Monday, January 31, 2005

This doesn't surprise me. Though it truly does sadden me. Don't they know that the government already has a partnership with the major media companies that offer us the news in this country? Are they just under the illusion that there are many small independent news sources who do not answer to a major corporations who give sizable contributions to political candidates.

We really don't do as much as we can to educate the general population on how the government works. I barely remember the Gov class as the teacher we had was not the most experienced or enthralling person. I've heard countless friends complain that it's usually the football coach who teaches the Government class. Though actually, current events would make a government class an interesting place to discuss issues. Though some parents might get upset and argue that it's their place and their place alone to tell their 14-18 year olds how to think and feel about the government. Maybe that's why they make these classes so boring, so we don't feel like questioning what's going on.

I've always felt that Government should be taught in conjunction with US History, so that you can see how the system evolved and actually compare how it works (or doesn't) today with how it worked in the past. Taxation without representation? What was that all about?

On a side note: yesterday J made biscotti as a cheap treat for us to eat with our tea. This is one of the best recipes I've tried, if you love anise flavoring, you'll find this absolutely delicious.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Extra! Extra!...Squares find Squarepants too gay!

“Patrick, we’re not ugly! We just stink!”
-Sponge Bob Squarepants

Yesterday I decided to see what all the stink about Sponge Bob Squarepants was all about. Apparently some conservative groups have been ranting that the harmless little sponge promotes gay lifestyle. So I rented the entire second season of the cartoon (the first season was already out), but strangely, I found nothing in the content of the stories that alluded to the embracing of homosexuality. Though I did find a number of other messages which seem a bit too counter-culture for neocons who need a little help in finding their imaginations or embracing their own creativity. Though I suspect that all of this hype about immoral bunnies and rebel sponges is a smokescreen for some of the other evil that is being dished out on other fronts: Iraq, Social Security, Corporate Media Consolidation and partnership with the RNC.

Message #1: Nudity is funny or at least being caught loosing your underpants is funny.

The show is set in an undersea community called ‘Bikini Bottom.’ Number of times Sponge Bob or any other character looses their underwear while being frightened: 10. Let’s face it there is nothing funnier than loosing one’s underpants while being in a fright. Though it’s much more frightening to think of my zoftig suburban coworkers in the buff.

Message #2: Being a grown up is lame.

In the episode Grandma’s Kisses poor little Sponge Bob is shamed by his peers because his Grandma kisses him goodbye. In order to shake off his childish ways, Spongebob dons a pair of sideburns and learns to enjoy freeform jazz. “You’re a man Spongebob, and it’s about time that you started acting like one!” chides his loafy bestfriend, Patrick the Starfish. Patrick however has a change of heart when he’s offered cookies, milk, tender loving care and warm snuggly sweaters from Grandma.
When Spongebob questions his best friend about his 180 degree shift, Patrick replies frankly, “Being a grown up is boring, besides I don’t get Jazz.”

Message #3: Confirmity is wrong and just plain boring.

Episode: Squidsville
Cranky mollusk Squidward decides to move far away from Spongebob and Patrick after they decide to horse around and redecorate his home with their reefblowers. He berates them for their immaturity and then declares that he’s moving to a more progressive and mature neighborhood called “Tentacle Acres.” Squidward is estatic when he find that the people of the town all live in houses that look just like his old tikihead house. In fact, Tentacle Acres boasts row after row of identical tikihead homes with all the amenities. To his delight Squidward discovers that the denizens of his new neighborhood enjoy all the same things he loves like bike riding, eating canned bread, taking interpretive dance classes, and playing the clarinet. In fact they love to do these things each and every day with no room for change in their routine. Squidward gradually becomes depressed and one day finds himself tempted to wreak havoc around the neighborhood by pilfering a reefblower and using it for unorthodox and silly purposes to the dismay of all his neighbors. When they finally confront him with a list of grievances or a “well thought out & organized list of complaints”, Squidward explodes. “ This whole town is a grievance!" he erupts. "There should be a law about so many uptight tightwads living in one place!”

If that isn’t frightening I don’t know what else is? And just maybe, there's a reason why Harold uses a 'purple' crayon.

If you really want to fight the ridiculous numbskulls who sanction these attacks on creative and fun programming for children, then buy any items associated with all the children's programs that they denouce and declare immoral or improper for children. Buy Arthur and Buster the Bunny books for your children or other people's children, decorate your homes with SpongeBob Squarepants memorabilia, hang a big fucking purple Tinky Winky flag on your front porch. Hang Rainbow and Barney windsocks in your front yard.

There's power in the purchasing of counter-culture products. Besides children's programming has made strides in the past few generations. It would be awful if they reverted back to that Shari Lewis & Lambchop style of talking down to children... that woman just plain freaked me out.

Other notable commentaries on the efforts of the neocon religious right to denigrate children's programming:

Funny drag bunny pictures;

Parody article in which Sponge Bob denies that he's a homosexual :

Some interesting news that the conservatives might what to think about:

South African Sesame Street features HIV positive puppet to promote tolerance towards those with the disease:

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Land of Hearts & Flowers

Each year, I make it a point to celebrate the futility and ridiculousness that is Valentine's Day. I guess I'm getting a head start here as it's not even Feburary yet. A number of exchanges I've had lately have reminded me of ths insignificance of VD and how it's more important to be true to oneself. I reserve a special time on these holidays for appreciating exactly how retarded the the day is because it's one of those holidays which promote guilt and obligation to be in a relationship. I appreciate this, then I do something healthy for myself.

Don't get me wrong, being in a relationship (a good one) can be a wonderful thing, but I don't believe that we need the added pressure of feeling guilty or odd because we are not in one. It's natural to pair up for most people, just let it happen when it will. Surround yourself with people who enjoy what you do and enjoy life at the same time. If something is meant to arise it will. Besides you usually are more attractive when you're naturally happy inside and out (contrary to what women of my mother's generation insisted - having a plastic smile on your face and an outlook of pasted on optimism will only lead to a nervous breakdown or reworking of your values further down the line). I'm convinced that there was a reason why alcohol and perscription drugs were real big sells among women during the Eisenhower years. When you live on a steady diet of denial you must supplement your intake with vitamin Z.

Women are consistently bombarded with messages that tell them, that they are nothing if they don't have a partner, husband or boyfriend. (Guys can get these same messages too about partnering with women, but not to the extent that women do). Even the a stallwart feminist may believe that you must act or be a certain way in order to attract a man.

I'm of the belief that there are plenty of good men and women out there. Or at least there's someone for everyone. It's better to establish a partnership with someone who has goals, values and loves that are similar to (though not necessarily exactly like your own). So it's better to wait and choose the right one rather than to settle for what lands on your plate the first or even second, third or fourth time. I envy those young people who know exactly what they want and what's good for them at so tender an age. So many young people assume that they must weather out a relationship that is not going well or is destructive in some way. I'm the first to admit that I did exactly this. How many people were encouraged by elders or their church to stay in a marriage where abuse is prevalent (sometimes including the abuse of the man). The church or elders' rationale was that if the couple had faith and weathered the storm the other person would eventually come around. While this may have been the case for some, it's not so for countless others. Human nature being what it is, selfish and destructive people are usually not easily open to change.

And saving people... that's the business of the person who needs to be saved. Ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night? There's a happy little valentine for you.

In the meantime enjoy a nice healthy Chicken Salad.

1 1/2 c cubed chicken breast
1/3 c. roasted cashews
1/4 c. golden raisins
1/3 c. chopped red onions
1/2 c. drained chopped pineapple bits
1/2 c. chopped marinated red peppers drained
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp yellow curry
2-3 tbsp fresh orange juice
3 tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and salt
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves washed.

In a small bowl combine the orange zest, yellow curry, fresh orange juice, and extra virgin olive oil to make a dressing. Toss the dressing with the remaining ingredients with the exception of the spinach. Serve the chicken salad on top of the spinach leaves or roll up with the leaves in a tasty whole wheat tortilla.

About routine... yes, we all crave it, and people like George Burns lived long lives because of it. However, I think that when we stick to the routine in the head... that's when the soul and the heart die a slow and extended death. Failure is a part of life... if that's the case I've really lived, but wasn't it Woody Allen who said, "If you're not failing every now and then... you're playing it safe."

The routine I prefer can be found weaving through rows of knits and purls and an occasional yarn over. I find peace while setting the beat of a rhythym played out on a string and needles. When I'm not pleased with what I've made, I pull on the string and start all over again. When I'm testing a pattern I usually do it on a skein of the cheapstuff that you can get in the craft section of any convenience store. Knitting has become such a compulsion with me, that if I were denied string or yarn, I'd probably tie shoe laces together and start knitting them.

When I'm knitting a sweater that has a rather boring pattern, like the one I'm currently working on now, I have to leave it alone for a while. I actually started on this sweater about four months ago. When I was about 3/5 of the way finished, I had to stop and work on another project: knitting christmas stockings for each member of our family. A few weeks ago I started a scarf which followed the following pattern. The result was a look of irregular lace. It went extremely well with a bobbled hat I made with the same color yarn.

Bramble Berry Scarf
Kraft yarn (18 stitches for every 4") - one large skein. For this project I used a sea green. A plum color would actually look splendid for this project. US size 8 needles

cast on 44 stitches.
Section I: (Grill row pattern - I use this pattern with scarves to increase the length of the scarf without using as much yarn. Repeating this pattern is great for creating scarves with eyelash type yarn)
Row 1: Purl the entire row
Row 2: Knit, Yarn Over (YO) 1 - repeat for the entire row. You should end up with 88 stitches total.
Row 3: Knit entire row, Droping each of the YO stitches. You should end up with 44 stitches total.
Row 4: Purl entire row

Section II: (Blackberry Bramble Pattern)
Row 1: Take the first stitch and increase (inc) 1 on the knit side, inc 1 purl side, inc 1 knit side. You should have three additional stitches off that first stitch. Purl the next 3 stitches. Repeat previous stiches until row is finished
Row 2: Purl entire row
Row 3: Repeat row 1
Row 4: Repeat row 2
Row 5: Repeat row 1
Row 6: Repeat row 2

Section II: (Garter Stitch)
Row 1: knit entire row
Row 2: same as row 1
Row 3: same as row 1
Row 4: you get the picture

Rest of pattern....
Repeat Section II,
Repeat Section I,
follow this pattern using the sections above until you have no yarn left.

Bobble Head Hat:
Please note I'm working on this pattern still. I actually knitted the hat on the fly. I guess I'm bad this way. There are times when I do not want to use an actual pattern when I knit. When I finally get photo imaging right, I'll try to post step by step photos in illustration. I finished this hat over various sittings through our entire viewing of Season 2 of The Wire.

Materials 1/2 skein of the same yarn used above.
Size eight 7" double pointed birch needles (I won't use anything other than wooden needles... plastic slides and feels uncomfortable on my fingers).

Follow the same pattern as the 1920's hat below. Increasing accordingly as I knit. When you've increased to the point that you have at least 6 stitches on each needle knit 3 stitches then follow the following pattern on this stitch:

Make small bobble:
On one stitch, K1, P1, K1, P1. You should have four stitches of the one stitch. Turn your knitting around and use the left hand needle and purl the 4 new stitches in the opposite direction. Turn your knitting back over and decrease (dec) 1 three times. knit two stitches then repeat the bobble.

Resurrect The Lost Art of Debate

I never took debate in highschool because it was never offered. Debate club was something the nerdy kids did, I had so many hormonal bursts running through my body that it would have been somewhat impossible for me to stand and focus on an argument for an extended period of time. But perhaps if someone had bothered to explain the importance of debating as a skill to me, I might have stood still long enough to listen.

It has occurred to me lately, that debate should be taught to all young people (and arguably the older ones too), and not just the smart-asses who want to get into law school. Learning the art of debate encourages us to use critical and logical skills to interpret any argument posited before us. More, it encourages to put forth our own opinions and challenge those that are out there. If practiced correctly, i.e. if we are at times challenged to defend an opposition's view point, we become more aware of all sides of an issue. Then we may be challenged to re-evaluate or reform our own. We become more sensitive to all situations.

Of course this behavior is unsettling to some who would rather have things spelled out for them. I believe that the best way to build a healthy and functioning society is to teach all people (or at least give them the tools and opportunity) to learn to think for themselves. I will add that this is true even if they disagree with your way of thinking.

Article commenting on the lost art of debate:

Description of the fallacies of debate (tool kit for understanding the art of debate):

88 million in taxpayers money for propaganda

I guess all you have to do to make it better is to say, "I'm sorry" or worse... not even admit your guilt and say, "I disapprove."

This is your money!

I would like to amend the previous list of neocon tactics:

#4. For politicians threatened by scandal - If something is obviously wrong and there's no denying it, assure the press or your audience, "That this will be looked into immediately." Torture and unspeakable behavior? I'll have my people look into that (Eventually, if you've played your political cards right, you've appointed someone who's incapable of questioning or outsmarting you, or at least your political dream team).

Add... if your office has been caught committing a transgression. Never admit your guilt personally. Denounce the act as reprehensible and stop doing whatever it was that got you into trouble in the first place.

Tactic to play against this move?
Point out the transgression. From the start repeatedly assert the perpetrators actual involvement in the crime/transgression. Draw a clear line between him and the bad. Repeat over and over again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The measure of your worth

Each year I am asked to write several reviews for my peers and supervisors. Each year, I try to do my best to write a fair, balanced and when appropriate positive review for each person. If I have some constructive criticism to add I do so with an example of how to apply the suggested improvement. I spend at least a two hours on each person's review, the harder reviews are usually those where constructive feedback is necessary. When the economy dropped we were all required to rely increasingly on stats and numbers to pad these reviews for evidence of our fiscal worth to the company. You must explain how much money the person saved in terms of man hours saved or how many dollars were saved because the person applied some frugal solution to work. Now, I have nothing against this approach to running a business, but to be frank when you use a pencil to the nubbins there's really no other use for it except as maybe a projectile object. Adding up the value of my co-workers in a purely quantitative fashion made it seem as if they were and and I was completely expendable.

When asked to do the reviews this year, I almost responded with the enthusiasm of a nihilist... what's the point? Or this is so 'gay,' you're actually encouraging us to be less productive or produce less solutions of quality by requiring us to measure our worth by how cheaply we can get by. Perhaps if I set up my review this year with the bent... I proved my worth and thus averted the possibility of having my job outsourced to one of our third world branches. Maybe this might be a better way of proving my worth.

I sat in a organizational meeting today... in which we were assured that the ranking system would no longer be held to the firm quota system (ie. 5% must go, 5% must be held on probation) that was used in the past. Of course, they could not do this consistently every year during a down turn, because at some point, they would start cutting their productive workforce. They're moving and a churning right now, and taking a new direction for the development of their products, so it would be in their best interests to keep the experienced and skilled folks around.

As for my own review... I got a lot of positive feedback; which felt good, but I was shocked to hear from my manager that I was most admired for the fact that I did not fold under the pressure of having to assimiliate such an immense amount of material and then build applications accordingly after having so little time to acclimatize to the environment. Little did she know that I was so close to loosing my head and running out the door in a panic. I also have this ability to take things like a donkey... work, I mean. I don't start freaking out until I know for sure that I cannot do something, then I usually figure out a way to break that down or restructure deadlines as necessary. I do think that I'm suffering from not being able to have enough time to produce solutions of quality.

For some people, it's enough to do what they have to do without questioning the value of your work. I know that the idea of being a post it note with a name which may or may not get posted above a line makes me feel devalued. On the otherhand the staunch supporter of meritocracy in me thinks that this is all part of the game, the survival of the fittest. If I don't want to swim with sharks I should build myself a boat and pull myself out of the water. I'm trying, I'm trying.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Mak... replied to you in "Give me Ugly People." For real?! You know I'm right!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

How to Not to Speak to a Neocon Nitwit

Right now as I write this I have that ending line from the The Usual Suspects in my head: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince us that he didn't exist..." To paraphrase this to apply to neo-conservatives: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince you that you have no argument " One of the right's major tactics is to decry the oppositions assertions against it as trifling suspicions or lacking of any basis in reality. The other not so subtle tactic is to yell at you repeatedly (sometimes using obscenities) so you appear overwhelmed and overpowered as well as being distracted. Despite the insistence that those who counter their point of view are irrational, they still base many of their assertions in support of Bush on statements taken on faith. Today, your average Bush Blogger insists that there are WMDs on day then then next assert that the president's hunches about attacking Iraq were right on the money without batting an eyelash.

There's some strange about how the Necon stance has 'evolved' within the fabric of American social culture and politics. We all want to compare them with the Nazi's but they are far more clever, sophisticated, flexible and extremely good at adapting the social climate. I'd say that this applies only to the Neocon elite. They know how to make themselves look presentable even progressive and they know that enough spin put gets your point across to the moderately difficult to convince and the mentally malleable who make up most of the overall voting population.

The problem with politics is that it's a game where only one side wins. There are no real compromises. So the Neocons have effectively taken the rules of the game and played them extremely well. Here are some of their more obvious tactics. The first step in understanding how to deal with your opponent is to study their behavior:

1. To take down your enemy one scale of armor at a time....Find your opponent's strongest point and chip it away, with repeated and constant efforts. Kerry went to war and was decorated, Bush did not. Yet they effectively released enough bad press and advertising that pushed the right buttons. Have to admit that this was a brilliantly executed strategy.
2. To be persuasive and get your point across! Say the same thing over and over again. Again, if you tell a lie enough times people will start to believe it. wmd, wmd, wmd, wmd.... WMD!
3. Maintaining your already established popularity base: Release a lot of gibberish, but repeat catch phrases over and over again within the text of your speech (Check out written commentary on Limbaugh's site. If you read him logically, the man makes absolutely no sense, and it's obvious that he needs a basic lesson in English Composition- that or the perscription drugs have effectively reduced his ability to put together a decent argument).
4. For politicians threatened by scandal - If something is obviously wrong and there's no denying it, assure the press or your audience, "That this will be looked into immediately." Torture and unspeakable behavior? I'll have my people look into that (Eventually, if you've played your political cards right, you've appointed someone who's incapable of questioning or outsmarting you, or at least your political dream team).
5. Take everything you disagree with and associate it with all that is unholy- Here's an entertaining article on Sean Hannity's book that illustrates this point.

Please note that these tactics can be applied universally, regardless of your political coloring. However, one thing the Reps don't seem to do as well as the Dem which is evade the problem or issues when they come up until you cannot deny it any longer (Monica Lewinsky). They are continually trying to deal with things proactively with their spin.

Monday, January 17, 2005

When the pendulum swings back, make sure it doesn't smack you up the side of your head

Something just occurred to me. Maybe it's denial cranking it's gears or more accurately maybe I've come to the point where I'm starting to rationalize the nasty things that are happening in this world including the war, the rise of religious intolerance, and the denial and ignorance that persists today. I still believe that if we do not evaluate our situation or that actions that lie before us without reference to the past we're not simply doomed to make the same mistakes, we're failing to take control of our future.

We can't assume that progress is always linear. I decided that human behavior and the patterns that come from this behavior is cyclical and change happens in cycles. Let's look at the last fifty or so years in American history. The fifties was the era of economic prosperity. No one really questioned the status quo as they wanted to embody it. By the beginning of the 60s Americans were still experiencing that lack of cultural upheaval as people were still obsessed with consuming. Suddenly, Black people started realizing that this American Dream wasn't as available to them as it was to their white counterparts. They began to speak out and demand change. White Americans who felt compelled to join in the cause for Civil Rights became more involved in the movement. Naturally, the folks who felt threatened by this challenge to the old order put up some resistance in the form of violence. Your Byron De la Beckwiths, Edgar Ray Killens and similar "little klan dragons" are good examples of people who responded to the call for change with force. The Civil Rights movement gave rise to other similar movements amongst other minorities; Latinos, Gays & Women. The 60s and 70s were the nebulaic birth place of ideas and concepts regarding rights that would solidify and become commonplace values by the 80s and 90s. The 90s brought back a wave of economic prosperity. People were still wound up from the economic obsessions of the 80s. You had a sprinkling of New Ageism here and there to combat the rampant materialism, but still all and all the 90s were about consumption (of goods... not the respiratory disease). Not that being a consumer is a bad thing. I'm all for shopping and having nice things in your life, I spend a great deal of cash on things that bring me pleasure such as kitchen gadgets and good food, but I simply don't think that 'having things' or possession is the end all be all to our happiness and well-being.

Yet I digress...

So, here we are... in the midst of an era of change, which in the eyes of some is not change towards progress, and in yet another war. This is a war which even the President cannot give a definitive answer for when it should end. Though the answer is simple, it will end when the people call for it to end. That is if we still have a functioning voice at the end of his term.

Someone needs to drop this sports locker rooms around the country

Hockey and soccer teams exempted because they're the two sports I actually enjoy watching.... that is unless they want to. I had to look up several sources because I really didn't think that this was possible.

Better yet maybe they should bomb both sides of a conflict... then there wouldn't be any fighting going on. Is this what my taxpayers dollars is going to right now? Even though the military is rejecting such ideas. I don't put it past them to try. It's just the very idea that such assinine things are being thought of as solutions.

"Another idea was creating 'severe and lasting halitosis' to sniff out fighters blending with civilians."

Someone explain how this works.... I can just see security during the Iraqi elections: "Excuse me, sir... I need to kiss you before you enter the polling area... just a precaution."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Reactionary PC - WTF?

I don't feel that people should forget the atrocities of the past, and I think that history can affect the meaning of places and things. Though generally, I was under the impression that the people on the other side of the Atlantic are far more progressive or sophisticated about dealing with symbols and their inferrence, then I see something like this reported, ironically by an Indian news source:

So, they want to ban the Swastika? The Swastika as the article points out ironically is a respected symbol of well-being in the East. It's a symbol found in other ancient cultures, as well. However, its now infamous association with Nazi Germany sends shudders through the public whenever it appears, such as on the costume armband of a particular English Prince. It's amazing how a negative historical connotation can taint a once benign symbol. In my early twenties I remember studying in a building at Chicago that had a swastika pattern on the floor at the bottom landing of the basement. I can't remember which building it was. I was horrified to see the Swastikas bold and unhidden as a checkerboard motif at my feet. My horror of swastikas at the time stemmed from a slightly traumatizing incident I'd had as a child** Feeling disturbed by having to confront the symbol which has become the axiom of 20th century evil, I asked someone why the school would decorate the floor this way. My friend prompty pointed out that the arms of the swastikas on the basement floor were facing in the opposite direction of the Third Reich symbols. He also noted that the building was errected before WWII or even then emergence of Nazi Germany and it's use of the Sanksrit image which originally signifies luck or well being. I found from the article referenced below that the Nationalist Socialist Movement in Germany and their anti-semitic stance did have it's origins prior to WWI; however, this isn't to say that the architects and designers of the Chicago building were aware of or associated with that.

The swastika appears also in ancient Scandinavian, Egyptian, Native American & Irish cultures. Thinking in both a geometric and aesthetic sense this makes perfect sense that it would become a universal symbol (not necessarily convening the same meaning in all cultures). It was easy to create, and duplicate as decoration in art and artifacts such as weavings, baskets, rugs. It has the appeal of a dynamic figure, a wheel or a pinwheel capable of constant motion. I believe that banning the swastika as a symbol of evil would only confirm that most humans are unsophisticated village idiots who cannot come to their own conclusions about the impact of historical events as well as determine their own values and morals. We're thinking for people when we determine the meaning of symbols no matter what their context.

Now, I wonder if anyone seriously sat down with Prince Harry and asked, "What were you thinking when you wore the damn thing, boy?" Was he trying to pull of an Eric Cartman-like stunt, or did he just think it was cool? Or was it simply a lapse in judgement?
- - - - - - - - -
**When I was 4 or 5, I attended a Sunday School class held in a middle school classroom. The desk I was sitting at had a few swastikas carved in it. I was just mastering writing and copying down letters and other symbols. Naturally, it was an easy pattern to copy and it reminded me of flying birds. Later I drew a picture, not unlike a picture a little girl would draw of a house, the sun and trees. I placed the spirally looking birds throughout the sky. My mother found me drawing the picture and declared that I shouldn't draw swastikas because they were very bad. The discussion that ensued most-likely prompted the horrific fascination I had with the Nazi's throughout my childhood and adolescence.

"Why are they bad, Mommy?"
"They're the symbol of a very evil man named Hitler."
"Who's Hitler, Mommy?"
"He killed a lot of people."
"How many?"
"Why did he do that?"
"Because he was evil."

In hindsight, this moment had brought about an important milestone in my moral consciousness. I had a very difficult time comprehending why this happened - millions of people being killed. Even at that age I knew about how big a 'million was' thanks to the counting panels and blocks of beads I played with at Montessori. What puzzled and poked at my mind was 'why' someone would do this? Now, one could draw nationalistic and socio-economic theories and point out the movitivation behind the Nazi's "Final Solution." We can postulate that people were going through a sort of sociopathic phase during that place and time, Demogogues like Hitler tend to have sociopathic or meglomanic tendencies. I remember watching an interview of Pol Pot as an old man, and he clearly was not able to come to terms with the Killing Fields as the rest of the world saw it. Still, in his mind he was a man whose goals were in the best interest of his country, but the question as a moral question still sparks shock and awe in most everyone. "How could anyone allow that to happen?"

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Have you ever seen these "Work from Home" signs

...posted at an intersection. I always wondered why you see so many of these signs in the suburbs. I guess this is a glimpse of our future if the economy continues to decline.

Someone complained to me the other day that the American people no longer have that rebellious spirit that they once exhibited so boldly in the sixties and seventies. "Yeah? Do you know what a blog is? " I asked. Blogs enable disgruntled employees to rag about their jobs and employers. Blogs on both sides of the political spectrum (not excluding mine) lament the idiocy and fallibility of the opposing side.* Blogs both allow us to celebrate our individualism, while enabling us to feel that we belong to a community of other like ourselves (that's what the favorite links thing is all about). Blogs allow many of us to share what we feel is unique about ourselves: a brief bio, books we're reading or what we like to watch on television.

Many bloggers with the exception of the the family or vacation scrapbook type bloggers who use the medium to record events in their lives or places they've seen without providing any opinion or commentary are here because they want to record how they see the world. I ask myself why I'm writing here, and I find that I'm keeping a record of the things that bother me in the world. Not an uncommon theme among blogs. Lately, I've been compulsively saving news articles in folders and then burning them periodically to disks. I wonder if I've suddenly become one of those 'oldish' people who obsessively gather newsclippings of serial killers or other similar modern-day atrocities. Part of me, I realize, has become a collector of these newstories, as I want a record of what's happening in the world, simply because some of it is just unbelievable. I'm not old enough to remember WWII, but I see some of the same mistakes happening again today. Discriminatory and bigoted remarks in some circles have become sanctioned and are acceptible. Lies and untruths become perforated by an almost populist fervor fueled by the outrage of a class of people who feel threatened by change. These lies are artfully spun and repeated by the political elite. Government and politics have subverted real issues to scapegoats (gay marriage, public prayer).

At the very least this world of blog maybe helping a few people learn to read, write and think critically. English teachers like to tell their students that the only way to become a good (functional) writer is to read as many (good) works and types of literature and publications as possible and to write, write, re-write and write as much as you can. (Not to mention get criticism and help when you can). Hopefully, some people out there are reading and connecting to other people who enjoy writing and they are learning not only by reading the work of other people (note, I'm not claiming that everyone's an accomplished writer. I certainly could use more guidance and discipline), they are also engaging in thoughtful dialogue about subjects that they care about. All of this helps us define who we are and builds a stronger sense of self.

*Though at some point I was more of a centrist, and I still am. I believe that there are many moderates whom both the conservative and liberal sides accuse of being the 'other' because they don't agree with them on ALL counts.

My Version of Chicken Paprikash
- 1 3-4 lb chicken cut into pieces, chicken fat and extra skin reserved
- Freshly ground pepper
- Sea salt
- 3-4 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 large onion sliced
- 1 large red or green pepper halved, cored, and sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp finest quality hot Hungarian paprika
- 1 large can of fire roasted stewed plum tomatoes, juice reserved
- 1/4 c. chicken broth
- 1 tsp sea salt.

Wash and pat the pieces of chicken dry. In a large skillet on high heat, heat up the chicken fat and excess skin. Remove the skin before it scorches. Add the grapeseed oil (I use this because it has a high smoke point and it's less likely to burn at high temperatures). When grease is sufficiently hot, add the chicken pieces a few at a time. Brown until golden crisp on all sides. Allow to drain on a paper towel. In a very large, thick-bottomed pot pour 2 tablspoons of the chicken fat and oil. Fry the onions until they are almost translucent but still firm. Add the peppers and cook for a few minutes more. Remove the cooked vegetables then add the chicken to the pot large pieces first. If you have to layer the chicken pieces, sprinkle one tablespoon of the paprika on the chicken then put half of the sauteed vegetables on top of the first layer. Then add the rest of the chicken, sprinkle with paprika and cover this layer with the remaining vegetables. Add the tomatoes and pour the chicken broth and tomato juice over all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with cabbage & noodles.

I ran across an article the other day that referrenced John Mearsheimer's stance on the Iraq war. I took a military history class on Modern European warfare during my undergraduate studies at Chicago. I think I read more books that quarter than I ever had in such a short length of time, and I'd say that 75% of them were for Mearsheimer's course, but I enjoyed every page and didn't miss a lecture. His common sense realism on the working of global military and politics to tactical positioning of the infantry just rung true to me. This interview outlines the basic tenets of his theory on global politics.

So it does not surprise me that Mearsheimer held such a oppositional view to the war in Iraq.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Science and History of the Really Rotten (Food) - Part II The Joys of Fermentation

There's nothing like letting something rot or ferment in order to get some decent flavor or a tasty treat. Cheese and yogurt provide examples of how foodstuffs are created from the fermentation of dairy products. I remember discovering how to make coffee yogurt for the first time after I'd discover a half empty coffee cup that was left on a windowsill for a week. Though I often wonder how cheese was discovered. Maybe Herkle the Shepherd forgot that sack of sheepsmilk in a leather bag somewhere, and later out of desperation decided to try some of the end-product. Smells of sheep and nasty feet...hmmmm. Many cheeses, including the everyday varieties of cheddar and Swiss contain rennet which is an enzyme extracted from calves stomachs that act as coagulating agent. I'll hypothesize that rennet was discovered when the curdled milk was aged in a calf stomach.

I have made homemade paneer or Indian cheese. It's similar to cottage cheese or farmers cheese, in the sense that it's curdled milk that is not fermented. Once the cafeteria at work (hoping to cater to the tastes of the South Asian Employees) presented cabbage stuffed with paneer... or steamed cabbage leaves wrapped around cottage cheese. I asked for my money back. When you're making paneer, your actually souring the milk with lemon juice and therby speeding up the curdling process.

1 Gallon of Whole Milk
Juice from several lemons

Turn your burner on low heat. Heat the milk slowly for about 45 minutes. Add the lemon juice. The milk solids will float to the surface of the liquid. Drain the liquid completely from the solids. Place the solids in the center of a cheesecloth and bring up the corners and twist to form a bag. You will have to insure that most of the liquid has been pressed from the cheese. Place the cheese in the cloth on a cutting board and press down with a flat heavy object. I used a cast iron pan covered with plastic, and pressed down as hard as I could. You could also leave a book on top of the pan, and leave the paneer to drain. Roll the cheese into balls and serve as part of an Indian Dish such as Saag Paneer (Spiced Spinach with Cheese). I've read that you should use the cheese the day it's made to insure freshness.

Recently, J. picked up my Sourdough cookbook and suggested that we breakout some starter. The secret to healthy starter of course is keeping it in a warm dry place and never using a metal spoon to stir it. Sourdough became a popular way of leavening breads in Gold Rush Alaska as it was very difficult to transport and store yeast because of the cold temperatures and harsh shipping conditions. As a result, Alaskan bakers resorted to creating their own leavening from starter made with think boiled potato water and a spoon or two of flour, maybe a pinch of sugar. This starter would be left in a warm dry place and allowed to ferment over several days. It's been ages since I've made sourdough pancakes, and it takes a few days before the sourdough is ready to use, but it's well worth the wait. I have to dig up for the recipe, but I will post as soon as I've found it and used it.

Spin, spin, spin... Spin and maybe all the evil truths will dissipate

Perhaps this is the Bush Administration's latest attempt to make their leader look more humane and dignified... maybe all of this has been set to counter the latest polls which show that Bush's approval rating is the lowest of any US President who is about to be inagurated. Go Figure...

Well, as Joseph Goebbels used to say, "Tell a lie enough times and it becomes the truth." Sadly, when he finally came head to head with the truth, he took his own life and that of his family. I think Goebbels also said something to the tune of if you're going to lie make it a big lie. Bush (and the Neocons) ambitions seem to be pegging them with a very Reich-like tendencies toward propaganda.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tsunami Aid

I will say one good thing about some companies... they are matching employee donations. Though of course it's a tax write-off. Mak is absolutely right about the marketing thing (comment from "Give Me Ugly People" entry). Goodwill does a lot to raise one's PR on a positive level. Screw Ayn Rand and all her pegheaded followers. I do agree that charity does more harm when it's given unjustly or over-extended or manipulated, but sometimes fate and necessity call for us to do more than just watch and feel sorry. Call me a softy-sentimental pinko, but overall I believe that the great response by a great many people across the world to the tragedy in Southeast Asia confirms that humanity's heart is in the right place.

A level headed judge drives his point and the logical/obvious.

Though what alarms me is the neocon strategists are craftily trying to errode the definition of "separation between church and state," or at least define it on their own terms. Evidence the pray for the vote movement.

It does occur to me that people of such ilk always or usually overstep their bounds... why? Righteousness is usually the root of all transgressions.

Monday, January 10, 2005

"In a recent Gallup poll ..."

" was found that half the adults in America believe that the earth is 6,000 years old. The reason they give for believing this is 'the Bible says so.' "

I was just trying to do some research on the origins and history of "Scientific Method," and I received a battery of results for sites all contesting the feasability of Evolution. These people be insecure in their views to the extent that they must busy themselves trying to convince both themselves (and others) that they are correct, but such is the nature of the missionary... Missionaries are truly the most insecure people in the world. I've personally always routed for the cannibals.

It really gives me the chills... maybe they'll start attacking individuals within the scientific community. It has become a 'sin' to call anyone ignorant who renouces the benefits and teachings of science. While you cannot completely fault someone for being ignorant because they've never been exposed to education, you cannot excuse someone from forcing their ignorance on others publically. Also I won't even get into an argument with Fundamentalists in which I am to assume that renouncing proven scientific studies in genetic theory or palentology is enforceable in the schools because of their faith... or tacking on the insistence that the theory of Intelligent Design to science books. My question to them: If this too (Intelligent Design)is only a theory, could we not posit that the existence of God is a theory as well? I've always believed that this is something that progressive groups need to nail when they attempt to defend themselves. I believe in religious tolerance, however, I don't feel that the schools should be sacrificed as a battleground for these dogma pushers. If they don't want their children to receive an education which includes science, let them homeschool their children.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Science and History of the Really Rotten (Food)- Part I Salt & Spices

It's just plain spooky that someone can deny that they ever meant something written in a memo by saying that it was simply just a draft. What's even more eerie is that the American public or at least half of it will stand behind that assertion. "Oh, all that stuff about torturing people... We weren't really serious about that, we would have erased that all.. never mind, my bad."

People can argue all the want about Gonzales'justification, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that we're living in a world that promotes outright denial of truth (especially if it's ugly or in opposition to their values).

I can't help but feel and think that there's something terribly wrong and rotten with our society today. Did the conservatives feel this way when Clinton was in office, most likely; however, there's always been something slightly shady about the denial one must engage in to be truly conservative or support the conservative platform as it stands today. They are a group that supports the notion that the end justifies the means. Therefore, torture is possible. They are a body which feels that it's acceptible to lie or denounce what they're said publically simply to be granted the freedom and power to have their will be done. I'm not saying that the other side of the spectrum doesn't have it's faults, obviously a loaf of bread can be moldy on both ends.

Subsequently, I've been thinking a lot of the science of the rotten, rotten food that is. Let's think about it refrigeration is an invention of the last century. Now with the help of science and industry, can keep foods even longer so that they will eventually mold and rot slowly in our refrigerator crisper. J often has to remind me to shave the nasty end of the cheese off other than throwing the entire thing away. Why are we so obsessed with having perfect looking and smelling food? When our ancestors discovered the joy and good taste off eatables that have gone slighly bad. Today have this obsession with perfection when it comes to the foodstuffs we choose to put on our tables. This may explain why grocers or meat distributors (butchers are few and far between these days. I have to travel 30 minutes with no traffic to get to a real butcher around here) color meats with red dyes to make them appear fresher and therefore more appealing or why we won't eat apples that are not waxed. But food is organic matter, and organic matter deteriorates with time. This is rot, which is as inevitable as the day. But people still had to eat, and they made do with the foods they had even without a "cold box." Two methods of dealing with rot were flavoring and preservation.

In certain cases, herbs and spices are used to mask the smells and tastes of lightly rotten foods. Traditional mincemeat is a good example of this. In fact, during the Middle Ages spices were often used to disguise the taste of meats that had gone bad. Ginger, saffron, cinnamon, juniper berries were common spices in Medieval cooking after the Crusades. If people were not masking the taste of rotten food, they were finding ways to preserve it. Salting, Pickling and Smoking were common ways of ensure that food could be eaten weeks or even months after it was harvested or caught. The Romans discovered that salting and fermenting of fish heads and other fishy scrap products (this mixture of salt and seafood was called liquimen) produced a flavorful by-product in a sauce called garum. Modern-day fish sauce from your Asian grocery store is similar to the delicious sauce used as a common flavoring in Ancient Roman cuisine. On a search I found a modified recipe for Roman sausage which calls for the salty sauce. I think when they're referring to pine kernels they must mean pine nuts. This is one I will actually try, without the casings.

Other famous rotten foods:


Articles on rotten and fermented foods:

Monday, January 03, 2005

Bragsheet 2005 - Rev. 0

I am writing that little review sheet for myself. I always feel depressed when I have to do this. Not because I haven't accomplished anything significant, but because I simply don't feel that I've accomplished anything for myself. Each day I go to work, I feel alienated from what I have to complete. The worth of almost everything I do is based on how much money I saved or how much time was spared. Often I cannot complete projects and work with the quality that I would like to apply. I simply don't have enough time. Then there's that notion that I am not worth much to this company because I amd expendable, and in their view (not mine), I am replacable by someone on the other side of the world.

I don't really feel like I'm contributing anything worthwhile. I watch the corporation make one bad decision after another. I watch the direction of many groups here go to folks who play it safe.

Here's my cathartic response to having to write out my bragsheet:

Things I did well:
1.)I did not loose my cool on numerous occassions when I was asked to do something which seemed inherently ill-advised. I questioned where necessary. I made suggestions.

2.)I discovered that Dilbert is indeed the novacaine lollipop for the disgruntled cubicle masses. Don't even bother crunching to the center, because you won't find anything there.

3.)I started a 'subversive'* discussion group.

4.)I came to the realization that the 7 Habits are for the most part a way to indoctrinate new employees into the corporate culture. I believe that pushing these Habits excessively leads to denial of the self in relation to reality.

5.)I know that I am NOT a robot.

Things I would like to work on:
1.) Asking for help when I need it.

2.)Being able to step back and look at the path I've chosen critically before I decide to plug on.
3.) Determining what I'm good at and what I enjoy and how to parlay that into a trade or business for myself... or at least a position in an organization in a 'galaxy, far far away' from this god forsaken corporation and Getting the F--- out of here.

*If thinking critically can be considered subversive.

Addendum 1/7
What's wrong with me? Why do I hate doing this so much? Why can't I just get through with it. I've been considering walking down the street to buy a pint of Makers Mark to get me through writing about this. Being under the influence of a controlled substance often renders prostitution of oneself easier. If only I could extend my ability to pretend a little longer. I wonder everyday if my true lack of enthusiasm for what I do will be discovered. I feel like such a lying schmuck. Laughing in a meeting at a joke, usually based on some canned corporate version of humor.


As I promised...

This recipe is from the book Candy by Laura Dover Doran. Our changes are noted with the *. Note, you will want to have a bunch of friends and family to give this treat away to. This recipe renders a 'Mother Lode' of and very, very bad for you. Share the fat.

4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can condensed milk*
1 c. whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz semisweet belgian chocolate* chopped
12 oz sweet German chocolate chopped
15 oz marshmallow creme
2 c. chopped pecans
60 pecan halves toasted

Butter a large glass baking dish and set aside. Combine the condensed milk, vanilla, marshmallow cream, chocolates and chopped pecans in a large heat-safe bowl. Set aside. Combine the sugar, butter, salt and whole milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 6 and a half minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the hot mixture over the ingredients in the mixing bowl and beat until all the chocolate is melted and combined with all other ingredients. Pour the fudge into the baking pan and spread with a rubber spatula. Place pecan halves on fudge in even lines. Allow the fudge to sit for two to three hours, then cut between pecans to form. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.

Give me Ugly People

You know it would be nice to tune into primetime boob and see a show that has normal looking people. Maybe even ugly people. Everyone looks so perfectly altered with surgery. It seems like a normal nose hasn't graced the screen between the hours of 8-10 weekdays and weekends since 1995. A good writers, a compelling script... I just can't get into something that has a cast that should be immortalized in molds as plastic posable dolls. I want broad noses, bags under eyes, real eye-color, freckles... people who can fit into a size 8 or 10. I want interesting... maybe even ugly. Right now as it stands, I guess I need to resort to watching Rockford Files.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

5 Things I'd like to see or hear a lot less from in 2005

1. Suggestions that "We should disagree and commit." - My reply: "I Disagree, you should be committed."
2. Commercials with dancing CGI animals
3. Bobble heads
4. Bill O'Reilly
5. Christian Rock

White Omelette for Breakfast.

There was a bowl of eggwhites left over from a batch of custard gelato in the refrigerator. I was hungry for a seafood omelette this morning so made a quick one with chopped smoked salmon, thinly sliced red onion and cheddar cheese. I speckled the omelette with a few tiny capers. It made such a nice presentation with the striking colors purple, orange and olive against a background of white. Went nicely with a buttered sourdough English muffin.

Jamaican Patties

On my visits to my family in Toronto, my Aunt would always have Patties fresh from the bakery on hand. The bakery they frequented however also offered patties with a punch (probably habenero or scotch bonnet peppers). I've adapted a common recipe by using an array of spices and dried chipotle peppers. The result was a milder but still tasty filling. Also, I substituted bread crumbs with Matzoh meal. There was extra meat filling which we used the next day for a cottage pie.

1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
2 1/4 c. flour
1 c. cold shortening cut into small pieces
1 egg beaten
2 tsp. vinegar
4-6 tbsp ice water

1 lb. free range/hormone free ground beef
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 shallots chopped fine
5 cloves of garlic (yes, you heard me) minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 large dried chipotle peppers reconsituted in 2/3 c. boiling hot water
1 1/2 c. matzoh meal
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. chopped baby carrots (not the cute little uniformly shaped ones, the REAL baby carrots)

1/2 c. milk

Make the pastry first:
Mix all the dry ingredients and pour into a food processor or large bowl. Cut in the shortening until a coarse meal forms. Combine the beaten egg with vinegar. Sprinkle evenly over the meal then combine together again. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap then refrigrerate until ready to use.

Make the filling:
Drain the peppers, reserving the liquid. Chop finely. Mix the broth granules into pepper water. Mix the salt and spices in a small bowl. Heat the grapeseed oil on medium heat. Saute the garlic until translucent. Add the onion and shallot and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef and saute. Add the spice mixture and peppers. Cook the meat until done. Add the matzoh meal and combine well. Pour in the reserved pepper and broth water. Simmer the meat mixture for at least 40 minutes. Add additional water if the mixture becomes too dry. Note, you don't want the filling to become soupy.
Add carrots and frozen peas and set aside.

Assembling the pies:
Rolling out the pastry. Use a large biscuit cutter for smaller pastries or a small bowl 5 inches in diameter for larger ones. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness, and cut out circles. You may want to roll out the circles lightly. On each circle place spoonfuls of the meat filling on one half. The amount will depend on how large your circles are. Brush the edges with milk, fold and crimp the dough edges with a fork. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Poke with a few fork holes. Brush with milk and bake in a 350 F degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Cook before serving.