Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sled Heads

We just got back from the sledding hill on top of the dike in Fargo. Macy invited her neighborhood friend Macy (yep, there are two Macys in the neighborhood) and a good time was had by all.

It was a great day for sledding here; it was sunny and 44(!). Very windy though, like "rip the sled out of your hands" windy. But at 44 degrees the wind doesn't feel so bad.

No pictures of me going down the hill, as the camera was in my pocket. Had I been thinking I would have gotten an action shot as I hurtled down the dike. Maybe next time.

Music Star

Macy wants everyone to know that she won the Star of the Week award in her music class.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Baconator? That's For Wusses.

I am so going to make this someday. The trick is to time it shortly before I die so the impact to my health is minimized.

Tax Fun

Earlier this year I moved from Minnesota to North Dakota. This means that for part of the year I was paying state taxes to one state and to another from about the middle of March on. I downloaded my W-2 today (thanks, no more waiting till April!) and compared the amounts witheld for taxes in each state.

Since I'm not supposed to discuss my salary I won't be using any dollar amounts. Luckily, God created percentages, so I can both laugh/shake my head in disgust at Minnesota and cover my butt at the same time.

Minnesota took 6.2% of my eligible take-home pay. North Dakota took 3.0%. Minnesota has a budget deficit approaching $4 billion dollars. North Dakota has a $2 billion surplus.

Today's lesson: higher taxes mean more money for your government to squander.

Some may argue that I'm not taking into account what I get back (if anything) as a refund. To that I say, shut up. No, actually that's true. But from experience (again, not using dollar amounts) I know about how much I usually got back from the state. It wasn't a lot. And even if it was, Minnesota still had that income to do with as it pleased until April of the following year, every year, before having to give it back. Kinda like an interest-free loan. And still, $4 billion in the hole.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Little Willie Willie Won't Go Home

Just when I thought alcohol couldn't get any cooler, out comes a new study showing that drinking increases performance in the bedroom (or the backseat/broom closet/elevator/ferris wheel).

Until now it has been widely believed that alcohol consumption can cause erectile dysfunction, or 'brewer's droop'. But a study of 1,580 Australian men found drinkers reporting up to 30 per cent fewer problems than teetotallers.

Even binge drinkers had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who never drank.

So-called low-risk drinkers, those who have four drinks a day for up to five days a week, fared best.

Two things:
  • ''Brewer's Droop" would be a great name for a band.
  • In Australia, drinking four drinks a day five days a week is considered "low-risk".

(thanks to: Instapundit)

Mixing It Up

Macy battles for the ball in her indoor soccer premiere, a 6-3 victory.

You can see more pictures from Macy's first game here. I apologize for the poor quality; I was on a balcony overlooking the field. That, coupled with poor lighting made for bad pictures.

Macy had a good time. She played a lot of goalie and shut the other team out. By my unofficial count she had five saves. She was the only goalie that had any inking of how to play the position (no doubt due to my superior coaching skills from the fall league).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Follow Me

I added a gadget to the right side of this blog that allows you to become a "follower" of the blog. Basically, by clicking the Follow This Blog link you'll receive notification when new items are posted.

Plus, every time someone clicks the link I get $50. And a kitten goes to heaven. And you'll save a starving child in a third-world nation. Oh, and you'll help eradicate herpes. Can you live with the consequences of not clicking?

We Have A Core Breach (Updated)

Apparently the furnace in the house I share with my girlfriend is on its deathbed. It started making shuddering sounds about a week ago. They got progressively louder, so my hope that there was just a squirrel stuck in there was proven unfounded. Someone came over to look at it today and said it should be taken out back and shot to put it out of its misery.

Since the furnace is over 40 years old (which is about 1065 in human years) this isn't all that surprising. Needless to say it needs to be replaced before it explodes, covering the neighborhood in shards from the Kennedy era.

Gosh, I can't wait to see how much this is going to cost!

Update: The new warp core is coming on Friday. The cost was actually almost half of what I expected, so that's good. Plus there will be tax implications next year (the good kind) as well as the savings that come with using 21st Century technology.

(originally posted 1/27/09 at 1:43 pm)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For No Reason Whatsoever...

I hate the word "gewgaw".

Only Sharpies Bleed

Construction workers who built a hotel in Kansas City are apparently unaware of the bleed-through properties of magic markers. At least that's what the lawsuit against the construction company by the hotel management company is claiming.

It seems that after the hotel opened, the drawings of male and female genitalia scrawled by bored workers began to bleed through the walls, causing palpitations among the hotel's guests.

(Link found via Overlawyered)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Seven Reasons To Live In North Dakota

1. Vast open prairies provide ample parking for visiting alien spacecraft.
2. Look on a map; we're almost a perfect rectangle, and rectangles are cool.
3. Persistent high winds let you know you're still alive.
4. People here aren't all snooty, not like those elitists in South Dakota.
5. The Empire will never think to look for us here.
6. The kaleidoscope ice glare effect as your car spins out of control is amazing.
7. At least it's not Canada.

Ummm... You're A Pompous Jerk

When did starting a post with "ummm, no" become de rigeur? I'd like to know who started this trend. You've read their posts on blogs around the intertubes:

Ummm, no. Everyone knows that Heroes is the best show on television.

Ummm, no. I think you should learn something about economics then get back to me.

Ummm, no. I could crush this entire city under the weight of my enormous member.

It strikes the perfect balance between condescension and jackassery that makes comment sections such a joy to visit. If you catch yourself doing this, for the love of Bender stop!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why I Don't Support the U.N.

When I was in high school I (geek alert!) participated in the Model United Nations. It was one of the few things I really enjoyed about high school. My fellow "countrymen" (we represented Bulgaria) dressed up like extras from Resevoir Dogs and took the whole thing rather seriously. It was a lot of fun playing world politics.

The drawback of Model U.N. is that it utterly fails to represent reality. For example, in Model U.N. there was no way that Iran would be made head of the UN Development Program. It wouldn't have passed the laugh test. There would not have been a Human Rights Commission that included Sudan, China, or Pakistan.

There was also no laser-like focus on Israel in our pretend U.N. In reality, a terrorist organization can lob rockets into Israel for years while the U.N. takes no notice. Once Israel finally retaliates though, you can expect a flood of resolutions and condemnations, none of which take note of what precipitated the action.

Model U.N. was an idealized image of what in reality is essentially a giant bureaucracy for allowing rogue states to wield far more power than is dictated by common sense.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Coach 'Em Up

Blogging will be light today as I am at a Moorhead Youth Soccer Association coaches' clinic all day. But expect pictures next week of Macy's first indoor soccer game. She is playing in a winter indoor co-ed league. That should be interesting. I'm not coaching (I start again in the spring) so I get to take pictures.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Canadian Airlines To Travelers: How Wide Is Your Butt?

There has apparently been a row in Canada for a while now over regulations that Canadian airlines must provide a free (second) seat for obese passengers or those who require an aide for traveling.

The airlines have come up with a plan to determine who really needs the extra seat. It involves a doctor's note and (in the case of the obese) measuring the width of the person's rear end.

This is asinine in itself of course, but his passage really stood out to me:

[Dr. Briane] Sharfstein explained that while Canada’s universal health insurance system provides free health care services to all residents, the reality is that patients often wait months to see their doctor.

Dr. Sharfstein is a spokesperson for the Canadian Medical Association. If that's what "free" healthcare brings with it (and it is), count me out.

An Eye-Scraping Blast From The Past

My friend Tim forwarded me an email with a 1970's-era JC Penney catalog. This was on the first page:

Members of my immediate family will instantly recognize these beautiful examples of American craftsmanship as the table and chairs that occupied the basement of my parents' house until about 1989 or so. Ah, the memories. How they burn.

The good news is, I have solved the mystery of where Fargo meteorologist and local news personality John Wheeler shops for suits:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No One Is Immune (Updated)

We got word this morning that Microsoft is cutting 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months. You can read the details here. There had been rumors here in Fargo about layoffs for a couple months now, but nothing concrete was ever heard. We still haven't heard anything about layoffs specific to Fargo, so that's a good sign. I'll update this post later when I get more details.

Update: It appears Fargo did lose some jobs today. I got a couple of good-bye hugs from people I've known since I was an intern. I don't really know what to say in a situation like this. "I'm sorry", "I'll miss you", "Good luck and keep in touch" all seem inadequate. I would be dishonest if I didn't mention also having a fleeting encounter with a feeling of "better you than me".

Judge me if you must; I take solace in the fact that it wasn't my first or last thought and it didn't last long.

Here's hoping they all look back on today as just the prelude to bigger and better things.

(originally posted at 8:50 am)

President Obama Orders Closure of Guantanamo

Today President Obama signed an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year. There was a lot of speculation around this over the past few days. Initially his aides said he would close it on his first day of office. A day later another report stated (correctly, as it turns out) that he would order it closed within a year. Still later it was reported that it would be closed within a few months.

I question the time frame given the stated reason for closing the prison:

A draft copy of the order, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, notes that "in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

In other words, we need to close the prison because having it open hampers national security and foreign policy interests and causes the international community to question our country's committment to justice.

If this is true, why not order it to begin closing immediately? I realize that there are logistical reasons behind not slapping a padlock on the front doors tomorrow morning, but why hamper our national security and shun justice for a whole year?

Personally, I think that the reasons for closing Guantanamo have more to do with appearances. It has become a symbol. Closing the prison removes the symbol. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; in fact I agree with it. I just wish the President would say that rather than use the same national security cover President Bush used for so long.

Closing Guantanamo sends a message that the acts perpetrated within its walls (some imagined, some very real) won't be tolerated. That message will be ignored by this nation's critics, but that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do. Just acknowledge it rather than substituting national security concerns and nebulous talk about justice in the context of the international community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Put That In Your Mouth!

As a kid I only ate about four different things. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and.... Okay. As a kid I only ate three things. As I got older I started trying new things and finding that what was irretrieveably disgusting as a kid now tastes pretty darned good. I even eat tomatoes now, which until a couple years ago would have been as likely as me starring in a reality show (Everyday Citizen Rehab? Rock of Gonorrhea?).

I've tried alligator (delicious), frog legs (excellent), escargot (heavenly), squid (eh), choirzo* (great if prepared right, otherwise... shudder), black bear (good, but kind of stringy) and some other things I'm probably forgetting.

The only things at this point I can't see myself ever liking (or tolerating) are beets and this.

Some other foods on my "still to try" list are rattlesnake and turtle soup. What else should I add to that?

*I'm referring to the Mexican version of chorizo, which is made from all the parts of the pig not considered fit for use in hot dogs. My girlfriend at the time (this was back in '93 or so) told me that it was common for the casing to be a fresh intestine that wasn't cleaned before being used. Mmmm... pork proto-poop. That said, it was quite good when she made it. A few years later I tried to make it and the results were not as appetizing. Must've had a bad casing.

Lost is Back

Season premiere of Lost tonight and I am ready. I've rewatched the whole series in reruns on G4 and the Sci Fi channel. It's amazing how you keep picking things up from repeated viewings.

Anyway, in anticipation, here is a little Dharma video to whet your appetite. I missed it the first time around. It was created just prior to last season but it's got everything else going for it: it's short and it's freaky. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ladies in the Water

Macy and Emily at the waterpark in Brainerd, MN.

Inauguration Day

Good luck President Obama. Here's hoping I can enthusiastically vote for you in four years. Also, here's to your opponents treating you with more respect than your allies showed your predecessor.

A Life In Beer

(Click on image to enlarge)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Haiku Review / Gaslight Anthem -- The '59 Sound

if e-street was punk
i might be interested

Belkin the Customer

In the market for some computer equipment? A router perhaps? You may want to watch out for Belkin products, especially if you like to buy from Amazon. It appears that the company is looking to boost the otherwise poor ratings for its products by paying for 5-star reviews.

Meet the New Boss?

Obama's advisors talk of adding a loophole that would allow the CIA to use interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life, the Universe and Everything

Wanna read something that will blow your mind? Read this article over at New Scientist that explains the evidence that the universe is really a hologram. It might make your brain hurt at first, but stick with it.

The cool thing is that if true, it may make studying matter at the subatomic level much easier than originally thought.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wish Me Luck (Updated)

Blogging will be light today as I will be in Mahnomen, Minnesota playing in a poker tournament at Shooting Star Casino. I'll report on the tournament when I get back.

Update: I finshed in the top 15, which is to say I didn't win any money. Oh well. The poker room at the Shooting Star is much smaller than the last time I played there. It looks like the poker craze is on the downswing. There were 24 people in the tournament. The last time I played there we had 75.

(Originally posted at 7:38 am.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Real Chance of Dumb (Updated)

Apparently a Fargo woman has won something called A Real Chance of Love, a reality show on VH1. For this dubious accomplishment she gets to date one (both? does it matter?) of the show's eponoymous and unheard of heroes. What are these guys? Rappers? Mortgage brokers? The Forum doesn't appear to know beyond calling them brothers (in the familial sense).

All you need to know: the brothers call themselves "the Stallionaires" (Dollar Menunaires was taken) and our winner went by the nom-de-moron "Cornfed". In what way is the Apocalypse not upon us?

Update: It appears the arctic cold has blasted the bloom off this rose already. That took all of twelve seconds. Shocking.

(Originally posted at 8:39 AM on 01/13/09)

Leader Of The Pack

Thought this was interesting: the captain of one of the ferries that helped rescue passengers from that downed US Airways jet was named Vince Lombardi.

I'm Writing A Diet Book

Page one will say, "eat less and exercise". There won't be a page two. It will cost $39.95 in hardcover.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Honest Question

If it's so cold my truck won't start, should I have to go to work?

At least it's sunny.

Update: Okay, I'm at work now. The software mines never close.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Did You Give Your Kid Cancer?

I read an interesting article at Slate today about the testing of embryos for the breast cancer gene in the U.K. What looks on the face of it like a great tool for early disease detection raises the possiblity of leasing to parents be blamed for "causing" a child to develop problems later in life.

Read the whole article, but here's a taste:

Before this kind of embryo test (known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD), parents weren't held responsible for a bad roll of the genetic dice. If you had a 50 percent chance of passing along a disease, and your child got it, that was a tragedy, not your fault. But with the advent of PGD, the equation has changed. Now you can eliminate your risk of transmitting the bad gene—and if you don't take that precaution, you're "inflicting" the consequences. In this way, today's embryo-screening option becomes tomorrow's obligation.

At some point this type of testing will be widely available. But it won't be cheap. How will this affect us long term? Will people be less likely to have kids if they can't afford the testing? Will kids who grow up to develop cancer be able to sue their parents? What am I saying? Of course they will. Lawyers will make sure of that.

If You Can't Say Anything Nice...

Politics are so polarized now that it is downright difficult to have an intelligent and useful conversation about it. You usually find yourself talking to people that are "on the other side" and won't listen to what you have to say; sadder still, they lower their opinion of you for not having the right opinion. Otherwise you are talking to people who agree with your politics wholeheartedly. Other than positive reinforcement, what is the real value in that?

I try to remain open minded about politics and politicians, but I realize it's hard. While I generally lean right in the sense that I support smaller government, a strong military and free market economics, I have a left streak in me that includes support of abortion rights and gay marriage.

Once in a while I find it necessary to test myself to make sure I'm not veering too far to one extreme or the other out of ideology (usually to the right). This came up, as you might expect, during the Presidential election. One way I do this is to come up with five nice things to say about "the other side". In this case that meant Barack Obama. Yes, yes, I didn't vote for the One. I know. At any rate, here is what I came up with:
  • He looks Presidential

  • Very adept at building a fervent following which may bode well for coalition building

  • A great speaker

  • Stayed on the high road (mostly) while campaigning, especially against Clinton

  • Obviously intelligent and willing to surround himself with smart people

Now, there are plenty of reasons why I didn't vote for him, but that doesn't matter. This exercise helps me to stay sanguine about America's future. We'll be okay even though "my guy" didn't win.

Now you try it. And for those of you who were in love with Obama from the beginning, try this with George Bush. Remember --no sarcasm allowed in your list!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Massachusetts Residents Choke on Free Lunch

Good ol' Mitt Romney was going to show the country how to do "free" healthcare right. Two years after launching his highly touted program, it has served to highlight every drawback of government-run healthcare in high relief:
  • bloated prices
  • forcing levels of coverage neither wanted nor needed
  • higher taxes
  • lower customer satisfaction
  • inept management
  • rationing of care
  • doctor shortages

Please read the whole thing.

This country has healthcare problems. Letting the governement take it over is not the answer. It almost never is. Who thinks the government does a good job with taxpayer money now? Anyone?

Tip of the Cap: Instapundit

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Not Shocked

Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard Law professor on the panel overseeing the $700 billion bailout package. She is shocked (shocked!) that banks on the receiving end of the bailout have decided there is no reason to disclose what they are actually doing with the money.

Are you shocked? I'm not shocked. How about you -- you shocked? I didn't think so.


Something Wicked This Way Comes (to Destroy My Toilet)

Fargo, ND -- Police are warning residents of Fargo to be on the lookout for a serial toilet breaker. Last seen in late December, the suspect was reportedly responsible for single-handedly doubling one resident's water bill.

"Apparently, she was able to flush the toilet without allowing the ballcock assembly to reseat the flapper, causing the toilet to run continuously for a week while I was on vacation," said Donna Marshall, 33, of Fargo. Marshall then alternated between giggling uncontrollably while repeating the word "ballcock" and weeping at the sight of her $108.65 water bill.

This is not Marshall's first encounter with what police are calling the Crappinator. An earlier incident left her toilet clogged beyond her capacity to fix. "There was water and [excrement] all over the place," said Marshall. "It looked like a Fryin' Pan restroom."

Anyone with information is urged to call the Fargo Police Department. In the meantime, residents are urged to be careful who they let into their bathrooms. Support groups are forming for past victims. Contact the Fargo-Moorhead YMCA for details.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Random Clash Moment

For no reason whatsoever, here is my favorite cover song of all time. Sonny Curtis and the Crickets wrote it. Bobby Fuller turned it into a hit. The Clash own it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Girl's Jeans Suck

Explain something to me ladies. Men's jeans are sized based on actual measurements. A waist measurement and an inseam. This means guys can buy jeans that both fit in the waist and don't drag the ground or look like we're in flood season.

Women's jeans come in a size. 8. 12. 0. Whatever. How exactly does this work? My seven year old daughter is in the middle of a growth spurt so I took her out to buy a couple pairs of jeans. I had to put her in a size 12 (yes, I know. She's big for her age. She's almost as tall as Donna). The problem is, size 12 jeans have legs made for a girl roughly 6' 4". There's no finding her waist size with a shorter inseam. So I have to take a seven-year-old's jeans to a tailor to get them taken in.

Here's my question. Why, exactly, do women stand for this? You burned your bras. You get to vote in elections just like white male landowners. You won the right to hold a job title other than "mother", "teacher", "nurse" or "stripper". Why have you not turned your collective force of will towards this ridiculous travesty of a sham?

NFL Playoff Picks (Atlanta's Not In It Edition)

Baltimore   who cares            Philadelphia   who cares
Tennessee   who cares           New York         who cares

Arizona       who cares            San Diego       who cares
Carolina      who cares           Pittsburgh       who cares

CNN Responds to Video Controversy

Following up on an earlier post, CNN has responded to the furor over an apparently faked video from the recent Israeli/Hamas conflict:

There's no truth to accusations by bloggers that a Palestinian camera crew staged a video showing the death of the videographer's brother after an Israeli rocket attack, said the team's employer. "It's absolute nonsense," Paul Martin, co-owner of World News and Features, said of accusations leveled by bloggers at videographer Ashraf Mashharawi.

Many bloggers remain unconvinced. CNN didn't disclose the nature of Martin's news enterprise. If you check out their website, you'll discover that customers can commission stories for a price. A new business model for CNN?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Haiku Review / Kung-Fu Panda

fat bear learns kung-fu
and great truths along the way
funny? not so much

The Most Trusted Name In News

...But not necessarily the most honest. I stopped watching CNN back in 2005 after Eason Jordan, the network's chief news executive, admitted to allowing Saddam Hussein's government to censor CNN reports in exchange for access.

Now it seems that CNN has yanked a video showing resuscitation efforts on a child during the Israeli offensive into Gaza. The video seems laughably fake, but that's not the problem. Somebody can fake a video or a photo and get it published. Once the fraud is discovered though, I would expect a mea culpa from the network. Instead, CNN has pulled the video without explanation and left the article written in support of the video.

See the video and read about the Eason Jordan affair here.

How can anyone trust such an organization?

Toss Your Cookies

Do a lot of online shopping? You might want to delete your browser cookies. A lot of sites use cookies to identify return customers. By deleting cookies, you may see more offers reserved for new customers. That's according to an informal study done by AppScout.

Hat tip: The Consumerist

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You Saw This Coming, Right?

In my post about governors lining up for some of that free federal money, I said:

It's almost like if the government starts handing out taxpayer money like beads at Mardi Gras, everybody puts their hands out.

How right I was. Apparently the porn industry is now asking for a bailout:

"The government’s handing out money to the auto industry,” Francis, producer of the “Girls Gone Wild” video series, said on the phone from his Santa Monica office. “Why shouldn’t it hand some to an industry the nation could not live without?"

If douchebaggery were a mystical art, Joe Francis would be a Jedi Master. But I have to agree with his logic. The industry's big problem of course, is how to continue to get people to pay for something available free on the internet.

Frank Wren is an Idiot

Frank Wren is the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. He has not had a stellar offseason. With certain contracts coming off the books, the Braves supposedly have somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million to spend. In the past two months, the Braves targeted three free agents:

  • Unwilling to meet the price in prospects, Jake Peavy still pitches for San Diego.

  • Outbid by New York, A.J. Burnett is a Yankee.

  • After agreeing to a handshake deal, Rafael Furcal used the numbers to get a better offer from the Dodgers

I'm actually okay with the outcomes above, as Wren was right to not give up the farm for Peavy. A.J. Burnett is a DL stint waiting to happen. Furcal is on the wrong side of thirty and not worth a long term contract.

But today comes news that John Smoltz has signed with the Red Sox. Coming off shoulder surgery, the deal is for $5.5 million and incentives. The Braves reportedly were not willing to go higher than a base salary of $3 million. So basically a team that can't give away $30 million dollars won't throw $2.5 million of it at a pitcher who's spent his entire career with Braves for what will probably be his victory lap before retirement.

Yeah, he's been hurt. But for everything he's done for the franchise Smoltz deserves a bone from the only organization he's ever thrown a major league pitch for. Beyond that, there's the public relations angle: Wren's going to be the guy who dissed Smoltz over what the Braves pay a backup infielder.

She's a Self-Made Man

I recently read Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man by Norah Vincent. A thirty-something woman dons the trappings of maleness (short hair, fake beard and bulky clothes to hide her chest) and exposes herself to various bastions of testosterone to try and gain some insight into what makes men tick. As Ned, the author joins a bowling league, a shady door-to-door sales ring, a cloister and a men's therapy group. Along the way she finds out that being master of the universe isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I expected a lot of man-bashing but Vincent presents her adventures in male bonding with surprising gentleness. She finds sympathy for the lowest of the species, including a married man that spends an inordinate amount of time at a strip club and a salesman who uses every manipulation to get money from those who can't afford it. Frankly, she's a lot harder on women in this book.

There is a nagging doubt for me that some of these encounters are fictionalized for effect. I can't really explain it; it's just a feeling that came and went as I read. She didn't really join a priory. Her bowling teammates didn't really just shrug it off when she revealed herself. Maybe it's just the cynic in me, trying to avoid thinking about what I'd do in that situation. I hope so, anyway.

Where the book shines for me is the deliberations Vincent goes through before letting her subjects in on the truth (and before she decides not to tell). It was obviously difficult for her to deal with the guilt she felt hiding her identity.

At any rate, don't let my inner cynic scare you away. The book is a fascinating read.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wanted: Global Warming

With promises of up to six more inches of snow on the way Thursday, I'm running out of room to shovel the white stuff when I clear off the driveway and sidewalks. After December's record 33.5" of snow, Fargo is already over budget for snow removal. I'm seriously considering building some sort of homemade flamethrower out of lead pipe and grain alcohol.

Bad Reputation

My girlfriend owns a female pit bull terrier, Ruby, that turned five on Christmas Day. She tested positive for Lyme disease antibodies last summer, so she has been under observation by her veterinarian. Last week we took her in to get her blood drawn to make sure the treatment cleared her system.

Sitting in the waiting room was a woman with her own dog, a tiny, shaggy thing I can't identify, but am sure is an upright doggy citizen. She asked us what kind of dog we had. When I told her I got the raised eyebrows and uncomfortable shift in posture I've come to expect. The woman was polite, commenting that Ruby looked small for a pit bull. I explained that at 52 pounds, she was actually big for a female (30-35 pounds is common). She seemed surprised and a bit incredulous at this but she let it go.

Pit bulls have an image problem. They have been almost mythologized in the public eye as oversized killing machines that like to feast on children. The truth is any dog will be aggressive with people if they are not trained properly. To illustrate: the number of people bitten by Ruby: zero. The number of people bitten by the daschunds next door: everyone they've gotten close enough to (according to their owners). I'm not suggesting pit bulls are harmless or that dascunds are inherently dangerous. I'm saying any dog can be harmless or dangerous. It's up to the owner, not the dog.

Ruby can look terrifying to a stranger when her hackles come up and she growls with teeth bared; the epitome of the pit bull as killing machine. What the stranger doesn't realize is that Ruby is terrified of the dumbest things on the planet. Shake your keys at her; slide a dinner plate across the floor; make noises at her though an empty paper towel roll. All these things send her running to the hills with her tail beteen her legs. Don't even get me started on skateboards.

When my daughter first began having contact with Ruby we had to keep an eye on the dog, as she thought of my daughter as a puppy rather than a little person. She was very possessive of her toys. We could see her get that look in her eye that said, "stay away from my stuff". We worked with the dog to teach it that this was not acceptable. Now we have to instruct Ruby not to lick my daughter's face off when they're sitting on the couch together. The point is, all dogs need training.

This bad reputation existed before the Michael Vick saga, but that incident added another layer to an undeserved aspect of the pit bulls' mystique. You think pit bulls are merciless automatons? Read this article from Sports Illustrated about the post-Moonlight Road lives of these dogs and you won't look at them the same way again.

Monday, January 5, 2009

How to Steal an Election

I predicted to friends that Minnesota would continue to count votes in the unsettled Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken until Franken gained a comfortable enough lead. Once that occurred there would be calls to end the process so that Minnesota could get on with the business of being Minnesota.

That point has been reached, as Franken has opened up a 225 vote lead. The state canvassing board immediately declared the recount finished. Now Coleman is going to sue in State Supreme Court.
How did it get to this point? Read here for a detailed timeline of the canvassing board's trip down the yellow brick road. Suffice it to say though the purpose of the recount was to seat Al Franken. Why do I say this? Because of this:

Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency.

So, if counting ballots resulted in a net gain for Franken in one part of Minnesota, the board decided to count them. If rejecting ballots resulted in a net gain for Franken in another part, the board threw them out.

Then there's the absentee ballots (from the same WSJ article linked above):

Counties were supposed to review their absentees and create a list of those they believed were mistakenly rejected. Many Franken-leaning counties did so, submitting 1,350 ballots to include in the results. But many Coleman-leaning counties have yet to complete a re-examination. Despite this lack of uniformity, and though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Coleman request to standardize this absentee review, Mr. Ritchie's office nonetheless plowed through the incomplete pile of 1,350 absentees this weekend, padding Mr. Franken's edge by a further 176 votes.

The entire recount process has been riddled with stories of ballot boxes mysteriously found in cars, warehouses and even thin air. Amazing, nearly all these votes were for Franken.

Minnesota has always run blue so it's no surprise Franken was going to end up winning a recount. But you'd think Minnesotans would have learned their lesson about celebrity politicians after electing this guy as governor.

The Guns of Brittin

I've never owned a gun. Outside of my time in the Air Force (for training purposes) and one misguided hunting expedition I don't handle guns. This is because I don't feel the need. If I ever live in a neighborhood where I don't, I want to be able to get one. One of the big reasons given for the need for gun control laws comes from the (supposedly) common sense argument that more guns means more gun deaths.

How to explain this, then? It turns out that North Dakota had two murders in all of 2008. Both of them were the result of stabbings. Obviously North Dakota's strong gun laws are to thank for this remarkable record. Except North Dakota doesn't rank very high on the Brady Campaign's list of good soldiers in the war for stronger gun control laws.

One might infer from this that gun control laws don't deter gun violence. Or maybe North Dakotans are just so darn nice.

(P.S., Brittin is a town in North Dakota. If they were awesome they'd change the name to Brixton. If you don't get the reference, shame on you. Your pennance is to watch this.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that CD sales plummeted in 2008 (subscription required). This isn't really a surprise, but it made me realize something. I can't remember the last time I purchased a CD. I'm certain I must have bought one in 2008, but I can't tell you what it was. I am certain, however, that I won't buy a CD in 2009.

Is anybody out there still buying CDs? Or is the digital revolution, as it pertains to music sales, complete?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Running Diary of a Falcons Game (part 2)

5:13 pm: The Falcons fumble and the Cardinals pick it out of the air and return it for a TD. Next time just hand it directly to the defender instead of the running back. Cut out the middle man.

5:26 pm: Falcons second sequence: Holding, delay of game, throw souvenir to an Arizona fan. I already saw this movie and it sucks. Not as much as Mama Mia!, but close enough.

5:28 pm: Thomas DeCoud (I swear I thought his name was DeCloud the whole year) just hit the punt returner early. Coach Smith better settle these guys down quick.

5:32pm: Chris Houston just tried to climb into Boldin's uniform on a 3rd-and-5. No flag, but the linesman did make Houston give back Boldins's watch.

5:42pm: Dominique Foxworth comes off the field. This is bad. He's the closest thing to a cornerback the Falcons have.

5:43pm: Now even the white guy on Arizona is catching the ball. This game is over.

5:48pm: 28-17 Cardinals. Hey I just remembered: I have a bottle of Jack Daniels!

6:01pm: My girlfriend giggles for the 734th time today after hearing the Tom Hammond say "penetration in the backfield".

6:18pm: Let's check the Falcons' checklist for success: Turn the ball over -- check. Fail to run the ball with any authority -- check. Make Edgerrin James look like a useful NFL back for the first time all year -- check. Leave fire and enthusiasm at the airport -- check. Plot fourth quarter comeback with 3-yard-passes -- check. If I wasn't watching the game, I'd swear we were up 40-6.

6:34pm: Hmm. I'm weakside linebacker for the Falcons. I can either cover the running back who might catch the ball for 3 yards on 3rd and 16, or I can stay with the tight end running past me toward the first down line. I cover the tight end. Incomplete pass, Falcons get the ball back. Unfortunately Keith Brooking is actually the weakside linebacker for the Falcons.

6:35pm: I was going to make meatloaf for dinner, but instead I'll have some Falcon eggs. The laid so many out in the desert, I'm sure no one will notice if one or two go missing.

Running Diary of a Falcons Game (part 1)

3:30pm CST: Kickoff. Don't blow this Don't blow this Don't blow this.

3:42pm: Ryan's first pass is intercepted. We're the worst team in football. Is it too late to draft Dorsey?

4:10pm: Falcons get on the board. It's 7-3 in the 2nd. We settled for a field goal. Get Jerry Glanville on the phone. If he's still living in Texas, he can get here in time to coach the second half.

4:21pm: On a 3rd an 9, Anquan Boldin takes a ten yard pass around the left end for a 72-yard tounchdown. 14-3 Cardinals. How can the NFL let a team as crappy as the Falcons in the playoffs? The Falcons suck, the Braves suck. I hate sports.

4:33pm: Ryan takes the Falcons down the field. Roddy White drops a 32-yard pass when he is blinded by the incredibly low difficulty involved in catching a pass when you have no one around you for 20 yards and the ball is placed directly into your hands. Worst 1300-yard season by a receiver ever. He then proceeds to make about 36 tough catches to get us into 1st-and-goal. Like I said: most underappreciated wide receiver in football. Turner around left end untouched from eight yards out -- touchdown. We're back in this thing baby! Didn't I tell you!

4:42pm: Some white guy lets a Warner pass bounce off his shoulder pads. Interception Chevis Jackson. Announcer Tom Hammond calls him "Chee-vus". I don't care. This is the greatest defense in the history of history.

4:49pm: We're up 17-14 after the old fake-to-the-back-and-throw-it-to-the-white-guy play.

4:59: End of the first half. I need beer.

Brother, Can You Spare A Trillion?

How did we get from this to this in such a short time? It's almost like if the government starts handing out taxpayer money like beads at Mardi Gras, everybody puts their hands out. I'm still a hopin' for some changin' though. Should come any day.

Update: Second link was broken. Fixed now.

People Who Offend Me

I don't mind ignorance; ignorance can be fixed and isn't always the fault of the person displaying it. Stupidity is a different animal; it's low and potentially dangerous. When it's practiced by someone looking to make a name for himself with the act, it offends me.

The most recent example of this is Igor Panarin, a KGB-trained analyst for the Kremlin in Russia. He has predicted that by 2010 the United States will fracture, causing various states and regions to align with other nations.

Serously. Read the whole thing.

Alabama pledging allegiance to Mexico. Is this what Roy Moore fought for? As for North Dakota, we've been inconvenienced by far too many RV's with Manitoba plates parking across seven parking spots in our mall parking lots to ever throw in with Canada.

This is likely to become a recurring award. As stupid as ole Igor is, I'm bound to come across someone worse; we're only three days into the new year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Etou(fee), Brute?

I cracked open the 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking for the first time and made shrimp etoufee. Good stuff. I finally got to make a roux, which isn't all that exciting except that I love to say "roux" (Raggy! I found a roux!... Hey gang, Scooby found a clue!).

It turned out very well. Since I made a few changes to the recipe, I can share it:

Peel and de-vein 1 lb shrimp

Toss with:

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Set shrimp aside.

In a large skillet mix 3 tbsp of olive oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly until the roux(!) turns a dark brown (about 20 minutes). Stir in:

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 - 1 lbs of chopped andouille sausage (can substitute smoked sausage, but get the andouille)

Stir until the vegetables are browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add:

2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme

Stir for about 1 minute then stir in:

2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp of your favorite hot sauce

Stir, bringing to a simmer. Remember those shrimp you coated earlier, how they called to you? Throw them in that skillet and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of parsley.

I served it over a bed of white rice with some baked baguette bread and a bottle of Riesling. It was worth the time.

VH1 -- Tool of the Devil

So I'm watching VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of Hard Rock". I knew it was a bad idea; I'm always looking for great songs I've forgotten about so I can download them from the Zune store and put them on my mp3 player.

So here I am, literally watching the show while at my computer so I can add a song to my Zune store cart the second they announce the song. Of course, one great song deserves another, so I can't just download "School's Out". I have to get "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Under My Wheels" and "Welcome To My Nightmare".

All told, I've downloaded about 15 songs, and we're only up to #60. Welcome to my music collection, Alice, Golden Earring, Whitesnake (shut up -- "Still of the Night" is awesome), and Joan Jett.

Along with recently receiving every song ever recorded by the Clash (thanks Tim!) I have enough music to insure I can find something to annoy every person on the planet. Life is good.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I don't normally make resolutions for the New Year but I actually have something productive to accomplish, so here goes:

1. Lose another 20 pounds. I took off over 20 pounds in 2008, so I know it's possible. Another 20 would put me at about 200 even.

2. Cook something new at least twice a month. I got the 75th Anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking for Christmas from my wonderful girlfriend. If you haven't seen it, it has about twelve million recipes in it, so I should be able to pull this off.

3. Post to this blog at least once a day. This one could be tough, mainly because of resolution #4.

4. Don't be the guy that posts on his blog about what he ate for dinner. You know that guy: tonight I didn't feel like cooking, so I had cornflakes. Since I didn't have milk, I used root beer. Here's a picture.

I know I have your support and prayers in this worthy endeavor.

The Blog Has Landed

Welcome to my new blog, Pocket Jacks. The name is a reference to poker, as you may know. Pocket Jacks is one of those hands that looks great but you have to be careful, as what you see is not necessarily what you get. A lot of poker players hate getting this hand, but I like it.

I've been meaning to start a blog for a while, and I guess now is the time. Partly because it's the first day of 2009, partly because I want to show my father how easy it is (it's easy Dad), and partly because I sometimes have things to say and no outlet to say them (that doesn't involve arguments, bloody noses, or Human Resources representatives). I'll keep the content PG or better, though.

Happy New Year!