The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, December 31, 2010

"I'm in ..." what? Jail?

A Detroit public schools teacher tried to pawn her clearly-marked school netbook. Marked how, you ask? With some kind of school slogan or other, reading "I'm in." To their credit, the pawn shop turned her in.

Maybe I've been over-rating the teacher's union. Maybe they're really not getting paid enough.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remainders and literary evidence from the book sellers

Sick of this yet? I confess I may be a bit, but still, I find it interesting what kind of books get into the "bargain books" catalogs, of which I get a large number. Here, with some opinionated commentary, are a few notes from what I hope is the last of 2010's batch.
  • Atheism gets a big mention, I presume since most people who have already given up on God have read or written the books. From Richard Dawkins' mostly brilliant work on why religion is a Very Bad Thing (from which he leaves out, unfortunately, the compelling reasons why people have had to invent God for themselves,) we find the genuinely pathetic document described as follows: God's Problem: How the bible fails to answer our most important question -- why we suffer. Bart Ehrman. The author ... discusses his personal anguish upon discovering the bible's contradictory explanations for suffering and invites people of faith -- or no faith -- to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us. Get the impression that Mr. Ehrman may have done some suffering himself lately?
  • Pimpology: the 48 laws of the game. Pimpin' Ken with K.Hunter. Color photos. I bet there are.
  • How to succeed with women. R. Louis and D. Copeland. Foolproof ways to a woman's heart ... oh, hell, you've heard all this before. Just read Pimpology and do the opposite.
  • Or read: Asshole: How I got rich and happy by not giving a damn about anyone and how you can too. Martin Kihn.
  • The complete idiot's guide to alchemy. Dennis William Hauck.
  • Aftermath: A guide to preparing for and surviving apocolypse 2012. Problem with this one is that, as I've noted elsewhere, the Maya dates probably don't translate to 2012 at all, and may be off by a positive or negative number. But why let that spoil a great idiocy? The world could still end in 2012, just not for this set of reasons.
  • How to make millions in real estate in three years starting with no cash. Tyler G. Hicks. And end up with no cash, too. Special fourth edition forward by B. Madoff.
  • Any number of books by Ann Coulter. Too many to bother typing.
  • And my personal high-value recommendation, for only $9.95, A Salute to Hee Haw: Collector's edition.
In the unlikely case that anyone cares, my personal reading lately has ranged far and wide (since that's about all I can do right now,) and has included a second look at The Arikara War: The First Plains Indian War, 1823 by William R. Nester. Since the "war" consisted of two inconclusive battles, the book is mostly about the before and after and causes; the Arikara were an unpleasant and treacherous bunch of plains Indians living along the lower Missouri River, just about the time that a bunch of unpleasant and treacherous fur trappers decided to push the boundaries of manifest destiny further west, in conflict with the Indians, the US government, the Hudson Bay Company, the English government, and each other. Surprisingly, bloodshed and military incompetence, on all sides, abounded. Great stuff, if you think the history of the west starts after the Civil War.

Changes at Paesano

After 12 years of feisty, not always very successful direction of the East Side's sole Italian restaurant, Isabella Nicoletti is leaving. Although Michael Roddy disses "red sauce Italian" in the article, I was always a bit disappointed with the lack of comfort food and reliable pasta quality -- if Isabella was in the kitchen, things were fine, but if not, dishes could come out cool, under done, and clearly mystifying to the help. She knew how she wanted it done, but didn't seem great at passing that along. When Chaad Thomas left as wine director, reasons to go seemed to decline. I make a better bolognese, for example, to my twisted taste, nor did Roman dishes ever make much of an appearance -- if you wanted alfredo, carbonora, or all'amatriciana, you were out of luck. Poultry was usually ok, if it was duck sauce, but chicken seemed to elude them. Red meat -- hit or miss.

I don't know David Whitney, the sous chef who is stepping into Isabella's clogs, but here's hoping he'll back off on the Veneto and expand just a bit south and west to take on Tuscany and Rome. (Tuscany: imagine getting a bowl of zuppa di farro with a dash of real Luccese olive oil on a December night. Can anyone even spell "farro" in Ann Arbor? Does anyone know where Lucca is?) It would be great to have a slightly less micro-ethno-centric place over here on the city wall.

All that slightly snarky stuff said, I always liked Isabella and her piquant attitude, and I hope she does well. Paesano and the Roddys are great supporters of the community and of good food. Here's hoping for an evolution, not a revolution.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

He's back and running again

Wasn't there a football player years back called Mean Al Green?

More detail (sort of) on Snyder's fix-Michigan-quick notions

So a touch more detail, most of it wide-eyed, about Snyder's fix things in six months ideas. Mostly about budget, consolidating school non-educational services, prison services, and -- best of luck with this -- getting business to agree to a 6% tax on profit instead of a new sales tax on consumer services. Less and less impressed by the minute.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why Detroit is hosed

MLIVE considers this the range of top stories for 2010:

"MLive Detroit's top stories of 2010: From Kwame's indictment to Eminem's recovery"

One talentless buffoon in jail, another back on the streets.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The musical: threat or menace?

I don't write a lot about musicals, mostly because I don't appreciate the art form. First, you restrict the action to a stage in a theater. So far, not unlike a play. But much unlike a play, you are then expected to create a spectacle for the audience (apparently -- I don't claim to know squat about this, personally.) And of course, you have have to 1 to n captivating, unforgettable, toe-tapping songs which generations of high-school performance nerds can break into as a kind of harmonized inside joke ("We were both in Paint Your Wagon and you weren't -- neener neener.) I never encountered this in high school because, recognizing our utter lack of vocal or instrumental talent, we never tried musicals. We stuck to plays. So I never had any affection with or familiarity with musicals until I got to college, and by then my tastes had calcified some.

Anyway (they never said if "rambling" would be a side effect of the steroids, but the above paragraph is perhaps an early indication,) musicals don't make much of an impression on the smooth, glossy, molasses-like surface of my consciousness. Julie Taymor's Spiderman thing, though, is capturing some of my attention, just because it's so Vietnam / Afghanistan - like in its morassness (morassitude?) She's in and she can't get out without a) losing everybody's combined shirts in the money invested to date, and b) admitting that all our boys and girls died in vain. Well, so far, nobody's died, but you know what I mean.

This week, they had one preview show (I think that's what it's called) and somebody fell and was injured. They had another one and, glory be, nothing untoward (meaning unplanned) happened. It apparently goes live next week, and with those stats, there may not be any actors left in NYC by February. Interestingly, maybe because these are "preview" shows? nothing was said in the article I read about quality -- like, was it any good, man?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kids who drink at dinner with the family drink less later on

Something I've been saying for years ... socialize young people to the notion that alcohol is wine-with-dinner, not tequila-with-both-hands, and you'll cut down on problem drinking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oops and oops

So much for the Stadium bridge repair

Cutting federal spending and earmarks sounds like a great idea until it's your ox being gored, huh?

Update: we didn't lose all the money.  The original article suggested we did, but actually, it's just a piece of it.

Update: again: I badgered Councilman Chris Taylor into stating that a start date for the bridge repair would be in May, 2011, with an 18-month duration. Neither Kunselman nor Heiftje bothered to reply.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And while we're talking about ...

... not worrying about the law, the Feds finally got around to dropping a RICO indictment on ex-Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, his dad, and some friends.  They're calling the group, collectively, the Kilpatrick Enterprise. (Good name for a band, at least for a few months.)

For no good reason at all, I'm reading the actual indictment, which is a 91 page PDF.  I have far more time on my hands than most of you, so I won't be upset if I'm the only one who can talk about "Company L" and "Subcontractor DC" at cocktail parties.

Fittingly, 100% of the accusations (so far -- I'm only on page 24) have to do with sewer work.

Update: well, I finished it.  Kind of a sorry tale.  The actual amounts of money involved in the various hand offs or kick backs aren't all that large, but I assume they only include what the Feds believe they can prove, and consequently are a subset of the actual scammage.  Not a lot of humor, either; $300 stuffed into a gum package in order to "temporarily pacify" Bernard Kilpatrick; the repetition of the phrase "... for which no work was performed."  No thigh-slappers, just a picture of a corrupt little group, fiddling while Rome burned.

Don't worry about the law ...

... what do the ranchers want?

Some wildlife researchers claim the US Fish and Wildlife Service ignored the legal requirement "to make decisions about listing species solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available" when they removed the Grey Wolf from the endangered list.  Instead, they relied on local human opinion (and, you want to bet, pressure from those humans' elected representatives?)  This is so unsurprising that it's hardly worth posting except that it mirrors so exactly the behavior of other agencies, like, say, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, which suppressed studies about speed limits it didn't like.  Fact is, Grey Wolves don't pay taxes or vote, so we can hardly expect a tax-funded agency to hear their opinion.  However, if the only opinion it hears is that of the local folks who believe, wrongly by the way, that a handful of canids are responsible for stock losses, then that's another matter.  Because the rest of us who don't live in Idaho or Montana or Wyoming might have an opinion, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another bad college slogan

Everybody got a snicker last month when Drake University augmented its marketing materials with the symbol "D+."  Now Texas Tech University, touting its new PhD in Wind Engineering, takes out a full page ad in New Scientist to say: "An education that will blow you away!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rick Snyder: clearly not afraid ...

... to stick his neck out.  Like a number of first time politicians, Snyder is promising fast action, although so far, he isn't really saying action on what.

"We are going to lay out a plan — a very aggressive plan. In the first six months of this administration, we're going to try to achieve incredible things … that you would think would take years or decades."

Some of his initiatives are to cut taxes ... and to have government focus on customer service.  Interesting mix of objectives there; I'm not sure how you'd go about that, given that taxes are not especially high now, by comparison, and customer service from state government is not very obvious at any level.  Not saying it can't be done, especially with those vague user stories, but I'm not sure how well we'll like it, if it does happen.  
One concrete proposal from Snyder has been to lower state employee salaries to comparability with the private sector. Great idea if, in fact, there is a disparity -- haven't seen any numbers, myself, but that doesn't mean anything.  More to the point, though, is that many, many state employees are represented by unions such as AFSCME, the Michigan Education Association (the teachers' union,) and others.  Nothing involving sweeping changes in compensation will be quick -- certainly not in six months. 

More interesting is Snyder's stated desire to rid the state of divisiveness and to foster a culture of cooperation.  Anyone who's lived in Michigan any length of time will hear that and kind of cock their head to one side, like a dog who'd really like to understand you but doesn't.   The reality of Michigan is that it consists of a vastly incompetent Detroit-focused Democratic party and the rest of the state, which is represented by vastly incompetent Republicans.  Divisiveness is practically taught in school. We are so short of real political talent here that ... well, that we elected a political outsider as Governor.
So, we'll see.  Snyder appears to be making good initial moves, staying closer to the center of the road than the other GOP candidates, and cooperating with the outgoing administration.  But real changes in six months?  Good luck with that. Let's see how it goes.

Update: Snyder says  that cuts were needed but that he "wouldn’t take away anything that’s already been earned by anyone." He dismissed the suggestion that previous cuts were sufficient and suggested he wants to institute long-term reforms.

But he also says: Fighting to eliminate collective bargaining rights is "probably not a viable option in the Michigan system."

I just flat don't get it.  Maybe I'm missing something.  Or Ann is confusing me.  I suppose, sigh, I should actually read what Snyder's saying rather than rely on the local press interpretations thereof.  But that would be work, and I'm not supposed to be working right now.  It was work enough reading the Kilpatrick indictment.


You think Obama's in a tough spot

How'd you like to be Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi right now?  He survived a no-confidence vote by three votes -- 314 votes to 311 -- to continue to cling to power.  But his chances of getting anything passed in what the Italians like to call a legislature are on a par with the Obama administration passing, oh, say, a nationwide ban on beer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's been far too long

Since I posted anything about our eponymous rodent, Marmota monax, the Woodchuck and family.  Now there's a study about ... wait for it ... social networking in marmots.

"Marmots don’t have Facebook yet, but animals living among clusters of burrows in Colorado do interact enough for observers to plot networks with each marmot as a node. An exchange might be friendly, such as a marmot grooming a neighbor or settling down tranquilly nearby. Or a social interaction might go sour, with one marmot nipping or chasing another. “Marmots are grumpy with each other,” Blumstein says, but rarely cause serious injuries"

It's these so-called incoming social interactions, those initiated by another furry little rascal, that were studied and that may, possibly, have a genetic basis. The suggestion, somehow torturously arrived at, is that having lots of connections (being a social animal) brings with it a share of snubs, bites, and kicks-off-the-rock, and if you're genetically predisposed to putting up with that level of snarkiness in your life, that may somehow be adaptively advantageous.  I guess.  If I'm reading it right.

“I am completely blown away by this paper,” says James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who is clearly short of a social life himself.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Still think Nixon wasn't nuts?

Newly-released transcripts from his famous secret taping system in the White House show RMN as a deeply bigoted,  almost incredibly warped guy.  Just like I've always said.  And just to show you I'm no Zionist or Black Panther, I won't tell you what he said about Jews and African-Americans.  Instead, here's his take on the Irish.

“The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.” 

I guess this means I'm not real Irish.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Massive denial of service attacks hit US mail

Parties affiliated with certain radical blogs have reported huge denial of service attacks, using the US Postal Service to deliver large volumes of obscure post cards to unsuspecting victims.  Believed to originate in Upstate New York, the attacks have been going on for some time now, with no end in site. Here are some examples: the clear terrorist meaning is certainly, um, clear.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pick your favorite war

As part of a massive, grant-funded sociology experiment, Wood-Charles is conducting a survey on which of the several wars the US is waging now are of greatest concern to you, the innocent reader.  Please choose from the following:

  • The war in Afghanistan
  • The war in Iraq (yes, it's still going on)
  • The war in Iran (to be called "Operation Oh Shut Up, You Idiot!")
  • The war on drugs (one of my favorites)
  • The war on illegal immigration
  • The war on poverty (lost long ago but still running)
  • The war on Christmas
  • The war on Julian Assange (Operation Oh shut up II)
  • The war on Somali Pirates (Operation Arrrgh!)
  • The war on Kanye West (Operation We're-a not gonna let you finish)
  • The war on infrastructure (Operation StadiumBridge)
  • The war on obesity (Operation Porcoff)
  • The war in Venezuela (Operation Wot-a-wankah)
  • The war on feral pigs (Operation oink-a-wee!)

Please select no more than three (or if you suggest others, limit your total to three or fewer,) since the US military is a bit busy right now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Overheard in the hospital

Hospital tech: Is yo' pants off yet? We got a big problem with people comin' down here for colonoscopies with they pants still on.
Patient: What?
Tech: What you havin' done?
Patient: A bronchoscopy.
Tech: You kin keep yo' pants on.
UM Hospital Non-invasive procedures

Factory rat: Yeah, old Fred* was a scrapper. When he was in the service, he bit the ear off a guy, you know, back before it was even popular.
Huron Gastro-enterology waiting room

Perhaps unfortunately, those were just about all the humorous utterances involved in my recent experiences.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Missed this one

For many years, especially while I was an active Food Gatherers volunteer, we were kept aware of the need to distinguish between prepared food -- actually cooked dishes -- that came from a state-inspected commercial kitchen and food that did not.  The state Department of Agriculture needed to sign off on your home made granola bars, if you were going to sell or donate them, just as though you were a restaurant or something.

Somehow without my noticing, that's changed.  We now have a see-how-you-like-it law that lets you play around with producing food for sale, if you have less than $15,000 presumably a year, in revenue.  All you have to do is label it "Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture."

Interesting.  I would not have predicted that the DoA would ever let go of any of its power, especially given the misguided zeal it exhibits in tracking down evil providers of non-factory-farm products and even on-the-side ventures like smoking meats.  The law does seem to balance the needs of early-days business plans with the unquestionable dangers of inexpert food safety -- there are things I wouldn't try that just came out of somebody's kitchen, myself, just because I know how casual my own approach to temperatures and cleanliness has been.  Thoughts? Step in the right direction or invitation to pandemics?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

US Navy to the rescue!

A StorageTek spokesman admitted that Carnival Cruise lines was a customer, but said that there was no clear evidence that flaming tape drives had caused the fres.

Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Russian attack hamster

Thanks to the kind folks who provide links to Dave Barry's blog, I'm able to pass along this vital piece of intel.  Do hamsters have natural predators?  What is a hamster, anyway, and why the attitude?  So many unanswered questions.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Too bad we're not having a constitutional convention

We could have enshrined this precious right in the new version.

When I was in high school, a friend and I made an 8mm film as a class project.  It involved driving around the MSU campus and inviting people to give us the finger.   Kind of like the old "Show us your Lark pack!" cigarette ads.  I don't think we actually turned it in for a grade.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A moment of silence

For Leo Cullum, a long-time New Yorker cartoonist, who died this week. I knew his work, but I didn't know until I read the article in the NYT that he was a Vietnam Vet. Airline pilot, too. Huh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apocalyptic wackos learn the hard way ...

... not to believe everything they hear an archaeologist say.

The folks who think the world is coming to an end in 2012 because the Maya said so are, presumably, not themselves experts in deciphering Mayan epigraphy. That is an extremely difficult and technical task. Instead, the 2012 enthusiasts had to rely on experts' translations of obscure glyphs, and unfortunately for the pipe dreamers, those translations may well be out by 50 to 100 years, according to new work being done.

And even worse, the amount by which things are off may be a positive or negative value, meaning that whatever event was theoretically being predicted may already have happened. Personally, I think the date is off by -12 years, and that the end of the world already took place in November, 2000. I can understand how some people might not have noticed. Another hypothesis is that it's off by -164 years, and that the catastrophe in question took place when the US lost a war with Mexico and was forced to take Texas as a result.

Anyway, if you can get your money back on those 2012 dystopia festival tickets, I'd recommend it. And here's a nice list of 10 other end-o-the-world predictions that didn't come true -- at least not as written.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Very nice, very nice indeed

If your name is Rich Whitney and you're running for something, you might want to proofread the ballot entry.

You're a Nazi! No, YOU are!

I don't want to get far into this, mostly because it involves L. Brooks Patterson comparing someone to Joseph Goebbels. Read as much of it as you have stomach for; the suburban GOP can't seem to get along among themselves, let alone with anyone else, but Patterson does get it at least partly right when he says: "...Tell a lie, tell it big, and tell it often, and people will begin to believe it..."

He ought to know ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did you know?

That there's another North Korean son, Kim Jong Nam, but that he's not in the running for the succession because he's a playboy? Wears blue Ferragamo loafers, say the media. What he says about the whole Kim Jong Un baton pass is, "I have no regrets about it. I wasn't interested in it and I don't care..."

Sounds like my own long-standing attitude toward the mayoralty of Cleveland (which is constantly being offered to me, since my small army of faithful retainers, huscarles, and winged hussars would be useful in staving off attacks from the Canadians.) Doesn't look much like me, though, especially without the eye patch.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I hate it ...

... when people gratuitiously give me something to worry about, and I try not to do that to others, myself (like hell you do.) But I guess I'll pass along a worry to my aging colleagues that sure as hell never occurred to me until it smacked me in the eye: random, non-traumatic, you're=just=getting=old retinal detachment. Did you know that your retina could just decide to become detached and aloof? Without anyone punching you or pushing you downstairs or anything like that? I didn't until it did.

The cure, more or less, is an outpatient surgical procedure, involving lasers and other high tech stuff, and it is extremely routine -- it apparently restores "most" sight in the affected eye, "most" of the time. But the recovery process is hugely inconvenient, involving spending days with your head in one of several specific positions for hours at a time.

So -- here's what to worry about: floaters, flashes, dimming, a dark "object" beginning to move into your field of vision. If you note any of that, call your eye doc, ASAP. If it's caught within a day or so, the surgery is simpler and the recovery less annoying. If it goes 48 hours, you're in for the whole schmeer. What puts you at risk? Just being, as I am, older than dirt, apparently. According to the docs, no drug interactions, nothing related to the myeloma, just random behavior of our bodies, of the sort that continues to bias me against the notion of intelligent design.

Monday, October 4, 2010

But seriously, folks ...

I'm always whining about scientific method and data-driven this and that; I thought a couple of recent topics might be useful, partly to illustrate the extent to which many received ideas are still up for grabs and partly because I think they're interesting.

First, there's the "man the hunter" theory about what happened to lots of large critters, back at the end of the Pleistocene. For decades, thought about this has wobbled back and forth between two points of view, a) humans showed up (at least in North America) and hunted them to extinction, and b) no, they didn't. Lately, it looked as though paleoecologists were coming down on the side of yes, we barbequed the mammoth, the giant beaver, and many others. But now, there's stuff being published that says, nope, it was climate change that did the deed.

The point is not which one is right; we may quite literally never come to an agreement on that score, where "agreement" is defined as nobody bothers to try to refute one or the other point of view any longer, simply because the body of evidence is overwhelmingly in its favor. The point is just that what looked settled a year ago is now back in play.

The other game of ping-pong with the received truth involves the hypothetical new hominin, Homo floresiensis, the soi-disant hobbit skeleton. The discoverers of this single example of a small biped have maintained that it represents a new human species, living very late into history and possibly alongside Homo sapiens. Others said, no, it was an H. sapiens specimen with one of several diseases or congenital conditions that made it look the way it did.

Articles earlier in the year seemed to come down on the side of a unique species, despite the small sample and the arguments of the "no, it isn't" group. But now, they're back with a paper that seems (far as I can tell) to make a pretty good case that the hobbit was just a human with hypothyroid cretinism -- basically iodine insufficiency.

As with the roast mammoth versus starved mammoth controversy, my point is just the extent to which these things fluctuate. I doubt whether anyone I know will make life-changing decisions based on these two controversies -- you won't change jobs or sell your BP stock or decide to home-school your kids on the question of who or what killed off the giant beavers. But there are plenty of other things in dispute out there right now, and you might have to decide, say, who you're going to vote for, based on whether you believe one set or another of analyses and opinions. Given the current state of discourse, all I can say is God help us all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oh, no! Not Christmas carols already!

You gotta fight fire with fire, son. Before every damn public sound system in the western world starts bleating 'em, we gotta get a jump on parodying 'em. I'll give you covering fire and you start thinking:
O Rahm, O Rahm, Emanuel
Come ransom captive Chicago
That mourns in sleazy exile here
Until the grandson of Daley come
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
Shall come to thee, O Chicago.

The first concern, Shareholders did say,
Is to maximize earnings on day after day
On day after day, and at night when asleep,
From the slick CEO to the Marketing Creep.
Cover your tracks or they'll put you away.

It's the post-modernist time of the year.
With Foucault being silly
And whipping his willy
Sans fear
It's the least sensible meme of the year.

It's the least humanist style of them all.
With faux Tudor half-timbers
And fake neon embers and Victorian
Crap over here:
It's the post-modernist time of the year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What they don't tell you

The monkeys are being provided by an unnamed US security contractor.

Oh, come on ...

First it was flying submarines, now flying Humvees. Perhaps it's time for another round of drug screening at DARPA.

2010 10 01 - update: and let's check into what the Canadians are smoking, too, while we're at it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tragedy or just massive irony?

The gentleman who owns the Segway company has died when he apparently rode, yes, you guessed it, his Segway off a cliff and into a river.

The Segway, you will recall, is the invention that was supposed to revolutionize transportation. Instead, it is essentially nothing but the enabler for Steve Wozniac to play a kind of nerd's polo and for the unfortunate Jimi Heselden to crash to his death, less than a year after buying the company. This is of approximately the same magnitude on the ironologic scale as it would be if Victor Kiam had accidentally decapitated himself with a Remington Electric Shaver.

Fashionable Ann Arbor

Please note that I am not really qualified to throw stones regarding fashion; I own mid-Michigan's largest collection of Duluth Trading long-sleeve, pocket T-shirts, after all, and my idea of fabulous footwear is a good pair of Rockport Pro-walkers.

But I was mildly amused yesterday morning, coming back through downtown Ann Arbor, to see a great example of student chic; it was 56 degrees, according to the car's outside temperature readout, with a stiff, cold breeze blowing at the corner of Huron and Main. A young man was walking north with his girlfriend (I identify her as such based on occasional public displays of affection,) wearing a UM hoodie, madras plaid shorts, and flip-flops. And carrying Chinese takeout.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senator Creek Addresses

The Chair recognizes the Senator from Michigan.

I should hope so. Hell, I've been sitting around here for the last two weeks, and I sure recognize you. You're that loudmouth with the hammer or whatever it is. Let me just ask you privately, what good is a wooden hammer?

Now, the young people who follow me around and tell me what to do assure me that this is my maiden speech before this body I find that strange. Been quite a while since I knew anything about maidens. Looking around me, I don't see all that many here. Maidens. Nor do I see many others who might have had any commerce with maidens anytime recent. Maidens are in somewhat short supply, both in my constituency and in my experience. I knew a maiden once, back in Michigan. In the non-biblical sense of the word.

And I have to point out, that's the only way you can use that word. Michigan. Non-biblical. The word Michigan does not appear in the Bible. No, sir. I have been through the Bible, cover to cover, both the hard bound and paperback versions. Both the King Louis and the Prince Albert editions. And Michigan does not appear. Which is odd. Tennessee certainly does. And there are repeated allusions to Texas. Especially in Leviticus. But no Michigan. You would think there would have been something. "And God created Michigan on the twenty-eighth day, in the image of Ontario," or something like that. But no. Probably an oversight.

I want this group here to take note that Leviticus is an important thing, an ailment or more precisely a part of the human body where an ailment can take root and fester. I have suffered for many years from a pain in my Leviticus, as have many of the people who voted for me. And yet the congress of the United States has never taken up a Leviticus and examined it, at least insofar as the record shows. I feel that it is crucial to the security of the union that we expose the Leviticus to the scrutiny and ... exposure that it deserves and that the people of Michigan deserve so richly.

And so, to build on that thought, it is my intention to introduce a bill. A bill for four hundred and thirty-six dollars. This will just about cover the cost of having my Leviticus lanced. And it will provide for a federal home for maidens, in my constituency. I anticipate that administration of this home will come under the aegis of The Secretary of Commerce ... the better to deal with commerce with maidens.

Parenthetically, I should add that the aegis is a smaller part of the body, somewhat to the left of the Leviticus.

Once we have assembled sufficient maidens ... making use of the many idle assembly facilities in my great state ... we will institute a program which will put them to work ... the maidens ... rewriting the Bible, so as to ensure that every State has its proper representation therein. And with the publication of this new version, it will no longer be necessary for any member of this body to stand here before you and admit that it is impossible for him to know his constituency in the biblical sense.

And I yield the rest of my time to the Senator from France.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr. Creek Runs

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the next United States Senator from Michigan's Fifteenth District ... Mr. Elijah Creek!

HELLOOOO! CAN YOU HEAR ME? What's that, sonny? Are you sure? If you say so.

They tell me I can just talk into this thing here ... don't have to shout to make you hear me. Pity. I enjoy shouting. Always have. I used to say to my wife, "HELLOOO! CAN YOU HEAR ME?" And she'd say, "You damned old fool, I'm right here beside you!" And she usually was. In fact, there she is now. CAN YOU HEAR ME?

When I'm elected, I promise to shout on your behalf. I'll go to Washington and shout at Washington for you, so you don't have to. Now, I know my opponent will say, "You damned old fool, Washington's dead!" But do you know that for sure? I haven't seen any reports about that. Him and his cherry tree.

Just the other day, I was wandering around this great state of ours, looking for things to be appalled at. That's kind of a hobby of mine, wandering and being appalled. Stems from a childhood accident, but they tell me the less said about that, the better. My childhood or the accident, either one. After a while, I started to notice a lot of signs, a lot of downright discriminatory signs ... signs of discrimination, you might say, although I just did, so no particular reason for you to, I suppose. But it led me to ask a very fundamental question of myself and several passerby ... just who is this Dutchman, Van Accessible, and why does he get all those reserved parking spaces?

Well sir, when the Officer couldn't find anything on me I didn't have a prescription for, he took the handcuffs off, and I went about my business. Which they're reminding me to say is your business ... my business is your business ... or your business is my business? What about that feller they collared at the airport the other day, with Capuchins stuffed down his pants? If he's a voter, does that mean monkey business is my business? I hope not ... don't like monkeys much. They bite, especially if they're stuffed down your pants. Take it from me.

Some young wiseacre with a notebook asked me the other day about foreign policy. Don't know why. If some foreigner wants to have a policy, I don't see where you and I come into it. None of our business. Most of the foreign people I've met seem to come from other countries, anyway. And far as domestic policy goes, seems like a pretty tame idea to me. If you're going to have a policy, a wild one sounds like more fun than a domestic one. Maybe I'm just old fashioned ... come to think of it, probably wouldn't dress like this if I weren't.

But anyway, let me leave you with this thought. If it comes down to a choice between voting for me or stuffing monkeys in your pants, go with what you know is right. Or what the voices say, anyway. You won't be wrong more than half the time, and neither will I.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mr. Creek Remembers

Editorial note: the following transcript (and a couple more to come) are from the Creek Archive, at the University of Michigan's Creek Library, reprinted by permission of the Curator and Executrix, Amanda Lostwithiel Creek, CISSP.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for ... Mr. Elijah Creek!

Well, good evening. I'm happy to greet all my fellow members of ... the Veterans of Foreign ... affairs.

I don't know just how many of you there are out there ... literally. How about a show of hands. Everybody who's actually here, raise your hand. Hmmm ... nobody. Just as well. Easier that way. Don't have to be as funny.

You know, when I was a boy, we remembered things. You young folks today, you don't remember so much. I say to kids now, "DO YOU REMEMBER THE WAR?" and they say, "Sure we do." And I say, "WHICH ONE? I'M TALKING ABOUT THE WAR OF ... 1812!" And they say, "What? Were you in the war of 1812?" And I say, "HELL NO! BUT I REMEMBER IT."

Now that was a war. World War one and two ... pff ... what's that? Add 'em up, all you get is three. Now, war one thousand eight hundred and twelve, sir, that was a war. And think of all those other wars in between, war 1811 and war 1810 and all. Nobody remembers them. But 1812 ...

When I was a boy, we weren't so obsessed with all these gadgets and doo-rabbies and the Internut. The Internut. That's that bunch of connections and tubes and so on. Makes it easy for people to stay in touch, they tell me. Steal things, too. I tried to get on Facebook, but they took one look at my face, and they said "no!" ... I had to settle for ass book. They couldn't see that.

Anyway, when I was a boy, we weren't so obsessed with gadgetry ... we were obsessed with sex. And whiskey. And peanut butter. We used to have peanut butter parties. Get all peanut buttered up and go out and try to catch Indians. We'd sneak up on 'em. But they could smell the peanut butter on our breath. So they'd get away. Never did catch any. Probably just as well. And what would you do with an Indian, anyway, if you did catch one? Take him to the Indian Pound? Wait for somebody to adopt him?

Now I don't know how many of you out there are rightists. Leaners to the right, so to speak. Can I have a show of hands. If you're right handed, hold up your left hand.

When I was a boy, we didn't think much of left handed people ... lefters, we called 'em. We didn't think much of 'em 'cause we didn't know any. If you were a lefter, you pretty much stayed in the closet. It wasn't a very big closet ... sometimes somebody would come out. I knew one young feller decided to come out to his father. Walked right up to his old Pa and held out his left hand: "HELLO, PA!" he said. His dad turned him in to the Indian Pound.

Back then, we had foreign policy that really meant something. The President used to say, "Speak loudly and ... often," I think it was. Whack 'em with a stick if they weren't listening. And if all else failed ... which it did ... why, you'd take a ship and pack it full of resin and ... chicle ... and natural latex products. Send it off up their rivers ... called it gumboat diplomacy. Didn't work worth a damn, as I recall.

But you know, it's real important to remember things. It's important to remember what I'm tellin' you here tonight. Cause, if you don't, you won't be able to tell me about it later on, when I ask you what I was talkin' about. All you'll be able to say is that some old guy was talkin' about Indians and peanut butter and ... lefties. And I won't believe you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You must respect my authoritay!

The company formerly known as Blackwater is paying the Feds $42 million in fines for violating export control regulations. Among many, many little slip-ups and peculations, "...Senate Armed Services Committee revealed Blackwater employees had diverted more than 500 AK-47 assault rifles from a U.S. weapons bunker in Afghanistan that were intended for use by Afghan police. According to the Washington Independent, Blackwater employees signed for some of the weapons as "Eric Cartman," which (sic) is a "South Park" character."

The ongoing spectacle

Out Grand Rapids-way, someone is shooting some kind of movie, called "Touchback." A local man took the title as a suggestion, showed up on the set, and allegedly began offering to give female cast members back massages.

Trouble is, a) he's not a massage therapist, b) he's a registered sex offender, and c) the shooting is taking place at a high school; he's banned from being within 1000 feet of any such place. Also d) he has a vastly stupid haircut. And e) when several women complained about him and Security booted him out, he continued to circle the school in his car, leading to his arrest.

Now, he says he's going to fight to clear his name, which, wonderfully, is "Ketchapaw."

Allright, allright ...

I'll consider moderating my views on traffic conditions in Ann Arbor.

A nine day traffic jam? Predicted to last until "mid September?" When the People's Republic screws up, it really excels.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Volume 2 of a book you probably won't read

A while back, I wrote about Volume 1 of H.P. Wilmott's Last Century of Sea Power. I finished Volume 2 a couple of weeks back, and remain impressed. Among other things, how many respected historians do you know of who include the names of their dogs, living and dead, in the dedications of their books? Or use the phrase "beloved woofers" to describe them? Plus, the book contains more of Wilmott's snarky comments on events and people, usually delivered at the end of a paragraph, like a punch line.

More than that, the book is full of delightfully obscure analyses of the first use of this and that to do the other thing; viz, the note to the effect that in August, 1941, the Japanese used aircraft to bomb the house where Chiang Kai-Shek and staff were staying. Perhaps unfortunately for later US involvement with China, they missed, but as Wilmott says, this " ... was the first deliberate use of aircraft in an attempt to kill a head of state." (And by the way, if you're shocked by such an attempt, recall that we, deliberately and successfully, sent a batch of P-38s to shoot down the planes carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto; this was just three years later. Yamamoto, of course, wasn't a head of state, but his loss to the Japanese war effort was probably greater than if he had been.)

Another example? Did you know that prior to WWII, while the Spanish Civil War was going on, the German and Italian help provided to Franco's Fascists sank -- not just damaged but sank -- 11 British merchant ships, on and around the coast of Spain? Britain, the greatest naval power in the world, theoretically, responded forcefully -- by sending the Spanish government bills for the cost (which were never paid, by the way.) Of course, there are no parallels to this shameful appeasement going on these days, none, except, well, there is this place, Somalia, see, where they have a minor issue with pirates ... (or Detroit, now that I think of it, where they're tearing down houses and sending the bills to the houses.)

I closed my bit about Volume 1 by saying that I'd be interested to hear Wilmott's opinion of US Admiral Halsey, the guy who fell for a Japanese decoy of largely aircraftless aircraft carriers and left the Philippine invasion's landing areas virtually undefended. Wilmott did not disappoint:

"(The) version of events in Halsey's autobiography seems to be mendacious and wholly self-serving and one suspects for obvious reason -- to deflect attention from his own ill-considered decisions, which could have had very unfortunate consequences and for which he was never held to account."

Couldn't agree more, although "unfortunate consequences" is a bit mild, considering that except for timidity on the part of the Japanese commander in question, a task force including the Yamato, Japan's biggest, baddest battleship, could have run amok through a huge collection of US transports, tankers, and other vessels with big red targets painted on 'em. Fortunately for a lot of US sailors and soldiers, a handful of Escort Carriers and Destroyer Escorts stood in the way until Admiral Kurita (who, admittedly had seen the Yamato's sister ship, Musashi, sunk by aircraft the day before, lost his nerve and turned back. In most flaming disasters, it's hard to assign blame to a single man, but in this case, had the Japanese wreaked havoc, it would have been Halsey's fault, virtually alone.

Anyway, very nice book, from my perspective. I'm fully aware that among the three or four people who read this blog, I'm the only one who gives a damn about this sort of thing, but as I've said frequently, it's my blog and I'll post anything I want to.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Place your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen

A bit of background: Ann Arbor is a relatively small city, with, in particular, a small footprint of retail space that is suitable for start up, entrepreneurial foodie businesses. This makes it something of a lab for short-lived trends, especially if the underlying business plan calls for walk-in trade.

Over the years, booms have occurred in shoppes selling:

  • High end ice cream
  • Yogurt in a wide range of physical states (frozen, not frozen, gaseous, etc.)
  • By the slice pizza
  • OTC sushi
  • Doggie supplies
  • High end chocolate and other candies
  • Tea

And the list goes on. You can probably think of more that I've missed.
Today, the focus seems to be, for reasons I don't really understand, on cupcakes. The clinical progress of the disease usually follows this pattern: one shop, heralded by articles in the Observer, opens in cheap space somewhere and sells its wares through random channels such as a booth at the Farmer's Market or counter displays in established stores. They gather up some capital and move into a retail space of their own. Somewhere along in there, two or three other enthusiasts jump on the band wagon, and by the end of the opening cycle, have their own storefront efforts going, in their own right. By this time, the public has discovered that, in fact, oversized, over-frosted, cupcakes (or whatever the product is) are kind of a one-time treat, and sales, for everybody in the sector, drop off. Other things are tried to extend the product line (expect savory cupcakes any day now, or perhaps sushi flavors.) After a year or so, only one shoppe remains, surviving (if it does) by operating as a much more mainstream provider of whatever its original category was -- a bakery, for example, instead of just a cupcake joint.

The question, though, is what next? By diligent reading of New York Magazine and mining my own imagination, I came up with the following possible concepts which we could see taking up retail space on Liberty or North Fourth by this time next year:

  • Fancy Fritatas
  • High end sliders (Try the ground lamb and rattlesnake - to die for!)
  • Vampire snax
  • Lobster rolls (trendy in NY right now due to a glut of lobster on the market)
  • Mary's Fabulous locally-raised, organic, free-range Amish fried chicken and fish
  • Side by side, separate but equal kosher/non-kosher hot dog places, where you can sit where your conscience dictates and wave to your friends on the other side
  • Meatballs R' Us -- On a Stick!
  • Glaswegian Vegan: cruelty-free soy based haggis
  • Y'all like locally-raised, organic, free-range kimchi? Korean locovore buffets, franchised as ICBINJRC, or I can't believe it's not just rotten cabbage.
  • No Damn Kimchi, Either, a companion restaurant, next to Fourth Ave's eponymous No Thai.

So take your pick and line up your funding now. The cupcake thing should be over by January, freeing up a couple of storefronts.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mission accomplished!

I knew if I just kept at it long enough, posting sarcastic remarks here about Detroit's leadership, the situation would right itself. Rejoice, Detroit! Geoffrey Fieger will save you!

Fieger for Detroit! Vote for the goofy-looking lawyer party! In your heart, you know he'll sue ... um, somebody.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perhaps not completely disastrous

It's been a long time since a primary election in Michigan mattered as much as this one did, and the outcomes were pretty reasonable, all in all.

On the Governor's race, the two least objectionable candidates took their parties' nominations, Virg Bernero for the Dems and Rick Snyder for the GOP. What's more important than either of them winning is who lost, including the neanderthal Pete Hoekstra and our beloved State Attorney General, Mike Cox, neither of whom could find his way to the capital with both hands and a compass.

The materfamilias of the Kilpatricks, Carolyn Cheeks K., mother of Inmate #such-and-such, Kwame Kilpatrick, ex-mayor of Detroit, is out as well. She lost her primary race for another term as 13th district rep. Objectively, this is not necessarily a good thing -- generally, her service to the state seems to have been ok, but her lack of parenting skills apparently caught up with her. I've written elsewhere about what a great parenting state Michigan is.

Locally, there was a challenge to the entrenched Democratic establishment in Ann Arbor by a group of, um, other Democrats (belonging to the GOP is actually illegal in Ann Arbor, along with having a couch on your porch and keeping more than six chickens in your backyard.) The Other Democrats were a strange cabal of people whose main talking points were inaccurate or simply libelous statements about the current administration; they lost their shirts, ensuring us another several years of boring, slow, marginally-competent city government, instead of a diet of fascinating, agile, utterly-incompetent and childishly petulant city government, the latter being what Pat Lesko and friends seemed to offer.

In the State Senate run from round these parts, two progressive women were contesting the Democratic candidacy, and the one with the better web site won. Rebekah Warren did seem to have an edge over Pam Byrne on the sheer number of social issues she listed herself as supporting, and that seemed to be sufficient for a win.

So all in all, not a bad set of outcomes for a primary. One guy, running for something local, lost by a single vote. Haven't heard if he's going to do a recount or not. Looking forward to November.

Decline and fall

Can't tell the players without a scorecard. MLIVE reports:

First, Warren Evans, until his recent, requested, resignation, Chief of the Detroit Police. Next, Detroit Police Lt. Monique Patterson, with whom Evans was alleged to be having a relationship, contributing to his resignation. On deck, Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee, who is the new acting Chief of Police, and who is (or was -- damned if I can tell) allegedly having a relationship with ... of course, Lt. Monique Patterson. Godbee, by the way, is married, although not to Evans, which would be just too perfect. Unfortunately, we don't have a same-sex marriage law in Michigan; if we did, things would be even more amusing, but you'd need entity-relationship diagrams to figure them out.

More on this from today's news.

By the way, somehow, Detroit is still not scoring lower on the places-to-live metrics than Cleveland, which makes me wish this blog had a correspondent there, just to help explain what in hell could be going on that would be worse than the amateur hour we have here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Listen up, you oenophilic pukes!

If I catch so much as one of you children looking at the color of a glass of wine again, I will rip your head off and use your body for a decanter, do you read me, people?

I can't hear you!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The horror ...

This week, while riding around beautiful Ann Arbor in a car, wasting precious non-renewable resources and being inconvenienced right and left by the idiots, morons, halfwits, and imbeciles that are licensed to operate motor vehicles here, I had a truly frightening epiphany: what if somehow the town was magically transformed into a Dutch - style bicycle city? What if all these dolts were on bicycles?

Consider: you don't frequently see people in cars switch randomly from driving in the street to driving on the sidewalk to driving across lawns and back again, and if you do, it usually shows up on the evening news. Most people driving cars don't strap their young children into car seats placed outside the car, well above the center of gravity, wearing protective clothing that wouldn't protect a squirrel from a bad fall off a bird feeder -- and again, if you do, it shows up on Fox. Although many people in cars (especially mini vans) do drive the wrong way on one-way streets, when they do, it's at least frowned upon by police and passerby. All of these things are practiced daily by our bicyclists, as a matter of course, and the only reason complete mayhem doesn't result is that there are relatively few of 'em.

I don't want to contemplate what it would be like if we all parked our cars and took to two wheels -- the horror, the horror.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I haven't really been paying attention

I saw something in the news about some guy named James LeBron ... leaving somewhere, going somewhere? Is he one of the spies we're trading to Russia?

And while we're at it, did anybody hear whether we're getting anything good in the swap with the Russkies? A few cases of vodka, at least?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hard to adjust

With the rise of Twitter, the word "twit" as an adjective is coming to mean "from or related to Twitter" as in "Twit Pictures," pictures sent over Twitter.

This makes it hard for us older dogs to read headlines like "Celebrity Twit Pics" on sources like the Daily Beast without grinning if not actually cracking up. And if you have the time on your hands to look at the underlying content, some of the shots really are twit pics, in both the new and old senses of the word. Not all, though, unfortunately.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In the interest of fairness

After listing a few of the Detroit public figures who are in jail, under indictment, or being acused of aggravated beastiality (any day now, you just wait), I suppose in all fairness to the rest of the state, I should point out that Detroit is not alone in this regard.

  • Former Southwest Michigan Congressman Mark Siljander is beginning his trial for having allegedly taken money from a terrorist group who wanted to be removed from a list of terrorist groups.
  • Former state House Speaker Craig DeRoche, who was just charged with drunk driving, was arrested again for running around his neighborhood, according to police, his wife, children, mother-in-law, and neighbors, drunk (again) and carrying a gun.

Neither of these gentlemen is technically from Detroit although DeRoche did represent part of the Detroit metropolitan area at one point.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A "certain level" of incompetence?

So Detroit is tearing down abandoned houses, and more power to 'em. But the business plan seems to have included the notion that the owners of said houses would respond to invoices from the city for doing the demolition. I can't put it better than the author of this article did:

"Officials have acknowledged Detroit is unlikely to recoup full costs from owners who have walked away from their properties, but they also say collections is an important source of funding for future demolitions.

It's an understandably difficult process, but it appears a certain level of incompetence is marring the city's efforts: 20 of the 213 invoices the newspaper reviewed were sent to the same vacant lots where the razed homes once stood. The city also sent an invoice to itself for a property it owned."

A little under ten percent of the time, they're billing the houses themselves, apparently missing the point that if no one was living there when the house was up, it's not all that likely that they're on-site now that it's down -- or coming back around to check the mail box.

So far, the city is getting about a half-cent on the dollar of the invoices they send out - amazingly enough, people who have abandoned a house are not manning-up to pay for having it torn down. Of course, some of those people may be, what? indigent? In jail? Dead? Otherwise unable to pay? Who knew?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catching up

I have been remiss in posting the usual rubbish here, so this is a quick catch up summary of the world, in and beyond Joseph Street.

  • The goddam Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, one of our better examples of refusenik stonewalling on just about any issue you can name, is slowly being dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that, yes, Michigan does have a wild population of Cougars. Tracks, scat, multiple sightings, and now a blurry trap-camera photo from the UP make it increasingly clear that the big cats are back. Congratulations, Catamounts! With any luck, large predators will continue to repopulate the state, especially since housing costs have fallen to the point where even the average polar bear can get financing for a house in Bloomfield Hills.
  • Not too long ago, President Obama made a comment about seeking expert opinion on issues, so that he'd know "whose ass to kick." Some people may have objected to the crude turn of phrase and others to the apparent ineffectiveness of any kickage so far meted out, but it does offer an opportunity to provide input. When he called me, I offered my short list:

    • Rupert Murdoch
    • Benjamin Netanyahu
    • South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts
    • The wonderful people who are calling the offshore drilling moratorium "worse" than the oil spill
    • Rod Blagojevich
    • Rupert Murdoch, again

  • Burke Breathed, the now-retired creator of Bloom County et seq, once had a character say, "Today on Wall Street, they busted everybody but the wiener vendors." An apt description of Detroit, 2010, where the ex-Mayor is in jail; the former city council member, Monica Conyers, has been convicted and is awaiting jail (same goes for her former consultant and bag man;) the current school board president is under pressure to resign after allegedly "fondling himself" in front of a superintendent; the police are being fined $1000 a day for essentially ignoring a consent decree; and almost daily, it seems, somebody is arrested for shooting a child either by mistake or on purpose. There is a debate (if you can call it that) over what should be done with Detroit, with these suggestions running at the top of the list:

    • Shrink the city by demolishing abandoned buildings and relocating people
    • Just demolish the buildings
    • Demolish the people
    • Demolish the city council, school board, and police department
    • Use open land for urban farming
    • Use open land for opium farming
    • Create a sixth great lake, Lake Kwame, as a home for displaced Asian Carp

I think that's quite enough of this, for now.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another dish

Orecchiette con due formaggi, pancetta, spinaci, e fungi
1/2 lb orecchiette (or other shaped pasta)
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
1 cup crimini (or other) mushrooms sliced
1 spring onion (or scallion) chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, stemmed and torn
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp beef bouillon concentrate
1/2 cup reggiano and compté, grated
2 -3 tbsp chicken stock
Boil water for pasta. Dice the meat. Chop the onions. Grate the cheese. Slice the mushrooms. Wash and tear the spinach.
Add cream, garlic, and beef stock concentrate to a sauce pan and simmer, gently.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook for the recommended time on the package -- 12 - 13 minutes.
Heat oil in a small sauteuse over medium flame; add the onion and sweat until softened. Add the pancetta, and cook until it renders most of its fat. Add the mushrooms and more oil. Cook until the mushrooms are tender.
Toward the end of the pasta's cooking time, add cheese to the cream sauce and stir to blend. Remove and discard garlic.
Top the pancetta and mushroom mixture with the spinach, add the chicken stock, and cover. Reduce heat to very low.
Drain the pasta and add to a serving bowl. Add the cream sauce and toss to coat. Add the spinach, pancetta, and mushrooms, and toss. Season with black pepper and serve.
An Italian or Californian Arneis is a perfect match with this. Use any combo of cheeses you happen to have around, as long as one of them is parmesan.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Come on, natural selection ...

... let's get cracking. Besides those lovable people who made pets out of pythons(1), then let 'em go in the Everglades, and the civic-minded individual who cost his German municipality 100,000 Euros to find his cobra when it escaped, there are the wonderful folks who run the National Rattlesnake Sacking Championship in (where else?) Texas. I love the fact that, in addition to organized messing with extremely venomous reptiles, the event also features a "petting zoo." Doesn't say what gets petted.

Just so you understand clearly what this event involves, here's what the web site has to say:

"The Catcher has a tool called a pinner consisting of a rod at least 24" long with a hook on the end. The catcher must first immobilize the head of the snake with the pinner. He then places the snake in the sack. The Sacker is literally left "holding the bag". His job is to hold the sack in a position to allow the Catcher to quickly toss the snakes into the bag without allowing the others to escape or bite him in the process."

There is a five-second penalty for getting bitten, by the way, and disqualification for intentionally harming a snake.

This, as an NPR story this morning reminded us, comes in the same month in which the WHO kicked off a web site, centered on the cost, worldwide, of snake bite. As WHO points out, "Snake bite is a neglected public health issue in many tropical and subtropical countries. About 5 million snake bites occur each year, resulting in up to 2.5 million envenomings (poisoning from snake bites), at least 100 000 deaths and around three times as many amputations and other permanent disabilities."

WHO goes on to note that the bulk of these snake bites take place in Africa and Asia, but it's nice to see Texas doing its part to get America back into the competition.

(1) - yes, I know pythons aren't venomous.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How long ...

... before this becomes a consumer item from Honda or Polaris?

Except for the two-stroke engine noise, I'd drive one of these to work.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't pet the tiger

One of my colleagues is fond of that phrase, with reference to asking the executives anything, for fear of getting an answer. However, a film maker in Singapore seems to have learned a much harder lesson, by petting the tiger of the Indonesian Government.

A film about pretty boys on the beaches at Bali, making a tenuous living by having flings with women tourists, has started a pogrom against "tanned, muscular" guys. Have a look at the article; I especially liked the note near the end about how Bali has more than just gigolos to offer; they have "...Hindu temples, volcanoes, and terraced rice fields..." too!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Truly Nuts

I don't think I can say anything at all about this that the article doesn't already say. Strongly recommended reading.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh, come on ...

... it's just a typo. Would you do the publishing equivalent of a recall if you'd slipped up and spelled "pepper" as "people?" Would you if the publication in question was a cook book and the phrase in question was "... freshly ground black people?" This in a book called the Pasta Bible. (First published in 1642, in Florence, by Geraldus Irresponsibilus, a monk who later reigned briefly as Pope Noninnocenza the Third, and who specialized in variant readings of holy scripture, including the infamous Wicked Bible, which left the word "not" out of the admonition "thou shalt not commit adultery (true: look it up);" the Silly Bible, which included a thirteenth commandment, "Thou shalt not fling gnocchi at thy mother's brother's concubine;" and the bible d'accent indigne, which although based on English, renders everything in a spurious French accent.)

Apparently, the Pasta Bible's publisher is adopting the Toyota approach to public relations: "... if anyone is small-minded enough to complain about this ... "

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not ready for prime time

Or any other time:

North Korean Comedy! And now, Live from Pyongyang, it's Saturday Night!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Diversity, diversity ...

Here in Michigan, we have the full range of human experience, and our state's parenting skills are a good example. Last week's news carried two stories, demonstrating the scope of our population's abilities in child care-giving.

First: bad parent! A dad and an uncle spent two days driving around, drinking, bowling, and generally partying, with Dad's two young children in the car, frequently locked in the car, out in a variety of parking lots. Mom says she's "as shocked as anybody."

Next: good parent! A man (whose identity is not yet known) took his child to work, presumably to teach the 7-year-old valuable career skills. True, Dad's work was holding up retail establishments, child in tow, but still ...

Midwest family values, folks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

From my upcoming book

The classic dog cooking of the Middle West, everybody's favorite, Pizza Dogherita, with its beautiful bands of golden canned pumpkin and bright red tomato gunk representing the German (shepherd) flag, is traditionally served on a bed of 'large bites' dry food, topped with a dollop of Inova wet food and a doggie benadryl. Bon appetito!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A10 goes green

The Prius of the skies? How green can a ground-attack aircraft really be? Whatever, it's nice to see anything going on that preserves the useful life of these aging but successful flying tanks.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Try this at home

This weekend, I made a batch of cotechino, a sweet, mild Italian pork sausage that the Earle used to serve in puff pastry as Cotechino in Crosta. I've been meaning to try my hand at it for a while, but only recently assembled the ingredients. So ... fine, I've got some sausage to serve. What I really wanted to go with it was an earthy starch dish, redolent of damp, early-Spring woods and gradually resurgent nature. It's not all that often that I suit myself quite as successfully as I did with this three-P risotto - Porcini, Parmesan, and Peas. Drank a 2005 Barbaresco with it and marveled at my ability to very occasionally achieve what I set out to do.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Told you so

The study that sparked a wave of concern about a link between vaccination and autism, led to many parents failing to have their children vaccinated, and produced a resurgance of measles, among other childhood diseases, was retracted by the journal that published it. Not that it will change the minds of the many, many ignorant people who bought into the idea ... but at least there'll be formal consequences for the jackass who perpetrated it.

And even more pleasing to my sceptical mind, a large group of homeopathy-deniers took a "massive overdose" of various highly-diluted homeopathic "remedies," including some containing (or aledged to contain) toxins. None of them died or even felt bad.

New Scientist reports: No ill effects were reported by hundreds of volunteers who took part in a mass-overdose stunt around the world to demonstrate that homeopathic remedies are nothing more than sugar pills.

"There were no casualties at all, as far as I know," says Martin Robbins, spokesman for the "10:23" campaign, created to highlight the alleged ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies.

"No one was cured of anything either," says Robbins. Like an estimated 300 volunteers in several cities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, he swallowed a bottleful of around 80 homeopathic "pillules" at exactly 10.23 am on Saturday. Each pillule is a tiny sugar pill dabbed with a drop of a homeopathic remedy, produced through "infinite" dilution – the process whereby a solution is diluted to the point where no molecules of an active component are likely to remain.

Remarkably, promoting and selling homeopathic remedies is not illegal here or in the UK, no more so than similar activities related to traditional Chinese medicine, hedge funds, or chiropractic.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why I don't go out to the movies all that much

So we went to see Avatar yesterday. We emerged with a pair of splitting headaches and had to go home and lie down. Before the feature film (long, long before -- that's another issue I have with the modern theater experience), there was a promo for the National Guard which almost sent me out of the place, not for any political reasons but because it was so badly produced and so goddamn loud. Is this what it takes to get the attention of yoof -- quick-cuts and montages fit to produce seizures and inept vaguely metal music at actionably high decibel levels?

However, my aging intellect and hearing aside, I wonder if anyone else who saw this thing noted all the references and homages and outright thefts? Just as examples of those I picked up on, in between rubbing my aching eyes:

  • Obvious similarities among the military and scientific technology of Avatar and Aliens (and of course, Sigourney Weaver as another link between the two films). I am not the first, by far, to make this observation.
  • Weaver's character dies as a result of a stray round coming in the open door of a helicopter during an escape; lifted from an action bit in Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger (the book -- it didn't make it into the film)
  • The female alien trapped under her fallen mount, unable to reach her weapon, while the bad guy menaces her; very similar to the final scenes of True Grit with John Wayne under his horse and Glen Campbell (!) picking the villain off at long range with a buffalo gun.
  • The hero communing with the spirits of the dead or mother nature or something prior to the final showdown and saying, just as Sean Connery does in Outland, "I could use a little help."
  • And finally, one that perhaps fewer of y'all will remember, the whole concept lifted from Clifford D. Simak's 1944 short story, Desertion, about a scientist / bureaucrat who's trying to explore, let alone colonize a vastly hostile planet (Jupiter; I said this was written in 1944) by transferring his staff into the physiotypes of a species of wolf or dog that inhabits the place. Trouble is, they don't come back. So he and his old faithful dog make the switch themselves and ... discover that what is to mankind a howling inferno is to the indigenous critters a heavenly place. Eventually (as mentioned in another Simak story (City? Don't remember.) everybody leaves Earth to become wolves on Jupiter.

In fact, the notion of a supposedly civilized individual "going native" with good, bad, or indifferent consequences is a central theme in the dialogue of imperialism. Who transforms who? Which side suffers most (although by now, I think the data are pretty clear on that question.) See Greene's The Quiet American for one exposition; A Passage to India (E. M. Forster) for another. Although I did like the idea of multiple species across multiple phyla evolving with compatible USB ports coming out of their heads, Avatar is still a silly film with little or nothing to say, and the 3-D glasses made my head hurt. The sheer amount of money it cost will probably bring in some Academy Awards, but for Christ's sake, folks, if you're going to spend all that dough, why not allocate a larger percentage to the writers? If you can simulate anything at all, why not simulate something new?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our far-flung correspondents

The New Yorker used to have content with that label -- our far-flung correspondents -- and may still, for all I know. Our most far-flung correspondent these days is our friend, Elisabeth, who's off on another of her daring trips through the Middle East. This time, she's keeping a blog which just resonates with her own, charming, blend of English and German. Please give it a look. It's the kind of writing few of us will ever do, simply because we're too cowardly to go where she goes.