the gas consumption issue I touched on yesterday. I'm not going to address the sarcastic tone of the editorial because, let's be honest, editorials live on sarcasm like Cheney lives on tiny human babies. Let's get into it:

I rented a Toyota Prius for the pleasure of cruising the car pool lanes and parking free at meters, another perk available here in Los Angeles...But even if these new privileges put more fuel-efficient cars on the road, I'm afraid the net effect will be dirtier air and more gasoline consumption...In Virginia, where they've been allowed for years in the car pool lanes, the lanes have become so clogged that an advisory committee has repeatedly recommended their banishment. The same problem will occur in California, where some of the car pool lanes were congested even without hybrids....As traffic slows down, there will be more idling cars burning more gas and emitting more pollution, but politicians will be reluctant to offend hybrid owners by revoking their privilege.

Ok, Tierney's main argument here seems to be that by allowing hybrids into carpool lanes traffic will slow down and more pollution will be created. To address the latter part first, let's look at how hybrids work. Firstly, many hybrids, including the Prius he rented, are what are know as "parallel hybrids", meaning that the gas and electric systems can separately power the vehicle. In parallel hybrids like the Prius, the electric system runs the car during times when gas systems are least efficient, low speeds and idling, but then the gas system takes over the brunt of the work as the car reaches higher speeds in which the gas system is more efficient. When the gas system takes over it also recharges the electrical system, which is why you don't need to plug hybrids into an outlet at the end of the day. So even if people make the sudden switch from honkin' big SUV to hybrid and traffic is slow, which Tierney admits it already is, the hybrids will be at their peak efficiency while SUVs are at their peak inefficiency, so I don't see how this is going to result in a net gain in pollution.

As to the traffic argument, I don't see how this could be the case. Presumably we're talking about rush hour as the time when traffic gets clogged up, therefore most of the cars on the road are people commuting, so there shouldn't be any influx of new drivers because of this; the number of drivers will remain constant or decrease if more people carpool. That being the case, I can't see how opening up the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes to more drivers slows traffic down. Certainly, it will slow down the pace of the HOV lane, but on the whole road efficiency is increased because more drivers are spread to more lanes. If traffic is already slow across the board, even in the carpool lanes, then what that tells me is that the roads simply don't have the capacity needed. Whatever incentive the the HOV lane represented to carpooling is largely negated because of this and any impact opening up the lanes to hybrids has seems to be minimal.

With HOT lanes, everyone would come out ahead, drivers as well as environmentalists. As more drivers paid for a guaranteed speedy commute in the left lane, they would leave the regular lanes less clogged, so there would be fewer cars stuck in traffic jams, wasting gas and spewing fumes.

Again, the only two ways I can see to actually reduce traffice here are to increase the number of people carpooling and/or build a mass transit system that takes people off the road. Since it seems like HOV lanes were already busy enough already that they likely weren't serving as much of an incentive for people to carpool, opening them up shouldn't really impact that much. Tierney's solution, if I'm reading him right, would actually make things worse from his perspective. If the problem with allowing hybrids into the HOV lane is that it slows down the HOV lane, how is it going to help to allow single SUV drivers to buy their way into that lane also? If more cars moving over to the HOV lane "leave(s) the regular lanes less clogged", how is that different from what allowing hybrids into the HOV lanes in anything other than scope? And does he really think that toll booths don't cause traffic backups?

Instead of arbitrarily rewarding a few cars for having a certain kind of engine, set tolls for all vehicles according to their weight.

It seems to me that this is going to lead to a situation where reletively light sports cars with bigger engines reletive to their size, and which are generally not made with economy in mind, might be paying less than a larger car with a more efficient engine, but which weighs more. Now, I'm not an engineer, so I can't claim to know if that sort of thing would actually happen, so it's not a major point, but still. On the other hand, going by weight is indeed likely to produce mostly the incentive we want, which is for smaller, more efficient cars, and it's also probably a lot easier to administer than pricing by engine type or any other specific trait.

Ultimately, however, the problem remains that there are just too many cars on the road, and there *is* going to be an upper limit on the ratio of carpool cars to individual drivers. Once that limit is reached most cities with similar traffic problems, I'm intimitely familiar with Seattle's, you're not going to be able to simply build more roads to accomodate the increased traffic. American cities are loathe to admit it, because these projects are always more expensive than initially projected, take forever to get up and running, and cost a lot in upkeep, but mass transit is the only long term solution.

As I've long believed, everyone should be required to play Sim City for an extended period of time when they're growing up. Try making a city without public transit and have it continue to grow. Sim City would also help us prepare for alien attacks, which I will cover in a subsequent piece.

"Sole survivor/ witness to the crime/ I must act fast to cover up/ I think that there's still time."

Higher learning and the real world

No, not that real world. I can't remember the last time I watched that mess.

Hugo said something that I think is just awesome.

Most folks are familiar with the oft-repeated notion that school at any level is not the 'real world.' For years, I've held the opposite to be true. Indeed, I find the community college in particular to be a lot more 'real' an environment in which to teach and learn than most places. Where else will you regularly encounter such an extraordinary cross section of American society? A high-rise corporate office, filled with the well-groomed and the comfortable, is surely far less 'real' than a classroom filled with recent immigrants, recovering alcoholics looking for a thirty-ninth chance, ambitious high schoolers anxious to get ahead, and more than a dozen different native languages! If what we mean by the 'real world' is a place where one encounters an authentic representation of who populates this country, I'm not clear that many places are more 'real' than an urban community college!

Absolutely brilliant. The single biggest cultural difference between UIC and Notre Dame has been the overwhelming whiteness of the latter. The one night I week I drive down to the community college to teach my math class is like a breath of fresh air -- yes, there is actual diversity in northeast Indiana!

August 29, 2005

Man, How 'Bout This Gas?!

What purpose does the internet have if not allowing people to argue?! Right now we have Ezra Klein and Brad Plumer disagreeing about whether we should use gas taxes or raise CAFE standards as a means to lower fuel consumption. Personally, I find Ezra more convincing, but to be fair Brad really had much opportunity to reply yet.

There is a certain degree to which people can cut down on fuel consumption by avoiding extraneous car trips, but the majority of driving that people do (and this is all anecdotal, so we're clear) isn't something they can readily do away with. Most families can't carry their groceries back on their bikes, and outside of the major metropolitan areas public transit isn't really in a position to accomodate a massive shift away from commuting by car to commuting by public transit.

Brad's hypothetical rebate program does seem to me to be a fairly effective way to make gas taxes less regressive, it seems to me that poorer people are simultaneously the group least likely to do a ton of unnecessary driving in SUVs as well as being the group most likely to use public transit already. On the other hand, I do think Brad does have a valid point when he says that raising CAFE standards is a pretty long term goal considering how long it will likely be until those new efficient cars into most households.

"The mistake me as happy-go-lucky/Just another base-head bobbin' nobody"

Sympathy For The Devil

Evil Avatar alerted me to this article, which discusses whether it's a good thing for players to play as "evil" characters in video games. The article contains several good quotes from game developers on the issue, and I found it interesting to see the divergence in whether they themselves enjoyed, or not as the case may be, playing the darker path. Personally, I almost always end up playing the purely good side in fantasy based games (RPGs and that sort of thing), but almost always end up taking the low road in more realistic games where I have the option. Weird, eh? How about you?

"Everybody's got a little light under the sun" (I've been forgetting to do this, but remember to identify song lyrics for Ra points)

One less radical cleric ...

Via Echidne of the Snakes, we learn about Hugo Chavez' response to our own radical cleric, Pat Robertson, calling for his assassination:

"I announce that my government is going to take legal action in the United States ... to call for the assassination of a head of state is an act of terrorism." Chavez said in a televised speech.

The fiery left-wing critic of Bush's foreign policy who frequently charges the U.S. government is plotting to kill him, called Robertson "crazy" and a "public menace."

He said Venezuela could seek Robertson's extradition under international treaties and take its claim to the United Nations if the Bush administration did not act.


August 28, 2005

Mr. Atheist Goes to Christian Academia

Classes started last Tuesday here at Notre Dame, and four days before that I got to meet my fellow graduate students for the first time. I knew that some of them had gone to Christian colleges before (two each from Calvin and Biola). I also knew that Notre Dame was the only Christian university (it's owned and run, at the highest levels of administration, by the Catholic church) considered quite prestigious by mainstream academia -- there's no way in hell I would've gone here if there was any possibility that a mainstream university would laugh in the face of my degree (pun intended). Still, I was quite unprepared for the degree of religiosity among my peers here.

There are about fifteen of us first-years (depending on whether you count the visitors, here on one-year stints), and only two who are openly non-religious. This doesn't mean the other thirteen go to church three times a week and talk about nothing but teh J33BU5x00r, but they do all identify as Christian, and I suspect almost all of them will consider themselves Christian intellectuals or Christian academics, whatever their specialization in philosophy. Several conversations at parties have wandered onto esoteric Christian issues that I neither cared about nor could follow anyways.

This should make for an interesting four or five years, before I return to the world of mainstream, atheist-dominated philosophy.

Lazy Sunday Posting

Alright, I'm going to be honest here, all these links are going to be links because it's Sunday and I'm busy/lazy.

Firstly, looks like the BBC will be releasing tv shows for download a week after they air. Upon hearing the news Drew kissed his moniter for not the first time.

The University of California is being sued for "discriminating against high schools that teach crationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints." Seems they don't accept science courses that teach Creationism as an alternative to evolution.

Following right up on that one we have this:"SMYRNA, Tenn. -- Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq." Wow. Just wow.

Finally in the religious trifecta we have an article explaining that there are perfectly understandable reasons why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given around $10 million to the Discovery Institute, one of the main groups behind the recent rash of attempts to get intelligent design into schools specifically and the public conciousness generally.

Brothers Grimm Grim

Hey, look, I made a Variety-style pun! Go me!

Anyway, The Brothers Grimm is the latest film from Terry Gilliam, he of the Monty Python and Brazil and Time Bandits. It sounds promising: Terry Gilliam building an horror/comedy out of classic fairy tale elements. And, stylistically, the end result is pleasantly reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow. Unfortunately, Brothers Grimm falls far short of Sleepy Hollow's high benchmark.

In the first act, continuity and character development take a back seat to sketching the basics of the plot and some preliminary spookiness. But, starting with the second act, the film becomes much more character driven. So, for example, a fair amount of the second act and denounement are driven by the differences between the "scientific" (or something, it's never quite clear) and the romantic, story-obsessed brother; differences which are never really portrayed until we actually get to the second act, and don't seem connected to their characters in any other way. Similar problems happen with the plot: people run away from the scary woods, then come back to fight the evil for ... reasons. Of some kind. We're not exactly sure why, beyond 'so we can see some neat special effects'.

But those are problems that could be fixed if maybe twenty minutes of film hadn't been cut to bring it in under two hours/save some of the Weinsteins' production cash. There are some far, far deeper problems, in the form of the cast and crew: Heath Ledger is the best actor in the film, next to the nameless Czech villagers. Someone somewhere is obsessed with frustrating, tight frames during tense moments when, presumably, a whole lot is going on. And so on. Apparently, Gilliam initially had high hopes: Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, and Johnny Depp are listed in IMDb's Trivia as framing the original cast, along with a different female lead and cinematographer who were cut by the Weinstein brothers.

When I saw the poster for this film in a theater in Chicago five months ago, I thought it looked like a crappy action/fantasy Matt Damon/Heath Ledger vehicle. Then I learned it was Terry Gilliam's latest project, and I really started to get my hopes up. Sadly, it appears to be his newest Baron Munchausen, not his newest Time Bandits. If you enjoyed Sleepy Hollow, or Gilliam's other films, I would recommend this for a matinee: it's entertaining enough to fill a couple of hours, and audience support now will help Gilliam secure studio support for his future projects.

August 26, 2005


It turns out smart women don't get laid. So much for that gender equality thing!

Make It So!

Not since "You're the man now". Good stuff here. Hat tip to Czar, who should have just posted this himself.


is the 85th anniversary of the 19th, "Susan B. Anthony", Amendment, granting women the right to vote. It took the first wave of the feminist movement in the US 72 years to get the Amendment ratified; sadly, the ERA has been waiting for more than 80 years.

This is entirely accurate

Profgrrrrl writes to the new grad students in her social science department:

Greetings. You're about to embark on a journey that will suck away your life as you know it. You won't be left with a void. Quite the contrary -- your life will be filled with ideas, projects, and pressures. You'll sink or swim, learning skills that you previously thought were just for MBA types (oh, project management is critical; negotiation skills are useful; strategic partnerships often essential).

So sleep well these next few days, and enjoy the end of your freedom. You likely won't have a guilt-free day off/holiday/vacation/etc. for several years. Some folks who walk down this path never see one of those days again.

Things are a little different in the humanities -- philosophers work in collaborative teams much less often than social scientists do -- but the second sentence and second paragraph really struck home. This guilt is especially bad during Spring Break: I will get to sleep in, but I can't shake the feeling that I should be doing research for a paper, or at least working on my latest 'extracurricular' philosophy book. Since I'd rather do something that's both fun and relaxing, I end up bored and watching too much teevee all week.

It isn't really a bad career, and, in fact, the feeling of always having more to think about is part of what attracts me to academia. It's just that -- and I suspect this is the same with doctors -- the pressure to constantly be highly productive, to always actively engage that stuff you haven't thought about yet, makes it extremely difficult to enjoy not being productive during your vacations.

Friday Random Ten

(Song - Artist)

1. Riders On The Storm - The Doors
2. One - Metallica
3. Proof 101 - Qwel
4. Numb - Linkin Park
5. Workshop Of The Telescopes - Blue Oyster Cult
6. Riding On The Wings Of Eternity - Rhapsody
7. Day For Night - Spock's Beard
8. Hawii Five-O - TV Theme
9. Livin' Thing - Electric Light Orchestra
10. Maple Leaf Rag - Scott Joplin

August 25, 2005

I make

the best fucking pizza. Seriously. The two keys: herbs in the dough and baking on an unglazing ceramic potting dish.

Answers Are Something I Don't Have

Man, people like to poke fun at Big Media Matt for being basically a kid, or for going corporate, or what have you, but he writes some damn good stuff. Take this from Tapped. So though the tide seems to be beginning to turn, conservatives pretty much paint a rosey picture of what's happening in Iraq, the more conservative Democrats say that we could do the job properly if we had more troops there. Slightly less conservative Democrats think we shouldn't have gotten into Iraq in the first place, but that now that we're there we should put more troops in to do the job correctly, and then you've got the people that think we shouldn't have gone in in the first place and should pull out as soon as we can.

I've always been in the second to last camp. I didn't support the war when it was being sold to the country, but I have always thought that since we had already destabilized the country we should get ready for a full on occupation that would last something like fifty years so that we could stabilize the country enough to be a fairly Western-ized democrazy. Yglesias, however, seems to make a fairly strong argument for the proposition that we don't have nearly enough troops to truly stabilize the country even if we wanted to.

At the same time, I can't help but think that however bad it is there now, it's not going to get any better if we leave. Sure, a good bit of the non-native fighters would leave/stop coming across the border, but the country would surely collapse into complete annarchy. Whatever building blocks of a really crappy democracy they're got now would give way to full scale civil war between the various ethnic groups living there, and whatever government took shape after the war was over couldn't possibly be anything good.

Like I said in the title, I don't have any good answers for how to solve this problem. It's a lose/lose senario in the truest sense. All I can do is channel Drew: To all you people that voted Republican in the last several elections, this is your fault. Thanks a bunch.

Another Wonder Of The Internet

One of the things I love most about the internet is when well known celebrities get involved. This time it's Pat Boone, and he's tearing into Cindy Sheehan, mother of deceased soldier Casey Sheehan and lightning rod in the anti-war argument. Sadly, No! has a good take down, as well as including this gem actually written by Boone back in 2004. Also, I learned here that Pat Boone is releasing a NASCAR-theme rock album. Who here isn't the least bit interested in what that's going to sound like?

The Internet: Everyone gets a chance to be stupid, even famous people.

Ok, He Deserves It, But Not For This

So Atrios tipped me off to a post over at DC Media Girl where she really rips into Jon Klein, president of CNN's domestic operations, for saying that CNN isn't going to cover the Holloway story. True, under his leadership CNN has become increasinly FOX-ified in the way the cover stories, and DC Media Girl is right to remind us of the horrid coverage of the runaway bride. Still, he right here, isn't he? Sure, his job is to make CNN get FOX level ratings and he hasn't been able to do it, even when aping FOX's style, but it seems odd to me to smack someone for doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing for a long time. So I don't really disagree with DC Girl's points, per se, but it just seems like an odd time to bring them up because, at least this, he's right; the Holloway story isn't newsworthy and a network devoted to providing news shouldn't cover it. Good for him.

Knee Deep In The Dead

Ok, so the full trailer for the Doom movie is out. I'm not going to say it looks good, because I don't know that it's really going for what I generally look for in movies, but it certainly doesn't look like the total failure committed to celuloid that I thought it might be. I mean really, look at the game. Does it scream, "Major Motion Picture" to you? I hope not, because there's really not much there. Anyway, I think it looks pretty typical of the genre which, given what I was expecting, is a monumental success. Also, for some reason those first person scenes appeal to me, but then, you know, the nerdiness.

Here's a mirror for the trailer if the main site is getting too much traffic.

American Apparel

American Apparel is a tough call for thoughs of us on the left side of the fence. On the one hand, they're an American company that produces all of their apparel, which are evidently considered "hip" by people that would know that sort of thing, in L.A. and payes their workers a fair wage. They also use models of varying body types in their product photos, unlike the sickeningly hot people used by stores like Abercrombie & Fitch. On the other hand, the founder and C.E.O. is evidently a sex crazed maniac that masturbates in front of reporters and has sex with employees.

I know, I know, the idea of a sexified workplace *sounds* pretty sweet at first glance, but there are reasons why it's generally not an accepted practice, starting with the fact that you never want employees, especially a particular subset of the employees, say women, to feel like their job might be on the line if they don't screw the boss. And I'm not exactly in a position to be preaching about attractiveness, but I will say that Dov Charney may not be every lady's type.

So anyway, you've got your problem; support a really progressive business model that comes along with the baggage of some unsavory business practices, or denounce the company and go back to Wal-mart where we know all about the many and varied worker abuses, but the bosses don't have sex with any of them. In fact, the Wal-mart corporate honchos probably never have sex at all, on account of it being, as the kids say, teh sin.

Personally I'm willing to accept A.A. with its flaws, as long as we recognize them as definite flaws, as long as they are able to stand up to the gross abuses of their competitors, but not everyone agrees. To some femenist bloggers he's too much, and I can understand why they come to that conclusion, and wrote as much, but then encountered quite a backlash of A.A. supporting trolls. Are these independent trolls that just love hot and steamy sex along with reasonably priced garments made by well paid labor or are they working for the company itself? I suppose we could ask the Shadow. He'd probably know.

For those wondering, there are two American Apparel stores coming soon; one in North Jersey and another on the shore somewhere.

August 24, 2005

Skillet-Roasted Potatoes

I love potatoes. Steamed, baked, mashed, au gratin, whatever, they're filling and make a fantastic foundation for complex flavours (I put all kinds of stuff into my mashed potatoes). Today we're frying them in a little oil, and just using a few seasonings; 'roasting' can mean either 'cooking with dry heat' or 'browning', and since we're using oil, this would be the second definition. I had them by themselves for lunch, but obviously they'd work nicely as a side dish.

This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, which is probably the best cooking magazine around. Sadly, it only comes out bimonthly. The potatoes take less than half an hour, are ridiculously simple, and the portions below are enough for a side dish for 3 or 4 or a main dish for 2.

  1. 1 1/2 pounds small or medium Red Bliss potatoes -- I used Yukon Golds because that's what I had on hand, but CI recommends Red Bliss because they won't dry out as much (and mine were a bit on the dry side). Scrub the potatoes before and after cutting to get off the dirt and then surface starch, then pat dry thoroughly with a clean towel. Do not peel.
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil -- vegetable oil will work, but olive oil adds flavour
  3. salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic -- I used dried rosemary and garlic powder, but fresh will give you more flavour

  1. Large nonstick skillet -- about 12 inches across, though I managed okay with a little less skillet and a little less potato.
  2. Lid that fits large skillet -- I used the lid from the pot I cook pasta in
  3. Tongs -- Preferably silicone-tipped so you don't scratch the skillet, but if you're careful you'll be fine
  4. Paring knife

Slice the potatoes into pieces fairly close in size. For small potatoes, slice in half; for medium (lemon-sized) potatoes, quarter so you have two cut sides and a third rounded side. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat until shimmering (makes a ripple effect when you tilt the pan). Add the potatoes in a single layer with one of the cut sides down and cook without stirring until GBD (golden brown and delicious) on that side, about 5 minutes. Just let them sit there. Oil will sizzle and probably jump a bit, but not smoke.

Use tongs to turn potatoes onto the other cut side (medium potatoes) or skin side (small potatoes). Be careful to avoid hot oil splashes. Cook another 5 minutes until the second side is GBD.

Turn the heat down to medium-low. Sprinkle seasonings onto potatoes and stir to coat -- in place of the garlic and rosemary, CI also recommends lemon and chives, and chili powder, paprika, and cumin. (If using fresh herbs, wait to add them after the potatoes are done cooking.) Cover and let cook another 6 to 9 minutes until the potatoes are tender and a paring knife slides in easily -- it's okay if the potatoes absorb all the oil in this process, so long as they don't get burnt to the skillet. Serve immediately; starchy foods get very soggy and mushy if they cool down after being fried.

August 23, 2005

I'm Back

Well, now that I'm back in New Jersey, I suppose I should get back in the habit of posting things. Today, however, I have several errands to run and I probably won't have time for anything serious. Here's the most recent Photoshop Phriday, which is pretty good.

August 22, 2005

A pod of jellies in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. December 2004.  Posted by Picasa

August 21, 2005

A large section of the Sierra Nevada mountains near the town where I grew up has very few trees -- there's little to no topsoil, just bare granite. This area is called the Desolation Wilderness. In the Wilderness, cairns (small rock piles) are used to mark the trail -- and, on dayhikes, I've still ended up lost for as much as half an hour before happening to see the next cairn.  Posted by Picasa

August 19, 2005

August 18, 2005

My Vacation

Is great. It's sunny and warm here, without a trace of humidity, hence there's not likely to be any posting 'till I get back to Jersey on Monday. Peace!

Near Mt. Diablo, CA. December 2003.  Posted by Picasa

Neither here nor there

One thing I have yet to learn about academia: the school year starts before the school year starts. I've spent the last two days prepping for the course I'm going to be teaching at a community college: picking up one set of books and a model syllabus, returning them and getting a new set of books and course outline when I was given something else, and of course turning the extremely rough course outline into a syllabus with reading and homework assignments. And I have another half day's worth of work, easily. But I'm still in the summer vacation frame of mind, and I can't bring myself to belief that my class meets for the first time Monday night, and my grad school seminars start on Tuesday morning.

It wouldn't be too bad if either (a) I'd had the course materials a week ago, or (b) I had an actual syllabus to start with. In theory, with (a) I could space this out over a couple weeks instead of a couple days, and with (b) I could just change the dates and recycle the syllabus (it's what I did with my Linear Algebra class last spring). Really, though, I would have procrastinated until now if I'd had the course materials for the past three months.

So, yeah, no interesting posts from me, probably until next week or so. I have a couple ... interesting ideas for new blogging projects, but until I can get those off the ground I'll try to put up photos a little more regularly.

August 16, 2005

My mom's backyard. December 2003.  Posted by Picasa

August 12, 2005


Posted by Picasa

A galette is the rustic, uncouth cousin to the prime and proper pie and urbane, sophisticated tart. Like tarts and pies, galettes are basically pastry crust containers with yummy stuff inside -- although we normally only eat sweet pastries in this country, savory or dinner pastries are quite common in France and Italy, and I personally make sweet and savory equally often. However, the galette we're making today is sweet, filled with seasonal fruit. The most obvious difference between a galette and pie or tart should be obvious just from the picture: there's no pan! Instead, the pastry dough is casually folded up around the filling, left oblong and untrimmed, in a true rustic fashion. This gives galettes one critical weakness, but they more than make up for it in flexibility and style. More on that later.

Basically, your favourite pie or tart dough will work. However, I strongly recommend not using store-bought dough -- it's designed to fit a pie pan, and galettes need significantly more dough for a dish of the same diameter. If you've never made pie crust before, it's not too terribly hard, but you might want to watch a more experienced baker a couple times, because it can be kind of tricky. Here's my technique:
  1. 2 cups of flour
  2. 1 tbsp sugar
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 8 tbsp butter (that's a stick and a half)
  5. about 1/2 cup cold water, with 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Thoroughly sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter half a stick at a time using a dough blender; when thoroughly mixed, the dough should have the texture of corn meal. If the butter is starting to get soft, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Now, add the cold water a tablespoon or two at a time, and don't worry if you don't need the entire half-cup. Work it in thoroughly; I usually just use my fingers at this point. The dough should stick together loosely, but not to anything else (fingers, countertop) too much. Roll/smush into a thick disc, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes while you work on ...

Just about any filling you'd use in a pie or tart will work in a galette EXCEPT custards; without a pan, the dough alone can't hold all that liquid in place. So no lemon meringue galettes. For the one above, I used fresh peaches (4 peaches = about 6 cups), raspberries, and blueberries (1 cup each) because they were on special at the grocery store. Canned fruits work okay, but fresh will always taste better if they're ripe; if you do go with canned, be sure to drain off the syrup, and you probably won't need to add sugar.
  1. 6-8 cups of fruit
  2. 1/4 cup ( = 3 tbsp) each of sugar and flour
  3. 1/4 cup lemon juice

Clean and slice the fruit into a big bowl -- no, bigger than you think, you'll want plenty of space left over. Stir in the sugar and flour to coat the fruit evenly. If your fruit is especially juicy, omit the lemon juice. If your fruit is especially sweet, omit the sugar. Be sure to check for taste at this point!

Building the galette
Ingredients: Dough, filling, and one egg or melted butter
Preheat oven to 400*F. Take the dough out of the fridge and throw away the plastic. Lightly flour a large space of cutting board or clean countertop, and have a sheet pan and the fruit at hand. Now you have some options, which is the main advantage of a galette: you can make one large pastry, 6-7" in diameter, or several small ones 3-4" in diameter, or any combination in between, because you don't have to worry about fitting everything into a pie pan. Large ones make for a stunning, rustic presentation, especially since galettes are so uncommon in this country. Smaller ones are 'cuter', allow for some customization of the filling or garnish, and cook faster.

Divide the dough equally into the number of galettes you'll be making, and roll out one at a time with a rolling pin into rough circles, about 1/8" thick and twice the diameter you want for the final galette. Don't worry about getting them perfectly round or having cracks out towards the edges -- these are rustic desserts, remember! Transfer the rolled piece of dough to the baking sheet, pile fruit in the middle to about the diameter you want for the final galette, and fold up the edges. Make sure there aren't any cracks in the sides where juice can escape, and brush the exposed pastry with the egg or butter to encourage browning.

For small galettes, baking time might be as short as 15 minutes, while large galettes can take half an hour or more. The crust should be golden brown and the exposed fruit just starting to dry out. Like a pie, let cool down during dinner so the inside isn't molten, and serve with vanilla ice cream. It keeps well for quite a few days, even just covered in foil or plastic on the counter, and doesn't need to be reheated to be delicious.

It's the deal of a century -- two pictures, PLUS an informative and non-polemical post, for the price of one! The first picture: "Touchdown Jesus", the godsawful (pun intended) 6-story mural on the side of the Notre Dame Library. The football stadium is maybe 150 yards behind where I stood to take this, and this eyesore (on a campus not otherwise so obviously all about the Jeebus) is supposedly responsible for Notre Dame football's historic success. Though apparently they haven't done so well recently; I wouldn't know, so I couldn't give a crap about football.  Posted by Picasa

August 09, 2005

NHL 2k6 for 19.99

I know this will make MosBen, and the rest of us video gamers who love cheap games, happy.

Here's a linky for Sega's NHL 2k6, which is apparently going for 19.99. Good news, now if only they're actually going to have a hocky season ;)

Comments on the World at Large

Yes, yes, I'm notoriously absent.

Here's an interesting link to a woman who lost her son in the war in Iraq. According to the article, when the President met with her to "comfort" her about the death of her son, he was fairly glib, and continually referred to her as "Mom." As of right now, she is picketing outside of Bush's Crawford ranch, stating that she will not leave until she receives a face-to-face with the President. Apparently, the best the Bush camp can offer the poor woman is the threat of jail time.

August 08, 2005

Do You Work? Not Anymore!

102 free games. Go right ahead and download them, they're free. This isn't some huge amount of crap games either. This is Maniac Mansion, King's Quest, and a hundred other great games.

It should be pointed out that some of these are demos, and not full games.

August 07, 2005


Well, tomorrow is the last day of my summer job and on Tuesday I'm flying home to Washington for a couple weeks to see the old family. I will try to post a few things while I'm at home, but you can expect things to be *very* light on my end for a while. Who knows, maybe those mysterious fellows listed over in the top right that we don't see much of will get around to posting a little here or there while I'm gone.

I would like to point out that July was another record month here at the ol' site o' love, with over 1,250 visitors throughout the month. We had one freak day of nearly 200 hits, but we also had several days in the 40-60 range, which is a nice thing to see. Our average hits per day continue to climb, and I think we're currently somewhere in the 40s. So, I guess what I'm saying is thanks for coming and I hope you stick around.

Finally, I think I'm going to try something new to get some Ra points out to you guys. As always, posting comments on stories stand a good chance of netting some points, but occasionally I'll post quotes from either movies, music, or tv at the bottom of the post and the first person to correctly guess it in the comments gets some Ra points. There aren't any restrictions on how you come about the answers, so feel free to use whatever resources you want if you don't know the answer right off the top of your head.

"And we played the first thing that came to our heads/ Just so happened to be the best song in the world"

I Will Live On!

Drew posted the humor test, so I figured I'd post the Genghis Khan the Genghis Genetic Fitness Test.

61,690 descendants
- you're more genetically fit than 37% of the current population -

61,690. Not bad. You're no Mongol warlord, but to have that many copies of your genetic code running around 800 years from now is pretty impressive.

You're at the lower end of the scoring spectrum, but, honestly, when you consider that the cheaters, swindlers, and football players of this world are statistically best-equipped to create children, scoring low is something to be proud of. As you'll see below, some of your lines will die out, but nonetheless your genetic material will thrive here on earth for a long time to come.

So I'm no Genghis, but I will live on. How 'bout you? Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn!

Two Days After Random Ten

Song - Artist

1. God Loves Ugly - Atmosphere
2. Front Steps - Akrobatic
3. It's Only Goodbye - Gentle Giant
4. Fatal Tragedy - Dream Theater.
5. It's A Fire - Portishead
6. My Little Man - Ozzy Osbourne
7. When The Beat Comes In - Brother Ali
8. The Two Gates - Ayreon
9. Diamonds Are Forever - James Bond Theme
10. P&V - Anthrax

August 05, 2005

Priests in lab coats

Interesting interview with Michael Ruse, evolutionary biologist and defender of high school science classes.

Ruse is drawing a crucial distinction between evolutionary science, narrowly considered -- which need not have any religious or spiritual consequences -- and evolutionism, the secular, atheistic religion he says often accompanies and enfolds Darwinism. [...]

You might say that, in this new book, Ruse is calling for a Reformation within the church of evolutionism. He himself honors the truth claims of science and is "a hell of a lot closer" to atheism than to religious belief. But he thinks evolutionists must purge themselves of reflexive anti-religious fervor, and acknowledge at least the potential validity of the classic Augustinian position that science and theology can never directly contradict one another, since science can only consider nature and God, by definition, is outside nature. Without this consciousness, Ruse suggests, evolutionism is in fact a secular religion, a church without Christ. And if that's what it is, what is it doing in biology class?

I haven't read anything Ruse has written on this within the past fifteen years, but this was a major point of contention between Stephen Jay Gould and the evolutionary psychologists of the '80s and '90s, including Richard Dawkins. One of the major reasons Gould's death a few years back was such a tragedy is that he was just about the only public intellectual writing on evolution and evolutionary psychology that didn't have open contempt for religious belief or feminism. Hopefully Michael Ruse is starting to step into Gould's shoes.

Amanda agrees with me


Pro-choice means women's choice as pertains to their own bodies. [...] [Bill First] knows the blather about babies is misdirection to conceal anti-choicers' true concern which is preserving male control over female bodies. [...] This [autonomy] is extremely important to the notion of choice. When feminists like myself talk about choice, we mean the most personal of all choices, which is the choice to control who your body is forced to incubate or not.
[...] if you look at [Frist's votes regarding stem-cell research] through the patriarchal lens, then those positions are not opposed but quite complementary. [Research using] Fetal tissue [from abortions] is wrong because women choosing not to finish pregnancies men have started is wrong. But stem cell research is alright because stem cells are the byproducts of men regaining their manhood and fathering children. Both beliefs presuppose that women's bodies are vessels and therefore they are entirely consistent.

Of course, Amanda is "shrill", so we can dismiss her as just another hysterical radical feminist. And William Saletan (who is usually sane) is perfectly accurate when he calls Frist "pro-choice".

August 04, 2005

Another view of my new car.  Posted by Picasa

I bought a car. 1999 Volkswagon Passat. It was right at the upper end of what I could afford, but it's a really nice car. So long as hidden mechanical problems don't turn up ... like I'm sure they will >_< Posted by Picasa

The funniest thing I read today

What kind of completely inappropriate discussion of TEH GAY took place to prompt this reaction from a concerned parent?

Discussions concerning homosexuality issues will not take place in front of our son, [son's name] (5 yrs old), at Estabrook. This includes material given to [our son] to covertly transport into our household (i.e.- diversity book bag). Such doctrine is against our Christian family beliefs. We will be notified when there are plans to have homosexual material discussed with the students - when [our son] is present - so that we can take action to ensure his spiritual safety. You are not permitted to infringe upon our religious beliefs and parental rights or obviate our freedom of choice, to exclude our son from material that would expose him to beliefs contrary to the Word of God in our Christian faith. Our parental rights and Christian belief system will be respected in this diversity- oriented, anti-biased school community. We know other parents, of various faiths and values, that endorse this position. This is not solely a Christian assertion of rights.

May God bless everyone who reads this to be shown his Love and truth of his Word.

I like that last bit especially. Anyway. What do you think it was? "How to pick out a leatherdaddy outfit"? A demonstration of the buttsex? Possibly even ... dare I suggest it, it's too horrible .. a discussion on interior decorating, with a field trip to CB2?!

No. Far, far worse. The kid was given a short book on families that, on one page, had a PICTURE of a GAY FAMILY! Surely he will be smote to Hell for this vile transgression of looking at a picture loving, monogamous gay couple and their children!

Via Pandagon

August 03, 2005

Lake Michigan in January 2004. Around Chicago, the lake freezes about five yards out, on average, but in very cold weather (when the temperature drops below 20 degrees for a week), it will be covered with ice out to the horizon.  Posted by Picasa

August 02, 2005

Chicago, January 2004.  Posted by Picasa

August 01, 2005

More on autonomy and men talking about feminism

Another great post by Hugo . One of his ongoing themes is exploring what it means to be both feminist and male.

Regardless of whether or not I am pro-choice or pro-life, I am incapable of truly understanding -- on a visceral and emotional level -- what it means to live as a woman in a body that many believe ought to have its natural processes regulated by the state. That's not a personal failure on my part, and it's not something for which I feel compelled to apologize. But while men can be deeply interested in women's issues (I am) we cannot claim personal expertise in what it means to live as an embodied woman.

Of course, there's more to feminism and women's studies than personal experience.[...] Personal experience is not a vital qualification for effective teaching, even in gender studies, but humility is. What is the essence of that humility? A willingness to recognize that male biology grants us the freedom from being pregnant, and that privilege inevitably blinds even the most sensitive and compassionate among us to the reality of what it means to carry a child inside of us -- particularly an unwanted one. [...]

Hence, I must always be scrupulous about acknowledging my maleness. That doesn't mean apologizing for having a penis! But it does mean recognizing that biology does shape our world view, and those of us who are biologically protected from the reality of an unwanted pregnancy must be very, very careful when we share our thoughts with those for whom that unwanted pregnancy is a real possibility.

(His emphasis suppressed because I = lazy.)

I think this also parallels the sort of moral relativism I've talked about (or tried to, but no-one seems to find it that interesting) in a few recent posts. I don't think Hugo would call himself a relativist in any strong sense, but the kernel, that one's point of view informs one's moral judgements, is definitely there. 'Care ethics' is considered 'feminist ethics' because this key feature -- the emphasis on the particularity of an agent's situation when she makes a decision -- was one of the defining intellectual touchstones of second-wave feminism. The Second Sex and The Feminine Mystique are both, essentially, about how women are denied (or deny) agency by ethical standards grounded in 'universal' (male) experience.