29 September 2008

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

I'm off to Moscow this afternoon for two and a half days of meetings. I'm not sure how often I'll have internet access so posts may be infrequent, if at all. For the exorbitant price Marriott is charging for the room, I'd expect free broadband. On the other hand, I read an article some time ago that observed that the likelihood of free internet access is inversely proportional to the nightly room rate.

I had a Gin and Stirrings Bitter Lemon last night. It was quite tasty. As their web site says, their bitter lemon is just their tonic with lemon added. I had a slice of fresh lime. Rather than buying their bitter lemon, I'm inclined to try making a G&T with their tonic and fresh lemon. There's just no substitute for fresh.

I also tried a Campari and Soda earlier in the week. I have yet to acquire a taste for Campari.

27 September 2008

This is not a first amendment question

The New Orleans Saints coach has been fined $15,000 for speaking out on a particular penalty that wasn't given in last week's game (a penalty that had a significant likelihood of changing the game's outcome).

This is a very brief article describing it.

I understand that the NFL doesn't want its employees criticizing it in public (no employer is happy at that prospect). The problem I have is that it creates the perception, right or wrong, that the NFL cares more about its image than it does about being honest about making or admitting mistakes. It's not as clear cut as a lot of people might think, but it is not the NFL at its finest.

Reality is a Harsh Mistress

We're having gorgeous weather in the southern Piedmont plateau, and it's the weekend, so I took my training outside. Last week I managed two miles for the first time in thirty years. Seriously, 1978. This week, I decided to time it. The best I'd finished the two mile route was about 26 minutes, but that was last year (and included some stretches where I had walked to catch my breath). Running the whole way (and taking a somewhat flatter route), I did it in a shade under 22 minutes.

At one time I thought I might get my time down to an eight minute mile (after all, I have friends who can do it), but that's taking another three minutes off my time. Seems unlikely, even without hills. Still, I don't think I'm near my limit, so I'll keep pushing. I need to increase the distance, too.

Blue Merseyside 0 - Red Merseyside 2
I said it after the Sunderland match, it's not enough to mark Torres for 89:50, you can't give him space ever. The appalling draw last week to Stoke is all the more galling. I was surprised when Cahill was sent off, but on replay, I thought each of his legs separetely committed a bookable offense. I am not a fan of Mike Riley, but at least neither side was shown seven yellows.

26 September 2008

Way to go, Trevor

No, not that one.

Golf minutia ahead. Skip to the last paragraph for an explanation of the title.

A friend and colleague who had two tickets for the Tour Championship asked me if I wanted to go this afternoon. The only two meetings on my calendar were already behind me, so we went. We left work around 3:00 and traffic wasn't too bad yet; the HOV lane helped. Once there, we found that the last group had just finished the ninth hole. We decided to start at 18 and work our way backward.

The first shots we actually saw were the unfortunately-named Briny Baird and Hunter Mahan. The 18th is a 230 yard par 3, and both put the ball on the right side of the green (the pin was back left). We waited for them to putt out (they were 230 yards away, so we couldn't actually see anything). The next group was Vijay Singh and Justin Leonard. Singh was again on the right side of the green, it looked like Leonard was off the green to the right.

We started tracking back up the 17th fairway (it is a 455 yard hole with water left and fairway bunkers on the right. Romero and Hart had already hit tee shots; we indifferently watched their approach shots and continued on. Next up on the tee were Camilo Villegas, who hit a very nice drive along the left-center of the fairway, and Jim Furyk, who hit an ugly shot into the rough on the right. After asking for the TV camera to be moved (and this was one of the big cameras on a tripod, not some shoulder-mounter job) as well as the little range-finding-GPS-thingie, he hit an unbelievable shot from the right rough on to the green. Easily the most impressive shot we saw all day. Villegas had no trouble finding the green from his position.

At this point, we skipped sixteen and fifteen and went to fourteen where we watched K. J. Choi and Mike Weir hit their approach shots. The former was on the first cut, while the left-handed Canadian hit what might have been the second-most difficult shot we saw, hitting the green from the rough on the right. We continued to track backwards, and watched Phil Mickelson hit a monster drive down the fairway. He was paired with the tastefully-named Trevor Immelman, who hit a decent drive, but which landed in the rough on the right. Immelman hit a good shot on to the green, Mickelson with a better lie, hit one about ten feet from the pin. Both missed their putts. We decided to follow this group (we knew that between being the last group of the day and having Anthony Kim, the next group had a huge gallery).

Next was fifteen, a deceptive 525 yard par 5. Deceptive because it was all uphill. Once again, Immelman was scrambling from the rough, this time with an overhanging tree ahead of him. He hit a very nice approach shot that was just a little short; Mickelson hit his ball to the fringe on the left of the green. Immelman chipped on to the green as we circled around. Mickelson hit a nice pitch and run; he hit it so lightly that I thought he'd left it about twenty feet short, instead it ran about four feet past the pin. Immelman had about a medium-long putt which was long. He then missed the short putt for bogey. Mickelson made his birdie.

On sixteen, Mickelson hit another huge drive that landed on the left edge of the fairway while Immelman was in trouble again on the right. Mickelson hit a gorgeous approach about five feet past the pin while Immelman found a right front bunker. Mickelson made his putt for another birdie; Immelman couldn't get up and down from the sand trap and took another bogie.

Mickelson took another easy swing and couldn't have walked and dropped the ball in the fairway any better (the longest drive on the day for that hole: 316 yards). Immelman hit it so far right that he could not see the green for the a hospitality tent in the way. He got relief, but only as far as the near right rough. Somehow he found the left fringe, and hit a 60' putt that missed by six inches. Mickelson, meanwhile, hit it on to the green and made the 10' putt for his fifth birdie in the last six holes.

We returned to the grandstand behind the 18th tee and watched Mickelson and Immelman both hit their tee shots left. We tried to watch them finish the hole, but the nazis marshalls wouldn't let us take a seat while the golfers were anywhere near the green. Next we saw Kim hit his tee shot into the front left bunker; Els was 20' away on the green (but the closest of any golfers we watched). Kim hit out well, but missed his putt and bogied; Els two putted for par.

After that, back on the shuttle bus to Turner Field.

At the course, there was a wide selection of excellent beers. Well, not at any of the concession stands we visited, where the choice was between Michelob and Michelob Light. But maybe in one of the dozens of VIP tents that we peasants were unwelcome to visit.

After Immelman had missed a short putt to bogie the fifteenth hole, and as he walked toward the tee box on sixteen, a woman said to him (without any apparent hint of irony) "Way to go, Trevor". Surely she knew that he had just choked on the last hole. Was it ridicule? Was she trying to encourage him? I'm still confused by the comment.

25 September 2008

FactCheck.Org

Your candidate is willfully and repeatedly misrepresenting the facts. Here's a test (for American readers). Read the Fact Check article linked above. If it reinforces your conviction that the other candidate is lying but you're not troubled at all about your candidate, you're not approaching the question rationally.

The whole process is insulting.

And the candidates themselves are significantly more accountable than the Swift Boat-type smear campaigns, which I can only assume are run by people with more money than sense, an overdeveloped reptilian brain, and a moral compass that they misplaced on their way to church. I'm looking at you, NRA.

24 September 2008

Folding AK Pre-Flop?

Warning: poker minutia below.

I've thought about it, and I'm now convinced I should have folded Big Slick, even though it is arguably the third best starting hand. In fact, it should have been an easy laydown.

Dan Harrington
, who forgot more about poker before breakfast today than I will ever know, says that you want big pots with big hands and small pots with small hands. AK can make a big hand, and it's ahead of most random hands. But...

The game was .25/.50 No Limit Hold'em. One very loose player (VL), one slightly loose player (SL), three pretty good players (capable of bluffs but usually they've got something) (GP1, GP2, GP3).

Earlier in the night, I had folded AT to a big bet with a 10 and an overcard on the board. I showed my hand, and the winner of the hand showed AT as well. We'd have split the pot. I folded because while the pot hadn't gotten very large yet VL was yet to act and a big pot was a real possibility. Nobody likes to lay down the best hand, and I think it made me less inclined to lay down a big hand in the future.

For the big hand, I was the big blind, and was dealt AK. VL was to my left and limped in. SL, GP1, and GP2 folded, small blind raised to around 2.00, I re-raised to 6.00. VL folded. GP3 Re-raised 50. My stack was about 180. I could fold, call, or re-raise.

Phil Gordon says that the third raise means Aces.

I thought a 50 raise into a 15 pot was a raise that didn't want a call. That turned out to be true, but that didn't necessarily mean he had a weak hand.

I talked myself into re-raising, which I'm still inclined to think was better than calling. The thing is, GP3 could have one of four holdings: AA/KK, a smaller pair, AK, or two unpaired cards besides AK.

If he had two unpaired cards below AK, I was a big favorite. Out of 169 starting hands, something like 154 of them fall into this category. The reraise would be the right play here. A call or a fold are bad plays.

If he had a smaller pair (and something like TT/JJ/QQ would be the most likely holding), I would be slightly behind. It's a coin flip, and why would I want to risk my whole stack on a coin flip? If he had a small pair, he might fold to a big re-raise, but it's unlikely he'd have put 50 in with two sevens; he probably had a bigger pair that he wouldn't fold to a raise. Probably, the best play for me here is to fold and wait for a better opportunity. The problem with a call is that I'd betting one third of my stack, and I'd probably have to fold if one of my cards didn't hit. And if it did, I might not get action.

If he had AK, it would be a split pot. My hand wasn't suited, but even against a suited AK, I'd only be slightly behind. A call or raise is the right play. He won't fold to a raise, and we're well on our way to being all-in. On the other hand, given the sizes of the stacks, the pot, and his raise, a fold is a 7.50 mistake, hardly tragic (and about 1/20th of the size mistake I actually made)

If he had AA, I would practically be drawing dead. I would need two of the three remaining kings. If he had KK, I would still be a significant underdog, needing one of the remaining aces. The only correct play is to fold. Calls or raises are disasters.

The only holding that leaves me a significant favorite is very unlikely given his two raises. For nearly all of his likely holdings, he's unlikely to fold to a raise (so I have no fold equity), and I'm either about even or way behind. It's a clear fold. Against a looser player who is more likely to try a big bluff, a re-raise might be OK, but against this particular player, it was just too likely that I wasn't ahead.

Generally, I'm too proud of my laydowns for my own good, but it would take a lot of small pot mistakes to make up for this whopper.

Apparently , we're just not wired to be rational

Earlier I blogged about rationality; this is another article. It's depressing, really.

Currency

I agree completely with this article. It is ridiculous that we continue to mint pennies (which cost more than $.01 to mint). Worse still, the government is happy to announce new designs. Whoever gets to make this kind of decision is sadly disconnected from economic reality. The penny should be discontinued (some merchants already round them off). Of course the knee-jerk reaction for the broad population will be to resist elimination of the penny. The broad population frankly isn't very bright. Why can't everyone be above average?

How pathetic is it that this organization exists?

Poker Results

Final: up 20. Bought in for 40. Lost it. Re-bought for 40. Worked that up to around 180. Lost that on one hand, AK against AA. Steamed for a few minutes, then re-bought a third time. Won a big hand that nearly tripled me up. Played carefully the rest of the night. Except for the train wreck hand, I think I played very well. It was good to see CF, our expat in England. Soon, AA will be our expat in Russia. Other players attending: WK, JF, and SD. TH also visited but didn't play.

WK brought a bottle of Glenfiddich 15, which didn't survive long amongst five drinkers. I drank O'Douls Amber the rest of the night.

23 September 2008

Utterly Inappropriate

I followed a link from Google Reader to a recommended blog which takes an irreverent view to professional American football. It's vulgar, and occasionally just rude. But I laughed out loud at this article, even on a second reading.

If you find that you're following a growing number of web sites and don't yet use an aggregator, you should look into it. These allow you to subscribe to any web content showing the little orange logo. I use Google Reader which allows me to follow my subscriptions from any computer. You can also link an Atom/RSS feed to My Yahoo! Also, most web browsers support subscriptions (though that might be better if you only use one computer).

22 September 2008

Gratuitous Linking

A friend emailed me a link to this article. Among other things, it talks about choosing a political candidate (this is another; which partially precipitated some of my comments). Burton's article reduces my hope that facts might occasionally overcome preconceived notions. Or maybe it just takes longer for facts to win out and I'm just too impatient.

21 September 2008

Cocktails at the Movies

For R's birthday, we went to see Ghost Town today. There are four drinks mentioned specifically: Sapphire Martini, Campari and Soda, Pimm's Cup, and Screaming Orgasm. Two of these are among my all-time favorites, and I'd only avoid the one with a gimmicky name. The movie itself was cute, a little manipulative, a little inconsistent; but not bad. Ricky Gervais carries the show, Kristen Wiig is very good in a brief role. Without looking at Rotten Tomatoes, I'd give it around the low seventies. (later) It was at 87 when I looked; I don't think it deserves that high a score.

Afterward, lunch at CPK.

Dinner was at Swallow at the Hollow.

Fencing Results

I will spare you the mechanics of a fencing (epee) tournament, but yesterday our sons fenced in the first tournament of this year's Georgia High School Fencing League (the schools participating in this tournament were Centennial, Roswell, and hosts Pope).

Our younger son, T, lost all of his matches in the group stage, meaning he was seeded 22nd out of 24 for the elimination stage. He's probably a little better fencer than that result would suggest, but he got demoralized after the first two or three bouts. Our older son, B, won all of his matches in the pools, earning him a tie for the 2nd seed.

In the first elimination round, B had a bye and T fenced the 11th seed (who had been in the same pool and beaten him 5-1). T fenced the bout of his life and deservedly won (this was the biggest upset of the tournament).

In the second elimination round, T had to face the 6th seed, and was beaten soundly 15-4, but you'd generally expect that when the 6th seed faces the third-to-last seed. B won his bout against the 14th seed to advance to the quarter finals.

In the quarters, B beat that same 6th seed.

In the semifinals, B met the other 2nd seed and lost 15-12. That fencer went on to crush the 4th seed in the most lopsided final I've ever seen.

T was given 16th place in his first high school tournament and B got a bronze medal for his 3rd place (tie). Some other time I'll explain the mechanics. This was an excellent result for both. We're all very proud.

20 September 2008

Two Miles

I was on the track team when I was in high school. I ran distance, and I was easily the slowest member of the team. Still, could run a couple of miles without any trouble. Fast forward about thirty years to a couple of years ago. I got around to finding a doctor and getting annual physicals. I am fortunate to have a metabolism that keeps me thin, as middle aged Americans go, so I was a little disappointed to be admonished for a lack of exercise.

Three months later (after New Year's Day) I decided to get out and run in the neighborhood, never mind that I had not had any meaningful exercise in about ten years. Without stretching or warming up, I started running. There is a particularly demoralizing hill right away. I was out of breath less than halfway up. I had intended to run two miles, and I had to stop after about a third of a mile. It was all I could do to finish the last 100 yards of that. When it comes to this sort of activity, I give up relatively easily and I was determined to push myself. In retrospect, I was lucky I didn't have a heart attack. I walked back to the house and it took me 20 minutes more to catch my breath.

I realized I'd have to start slower. I was so demoralized that it was four months before I tried again. I started by walking, gradually increasing the distance and occasionally mixing in some jogging.

I was getting out about once a week. I occasionally travel to Europe for work, and my discipline suffered. About the fastest I made the two miles was around 28 minutes. Last December, I signed up for a 5k, which I finished in 40 minutes (which was probably better than I could have expected). Again I had to confront the fact that I am getting older and this was going to be harder than I thought. This spring we bought a treadmill. I am generally an economic globalist, but with some reservations. I only mention this because we bought a treadmill made in America. It had fewer features than the other models in its price range, but appeared to be sturdier. The deck and engine are a lot more important than the bells and whistles.

The treadmill is a huge help in keeping the schedule. It is a lot easier to go down to the basement, especially when it's still dark outside, or the weather is nasty. I have been trying to get a couple of sessions in during the week. Travel still makes it hard, and running when I travel hasn't happened; it takes a lot of self discipline to get up that early when you're five or six time zones from home.

When the weather was got good enough and sun rise was early enough, I went outside and I was disappointed to learn that running on a treadmill is much easier than running on the road. The progress I thought I had made was less than reality.

After recently flying to England on consecutive weeks (meaning no exercise for two weeks), I decided I needed to step up the training in intensity and frequency. I've been sore most of the last two weeks. Of the two mile route, the farthest I'd managed to run before having to catch my break was nearly a mile, but today I was able to run the whole two miles. It felt great to finally break through that barrier. It was undoubtedly due in large measure to the much cooler weather but I am taking the victory where I find it. I am rewarding myself by taking Sunday off.

19 September 2008

Tony Blair on the Daily Show

OK, first of all, I never imagined I would blog this much about politics. I realize it's the election season, but I don't watch much TV, and I decided a long time ago which way I would vote. Be patient; I imagine I'll soon be talking about more mundane things, like poker hands, cocktail recipes, and long airplane flights.

In the past, and especially when standing next to his American counterpart, Tony Blair impressed me as erudite (though as an American, I am probably easily impressed). I was quite surprised when an English colleague characterized him as, well, not very clever. I just watched the Daily Show from last night; Mr. Blair was the guest. I have to say that he didn't appear as sharp as I expected. Still considerably better spoken than you-know-who, but again, that is not a tall order. Stewart asked a question about globalization (and I had the impression he specifically meant economic globalization), and Blair appeared to be answering a different question (about, and no one from England would be surprised by this, religion). I could write more about it, but you should just follow the two links and watch for yourself.

As an aside, I watched the outtake on the web, and was pleased to learn that John Oliver supports Liverpool (joining Elvis Costello, Mike Meyers, Samuel L Jackson and me). Just another reason to like him. I believe Blair supports the train wreck known as Newcastle. I don't know whether he supports any team, but Jon Stewart was a winger for William and Mary.

18 September 2008

What's a Cuba Libre?

Recent adventures in cocktails: After work today, I went to Happy Hour with some friends. We met at Hi Life, which is near the office. As an aside, why do web sites think that ambient music is in any way desirable? At a minimum, give me a button to turn the bloody sound off. But I digress. I've become a bit of a cocktail snob lately; and I'm off beer again. I tried to think of a drink that I might like, but that the bartender wouldn't butcher. It was a warm day, and I thought something vaguely tropical might be nice, so I went to the bar and asked for a Cuba Libre and the nice young lady behind the bar said "A what? How do you make that?" I told her, and she gave me an unmixed rum and Coke, with a small slice of lime on the rim. And the "Coke" might have been Pepsi. Or maybe it was Diet Coke. Or the soda gun needed adjusting. Disappointed again.

Yesterday, I made myself a Sazerac, though I strayed from the canon in a number of ways. First, I didn't pour out the Absinthe after rinsing the glass. Second, I used a cocktail glass instead of an old fashioned glass. Finally, I was too lazy to make a twist. In my defense, I never pour out the Absinthe, and I like drinking from a cocktail glass. I guess that's not so much a defense as a tacit admission that I don't conform to strict Sazerac orthodoxy. I must throw myself on the mercy of the court on the last count, though.

Sunday, R and I went out for dinner at Marlow's while the kids were at Life Teen. I recalled that last time a Sapphire Martini had set me back ten bucks (I only noticed because it was more expensive than the dinner it accompanied), so I had water. I like to think of myself as sometimes frugal (as opposed to, you know, cheap), but I am offended by the notion that for one drink, I am asked to pay close to half the price of a bottle. On the other hand, I bet if I'd ordered a Cuba Libre I wouldn't have had to instruct the bartender on its construction. R had a Strawberry Lemonade (when she ordered it, she quite correctly left off the inappropriate "Martini" sobriquet). The waiter left, then returned to make sure she understood that the drink she had ordered would have (gasp) alcohol in it. Apparently, even though it is listed on the Cocktail Menu, some people who have ordered it were surprised (and no doubt dismayed) when their drink was served to learn that what they ordered is, in fact, a mixed drink.

In case you're wondering why I'm offended by the "Martini" reference, see #3 of this article.

When Populism Trumps Sound Economic Policy

OK, so, we've had some large financial companies failing because they were too greedy chasing after sub-prime lending. This resulted in instability in the markets which put otherwise healthy companies in trouble. The government has been hopping from stone to stone trying to get across this raging river, intervening in some cases while letting the market take care of others. In general, I think Paulson and Bernanke are doing a reasonably good job of a very tricky situation. Now comes word that, in a bout of shameless pandering for votes in Ohio and Michigan, billions of dollars are being targeted at saving American car companies. This will fail; at best it will delay the inevitible.

You should read the brief article, but here's an excerpt:

This is politically sensible, but it's absurd by just about any other measure. Where a plausible case can be made that firms like AIG are fundamentally sound and in danger thanks only to the fear seizing financial markets, it is absolutely clear that Detroit's automakers are failing thanks to their own bad decisions and poor management. And sure, we might not want to blame assembly line workers for those failings, but if you're interested in helping those workers, then help those workers directly—don't prop up doomed dinosaurs with taxpayer money.

This is an embarrassment. Everyone in Washington should be ashamed.


If you want to understand what's going on, you could do a lot worse than reading this.

17 September 2008

Online Poker - Good News for a Change

Two years ago, Bill Frist (R-TN) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) attached a provision to a Port Security bill. This provision makes it illegal to transfer money to fund unlawful internet gambling (it imposes a law enforcement burden on banks). I need to read Dante to decide which circle of hell I think Frist should be sent to, the sanctimonious bastard. The attachment had previously been a separate act (UIGEA) authored by Jim Leach (R-IA) and Robert Goodlatte (R-VA). This happened early in the morning, on the last day of the 2006 Congress. Of course it passed (you can read the whole thing here). Who was going to vote against a bill that claimed to secure ports against terrorism? This, combined with the arrest a couple of months earlier of a gambling executive, resulted in several online poker sites refusing to accept money from American players and making it harder, but not impossible, to fund online poker accounts at the sites that still allow American players.

The gist of this bill is to outlaw funding of illegal gambling activities . Here's the problem: there's no particularly good definition of what gambling activities are illegal (although UIGEA specifically excludes lotteries and horse racing). The federal law that covers gambling specifically is the Wire Act, which was obviously intended to stop bookies from taking sports bets over the phone (you can read it for yourself here). Poker, while having elements of chance, is undeniably a game of skill. Luck rules in the short run, but skill will win out eventually.

Interestingly, back in 2006, two buddies of John McCain presented different positions on the matter. Joe Lieberman said "This unilateral, partisan process also resulted in the eleventh hour insertion of a bill that purportedly outlaws Internet gambling but which may have unintended consequences. This issue clearly deserves more deliberation, and it is unfortunate that such a measure has been added to a critical bill designed to protect the Nation's ports, legislation which this Congress must pass. I hope that the Senate will return to this issue and give it the attention it deserves, in the future." On the other hand, Jon Kyl (now the junior senator from Arizona but then a representative) helped perform the legistlative sleight of hand in the first place.

In the past two years, a poker players' organization was created, and it hired Alfonse D'Amato to act as chairman. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Peter King (R-MA) have introduced a new act (HR6870) that clarifies what UIGEA covers. It was raised in committee once a couple of months ago, and failed to get out of committee on a tie vote 32-32. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) led the opposition in committee. In case you're wondering how Bachus feels about civil liberties like, say, the first amendment, read this. Yesterday, the vote was 30-19, so (as I understand it), it'll go to the full house.

It's not a full victory, but it's the best news online poker players have had in a while.

A Birthday Present

My dear wife will celebrate her birthday on Sunday. We've been together since '87. Between Christmases, Birthdays, Valentine's Days and then Anniversaries and Mothers' Days, there have been a lot of gifts. At some point, coming up with new ideas gets to be quite a challenge. I am moderately pleased with my effort this time, a Mission-style jewelry armoire (which matches reasonably well our bedroom furniture). I ordered it online, and it arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, when deciding to order it, I didn't pay careful attention to details like size and weight. It was too big to fit in my car, and with packaging weighed about 100 pounds. Fortunately, I could take the top down and have a relatively short drive home (I had it delivered at work, rather than have R sign for it).

Still, there's not really anywhere in the house I can hide something that big. So I gave it to her yesterday. She said she was expecting a laptop (she had suggested one a few months ago) and that wouldn't have been a bad choice either, though I'm waiting for the next revision of the MacBook, allegedly imminent, before deciding what to buy. The armoire was, and no one should be surprised by this detail, made in China. It is also, I think, of somewhat shoddy workmanship. The right door is a little warped, a couple of the drawers are too loose. Also, it's scuffed in a couple spots. Nothing horrific; the kind of thing that might happen if you moved. If I had bought it locally, I might well have returned it, but as it is, I'd have to repack it and ship it back to Indiana for a few cosmetic issues. Now I have three months to come up with something for Christmas.

15 September 2008

What'th tho funny, Thentuian?

If you don't read Get Fuzzy, you should. Well, maybe not if you're the sort who is annoyed by Doonesbury.

Regarding Middle Man's reference to Russell Brand (and the MTV Video Music Awards). To be honest, I had never heard of Russell Brand until I saw him just last week on BBC America's broadcast of the Secret Policeman's Ball (from 2006). You can see a brief video covering the VMA show here.

Miscellanea:
Apparently, my mother has sold the house in River Ridge. And unlike some, she's never been confused about exactly how many she has. The real estate market in the New Orleans area has been a mess since Katrina, and it will be a great relief to all that her life will be a little simpler soon. The location of other house is much cooler (on State St just off Magazine).

I got my passport back today. I was going to post a scan of the visa, but then I thought that was begging for identity theft. I'll post if it I ever get around to obfuscating the details. We're likely flying out on September 30th. We'll be there three days. I expect to be cold.

The Case For Higher Gasoline Taxes

“We have now sunk to a depth where the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” - Orwell

You may find the arguments below, to quote our erudite president, "wacky". And unless you're an economist, they may not seem particularly obvious. But Orwell's words compel me by appealing to my vanity: I want to believe I'm a dutiful and intelligent person. Sadly, I don't really expect to change anyone's opinion, and all of the people I've invited to read this blog are intelligent people (and most are rational). I'm much more pessimistic that broad public opinion can be swayed.

Unfortunately, our country (perhaps any democracy) tends to choose populist policies over rational ones. I believe the US (and global) long term prospects are especially dire. History will judge us as we today view the decaying Roman empire (the one in Rome, not the misnamed one) - oblivious to the obvious looming threat even as it masses at our (figurative) border. Ironically, some think that the biggest threat we face is literally massed at our border, but I digress. When our foreign trade and federal budget deficits come due (and make no mistake, we are borrowing at a staggering pace to fund our current standard of living), the current mortgage "crisis" will seem trivial. So will the Great Depression.

Greg Mankiw is a Harvard economist and was chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. The arguments he makes are rational, not political. I believe he is completely correct, but I also believe that there is no hope that we'll get the policies he recommends. "No hope" is a bad place to be. I think the argument is compelling even should you completely discount the carbon/climate aspect.

This is a speech; it's a PDF, and it's pretty easy reading (especially considering it was written by an economist).

My prediction for US fuel policy is that eventually the government will "do something" about high fuel prices. One action might be to open all previously protected reserves (e.g., ANWR), but that production will take many years to develop, and represents only a marginal increase in global production. America currently consumes about 15 million barrels of crude oil per day, and domestic production might increase from the current 5 million to six or seven. That is not enough to materially change global fuel prices.

The utterly ridiculous proposal of dropping the federal fuel taxes represents only about an eighteen cent reduction in price and would mean we'd have to find another mechanism to fund road construction. I suspect that instead we will see price controls, which will ironically reduce the supply further (cf - rent controlled apartments in New York). I predict that in our lifetimes, and sooner than you might think, gasoline will be permanently rationed.

PS - I wrote this a week or so ago, and was considering mailing it to some friends. Instead, it precipitated the creation of Libatio (though it did take me a week to get around to cutting/pasting it from my email drafts into the blog).

Narcissistic Much?

From the BBC Football Gossip page:
Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who spent much of the summer angling for a move to Real Madrid, believes the Old Trafford faithful will forgive him when he returns to action. "I'm already in the history of the club," he said. "When I play the fans will love me again."
He may be right, and he also may be the best player in the world (there can be no argument but that he's in the top, oh, let's say five), but he also seems to be quite full of himself. I can't speak for Manchester United fans (and why would I want to?), but I'm not convinced that his reception would be so warm at some clubs. Of course, it didn't take long for Aston Villa fans to forgive Gareth Barry. Now the rumour is that Chelsea is sniffing around.

Allegedly, he was named after the actor Ronald Reagan, but given that Ronaldo was born just after Reagan's re-election, as well as the fact that Reagan was never really a top star, and the fact that Ronaldo was born 20 years after Reagan's last acting gig, it seems pretty likely that he was actually named after the politician.

Comments

I apparently inadvertently set comments to "only people with a Google ID". I've changed that so you should be able to leave comments even without a Google ID.

14 September 2008

Karl Rove Speaks Out for the Truth

When Rove publicly admits that he thinks a Republican campaign has gone over the line...

For a number of reasons, my mind was made up a long time ago about this election (some time between the complete failure to turn up even a single WMD and Katrina). I have no use for network news, and have managed to avoid seeing a single ad for either candidate. I do follow a couple of web sites that purport to check the honesty of campaign claims. Not surprisingly, both sites have found that both campaigns have played fast and loose with the truth. My impression, though, is that McCain's campaign has the dubious distinction of having taken the lead in misleading claims (though I admit this may be a bias on my part).

Here's the ironic part. Well, ironic to me, anyway. Eight years ago, I thought McCain was too dangerous to be president. Let that (and what has happened in the mean time) sink in for a minute. At that time, I supported (much to my subsequent regret) Bush. Then McCain made a deal with the religious right sold his soul to the devil. Now I realize I kinda like the guy I didn't support eight years ago. Only he's not that guy any more (if he ever was). And the Palin nomination sets a new standard for cynicism. Clarence Thomas and Dan Quayle were paragons of sincerity in comparison. OK, maybe not, but it's in that ballpark. It's worse than John Edwards (no shining moment for the opposition).

Just to be clear, I don't want anybody in the White House who has spoken in tongues. Or believes that people speak in tongues. Or believes that the world was created in literally seven six days about 6000 years ago. Or think that religious beliefs should be mentioned in any science class. I'm OK with Christian teaching in public schools, as long as all other belief systems (e.g., Zoroastrians) get equal time. Actually, that's not even true. Everyone has a right to their faith (or lack thereof), without the government choosing sides, and the only way that can happen is if the government stays on the sidelines. A couple of hundred years ago, some pretty clever guys had some insight into the question.

One last thing. Verifiable facts must trump faith, otherwise "truth" becomes meaningless. Remember, gravity is just a theory, too.

Oh yeah, Ike update: I've heard from our friend, P, who lives in Houston but happened to be in San Diego on business. Seriously, this guy was already nicknamed "luck-sack". And he "happens" to be in San Diego when a hurricane hits, stranding him there? V works for Shell and was at their data center (which is, no doubt, well prepared for this kind of thing). V reports that both his and R&M's houses survived with no worse than minor damage. Since they are in La Porte, I have reason to be optimistic that J&J's house is OK, too.

Beer? Really?

After earlier claiming that I don't drink beer except when traveling, I must now fess up to violating that claim, not one week after making it. I went to D&R's house yesterday to watch an uninspiring performance by the University of Georgia against the University of South Carolina. The Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks 14-7 in a game that could only be considered interesting by a devout partisan (and not even all of them). Watching the Ol' Ball Coach lose another one was the only consolation.

D cooked skirt steak in a crock pot, with a couple of poblano peppers and a jalapeno pepper. It was quite tasty ("man candy", as he put it). His friend J brought some boiled shrimp with crackers, guacamole, pesto, and salsa. I brought potato salad and edamame succotash from Fresh Market, but only R had any; perhaps it was deemed insufficiently manly for those with a Y chromosome.

In the way of beverages, I brought Atlanta's own excellent Red Brick Ale. J brought the ubiquitous Newcastle (the ale, not the football club). D had a couple some of Samuel Smith's Lager stashed in the fridge. If there is another brewery that produces such outstanding beers across their product line, I don't know it. Their Oatmeal Stout and Nut Brown Ale are just fantastic. Their Lager (which I had not tried previously) was terrific. I can only take Porters once in a while, but their Taddy Porter is the best I can remember. Their products tend to be expensive and hard to find, but well worth it. Something worthwhile from Yorkshire*! who knew? If it weren't a Sunday in Georgia, I might go out and buy some to drink during today's Saints game.

* Disclaimer: I have never been to Yorkshire, and only know it by reputation through some of my colleagues in England. OK, one of my colleagues. I have no firsthand reason to believe that the disposition of Yorkshireman is that of a Scot stripped of his humour and generosity. If they brew beer that good, they can't be all bad.

13 September 2008

Capairinha Fizz

I made one the other night. Disappointing. Stick with the original. The soda threw off the sweet and sour balance of the original. Has anyone else noticed that the "nose" of a Capairinha is a little "off"? Sorry about any "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. In spite of the aroma, the original is an excellent beverage. Be careful with them, though, they'll take your legs from under you before you notice.

I did hear that at least a couple of our friends (R&M, who live in La Porte) did decide to evacuate to Livingston. But we have another friend (V) there, plus a couple (J&J) in Deer Park. The husband of the latter (J, obviously) is an EMT. Or a Fire Fighter. Or both. I suspect that he had to stick around; hopefully she and her daughter got out of Dodge.

Ike

Bad, but could be worse. Houston was just another Texas cow town when the 1900 Galveston hurricane hit. Thankfully, the death toll for this year's model will be much lower. I like the writing of the tastefully named Erik Larson. If you're too impatient to read his book, you can have the CNN version or the Wikipedia version.

I'm still waiting to hear how my friends in Houston have done (several of whom live in the SE suburbs most at risk to storm surge flooding).

Unrelated, but Liverpool under Rafa has finally managed to take three points from Man United. And without Torres. It only just struck me, but I think I went to school with a Rafael Benitez. [a couple of minutes later] I found a 30+ year-old yearbook, and he's listed as "Ray", but I still have a vague recollection that his given name was Rafael. Top of the table (at least until Chelsea plays later today).

12 September 2008

The Front Fell Off

A friend sent me a copy of this interview (youtube).

I highly recommend spending on it two minutes of your life. Sadly, it's almost plausible that this is an actual politician. Happily, according to Snopes, this case is just excellent satire. Apparently they have other clips on youtube, and at least one of Clarke and Dawe has a web site.

Sarah Palin

Well, as Biden pointed out, she's the more attractive VP candidate; a statement that the McCain campaign has since shamefully misrepresented. But I have not yet seen a single reason to believe she is qualified to be president. This ought to keep you awake tonight: she is dramatically less qualified than Bush was. Whatever she was, she's now being shaped by the soulless bastards who run political campaigns. She's a Stepford candidate now.

We shouldn't choose our leaders because they're like us. We'd make awful presidents. We should choose people who are better than us. A lot better.

Controversy

Wow. Not even a week into this and I'm faced with a conundrum. Many of the people most likely to read this are people with whom I interact regularly. When something happens with/to one of those folks, it creates fodder for en entry. Only, what if what I have to say is controversial, or even offensive to my friend/family member/colleague? My father used to say that a gentleman is one who never gives offense unintentionally. I'll have to keep that in mind, but hopefully it won't diminish the candor that would make this worthwhile.

Last night I opened another bottle of the Domaine Bouche Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages. We've still got about a case and a half left. Three cases was too much; two would have been about right. The up side is that it's keeping me from buying wine (the per-bottle cost of which would certainly be higher). And it's a nice little wine. I'll finish the bottle tonight if we don't go to Bin 75 for an ad hoc tasting.

Oh, as long as I'm catching up on trivial details, we installed Spore on Wednesday. We also established a series of ground rules that limit play based on homework and grade status. I should probably write the rules down since they were extemporaneous.

11 September 2008

This is for my homies

About the name. Blogspot (strictly speaking, blogger) allows you to pick the name, but as you'd expect, all of the obvious ones were taken a long time ago. Libatio is Latin for libation, which in common usage has come to mean a beverage, but was originally a portion of a drink poured out as an offering to a god.

Allegedly, when Socrates was handed the cup of hemlock, he asked whether he could offer a libation. Cheeky bugger to the end.

I like that it a) refers to drinking and b) has many of the letters of liberation. And it was available (sophistry was taken or I'd be talking about that).

"A" is for Apple...

I tried a Marconi Wireless last night: Laird's Applejack, Sweet Vermouth, and Orange Bitters. I found it drinkable, but it didn't ascend into the pantheon. I have read that I need to buy small bottles of vermouth and keep them in the fridge after they're opened. The bottles we have are past saving, I'm afraid.

10 September 2008

Gin is good. Gin is right. Gin works.

This summer I've had a few gin cocktails which impressed.

First up, the Gin Fizz. A delightfully refreshing summer drink. No hard-to-find components. I inadvertently left off the club soda once, which made it closer to a Capairinha (ooh, maybe I'll try a Capairinha Fizz next).

Next, the Aviation (I favor Gary Regan's recipe). I had read a number of rave reviews of this cocktail and was eager to try it, but it calls for something my bar lacked at the time: Maraschino Liqueur. I tried one at the bar at Holeman and Finch and thought it was OK, but given the build-up, I was disappointed. Props to the bartender, though, for a twist of lemon that was at least six inches long. We subsequently found a merchant who stocks Maraschino and I was able to make one at home. I think the bar-made drink may have had too much lemon, or maybe I have a bias toward home-made drinks, but I loved the one I made. Firmly in the repertoire now.

Finally, after reading some snarky comments about Tonic Water, I made a Gin and Tonic with Stirrings Tonic and Miller's Gin. Rhapsody. Seriously, I don't know what I'm going to order now when I go out. Except when I'm in Europe, Beer has fallen out of favor (too filling). Wine selections at a bar are typically overpriced and mediocre. Many of my favorite cocktails are either unavailable or butchered by most bartenders. After having this version, I can't go back to tonic from a soda gun. Most tonics are sugar bombs; I don't think I can go back to Schweppe's or Canada Dry. But the Stirrings Tonic is subtle. I even made a G&T with Peychaud's Bitters, which was an wothwhile variant. The bitters added interesting aromatics, but on the down side, made the drink well um, pink.

I'm currently out of Plymouth, but it and Miller's are my gins of choice at the moment. I haven't been able to try it yet, but I've read good things about Aviation gin.

Blogging from an iPod

During a not very interesting conference call, I signed up for a
mobile blog. May not be useful. Maybe better from a phone.

Sent from my iPod

09 September 2008

Content

I have quite a few RSS subscriptions these days; probably three or four dozen (though they publish in widely varying frequency). Many of these are blogs, and of those that publish regularly, nearly all have very narrow focus. That makes sense from the reader's point of view - I'm interested in what Jefferey Morgenthaler has to say about cocktails, or even things epicurean. But if he started putting rants about traffic on his commute, or the service of his cable company, well, I might be less interested. On the other hand, from this writer's point of view, there's no single area on which I would choose to focus exclusively. As this experiment goes along, I may find ways to warn you off from subjects that some will undoubtedly rather skip; like Orwell in the political chapters in Homage to Catalonia.

08 September 2008

Tabula Rasa

I have toyed with the idea of starting a blog for some time. Like buying an empty journal full of acid-free pages, the prospect is daunting. Where to start? What to say that hasn't been said? How pretentious to suggest that anyone will want to read it! Ever.

Then there is the question of frequency.

It's a lot of pressure. In the end, I've decided that I can write for my future self; anyone else who tags along is welcome, but shouldn't be disappointed by the occasionally incoherent ramblings. Or frequently so. Or self-indulgent.

My writing style is anathema to blogging. The ability to revise entries may be the undoing of the undertaking, but it's free, and it will give me a place to write things that would otherwise be foisted off unsolicited to a friend.

So anyway, however you found your way here, welcome.