28 December 2008


Remarkably, Shay Given made a number of saves worthy of a highlight reel. He (perhaps alone of the Newcastle players) deserved better. Liverpool dominated the match every bit that the score suggests. Top of the table at New Year's!

Liverpool ended the match with four center backs on the pitch, with Skrtel making a return from injury and Carragher and Agger filling in right and left and Hyypia rounding out the party.

We're hitting the road today to drive to New Orleans; posts may be infrequent for the next few days.

27 December 2008

Keep digging, Chip

There's saying that says if you've found that you've dug yourself into a hole, the first step toward getting out is: stop digging.

Judging by his actions and the company that he keeps, Saltsman is exactly the kind of cynical partisan political operative that I despise. Quote below from a CNN article.
Saltsman, a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, was a top advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.

26 December 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to our Boxing Day boy. He's grown a bit since this picture.


An emphatic home win for the Reds, with Keane scoring so naturally that it was difficult to believe that he had been struggling. Bolton never looked a threat. Injuries and illness dictated much of the roster, but Skrtel, Torres, and Arbeloa should return before long. The nineteen year-old Argentine left back Insua had another steady performance. Rumor has it that Liverpool may sign Heskey, but I'm hard pressed to imagine that he'd see much of the pitch.

24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

PS - Made some Egg Nog tonight. Not bad, though I think I'll scale back the rum by 1/2 oz. next time.

22 December 2008

On Declaring Victory Too Early

While tidying my desk, I came across a copy of The Moscow Times from my trip there earlier this year. This particular issue is from October 1, which is when the financial market meltdown was near its crescendo. The day before, the Russian (RTS) index had opened with a value around 1200 (it had closed July around 2000). As you might imagine, that index, like pretty much all worldwide trading indices, did not in fact "turn around"; it closed today around 650.

Ump Decks Running Back

To be fair, in the video it's clear that the official merely put his forearm out to brace himself from the impact. But the photo sure looks like he's going to finish the runner with a left cross. (Hat tip: Shutdown Corner)

21 December 2008


The first two bookings (Keane and Adebayor) were overly cautious. The latter became critical when Adebayor was sent off in the second half. This match was markedly different from Liverpool's other recent matches. Hull was lively, but does not nearly have the quality that Arsenal brings. Both goals were superb, and it was an exciting match. I was disappointed that Liverpool could not capitalize on referee Webb's early Christmas present, but a draw at Emirates is not an awful result (and much better, than, say home draws with Fulham, West Ham, and Hull City). Frankly, I thought Liverpool were getting the better of it between Fabregas's substitution at the half and Adebayor's second booking. Being a man down seemed to revitalize Arsenal. Here's hoping the Blues from Merseyside can surprise the ones from, ahem, Fulham.

20 December 2008

Virginia Highlands 5k

The good news is that I took seven minutes off my time from last year. The bad news is that I was hoping to do better than that. My official time was 33:04, but there is no adjustment for how long it took to reach the starting line. I'm sure that if I train a little more consistently (and a little harder) that I can get my time under 30 minutes.

19 December 2008

iPod Touch

I've had my iPod Touch for almost exactly one year, and in general it has been terrific. I have not yet decided whether to get an iPhone (the long, expensive AT&T contract being my main objection), but even limited to WiFi connectivity, the Touch is an impressive piece of technology.

I have thousands of photographs on it, and this is very cool; it's like carrying your photo albums around in your pocket. Unfortunately, iTunes only allows you to sync a list of folders. If you've got a couple of dozen snaps of the kids, this is not a problem. But when you get into thousands of images, you need better organizing functionality. Apparently, there are better options if you're using a Mac and I'm not ruling that out. The only Mac we have at the moment is so old that it's not viable to act as our image repository. I'm using Google's Picasa to organize the pictures on the PC, and like a lot of Google software it is pretty impressive, especially at the price.

To manage a non-trivial number of images you need keywords, albums, and hierarchical organization. Come on Apple, I expect better of you.

Kim Jong-Il

I read this brief article about Kim Jong-Il and his recovery from an apparent stroke earlier in the year. Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of the US Pacific Command, is quoted as saying "I think he's relatively in control of his faculties." Unspoken was "to the extent that he has ever been in control of his faculties".

Get Real

Traditional Christmas Sea Lion

I know this is wrong, but it made me smile.

18 December 2008

Taking the GMAT with both hands tied behind your back

An article at the Freakonomics blog talked about a GMAT question, and how it is possible to deduce the correct answer without even reading the question. See how you do.

Which of the following is the correct answer?

a) 4π sq. inches

b) 8π sq. inches

c) 16 sq. inches

d) 16π sq. inches

e) 32π sq. inches

For the answer (and the logic they used) go here. For what it's worth, I got it right (though using much more superficial logic than they did).

For extra credit, deduce the question.

17 December 2008


I finally got around to stopping at Kroger for some lemons, a required ingredient in a couple of mixed drinks I've been meaning to sample.

The first was a Winter Sidecar (made with Winter Pimm's, which I have personally imported into the US). I thought it was too bitter, and the lemon overwhelmed the drink. Not bad, but I think it needs a lot of work.

The second was a Corpse Reviver No. 2, which is a pre-prohibition drink intended as a hangover remedy (I did not employ it in this capacity). It calls for equal measures of Gin, Cointreau (I substituted Grand Marnier), lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc (I used Noilly Pratt dry). It is a remarkably smooth and balanced drink; quite elegant really. Recommended.

It really is a world wide web

The blog entry itself was uninspiring (not that I have any room to talk). But I loved this comment.

16 December 2008

Whither Protectionism

It is likely only a matter of time before some demagogue suggests erecting trade barriers would "even the playing field", allowing American manufacturers to compete against foreign competitors with lower labor costs. This would be history repeating itself, and last time turned out poorly.

This article is what The Economist thought in 1930 of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act (before it had wreaked its sadly predictable devastation).

Scooter Economics

A colleague and I went to Five Guys Burgers for lunch today. The burger was good, but not the best I've ever had; I'm still confused by the raves they get. Returning to work, we passed a Scooter Superstore on Jimmy Carter Blvd. I mentioned the shop's name, prompting the driver to take an abrupt right turn so as to visit the store. The owner has some of his private collection on display, including the adorable 1964 Vespa 150 on the right.

My daily commute is short (about five miles), and uses only two roads with appreciable traffic. Scooters are an obvious safety concern, but the route I take would make it about as safe as you are likely to find in a major American city. I don't spend very much on gasoline (compared to most). Not counting driving to lunch, I burn about a gallon of gas every two days. While gas prices are absurdly low at the moment ($1.50/gallon; 25p/l at today's exchange rate), I expect that before long they will rise to about $3/gallon. The cheapest scooter is around two grand, and the cheapest practical Vespa is about twice that. At $3/gallon, commuting to work in the Solara costs about $1.50 per day in gas. A scooter would cost about $.50 in gas. With savings of $1.00/day, it would take sixteen years to cost-justify the Vespa. I could pay off the 50cc Vespa in about twelve years; one of the Asian-built scooters in about eight. And this assumes no incremental cost to having the scooter. I'd retain the Toyota, which means I'd keep all of the overhead costs (insurance, repairs) of the car, and have overhead costs of the scooter added (reducing the savings rate).

The bottom line is that I can't possibly cost-justify buying a scooter. Still, they are cute.

15 December 2008

At least they weren't from here

And the award for most awful white trash parents goes to the Campbells.

The thought occurred to me that the world might be a better place if these mouth-breathers had been involuntarily sterilized. See? I do know what irony means.

I wonder for whom they voted in November.

Rooney dodges a bullet

While exercising on the treadmill in the basement, I happened to see part of the match in question. Rooney was reckless, but I saw no reason to believe he intended to stomp on the man's chest at the end of the first half. On the other hand, his studs-up tackle into the knee early in the second half was worthy of a yellow at least.

Ferguson's response was utterly predictable.

13 December 2008


An entertaining game for all, but I fear Liverpool may have spent their last day at the top of the table for this season. Poor outing by Kuyt; Liverpool desperately need better finishing. Dossena couldn't match Mendy for pace; Aurelio had better be healthy when they next face Man Utd or Cristano Ronaldo will have a field day.

This is the medium level

12 December 2008


You know a politician is in deep trouble when they feel they need three preachers.

Caylee Anthony

Awful? Certainly
News? Possibly
Significant? Not

I have said that the News is an hour long, irrespective of whether anything important happened. Friends have corrected me: the News is on around the clock. They're going to report with exactly the same amount of coverage every day. That makes it more difficult for the public to differentiate between O. J. Simpson and Robert Mugabe. I'd bet that the overwhelming majority of Americans only know one of those. Americans are predisposed to be more interested in the death of a single Florida girl than an African child every fifteen seconds. That is a cultural sickness that I have no hope will be cured.

11 December 2008

Nihilist Football League

I like the thoughtful analysis they do at Football Outsiders. In addition to their reasonably rigorous statistical work, they like to have fun with words, too. Mike Tanier writes a weekly column called "Walkthrough", and among other musings, he predicts the outcomes of the week's games. This week's edition included an entry that made me laugh out loud.
Lions at Colts: Peyton Manning will step to the line of scrimmage on Sunday, start pointing to coverages and potential blitzers, then suffer an existential crisis. Does it really matter where the safety is lined up if he cannot cover a receiver anyway? Why change the blocking assignments to stop a pass rusher who has no chance of reaching the quarterback? Why call plays at all? He'll spend the second half contemplating the futility of all human endeavors while Jim Sorgi mops up the blowout. Colts.

10 December 2008

Champions League

The group stage is over (and the next match isn't until late February).

Pool Winners: Roma, Panathinaikos, Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester Utd., Bayern Munich, Porto, Juventus

Runners up: Chelsea, Inter. Milan, Sporting, Atletico, Villareal, Lyon, Arsenal, Real Madrid

The sixteen remaining teams are drawn from these leagues: England (4), Spain (4), Italy (3), Portugal (2), Germany (1), France (1), Greece.

This reinforces my position that reducing the number of teams from the top leagues will only serve to dilute the competition. Does anybody seriously believe that a fifth English club, say Everton or Aston Villa would have done as poorly as Basel?

Half of the remaining teams have won the tournament, and only Sporting, Villareal and Lyon haven't at least made the finals.

Liverpool can't draw another pool winner, another English club, or the other club from their own pool, which leaves: Inter. Milan, Sporting, Villareal, Lyon, Real Madrid.

So there's a 20% chance of the "Special One" pacing the technical area at Anfield in March. On the other hand, it's even money that one of Arsenal or Chelsea will draw Barcelona.

09 December 2008


The first half was sloppy, and PSV took advantage of a dubious corner and an awful Mascherano clearance to take the lead. With extra time expiring. Babel deflected Lucas's free kick to even the score. Liverpool looked calmer in the second half. Riera's goal was a thunderbolt. Keane was frustrated by the lack of supply he received, but he fed the ball to the young French striker David Ngog who kept calm and finished the goal. Keane had a good match, even if he had no goals.

Rafa took advantage of the lead to bring on three graduates of the youth squad, two of whom made their senior squad debuts. I'm tempted to be overly encouraged by the showing (especially with the squad missing Reina, Gerrard and Torres), but I don't think PSV (who couldn't afford to just stay back and defend) played particularly well. Still, we won the group (compared to needing to win out just to advance last year).

Trivia (from Wikipedia): As its name [English: Philips Sports Union] indicates, the club started out as a works team for employees of electronics conglomerate Philips on August 31, 1913 to celebrate the centennial defeat of the French in the Napoleonic wars.

08 December 2008

H. L. Mencken

I had given my dad one of his books (the first of a series, if I recall correctly); I wonder if it's still lying around my mother's house. If it is, it's probably buried in a box; I should just buy my own. These quotes were shamelessly swiped from here. The last one describes the Bush (fils) administration. And to be honest, the Republican party in general (of late).

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.


This picture shows some children in Zimbabwe. Not good. (hat tip: Telegraph)

Weekend Update

A light schedule and an out-of-town boss prompted me to use one of my remaining vacation days on Friday. R and I had lunch at Vickery's where I had the boneless pork chops with greens while R had black bean cakes and a pimento burger. I had a ginormous Manhattan (no rye, settled for Maker's Mark). R's ankle was bothering her (and she wore shoes inappropriate for brisk city walking), so we fought the chill and made our way back to the High Museum which we finally joined. There, we saw an exhibit of the First Emperor, including a very small contingent from his Terracotta Army.

That evening, we dropped T off at his Boy Scout lock-in and had dinner at nearby Sugo. I had the pork Braciole with another (disappointing) Manhattan (on the rocks, even). R had one of the specials Scallops with squash blossoms, and a blood orange Cosmo.

Saturday, B fenced sabre. Or maybe foil. I get them confused. He usually fences épée, but not this time. He came in fourth out of ten, which is pretty good considering it was his first tournament with that blade. He was using borrowed equipment and finished ahead of all of the other fencers inexperienced in that blade, but behind the three who regularly fence with it. I stayed home (with T) and watched Liverpool.

Saturday night we drove in to town (inside the perimiter twice in two days!) to our (apparent) favorite, Holeman and Finch (mentioned last week in the New York Times for having a bar on the cutting edge). We arrived while the SEC championship game was still being contested, so had no trouble getting a table. Over the course of the evening we had: Pork Belly, Radicchio, Crispy Gentleman, Pimento Cheese and Saltines, and Bratwurst. In the way of cocktails, I tried their Blood Be Damned (Tequila, Aperol, sweet Vermouth, and Orange Juice)[light and refreshing] and a drink whose name escapes me that consisted primarily of Rye Whiskey and Amaretto [I don't recommend it - there was far too much Amaretto which made the drink cloyingly sweet] while R had her standard Piedmont Apple (fresh Apple Juice, Pechaud's Bitters, and Sparking Sauvignon Blanc) and also tried a Johnny Ryal (Heering Cherry Liqueur, fresh grapefruit, Angostura bitters + Miller High Life). There was also a dessert, but they haven't updated the menu on their web site, and I don't remember much about it (except that it was gooey and sweet).

Sunday, we watched the Saints beat the Falcons (always a good thing). R made Minestrone for dinner. Yum.

07 December 2008

Bill Ayers in his own words

Sarah Palin, bereft of meaningful policies on which to campaign, instead shamelessly suggested that Barack Obama associated with terrorists. Bill Ayers refused to respond during the campaign, but has now written an op-ed published in the New York Times. If you vote, you should read it.

06 December 2008


The scoreline flattered both clubs. Blackburn looked equally happy to nick a goal on the break or accept a nil-nil draw and for the first sixty minutes those outcomes looked equally likely. Liverpool again dominated possession against a team content to concede the first two thirds of the pitch, but as against Fulham and West Ham, struggled to break down a resolute defense. Finally, Xabi Alonso tucked a loose ball into the corner of the net. With a goalless draw out of the question, the game showed some life (and quite a bit of sloppy passing) for the final thirty minutes. Kuyt fed a pretty ball to Benayoun, who scored a nifty goal from a tight angle, and the game seemed over. A somnambulent Liverpool conceded an embarrassing goal to a Blackburn corner, and a draw again seemed a possibility. As extra time expired, Riera passed to Gerrard who scored a meaningless goal (though it did salvage what would have been a dreadful fantasy football contribution by my Liverpool contingent).

Hyypia played specifically because he'd been left off the Champion's League list and is ineligible for the match on Tuesday, but was named man of the match by the announcers (and if the selection was arbitrary, no one had an obviously better match). A couple of Rafa's selections seemed to have an eye on the final group stage match at Eindhoven. Hopefully, the Reds can find a win in Holland while Atletico fails to do the same in Marseille.

Strange Days

I don't condone what either of them did, and I actively dislike both of them, but the American justice system is out of whack when Plaxico Buress and O. J. Simpson face the sentences they do for the crimes they committed.

For Burress, I'd say a 90 day suspended sentence with a couple of years of probation is about right. He wasn't going to rob anybody; he was guilty of both ignorance and stupidity. But three and a half years?

In the case of Simpson, while I believe he was guilty of the Simpson/Goldman murders, he was acquitted and therefore not guilty in the eyes of the law. For the crimes that he was convicted, fifteen years for a first offense seems absurdly long. He, too, was guilty of stupidity (and claimed ignorance).

Both have demonstrated idiocy. But we don't have enough prisons to incarcerate all of our idiots. They're also both evidently jerks, but again: not enough cells for all of those. Neither one posed any meaningful threat to the general public.

America is clueless about a lot of things and its bankrupt belief that the only way to combat crime is to be "tough on crime" is near the top of the list. We have the highest incarceration rates and one of the highest crime rates. Still, every politician campaigns on being tightening the screws. Why can't we evaluate our policies on a rational basis? When policies don't work, recognize that fact and explore alternatives.

05 December 2008

Last Prohibition Post


This is an article about Speakeasies in New York.

This site is the best coverage I've found.

Forbes uses annoying slide shows, but it does list ten old cocktails.

Pre-Prohibition Cocktails

It seems appropriate that today (especially) we eschew such abominations as the Chocolatini and opt for drinks that fell out of favor as a result of the Volstead Act.

Here's what's going on in my home town.

The article mentions three old-style cocktails: Aviation (which I've had), Corpse Reviver #2 (which looks interesting), and Last Word (which looks bitter). Of course, no list of classic cocktails should leave off the Sazerac. Other classics (among others): Sidecar, Manhattan, Mint Julep, Champagne Cocktail, Old Fashioned, Ramos Gin Fizz.

Excluded is the Bloody Mary, which I suppose technically is a prohibition recipe, invented in France the week before prohibition was repealed.

Utah? Really??

Strictly speaking, Ohio and Pennsylvania also ratified the amendment on the same day. But it's more amusing to think that it was Utah that officially repealed prohibition (and given the time zones, it's not unlikely that they actually were the 36th state).

Maine ratified it the next day. Slackers.

"Prohibition went into effect on January 16, 1920, and blew up at last on December 5, 1933 -- an elapsed time of twelve years, ten months and nineteen days. It seemed almost a geologic epoch while it was going on, and the human suffering that it entailed must have been a fair match for that of the Black Death or the Thirty Years War." - H.L. Mencken (hat tip: Wall Street Journal)

04 December 2008

Pet Peeve

Why is Bloody Mary mix sold in such large containers? You can get tonic, or ginger ale, or just about any mixer you can name in half-pint, or even smaller containers. I know I can get tomato juice in small cans, but that's not the same. I want one Bloody Mary, not a quart of them. Is that so much to ask?

03 December 2008

Another reason for pessimism

This is another problem that will face our children's generation.

I wonder if college enrollment will plummet. Seriously, who can afford the kind of six-digit tuition, per child, that even modest private universities now charge for a four year degree? I've read that we are at a crest of college-aged Americans. Right now more people are competing for acceptance than ever before, but the demographics suggest that's going to change in the next few years.

The Dude Abides

Article here. (hat tip: Cocktailians)

Safe For Work

Book porn. (hat tip to The Word Detective)

New Fee Idea

I fully expect we'll be implementing this kind of program soon at work.

02 December 2008

01 December 2008


If it is possible for a team to have a result take them to the top of the Premier League yet be utterly demoralizing, this was it. Just awful.

Liverpool's back four were hardly tested, and Hyypia, slow as ever, might have been Liverpool's best player on the night. Not that anyone seemed to stand out. Dossena looked better than he has, but that's no great consolation. Alonso was able to pass at will in midfield, but West Ham was mostly content to play defensive football.

Most remarkable (in a very unremarkable game) was that the ball hit Ilunga on the arm or hand no fewer than five times.

She's Back

She who shall not be named is in Georgia, campaigning on behalf of Senator Saxby Chambliss. Like most of the rest of the Senate, he's a white male.

Chambliss failed to garner the majority of votes in the primary election, so a run-off election will be held tomorrow to determine the winner. Unfortunately, I believe that Chambliss will win comfortably; his opponent Jim Martin won't have Barack Obama's coattails to ride this time. Chambliss has twice run contemptible (i.e., dirty misleading) campaigns, he's everything I hate about politicians.

30 November 2008

Living in a Different World

The immediate temptation is to brand Plaxico Burress an idiot. And he may well be.

It is incomprehensible that this is no isolated incident. Why do these wealthy young men, who can bask in the adoration of loyal fans, feel the need to carry firearms? If that were not perplexing enough, they then find it necessary to discharge them. In public.

What does it profit an athlete from the streets to win a multi-million dollar contract, if he still will end up in an emergency room or jail? Am I complicit by following the sport?

29 November 2008

A Quantum of Product Placements

We saw Quantum of Solace yesterday afternoon. I can't in good conscience recommend it. It's not awful, and I still believe that Daniel Craig is a good choice to play Fleming's creation. The problem is that there was precious little of Fleming evident here. Bond movies should be guilty pleasures, this one substituted scantily clad beautiful women for product placement and a moral. There are a lot of chase scenes, but Bond movies shouldn't be Jason Bourne derivatives.

Last night, we watched The Maltese Falcon. The difference was startling. Working in black and white, with practically no special effects, Huston created a compelling classic. Dialog, pace, and cinematography make up for a distinct lack of car chases.

I made a Pegu Club Cocktail (Gary Regan's recipe). The orange bitters, triple sec, lime, and gin make an interesting melange. R didn't care for it, but I'll certainly give it another try.

27 November 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Marseille

Liverpool were fortunate to win the match that, as seems their custom now, consisted of starkly different halves. Marseille could hardly complain about the score at the half. Liverpool looked the better side, and Gerrard's unmarked header left the home team ahead.

Aurelio picked up a knock so at the break Rafa brought on Dossena (yet to impress) to take his place. Mascherano, usually a steady performer, struggled to keep possession all night. It is somewhat unfair to single out the Argentine, as the whole side looked quite ordinary for the second half. Reina had one awful play, missing the ball after coming off his line, but otherwise may have been Liverpool's best player.

Liverpool are assured a place in the final sixteen. They currently are second in the group on goal differential; they will need an overwhelming win in Eindhoven or some help when Marseille hosts Atletico Madrid in a couple of weeks.

In either case, Liverpool need to be dramatically better to advance in the knockout stage.

25 November 2008

Raise Our Taxes Now!

The original inspiration to create this blog came in the form of an entry that started out as an email about raising gasoline taxes. I am not a fan of big government nor of paying taxes but I'm also a pragmatist. I strongly believe that we should raise our gasoline tax substantially (say, in fifty cent/gallon increments over the next four years), and I'm not alone.

Raising taxes will:
a) fund infrastructure work (e.g., repairing dangerous bridges),
b) internalize the negative externalities of gasoline consumption (e.g., pollution),
c) encourage fuel use reduction (and that's good either because you believe that human behavior is causing global warming or, if you prefer, to reduce our dependency on sometimes hostile foreign interests for fuel supply), and
d) encourage alternate (ideally non-polluting) energy research.

Which of these is a bad idea?

You can't get something for nothing, and you should mistrust anyone who suggest that you can.

24 November 2008

Red Beans and Rice

Red Beans and Rice is traditional New Orleans fare. It is one of the most economical dishes I know: it takes very little of your time or money to make. When it's made right, the beans are cooked until they start to surrender their structural integrity to creamy goodness. Between the red beans and the rice, all of the amino acids for a complete protein are present. Theoretically, this could make it an excellent vegetarian dish, but it benefits greatly from ham seasoning. If you want a recipe (for this and a number of other New Orleans dishes), you could do worse than buying this book.

If you refer to "red beans and rice day" in front of a New Orleanian, they will invariably know that you mean Monday. The story is that Monday was wash day and you could start a pot of red beans, spend all day doing the wash (leaving the beans untended on very low heat), and have a delicious and inexpensive dinner at the end of the day. I don't know if it's true, but I do miss the ubiquity of the dish. Nearly every New Orleans restaurant that serves hot lunches and caters to working people offers red beans and rice as a "special" on Monday. Likewise, Friday "specials" are almost always seafood, in a nod to the large Catholic population.

The best red beans I remember was at Emile's, a decrepit lunch spot in the warehouse district. Before my father's business moved to the suburbs in 1984, red beans at Emile's was a Monday ritual. By then, Emile's catered only to a handful of regulars, and the World's Fair was the end of that kind of marginal enterprise. Emile's actually had very little to commend it: I doubt it would pass a health inspection and the staff was surly. But they could make a pot of red beans like nobody's business (with smoked sausage and a long neck bottle of Barq's).

It is creole, not Cajun. Don't get me started.

And now for something completely different

I worry that I blog about the same handful of subjects.

This is an interesting article, and it offers an awful statistic that I will repeat without verifying: a child dies of diarrhea every fifteen seconds. The next time somebody raises statistically marginal issue like whether we should require seat belts on school buses (annual deaths in the US: 10), or (sorry, Mom) dying from eating expired pancake mix (documented cases: one), think about how many children have died of a preventable disease since you got out of bed this morning. If planeloads of children crashed each day, how would the news react? How would you react?

This isn't cancer, we know how to prevent it.

This just in

Smoking may be bad for you. This particular study suggests that smoking bans has reduced the number of heart attack deaths. The article mentions second hand smoke, but it is plausible that smoking bans reduce the frequency that smokers light up, so the reduction in deaths could be across the population.

Hors de prix

Last night we watched Priceless, another French comedy, this one starring Audrey Tatou. (Google translates Hors de prix literally to "outside of price". Wikipedia claims that it is based on Breakfast at Tiffany's (which I have not seen).

The male lead is played by French Moroccan Gad Elmaleh, who plays a similar role to the one when we saw him last, in The Valet (La Doublure).

It is a pleasant romantic comedy; we recommend it.

22 November 2008


It was a poor performance by Liverpool in which they appeared to desperately miss their skipper. The Anfield faithful were unhappy that Lucas started ahead of Xabi Alonso. Fulham played positively in the first half, but looked quite content with a nil-nil draw in the second. The crowd was stunned when Rafa took Mascherano off for Alonso in the second half, but Mascherano posed no scoring threat (and neither did Fulham). Lucas for his faults was more likely to score than the Argentina captain; my only complaint was that the substitution didn't come sooner. Aston Villa and Newcastle did their part to limit the damage, holding Chelsea and Man. Utd. to the same scoreless result.

21 November 2008

A novel idea

In this article, the Economist takes up a discussion of unemployment benefits for those who will have lost their (typically high-paying) finance jobs. At the end the author suggests the possibility of "individual unemployment accounts". I believe we already have these, they're called "savings".

Poker Update

Won 45 last night. Got great cards early and won with them. Got poor cards for about two hours and lost with them (even on bluffs). When the big stack starting spewing chips (out of guilt over his success, I think), I got about my share of them. Made a fortunate laydown at the end when Stu had done a good job of hiding his Kings but I was too tired to fight for the pot with my paired Queen.

20 November 2008

List of Drinks You Must Try Before You Expire

I got this list from here. I've only "bolded" drinks that I'm certain I've tried. I'm not sure why the list includes cough syrup but not Kvass (Kumis is, in the form of Airag). For that matter, I'd suggest the list should include another 20 wines (seriously, two sauternes, but no Burgundy, California, or right bank Bordeaux?)

1) Copy this list into your blog, with instructions.
2) Bold all the drinks you’ve imbibed.
3) Cross out any items that you won’t touch
4) Post a comment here and link to your results.
  1. Manhattan Cocktail
  2. Kopi Luwak (Weasle Coffee)
  3. French / Swiss Absinthe
  4. Rootbeer
  5. Gin Martini
  6. Sauternes
  7. Whole Milk
  8. Tequila (100% Agave)
  9. XO Cognac
  10. Espresso
  11. Spring Water (directly from the spring)
  12. Gin & Tonic
  13. Mead
  14. Westvleteren 12 (Yellow Cap) Trappist Ale
  15. Chateau d’Yquem
  16. Budweiser
  17. Maraschino Liqueur
  18. Mojito
  19. Orgeat
  20. Grand Marnier
  21. Mai Tai (original)
  22. Ice Wine (Canadian)
  23. Red Bull
  24. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  25. Bubble Tea
  26. Tokaji
  27. Chicory
  28. Islay Scotch
  29. Pusser’s Navy Rum
  30. Fernet Branca
  31. Fresh Pressed Apple Cider
  32. Bourbon
  33. Australian Shiraz
  34. Buckley’s Cough Syrup
  35. Orange Bitters
  36. Margarita (classic recipe)
  37. Molasses & Milk
  38. Chimay Blue
  39. Wine of Pines (Tepache)
  40. Green Tea
  41. Daiginjo Sake
  42. Chai Tea
  43. Vodka (chilled, straight)
  44. Coca-Cola
  45. Zombie (Beachcomber recipe)
  46. Barley Wine
  47. Brewed Choclate (Xocolatl)
  48. Pisco Sour
  49. Lemonade
  50. Speyside Single Malt
  51. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
  52. Champagne (Vintage)
  53. Rosé (French)
  54. Bellini
  55. Caipirinha
  56. White Zinfandel (Blush)
  57. Coconut Water
  58. Cerveza
  59. Cafe au Lait
  60. Ice Tea
  61. Pedro Ximenez Sherry
  62. Vintage Port
  63. Hot Chocolate
  64. German Riesling
  65. Pina Colada
  66. El Dorado 15 Year Rum
  67. Chartreuse
  68. Greek Wine
  69. Negroni
  70. Jägermeister
  71. Chicha
  72. Guiness
  73. Rhum Agricole
  74. Palm Wine
  75. Soju
  76. Ceylon Tea (High Grown)
  77. Belgian Lambic
  78. Mongolian Airag
  79. Doogh, Lassi or Ayran
  80. Sugarcane Juice
  81. Ramos Gin Fizz
  82. Singapore Sling
  83. Mint Julep
  84. Old Fashioned
  85. Perique
  86. Jenever (Holland Gin)
  87. Chocolate Milkshake
  88. Traditional Italian Barolo
  89. Pulque
  90. Natural Sparkling Water
  91. Cuban Rum
  92. Asti Spumante
  93. Irish Whiskey
  94. Château Margaux
  95. Two Buck Chuck
  96. Screech
  97. Akvavit
  98. Rye Whisky
  99. German Weissbier
  100. Daiquiri (classic)


No Vikings Here

The Freakonomics blog has an article about spam (as opposed to Spam). The article links to a UC Berkeley paper on operating a spam botnet. The authors correctly caution against inferring too much from a single sample, but their experience was 28 sales from 350 million spam emails (less than one sale per ten million emails). This suggests that like dealing crack (read Freakonomics) purveying spam is a lot less profitable than you might imagine.

Stereotypes on parade

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Poker Update

I played about 20 minutes of Limit at Full Tilt last night. Won about $5. Biggest loss was when my pocket tens ran into pocket aces.

Three Things

Various members of my family have been exchanging emails in which each list three things about themselves using pre-defined categories. My responses below.

3 jobs I have held
Order "picker" at Beacon Supply on South Peters St. ($2.65/hour)
Teaching Assistant, USL (now ULL) ($600/month)
Operations Manager for GO Service Station Supply

3 places I have lived
New Orleans, LA (1962, 1985-86, 1989)
River Ridge, LA (1962-70, 1978-84, 1986-87, 1988-89, 1994-2003)
Metairie, LA (1970-78, 1989-1993)
Lafayette, LA (1984)
Gales Ferry, CT (1987-8)
Roswell, GA (2003-)

3 TV shows
The Daily Show
30 Rock
Robot Chicken

3 places I have been
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Barcelona, Spain
Prague, Czech Republic

3 favorite foods
Red Beans and Rice
Any local cuisine when traveling

3 favorite cocktails
Martini (Up, Gin, Olive)
Gin and Tonic

3 things I am looking forward to
January 20
Liverpool's next game
Opening our bottles of Grange

3 hobbies
Games (both online and unplugged)

3 books
The Alienist
The Book Thief
L. A. Confidential

19 November 2008

Sarah Palin Quote

It is my fervent hope that we've heard the last of her. She said the following, knowing that it was being recorded.
My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.
If you aren't a little embarrassed for her, I challenge you to read it aloud.

(The quote is swiped from a Dick Cavett editorial that solicited 856 comments before comments were closed).

I wouldn't allow my teenagers to get away with that kind of, well I hesitate to call it a sentence.

Wait, what?

I think this is my favorite Onion article.

This is my second favorite.

18 November 2008

Props to Business Week

I was skimming this article quite a ways before I realized it was written three years ago.

Here's a quote: "Breakup or bankruptcy are the ghosts of GM's future."

Elvis Costello, Dentists, and The Hammer, and more

Sorry about combining disparate elements, but I don't want to end up with 20 posts today.

I heard part of Bob Edward's Elvis Costello interview this morning. There was nothing earth shattering (or even interesting unless you're an Elvis fan), but I did learn a couple of things:
  • Costello's father was a musician (a bebop trumpeter), who took a job as a dance band singer to feed his family. As a result of the association, Costello was exposed as a child to a wide variety of musical styles.
  • Costello said that he started as a songwriter, and that the idea of being a performer came from the record company.
  • His first album was recorded before he started the Attractions; My Aim is True was backed by an American band. They played the opening to Welcome to the Working Week; the background vocals would fit right in to a Huey Lewis and the News song. [I learned later from the web the name of the band, Clover. I had known that there was a connection to Huey Lewis; apparently he had been in Clover, but prior to My Aim is True]
  • Edwards asked when Costello thought he had found his own "voice", Costello said that it was Watching the Detectives.
  • Costello never felt aligned with the punk movement, even though many associated him with it.
Dentist Report - I had mentioned my #3 crown a few weeks ago. The removal of the temporary crown was the most pain I've ever experienced in a dentists chair. The permanent seems OK (though I found I mostly used the left side of my mouth to chew my lunch).

The Hammer is a surprisingly amusing movie. Surprising because I only know Adam Carolla from the Man Show, a series built around demonstrating the universal truth that men are pigs. The movie itself follows a fairly predictable arc, but the characters are likable enough and the dialog is at least occasionally clever. It never takes itself too seriously or insults the audience. Tootsie it is not, but neither is it Ishtar. It is certainly worth renting.

There is an article on the Newsweek web site that seriously entertains the question of whether Barack Obama is the antichrist. I refuse to link to it because I don't want to contribute to their site traffic. Cause for despair: there are millions (probably tens of millions) of Americans who would see nothing wrong with it.

17 November 2008

Rojo Taqueria, Again

I had dinner with R at Rojo Taqueria last night. I don't know if they changed the recipe, but the Margarita very good; better than I had remembered. It was a Sunday night, and the place wasn't crowded; the service was attentive without being intrusive. The patrons were mostly families (it was around 7pm), but the atmosphere was pleasant (the kiddies were well behaved). There were three (American) football games on, with the sound turned down and music playing at an appropriate background level. You could hear it, but you didn't have to raise your voice to be heard. I had three fish tacos, fried this time instead of grilled. I enjoyed them. R had a bowl of chili, which she described as on the lines of a brisket soup rather than the more tomato-based recipe. She also had a plate of nachos, which were a logistical challenge because the portion was too large for the size of the plate. All said, it was a better experience than our first time and that wasn't bad. By the way, we suspect that the anonymous commenter from the initial review is the restaurant's owner.

After Saturday's tournament, we met several members of the fencing team (and some parents) at On the Border on Mansell. Early on, we had discussed splitting the tabs across the two tables (there were about 15 kids at one table, and seven parents at the other) but we abandoned this as too complicated. I don't know if the suggestion spooked the servers, but we got the worst service I can recall. I found the food modestly priced and unremarkable; had the service been merely average, I might have been inclined to give the restaurant another chance.

16 November 2008

Travelling Salesman

You wouldn't know it from reading this blog, but I'm actually a Computer Scientist by training. Just like liberal arts majors, what I do for a living bears at best a passing resemblance to what I studied at university. Still, there's a little part of my brain that thinks of me in that light. That part was happy to see this article.

15 November 2008

Gold Medal

I am always proud of my son. Today, I am happy for him as well. In today's fencing tournament, he won all of his pool bouts (5-0, 5-1, 5-1, 5-3, 5-4), earning the #3 seed for the elimination rounds. With 30 boys, he was the highest seeded fencer who did not get a bye. To win the tournament, he would need to win five elimination bouts. This he did, and in impressive fashion: 15-0, 15-2, 15-2, 15-10, 15-6. The last three bouts were against the #6, #2, and #5 seeds, respectively.

His girlfriend was also undefeated in pools. She was the #1 seed and went all the way to the finals, taking the silver medal.

Well done.


Kuyt's excellent header in the 28th minute was all Liverpool needed, though Torres created a goal finished by Gerrard in the second half. Bolton looked hopeless in the first half, but with the introduction of Gardner at the half, the Wanderers were brighter. This game was most remarkable for shocking misses by Keane, Gerrard, and Torres. WTF? Lucas also had a poor miss; but my expectations aren't as high for the young Brazilian. Bolton's Gardner had a couple of terrible misses as well; he has excellent pace and got behind the defense twice. But as a finisher, he looked every bit like a left back.

This week a colleague reiterated his conviction that Kuyt just doesn't have the quality, but in the last few games I think he's looked quite good. He's no Ronaldo, but there's only one of him. Kuyt will never surpass Gerrard or Torres as a star on the club, but he plays a role and contributes to the team's success. And unlike Robinho, he never stops running.

14 November 2008

Get Used to Bad News

The October downturn in consumer spending was worse than after 9/11 (link). Let that sink in for a minute. Remember how uncertain the world was at the end of 2001? Consumer confidence is lower now.

The dilemma is that while the economy won't recover until consumers resume spending, the most productive course for an individual is to batten down the hatches on spending and let everyone else assume the risk and bootstrap the economy.

The $700 Billion dollar bailout won't be nearly enough. Expect the total to reach the trillions.

That kind of scale is hard to comprehend.
  • A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.
  • At the current minimum wage, it would take 3.8 Billion weeks to earn a trillion dollars.
  • A trillion dollars could buy 41 million Priuses.
On the other hand, the US economy generates a total GDP of a little over a trillion dollars per month. The truth is that in extreme circumstances, remedies require measures on a scale commensurate with the economy.

I do think we should spend to cushion the blow to the economy that will be a result of the collapse of the US automakers. It's very likely that Chrysler won't survive, and I can't imagine GM making it either. That's due in large measure to the UAW. We should not try and help those companies (or unions) survive (I am convinced that they are doomed to certain failure). We should figure out how to ease those hundreds of thousands of workers into a post "big three" world.

There will be plenty of hand wringing; little of it will be associated with rational thinking.

13 November 2008

January 20 can't come soon enough

Once again, the Republicans have passed intrusive regulations that stifle my civil liberties. There is hope, though.

Here is the thing: I don't understand the impulse behind this legislation. Not only do these bible thumpers not want to have fun, they want to make sure no one else does either. This will have been one of their last acts in power - is that really the best they can do for their legacy? While the economy craters? Politicians are annoying, but the sanctimonious ones are the worst.

12 November 2008

Gambling and Drinking

I joined a number of colleagues at Ted's Montana Grill for a beer after work yesterday. Two of them observed that, based on this journal, I drink and gamble a lot. To this I respond that I don't exactly consider Poker gambling - it is a game of skill (at least in the long run).

I was so offended by their accusation that I went home last night and had a couple of French 75s, though substituting prosecco and lime for champagne and lemon respectively. I had not sampled this particular drink before (I guess technically, it's a fizz rather than a cocktail); it was quite refreshing. More of a summer drink, I think. I also played some limit hold'em, building five dollars into eleven.

10 November 2008

The Glass Key

Humprey Bogart: Sam Spade.
William Powell: Nick Charles.
Alan Ladd: Ned Beaumont.

Last night I finished The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett. It is with good reason that you've heard of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man but probably haven't heard of this one. It's not a bad book by any means, but its characters, dialog, and wit are not as compelling as their more famous siblings. Allegedly, this was Hammett's favorite. Go figure.

The reviews on Amazon are pretty positive, though, so maybe it's just me.

09 November 2008

A Weekend with Friends

I had lunch Friday with R at P.F. Chang's. My fortune cookie said "You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter". So let it be written, so let it be done.

After school, we piled in the car and drove to a motel near Evergreen, Alabama (almost exactly midway between Atlanta and New Orleans) to meet our friends S&M. Their eldest son's enlistment in the Marines is nearly finsihed, and on Friday night they took advantage of their last opportunity to attend the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Unfortunately, this meant they arrived around 2AM.

Yesterday, we played a number of games, starting with CA$H'nGUN$. It is nothing if not "Kill Bob", but amusing nonetheless. S didn't play (apparently the first time she played, it was a "Kill S" game). Like any "Kill Bob" game, it is better played if you don't actually care whether you win.

Next was Agricola (with five; T sat this one out). As an aside, we found an amusing review at BoardGameGeek by someone disappointed that the game did not center around a Roman general. None of us had played the game, and it currently occupies the top spot in the BGG ranking. We played the "family" variant, which leaves out the occupation and minor improvement cards (and has a slightly different roster of available actions). It is the type of game where your options and resources are always constrained, which makes difficult the task of determining how well you're doing. As it turns out, I won comfortably, but until late in the game I really believed I was struggling (this, it turned out, was a theme of the weekend). I almost always think highly of games I win, so while I think I liked it, it may just be that I liked winning it.

We played MidEvil (the four guys; the girls chose to read/watch TV), which is not dramatically different from Zombies!!!. Both are amusing, but winning has much more to do with luck than clever play. Also, there is an element of "Kill Bob". B won by stealing the Necronomicon from T and sprinting to the altar. The game has obvious homage elements to Army of Darkness.

There were a couple of games of Magnet. I still haven't figured out the game, but against M it took a decidedly more careful tone. At the end I left my King exposed in a bluff while attacking one of the two remaining pieces of his that could be his King. Unfortunately, I attacked the wrong piece and lost (the board was down to about eight pieces and the game was going to end soon one way or the other).

Having played the reigning top-reviewed game, we turned to the previous top game, Puerto Rico (also played with five, with T taking S's place). I had played once, about four years ago, and M had played; but it was the first time for R, B, and T. Again, I was fortunate to win (though again, until very late in the game I thought I was doing quite poorly).

The last game Saturday was Finstere Flure, which S won. Chaos was rampant; and even the winner lost one person to the monster.

Sunday morning, we played a game of Elfenland, which saw a four-way tie for first at 19, with B & T tied at 16 (it was essentially the first time for both). Early on, in keeping with the pattern, I predicted that my final score would be eleven.

The weekend was great fun, though too short. We returned to "Wing-It", a modest barbecue establishment that we tried last time we were in Evergreen. We avoided the Black Angus "Steakhouse", having learned our lesson. There were a great variety of cocktails sampled, including some featuring the previously coveted St. Germain, generously delivered by M. There was a blind gin tasting, with Miller's a near unanimous choice over Aviation and Boomsma.

I even experimented with a couple of recipes. I substituted Applejack for Rye in a Manhattan; it was very disappointing (I actually poured it out). I also tried a Presbyterian (Rye, Ginger Ale, Soda, and bitters), which I thought was refreshing (I used lightened the recipe by one-half ounce of rye). I again tried substituting Applejack for Rye, and this time it was a success.

As with the other two cases, we enjoyed ourselves immensely - good friends, cocktails, games, and no schedule; what's not to like?

Sports: Liverpool pounded West Brom 3-0 as Keane finally broke his league duck with two excellent goals, and the Saints turned in a poor performance losing to the resurgent Atlanta Falcons.

07 November 2008

Tropic Thunder

On DL65 yesterday, problems with the entertainment system required multiple reboots. Some passengers were not receiving sound, and apparently the only available remedial action is to restart the entire system. Unfortunately for me, this meant having to find the spot in the movie where it had been interrupted. Repeatedly.

The movie itself was OK, but it ran out of gas at the end. Tom Cruise was very funny as a movie mogul. Not bad as a distraction on a long flight, but not worth a drive to a theater.

06 November 2008

Surely not Walsall Again

I spent a few days this week in our Walsall office which gave me an opportunity to take a couple of photos presenting Walsall in a less glamourous light. First, we have the Walsall McDonald's. It has been suggested that this does not conform to McDonald's branding standards. It is not typical, but I'm certain that someone from McDonald's sanctioned it.

On the way back from the Premier Diner (where we had picked up lunch), I took this shot of Queen Street. I observed that there is a room to let upstairs from the diner. The mind reels.

Finally, here is a different view of our office building. It's in an industrial part of town and there's nothing charming about it. But I've never felt unsafe. Hopefully my colleagues will now believe that I am not misrepresenting Walsall's aesthetic appeal.

Groggy Thoughts

I am sitting in the Air France lounge in Manchester airport before the flight home. Sky News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is covering Barack Obama extensively and enthusiastically. I only mention this because Sky’s US counterpart, Fox News, makes no effort to separate editorial from journalistic coverage (typically featuring fawning adulation of anything Republican).

I knew that the president elect’s law pedigree is impressive: president of Harvard Law Review and lecturer at the University of Chicago on constitutional law. I learned this morning that Obama’s undergraduate degree (from Columbia) is in international relations. I would have liked to have also seen some business background, though given that GWB has an MBA, perhaps I should temper that desire. The current administration’s record on the Constitution and on international relations, ahem, left something to be desired, so this is a welcome change.

On the campaign, McCain expressed disdain if not contempt for economists. I believe that the greatest challenge facing our leadership is the economy. Who was he planning to ask for advice?

Unfortunately, it is not unlikely that debates will descend into partisanship at some point. The parties are all about preserving their own power, even at the cost of effective leadership. My message to the Democratic leadership is this: I am proud to have voted for Barack Obama, but do not confuse that with party affiliation. Obama will be successful only if he leads from the center.

Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, allegedly was the model for the character Josh Lyman on the TV show The West Wing.

I commented before the election that this would be a defining moment: America at her best or at her worst. I was cautiously optimistic but not completely confident. The outcome is a great relief to me.

Almost a year ago, I stood at the bar at our hotel in Barcelona waiting to buy Cava when I had a brief and halting conversation with a fellow guest, a Russian. His English was poor (but infinitely better than my Russian), but his message was essentially this: “I don't dislike your country, but I dislike your president.” I believe he spoke for most of the world. McCain collected 56 million votes. Had the rest of the world participated in the election, I doubt he’d have doubled that.

05 November 2008

A New Day

Whether relieved or disappointed by the election result, you will have to concede the uniqueness of the moment. I think that an important legacy of this election is the affirmation for millions who have had to take it on faith that the American dream was not reserved for white Americans. That alone would be a terrible reason to elect a president, but it will prove an excellent dividend. The audacity of hope, indeed.

04 November 2008

Walsall 0-1 Luton Town

The Hatters scored a goal around the 43rd minute of the second half at Bescot Stadium to survive another round of the Johnstone Paint Trophy. Luton dominated the first half, and while the Saddlers threatened in the second half, Luton Town deserved the win. Tom Craddock, on loan from Middlesbrough, looked impressive throughout.

Through a series of administrative deductions, Luton Town will have great difficulty in avoiding relegation this year. Their supporters were resolute; my favorite team chant: "Thirty Points, Who gives a fuck, We're Luton Town, And we're staying up".

Greetings from England


02 November 2008

Fencing Results

In a non-high school tournament yesterday, T struggled (0-5) in the pools, won his first direct elimination (DE) bout, but then had to fence the #1 seed with a predictable result. B also performed below his standards (2-3) in pools, still good enough for a first round bye. He then won two DEs to finish in a tie for third.

01 November 2008


Disappointing result. Liverpool completely dominated the first half, but managed only Kuyt's early goal. Spurs played even with the Reds in the second half. Carra headed in an own goal, and then Agger let Pavlyuchenko put the home crowd into rapture. Liverpool can hardly complain, though: they had chances and didn't convert.

A steady London rain and a slippery pitch made for a match that wasn't particularly attractive. At the end, Liverpool looked tired. Babel came on for Keane, but lacked Keane's quality. With Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Tuesday, there's no rest for the weary. If Torres is fit, it will come as a great relief to Benitez.

Hope For America

An old friend sent me this link. Very funny and very clever; worth 2:40 of your time

America Between the Wars

I have finally finished the book that my sister M gave me for my birthday: America Between the Wars. It is a fascinating look at American foreign policy between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. It made me appreciate the staggering difficulty of directing American Foreign policy. I gained sympathy for all three presidents in office between 11/9/89 and 9/11/01.

Even the decision to invade Iraq is cast in a different light. I still believe that the current administration bungled the finish - they were so focused on quickly defeating the Iraqi army that they failed to plan the aftermath. After reading the book I think that a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein was a lot more inevitable (rather than simply some obsession of Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld).

If you have an interest in American foreign policy, I recommend the book.

Sweet 16

B's girlfriend M, and her friend J, had their Sweet 16 party last night. Prior to departing, R requested a Cosmopolitan, but the wincing face she made (think Renée Zellwegger) when she sampled it meant it was not to her taste. Adding a second ounce of Cranberry Juice seems to have been a sufficient adjustment. I decided to try a Juniper Club Cocktail. The recipe looked interesting, and I remain convinced that there's a good drink to be found amongst its ingredients, but the one I made last night was out of balance. I used too much Peychaud's Bitters and the Cointreau (actually Patrón Citronge) was completely lost.

After we dropped our eldest progeny at the Country Club of Roswell, we went to a nearby Cuban restaurant, Mojito Cafe. R & T both had Cubanos; I had a chicken fillet. R commented that her sandwich might have been better with more mustard. I had no complaints, but neither is it an ambitious dish. The black beans were delicious, as expected. If you ever patronize a Cuban restaurant with black beans that aren't excellent, you have compelling evidence that you are not, in fact, in a Cuban establishment.

With dinner, I had a poor excuse for a Margarita. Serves me right for ordering a Tequila drink in a Cuban restaurant. R had the eponymous drink. Cruzan sponsored a drink special, and hers was served in an enormous plastic bucket. She made a dent in it (with some help from her husband), but between us we were not half finished. In the past she has been disappointed with Mojitos as often as not, but she liked this one. Even if it was big enough for four.

30 October 2008

Monster Camp

Last Night: Our most recent movie from NetFlix was the documentary Monster Camp. At this writing, Rotten Tomatoes has it at a barely fresh 62; That feels low but I don't watch enough documentaries to have a sense of whether that's right or not. My lovely wife R happened across the trailer at Apple's web site. This documentary follows a group of people in the Seattle area who play a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) game called NERO. My disclaimer is that while I have never played (nor been tempted to play) a LARP or World of Warcraft (some of the films subjects appear to have an unhealthy fascination with WoW), I have been known to play Dungeons and Dragons and Everquest II.

It's a good film, and while I believe the filmmakers treated the subjects with reasonable delicacy and respect, I think that the movie is likely to reinforce stereotypes of enthusiasts of fantasy role playing games.

Tonight: The return of 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, and the whole cast were terrific as usual, but I really think that the stars of the show are the writers. The acting is very good, but the writing is superb.

Strong Dollar

This is a good article about the recent strength in the dollar. Exerpt:
Sadly, at least for dollar bulls, it is not that the dollar is newly back to being the de facto world currency, the position it held for most of the last sixty years. Matter of fact, the U.S. dollar's so-called reserve status is more endangered than ever. The U.S. is still spending more than it brings in every year; it borrows money abroad to finance an unsustainable trade deficit; and it has lost its way with respect to building an economy around selling things for more than they cost. You know, the capitalism thing, as opposed to the financial engineering thing.
The article explains why he believes this is a temporary situation. Unfortunately, I think Dr. Kedrosky has this pegged, dead to rights. Not bad for a Canadian.

29 October 2008

More Miscellanea

Yesterday - I spent an hour at the dentist having my #3 tooth shaped for a crown, prompting M to email "So, heavy lies the head that wears the crown?". Punishing. I've got a temporary for three weeks (hopefully no problems while I'm in the U.K.).

Last night - Opened the last bottle (of six) of Wolf Blass Grey Label. It was consistent with the others: not bad, but not as good as I had hoped. I seem to remember I paid around $25.

Today - Filled the tank of my car; the total was $35. The price was 2.29 or about 38p/l at current exchange rates; the previous tank was at 3.49, and the one before that was 3.99. I believe that the price of fuel is overrated in its impact to the economy. However, since the price is prominently displayed, making it the retail commodity with the best-known pricing, I believe it contributes significantly to consumer confidence. Which is in the crapper lately.

The NY Times has an article indicating that credit card issuers will be reducing credit. Last week we got a letter from American Express informing us that they had raised our credit limit to an absurdly high number: about what I paid for my car.

The Economist has released its annual graph showing the ratio of tax to GDP for several larger economies. Many Americans believe they pay too much in taxes. In fact, we don't pay enough for our expenditures. Because we run a deficit every year, we're really just deferring taxes to our children. This election can't possibly be over soon enough.

Speaking of the election being over, the trading at Intrade suggests that maybe it is. Obama is trading at about 86 while McCain is trading at about 16. 538 is even more lopsided.

LFC 1-0 PFC. A penalty kick from captain Stephen Gerrard was all Liverpool could net against a tenacious Pompey defense. Just as in the earlier match against Stoke City, Liverpool looked dramatically better than the visitors and dominated possession but was unable to score against the deep defense. Liverpool will have to figure out how Chelsea and Manchester United have broken down those defenses over the last couple of years if they really hope to be title contenders.

Odds and Ends

Here is an interesting article about how the media might be misrepresenting the mortgage crisis. Nearly all of the media coverage shows working class people forced out of their homes. But the evidence suggests that that has been happening at typical historical rates. Not good news if you're out of a home, but not a crisis either. The spike in foreclosures is tied not to the unemployment rate, but to the change in the direction of house prices. The articles suggest that speculators are at the root of it. And what's more, not wealthy speculators, but ordinary folks (often, I suspect, amateurs) trying to flip houses. I know some people who were doing that; I hope they're doing OK.

My wife has just told me that she's seen (for the fourth time) the clip of early voters taken while I was in line (screen shot). I'm a celebrity! OK, given that I'm near the edge of the frame, and only shown for about 3/4 of a second, maybe not.

Diego Maradona has been named the coach of the Argentine national team. I cannot imagine that this will turn out well. Argentina is loaded with talent, and Maradona was a brilliant player; one of the best ever to lace up boots. But he's not been known for the kind of self-discipline I'd expect to see in a coach.

28 October 2008

Adventures in Democracy

I will be traveling next week, and therefore unable to cast my ballot on the designated election day. Absentee ballots are possible, but you must apply well in advance of the election. The only remaining alternative available to me in Georgia is early voting. I left the office early (about 3:30) yesterday to vote; hoping that I could be finished in time to return to work.

The first indication of trouble was the presence of cars parked on both sides of the road far from the Northeast/Spruill Oaks Library. A couple who were leaving after having voted wished me good luck and warned that the wait would be three hours. As it turns out, their estimate was low. The weather was reasonably pleasant: sunny, if cool and breezy. The people waiting were all in good spirits. A television news crew came out and caught me listening to Elvis Costello (Imperial Bedroom) on my iPod (screenshot above).

Fortunately, the last couple of hours on queue were indoors, and the library had positioned chairs to accommodate the voters. Finally, four hours after I arrived, I was able to vote in my eighth presidential election.

27 October 2008

A Double

I only follow two teams, and both won on Sunday. This would not be especially remarkable, except that both contests were in London. As I mentioned earlier, Liverpool defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge which is not, strictly speaking, in Chelsea. Neither is it anywhere near Stamford Bridge.

About ninety minutes later, the New Orleans Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers 37-32 at Wembley Stadium. Asking two football teams to fly 4000+ miles and adjust to a time zone 5-8 hours offset from their normal to play a league game is a bizarre annual ritual of the NFL. The game was sold out as soon as tickets became available, but there appeared to be many empty seats. The crowd was vocal and enthusiastic. When the cameras focused on the crowd, a wide variety of NFL team supporters appeared to be represented. Unfortunately, the game wasn't a particularly good one. Unlike the earlier match, this one featured poor defense. The game was marred by penalties, replays, poor kicking, and three replay challenges. It was not the beautiful game. As they say, a win is a win (and all tautologies are tautologies).

26 October 2008


Chelsea's string of unbeaten league matches at Stamford Bridge has been stopped at an unbelievable eighty six. For a change, Liverpool played most of the match with a lead, and showed tremendous discipline across the back. Chelsea enjoyed long periods of possession, but Reina was seldom troubled. Gerrard was masterful in midfield, Carragher never put a foot wrong, and Riera bothered Chelsea's right side throughout. Alonso's goal was a fortunate deflection; he later hit a free kick that Cech hardly saw before it had hit the hardware. Kuyt was his indefatigueable as always. Both teams were missing star players, but that did not mean there was any shortage of excellent, exciting football. The Reds were simply brilliant in the second half.

Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp has resigned as manager at Portsmouth to take the same job at Spurs. Will Redknapp succeed where Jol and Ramos didn't? Tottenham is not likely to play in either the Championship or Europe next year.

25 October 2008

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

The Netflix movie of the night was OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies. A parody of spy movies of the sixties, this French film (English subtitles) hits the mark spot on. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating is a respectable 74; that sounds about right.

I've seen a lot of spy parodies: Top Secret!, Spy Hard, Undercover Brother, What's Up, Tiger Lilly?, Austin Powers, and Casino Royale. This movie is at the top of that list. There are chickens, but no egg salad recipes.

Just as the Casino Royale parody was based on Ian Fleming's book, so is this based on a series of serious spy novels originated by Jean Bruce. Casino Royale was broad and sometimes bizarre; OSS 117 is tidy and true to its roots. The Austin Powers movies wink at the audience "aren't we clever?"; this movie keeps a straight face throughout.

OSS 117 reminds me a little of the early Pink Panther movies, with an often clueless hero who is in spite of himself endearing and in the end, effective. The chicken fight scene alone is worth watching the movie.

Before the movie, I made myself a Sazerac. It is a superb cocktail. That it was invented in New Orleans only makes me like it more. The drink was originally made with Cognac; the American Civil War and the Phylloxera plague meant that Cognac was unavailable so the recipe was changed to Rye Whiskey. Next, the 1915 ban in the United States of Absinthe meant the use of substitutes; though that ban has been recently lifted. Yea!