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

LFC 0-0 FFC

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?)

Instructions:
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)

http://www.artofdrink.com/2008/11/100-drinks-before-you-die.php

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
Gumbo
Any local cuisine when traveling

3 favorite cocktails
Sazerac
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
Poker
Blogging
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.

BWFC 0-2 LFC

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

Vote.

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

THFC 2-1 LFC

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.