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.