Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are, in my opinion, more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality"

Wherein if in a hurry scroll down for the jackassery of Senator Gorton or the priceless exchange with Senator Exon about Mitch Miller

Frank Zappa's Senate testimony: (read the whole hearing)

Mr. ZAPPA. My name is Frank Zappa. This is my attorney Larry Stein.

The statement that I prepared, that I sent you 100 copies of, is five pages long, so I have shortened it down and am going to read a condensed version of it.

Certain things have happened. I have been listening to the event in the other room and have heard some conflicting reports as to whether or not people in this committee want legislation. I understand that Mr. Hollings does from his comments. Is that correct?

The CHAIRMAN. I think you had better concentrate on your testimony, rather than asking questions.

Mr. ZAPPA. The reason I need to ask it, because I have to change something in my testimony if there is not a clearcut version of whether or not legislation is what is being discussed here.

The CHAIRMAN. Do the best you can, because I do not think anybody here can characterize Senator Hollings' position.

Mr. ZAPPA. I will carry on with the issue, then.

Senator EXON. Mr. Chairman, I might help him out just a little bit. I might make a statement. This is one Senator that might be interested in legislation and/or regulation to some extent, recognizing the problems with the right of free expression.

I have previously expressed views that I do not believe I should be telling other people what they have to listen to. I really believe that the suggestion made by the original panel was some kind of an arrangement for voluntarily policing this in the music industry as the correct way to go.

If it will help you out in your testimony, I might join Senator Hollings or others in some kind of legislation and/or regulation, unless the free enterprise system, both the producers and you as the performers, see fit to clean up your act.

Mr. ZAPPA.. OK, thank you.

The first thing I would like to do, because I know there is some foreign press involved here and they might not understand what the issue is about, one of the things the issue is about is the First Amendment to the Constitution, and it is short and I would like to read it so they will understand. It says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That is for reference.

These are my personal observations and opinions. I speak on behalf of no group or professional organization.

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design.

It is my understanding that in law First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.

No one has forced Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Gore to bring Prince or Sheena Easton into their homes. Thanks to the Constitution, they are free to buy other forms of music for their children. Apparently, they insist on purchasing the works of contemporary recording artists in order to support a personal illusion of aerobic sophistication. Ladies, please be advised: The $8.98 purchase price does not entitle you to a kiss on the foot from the composer or performer in exchange for a spin on the family Victrola.

Taken as a whole, the complete list of PMRC demands reads like an instruction manual for some sinister kind of toilet training program to house-break all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few. Ladies, how dare you?

The ladies' shame must be shared by the bosses at the major labels who, through the RIAA, chose to bargain away the rights of composers, performers, and retailers in order to pass H.R. 2911, The Blank Tape Tax, a private tax levied by an industry on consumers for the benefit of a select group within that industry.

Is this a consumer issue? You bet it is. The major record labels need to have H.R. 2911 whiz through a few committees before anybody smells a rat. One of them is chaired by Senator Thurmond. Is it a coincidence that Mrs. Thurmond is affiliated with the PMRC?

I cannot say she is a member, because the PMRC has no members. Their secretary told me on the phone last Friday that the PMRC has no members, only founders. I asked how many other District of Columbia wives are nonmembers of an organization that raises money by mail, has a tax-exempt status, and seems intent on running the Constitution of the United States through the family paper-shredder. I asked her if it was a cult. Finally, she said she could not give me an answer and that she had to call their lawyer.

While the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury recites "Gonna drive my love inside you" and Senator Gore's wife talks about "bondage" and "oral sex at gunpoint" on the CBS Evening News, people in high places work on a tax bill that is so ridiculous, the only way to sneak it through is to keep the public's mind on something else: Porn rock.

Is the basic issue morality? Is it mental health? Is it an issue at all? The PMRC has created a lot of confusion with improper comparisons between song lyrics, videos, record packaging, radio broadcasting, and live performances. These are all different mediums and the people who work in them have the right to conduct their business without trade-restraining legislation, whipped up like an instant pudding by "The wives of Big Brother."

Is it proper that the husband of a PMRC nonmember / founder / person sits on any committee considering business pertaining to the blank tape tax or his wife's lobbying organization? Can any committee thus constituted find facts in a fair and unbiased manner? This committee has three that we know about: Senator Danforth, Senator Packwood, and Senator Gore. For some reason, they seem to feel there is no conflict of interest involved.

Children in the vulnerable age bracket have a natural love for music. If as a parent you believe they should be exposed to something more uplifting than "Sugar Walls," support music appreciation programs in schools. Why have you not considered your child's need for consumer information? Music appreciation costs very little compared to sports expenditures. Your children have a right to know that something besides pop music exists.

It is unfortunate that the PMRC would rather dispense governmentally sanitized heavy metal music than something more uplifting. Is this an indication of PMRC's personal taste or just another manifestation of the low priority this administration has placed on education for the arts in America?

The answer, of course, is neither. You cannot distract people from thinking about an unfair tax by talking about music appreciation. For that you need sex, and lots of it.

The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?

Record ratings are frequently compared to film ratings. Apart from the quantitative difference, there is another that is more important: People who act in films are hired to pretend. No matter how the film is rated, it will not hurt them personally.

Since many musicians write and perform their own material and stand by it as their art, whether you like it or not, an imposed rating will stigmatize them as individuals. How long before composers and performers are told to wear a festive little PMRC arm band with their scarlet letter on it?

Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are in my opinion more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality. Freedom of speech, freedom of religious thought, and the right to due process for composers, performers and retailers are imperiled if the PMRC and the major labels consummate this nasty bargain.

Are we expected to give up article 1 so the big guys can collect an extra dollar on every blank tape and 10 to 25 percent on tape recorders? What is going on here? Do we get to vote on this tax?

I think that this whole matter has gotten completely blown out of proportion, and I agree with Senator Exon that there is a very dubious reason for having this event. I also agree with Senator Exon that you should not be wasting time on stuff like this, because from the beginning I have sensed that it is somebody's hobby project.

Now, I have done a number of interviews on television. People keep saying, can you not take a few steps in their direction, can you not sympathize, can you not empathize? I do more than that at this point. I have got an idea for a way to stop all this stuff and a way to give parents what they really want, which is information, accurate information as to what is inside the album, without providing a stigma for the musicians who have played on the album or the people who sing it or the people who wrote it. And I think that if you listen carefully to this idea that it might just get by all of the constitutional problems and everything else.

As far as I am concerned, I have no objection to having all of the lyrics placed on the album routinely, all the time. But there is a little problem. Record companies do not own the right automatically to take these lyrics, because they are owned by a publishing company.

So, just as all the rest of the PMRC proposals would cost money, this would cost money too, because the record companies would need -- they should not be forced to bear the cost, the extra expenditure to the publisher, to print those lyrics.

If you consider that the public needs to be warned about the contents of the records, what better way than to let them see exactly what the songs say? That way you do not have to put any kind of subjective rating on the record. You do not have to call it R, X, D/A, anything. You can read it for yourself.

But in order for it to work properly, the lyrics should be on a uniform kind of a sheet. Maybe even the Government could print those sheets. Maybe it should even be paid for by the Government, if the Government is interested in making sure that people have consumer information in this regard.

And you also have to realize that if a person buys the record and takes it out of the store, once it is out of the store you can't return it if you read the lyrics at home and decide that little Johnny is not supposed to have it.

I think that that should at least be considered, and the idea of imposing these ratings on live concerts, on the albums, asking record companies to reevaluate or drop or violate contracts that they already have with artists should be thrown out.

That is all I have to say.

The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Zappa. You understand that the previous witnesses were not asking for legislation. And I do not know, I cannot speak for Senator Hollings, but I think the prevailing view here is that nobody is asking for legislation.

The question is just focusing on what a lot of people perceive to be a problem, and you have indicated that you at least understand that there is another point of view. But there are people that think that parents should have some knowledge of what goes into their home.

Mr. ZAPPA. All along my objection has been with the tactics used by these people in order to achieve the goal. I just think the tactics have been really bad, and the whole premise of their proposal -- they were badly advised in terms of record business law, they were badly advised in terms of practicality, or they would have known that certain things do not work mechanically with what they suggest.

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Gore.

Senator GORE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I found your statement very interesting and, although I disagree with some of the statements that you make and have made on other occasions, I have been a fan of your music, believe it or not. I respect you as a true original and a tremendously talented musician.

Your suggestion of printing the lyrics on the album is a very interesting one. The PMRC at one point said they would propose either a rating or warning, or printing all the lyrics on the album. The record companies came back and said they did not want to do that.

I think a lot of people agree with your suggestion that one easy way to solve this problem for parents would be to put the actual words there, so that parents could see them. In fact, the National Association of Broadcasters made exactly the same request of the record companies.

I think your suggestion is an intriguing one and might really be a solution for the problem.

Mr. ZAPPA. You have to understand that it does cost money, because you cannot expect publishers to automatically give up that right, which is a right for them. Somebody is going to have to reimburse the publishers, the record industry.

Without trying to mess up the album jacket art, it should be a sheet of paper that is slipped inside the shrink-wrap, so that when you take it out you can still have a complete album package. So there is going to be some extra cost for printing it.

But as long as people realize that for this kind of consumer safety you are going to spend some money and as long as you can find a way to pay for it, I think that would be the best way to let people know.

Senator GORE. I do not disagree with that at all. And the separate sheet would also solve the problem with cassettes as well, because you do not have the space for words on the cassette packs.

Mr. ZAPPA. There would have to be a little accordion-fold.

Senator GORE. I have listened to you a number of times on this issue, and I guess the statement that I want to get from you is whether or not you feel this concern is legitimate.

You feel very strongly about your position, and I understand that. You are very articulate and forceful.

But occasionally you give the impression that you think parents are just silly to be concerned at all.

Mr. ZAPPA. No; that is not an accurate impression.

Senator GORE. Well, please clarify it, then.

Mr. ZAPPA. First of all, I think it is the parents' concern; it is not the Government's concern.

Senator GORE. The PMRC agrees with you on that.

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, that does not come across in the way they have been speaking. The whole drift that I have gotten, based upon the media blitz that has attended the PMRC and its rise to infamy, is that they have a special plan, and it has smelled like legislation up until now.

There are too many things that look like hidden agendas involved with this. And I am a parent. I have got four children. Two of them are here. I want them to grow up in a country where they can think what they want to think, be what they want to be, and not what somebody's wife or somebody in Government makes them be.

I do not want to have that and I do not think you do either.

Senator GORE. OK. But now you are back on the issue of Government involvement. Let me say briefly on this point that the PMRC says repeatedly no legislation, no regulation, no Government action. It certainly sounded clear to me.

And as far as a hidden agenda, I do not see one, hear one, or know of one.

Mr. ZAPPA. OK, let me tell you why I have drawn these conclusions. First of all, they may say, we are not interested in legislation. But there are others who do, and because of their project bad things have happened in this country in the industry.

I believe there is actually some liability. Look at this. You have a situation where, even if you go for the lyric printed thing in the record, because of the tendency among Americans to be copycats -- one guy commits a murder, you get a copycat murder -- now you've got copycat censors.

You get a very bad situation in San Antonio, TX, right now where they are trying to pass PMRC-type individual ratings and attach them to live concerts, with the mayor down there trying to make a national reputation by putting San Antonio on the map as the first city in the United States to have these regulations, against the suggestion of the city attorney, who says, I do not think this is constitutional.

But you know, there is this fervor to get in and do even more and even more.

And the other thing, the PMRC starts off talking about lyrics, but when they take it over into other realms they start talking about the videos. In fact, you misspoke yourself at the beginning in your introduction when you were talking about the music does this, the music does that. There is a distinct difference between those notes and chords and the baseline [sic] and the rhythm that support the words and the lyrics.

I do not know whether you really are talking about controlling the type of music.

The CHAIRMAN. The lyrics.

Mr. ZAPPA. So specifically we are talking about lyrics. It began with lyrics. But even lookng at the PMRC fundraising letter, in the last paragraph at the bottom of the page it starts looking like it is branching into other areas, when it says: "We realize that this material has pervaded other aspects of society." And it is like what, you are going to fix it all for me?

Senator GORE. No. I think the PMRC's acknowledging some of the statements by some of their critics who say: Well, why single out the music industry.

Do I understand that you do believe that there is a legitimate concern here?

Mr. ZAPPA. But the legitimate concern is a matter of taste for the individual parent and how much sexual information that parent wants to give their child, at what age, at what time, in what quantity, OK. And I think that, because there is a tendency in the United States to hide sex, which I think is an unhealthy thing to do, and many parents do not give their children good sexual education, in spite of the fact that little books for kids are available, and other parents demand that sexual education be taken out of school, it makes the child vulnerable, because if you do not have something rational to compare it to when you see or hear about something that is aberrated you do not perceive it as an aberration.

Senator GORE. OK, I have run out of time.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Rockefeller.

Senator ROCKEFELLER. No questions, Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Gorton.

Senator GORTON. Mr. Zappa, I am astounded at the courtesy and soft-voiced nature of the comments of my friend, the Senator from Tennessee. I can only say that I found your statement to be boorish, incredibly and insensitively insulting to the people that were here previously; that you could manage to give the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States a bad name, if I felt that you had the slightest understanding of it, which I do not.

You do not have the slightest understanding of the difference between Government action and private action, and you have certainly destroyed any case you might otherwise have had with this Senator.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. ZAPPA. Is this private action?

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Exon.

Senator EXON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

Mr. Zappa, let me say that I was surprised that Senator Gore knew and liked your music. I must confess that I have never heard any of your music, to my knowledge.

Mr. ZAPPA. I would be more than happy to recite my lyrics to you.

Senator EXON. Can we forgo [sic] that?

Senator GORE. You have probably never heard of the Mothers of Invention.

Senator EXON. I have heard of Glen Miller and Mitch Miller. Did you ever perform with them?

Mr. ZAPPA. As a matter of fact, I took music lessons in grade school from Mitch Miller's brother.

Senator EXON. That is the first sign of hope we have had in this hearing.

Let us try and get down to a fundamental question here that I would like to ask you, Mr. Zappa. Do you believe that parents have the right and the obligation to mold the psychological development of their children?

Mr. ZAPPA. Yes, I think they have that right, and I also think they have that obligation.

Senator EXON. Do you see any extreme difficulty in carrying out those obligations for a parent by material falling into the hands of their children over which thely have little or no control?

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, one of the things that has been brought up before is talking about very young children getting access to the material that they have been showing here today. And what I have said to that in the past is a teenager may go into a record store unescorted with $8.98 in his pocket, but very young children do not.

If they go into a record store, the $8.98 is in mom or dad's pocket, and they can always say, Johnny, buy a book. They can say, Johnny, buy instrumental music; there is some nice classical music for you here; why do you not listen to that.

The parent can ask or guide the child in another direction, away from Sheena Easton, Prince, or whoever else you have been complaining about. There is always that possibility.

Senator EXON. As I understand it from your testimony -- and once again, I want to emphasize that I see nothing wrong whatsoever; in fact, I salute the ladies for bringing this to the attention of the public as best they see fit. I think you could tell from my testimony that I tend to agree with them.

I want to be very careful that we do not overstep our bounds and try and -- and I emphasize once again -- tell somebody else what they should see. I am primarily worried about children.

It seems to me from your statement that you have no obligation -- or no objection whatsoever to printing lyrics, if that would be legally possible, or from a standpoint of having the room to do that, on records or tapes. Is that not what you said?

Mr. ZAPPA. I think it would be advisable for two reasons. One, it gives people one of the things that they have been asking for. It gives them that type of consumer protection because, if you can read the English language and you can see the lyrics on the back, you have no excuse for complaining if you take the record out of the store.

And also, I think that the record industry has been damaged and it has been given a very bad rap by this whole situation because it has been indicated, or people have attempted to indicate, that there is so much of this kind of material that people object to in the industry, that that is what the industry is.

It is not bad at all. Some of the albums that have been selected for abuse here are obscure. Some of them are already several years old. And I think that a lot of deep digging was done in order to come up with the song about anal vapors or whatever it was that they were talking about before.

Senator EXON. If I understand you, you would be in support of printing the lyrics, but you are adamantly opposed to any kind of a rating system?

Mr. ZAPPA. I am opposed to the rating system because, as I said, if you put a rating on the record it goes directly to the character of the person who made the record, whereas if you rate a film, a guy who is in the film has been hired as an actor. He is pretending. You rate the film, whatever it is, it does not hurt him.

But whether you like what is on the record or not, the guy who made it, that is his art and to stigmatize him is unfair.

Senator EXON. Well, likewise, if you are primarily concerned about the artists, is it not true that for many many years, we have had ratings of movies with indications as to the sexual content of movies and that has been, as near as I can tell, a voluntary action on the part of the actors in the movies and the producers of the movies and the distributors?

That seems to have worked reasonably well. What is wrong with that?

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, first of all, it replaced something that was far more restrictive, which was the Hayes Office. And as far as that being voluntary, there are people who wish they did not have to rate their films. They still object to rating their films, but the reason the ratings go on is because if they are not rated they will not get distributed or shown in theaters. So there is a little bit of pressure involved, but still there is no stigma.

Senator EXON. The Government does not require that. The point I am trying to make is -- and while I think these hearings should time, I emphasized earlier that they might follow.

I simply want to say to you that I suspect that, unless the industry "cleans up their act" -- and I use that in quotes again -- there is likely to be legislation. And it seems to me that it would not be too far removed from reality or too offensive to anyone if you could follow the general guidelines, right, wrong, or indifferent, that are now in place with regard to the movie industry.

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, I would object to that. I think first of all, I believe it was you who asked the question of Mrs. Gore whether there was any other indication on the album as to the contents. And I would say that a buzzsaw blade between a guy's legs on the album cover is a good indication that it is not for little Johnny.

Senator EXON. I do not believe I asked her that question, but the point you made is a good one, because if that should not go to little minds I think there should be at least some minimal activity or attempt on the part of the producers and distributors, and indeed possibly the performers, to see that that does not get to that little mind.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Hollings.

Senator HOLLINGS. Mr. Zappa, I apologize for coming back in late, but I am just hearing the latter part of it. I hear that you say that perhaps we could print the words, and I think that is a good suggestion, but it is unfair to have albums rated.

Now, it is not considered unfair in the movie industry, and I want you to elaborate. I do not want to belabor you, but why is it unfair? I mean, it is accurate, is it not?

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, I do not know whether it is accurate, because sometimes they have trouble deciding how a film gets to be an X or an R or whatever. And you have two problems. One is the quantity of material, 325 films per year versus 25,000 4-minute songs per year, OK.

You also have a problem that an album is a compilation of different types of cuts. If one song on the album is sexually explicit and all the rest of it sounds like Pat Boone, what do you get on the album? How are you going to rate it?

There are little technical difficulties here, and also you have the problem of having somebody in the position of deciding what's good, what's bad, what's talking about the devil, what is too violent, and the rest of that stuff.

But the point I made before is that when you rate the album you are rating the individual, because he takes personal responsibility for the music; and in the movies, the actors who are performing in the movie, it does not hurt them.

Senator HOLLINGS. Well, very good. I think the actual printing of the content itself is perhaps even better than the rating. Let everyone else decide.

Mr. ZAPPA. I think you should leave it up to the parents, because not all parents want to keep their children totally ignorant.

Senator HOLLINGS. Well, you and I would differ on what is ignorance and education, I can see that. But if it was there, they could see what they were buying and I think that is a step in the right direction. As Senator Exon has pointed out, the primary movers in this particular regard are not looking for legislation or regulations, which is our function. To be perfectly candid with you, I would look for regulations or some kind of legislation, if it could be constitutionally accomplished, unless of course we have these initiatives from the industry itself.

I think your suggestion is a good one. If you print those words, that would go a long way toward satisfying everyone's objections.

Mr. ZAPPA. All we have to do is find out how it is going to be paid for.

Senator HOLLINGS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN. Senator Hawkins.

Senator HAWKINS. Mr. Zappa, you say you have four children?

Mr. ZAPPA. Yes, four children.

Senator HAWKINS. Have you ever purchased toys for those children?

Mr. ZAPPA.. No; my wife does.

Senator HAWKINS. Well, I might tell you that if you were to go in a toy store -- which is very educational for fathers, by the way; it is not a maternal responsibility to buy toys for children -- that you may look on the box and the box says, this is suitable for 5 to 7 years of age, or 8 to 15, or 15 and above, to give you some guidance for a toy for a child.

Do you object to that?

Mr. ZAPPA. In a way I do, because that means that somebody in an office someplace is making a decision about how smart my child is.

Senator HAWKINS. I would be interested to see what toys your kids ever had.

Mr. ZAPPA. Why would you be interested?

Senator HAWKINS. Just as a point of interest.

Mr. ZAPPA. Well, come on over to the house. I will show them to you.

Senator HAWKINS. I might do that.

Do you make a profit from sales of rock records?

Mr. ZAPPA. Yes.

Senator HAWKINS. So you do make a profit from the sales of rock records?

Mr. ZAPPA. Yes.

Senator HAWKINS. Thank you. I think that statement tells the story to this committee. Thank you.

The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Zappa, thank you very much for your testimony.

Mr. ZAPPA. Thank you.

His full written statement.

Bacon Ice Cream

Wherein this will be made

I can understand vegetarians, but religions that forbid the pleasures of pig flesh totally mystify me:

Make maple ice cream and fold in bacon

I don't know why I made another bulleted list

Wherein I suppose it's marginally better than an IF/THEN table

  • DARE improves police image. Really? I thought it portrayed them as incompetent and busybody fascists.
  • Don't worry, it's just not me. The Child came home wearing a D.A.R.E "Don't do drugs" sticker. The Wife asked her "What does that mean" Don't do drugs. "Yes, that's what it says, but what does it mean?" I don't know mommy.
  • Stupid and pointless indoctrination. Then have to explain that, no, drugs aren't bad. That when she spent an entire day last week vomiting, that it was drugs that helped make her better for Thanksgiving.
  • And as Robin Williams said while channeling Mister Roberts, "That's my package from Colombia; because sometimes that's the only way I can stand you little shits."
  • Don't call the cops. My drug of choice is Vitamin I -- ibuprofen.
  • All part of health week where the teachers explain THIS is bad and THAT is good. Drugs aren't bad, foods aren't bad. It's all in how they're used and the quantities they're used in.
  • Having a 6-year old lecture me that sugar is bad when the only thing she'll eat is macaroni and cheese or pop-tarts is a bit much.

Frank Zappa = Constitutional hero; Tipper Gore = sucking ball of evil

Wherein according to columnist John Lofton I need to get out more because I also am unaware of songs advocating incest

See also this discussion. It's a shame this dickhead is still alive while Zappa is the one who died early. Maybe that's a little strong; it's been twenty years, maybe Lofton has a better understanding of the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

another chili recipe

Wherein I'm simplifyin'

Chili cookoff at work Friday. I always do a new recipe and as such meant to test a couple batches by now. Ha! First batch gets done tonight so if it sucks I have time for a redo tomorrow.

Recipes have become needlessly complex ( see my Cincinnati Green -- last year, someone claimed to have 15 different types of meats -- so I'm getting back to the basics.

here's my working list:
2 pounds beef
2 T chili powder
2 tsp cup ground cumin
.25 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1.5 T unsweetened cocoa
3.5 cups crushed tomatoes (28oz)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
a couple chipotle peppers with adobo sauce

I like a very tomatoey chili, so all my liquid is tomato. I'm browning (bacon fat) and simmering chuck roast tonight, but if I'm not happy with the consistency I'll use ground round tomorrow -- simmered in all the ingredients without prebrowning. Still undecided about using the onions and garlic, but if I do the onions will be carmelized. I add salt after it has finished cooking. Still undecided about the chili powder to cumin ratio.


Update: Huh, I finished 2nd and took home a giant pile of booty. There's no accounting for taste as this was easily the worst chili I've entered. I was so unhappy with the batch I made Wednesday night that I wanted to do a do-over batch on Thursday, but ran out of time. I pretty much followed the recipe above and the balance was all wonky -- too much heat to taste made it almost bitter. Added a couple teaspoons of sugar and a couple tablespoons of vinegar made it a little better. Reheated it in the crockpot Friday afternoon for a couple hours before the contest and at the last minute tweaked it with some salt and freshly squoze lime juice (the acid helps balance out the heat). It was...well, it wasn't embarrassing. But people liked it and the pot was quickly emptied. If I had to redo it, I'd probably reduce the amount of cumin and maybe use just one chipotle.

For previous contests I have three 3rd place chilis and an additional top 5 finish. The top 5 was easily my best chili and I skipped the last couple cookoffs because it didn't place higher.

We have an odd judging system where presentation accounts for a lot of points. And by presentation I'm referring to tarting up the crockpot -- large posters, multilevel displays, armies of figurines, etc. This year's theme was Star Wars and one contestant set up a laptop playing the movie. I guess people find that sort of thing enjoyable while I think it takes away from the purity of the chili. This year, instead of just going with a nameplate in front of the chili, I decided to mock all other chilis and make fun of the whole concept. Rather than bitch and moan about not winning, just accept the fact and taunt everyone else. I'm guessing the judges found this amusingly ironic -- I was going for personally insulting -- because I scored big on the presentation points. Afterwards, I saw one score card and for presentation I had 4 of 5 points. Go figure.

Give the people what they want and what they want is crap.


Wherein yes there will be a Thursday challenge at that other website

I knew Ken was going to do this and it is just wrong:
What two neighboring beaches in Rio de Janeiro each inspired hit songs, one in 1963 and one in 1978? "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Copacabana" are both names that originated with Brazilian beaches.

The key word in the clue should be "inspired." Barry Manilow's hit was not inspired by a Brazilian beach, it was about the nightclub. I don't care if the nightclub borrowed the name from the beach, that wasn't the question asked. Grrr.

this week:

1. I have no idea what he's talking about.
2. don't know
3. head
4. don't know
5. One of the guys who died on the launch pad? Can't think of their names.
6. Who is Rihanna?
7. Atchison, Istanbul, and Aruba are all in songs, but that isn't unique.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My work is done

Wherein no I won't share the leftovers

Brine and roasted using this Alton Brown method.

A Thanksgiving Tradition

Wherein excellent selection

I don't follow sports much anymore, however the first thing I do every Thanksgiving morning is click over to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and read Patrick Reusse's turkey of the year:
We now require this announcement before getting to the big honor: The Chairman has taken the unusual action of granting a pardon to a pair of choice turkeys.

The hand-spitting, handshaking Little Leaguers from Coon Rapids were on the tentative guest list, but an executive decision was made to acknowledge adolescent stupidity and keep the lads off the chopping block.

In another break with tradition, the Turkey Chairman decided not to honor a runner-up at today's banquet. That's because the winner so quickly established himself as a Turkeydom powerhouse that there was no major challenger.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How to cook a very good dinner

Wherein pay attention and don't spill hot grease on the back of your hand. Blisters = pain

  1. Get a bigass ribeye. Already you're ahead of the game. You'll have to work extra hard to screw this up. Liberally salt and pepper -- yep, spread the salt like taxes stolen from working class Americans [note to self: later, when it isn't 5am, come up with an equally lame crack about conservatively salting food) -- and sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a pan to medium high heat. Place the pan on the stove, turn it on and do other stuff for 10 minutes or so.
  3. Melt some of that bacon grease you've been saving since you last cooked up bacon. Hell, I'll cook bacon just to get more grease. We're cookin meat here people, none of that namby pamby vegetable oil crap. oil
  4. Gently place the ribeye in the lovely oil grease God's lubricant pig fat. There should be lots of sizzling and steam. If there isn't, you screwed up step 2. Throw everything away and start over.
  5. Wait 3 minutes, don't even think about touching it or moving the pan, then flip it and wait another three minutes.
  6. Move to plate and add to pan a handful of onions and a handful of mushrooms you sliced up earlier. Stir for 3-5 minutes, until starting to brown.
  7. Pour in a healthy dose of Marsala wine. Half a cup, maybe a quarter... I wasn't paying too much attention. Deglaze the pan and reduce by at least half. Keep it a little thicker than nappe.
  8. Take off heat and whisk in a couple tablespoons of butter.
  9. Pour everything over the steak and commence eating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm not conflicted, I think all of it is stupid

Wherein when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school, I'm trying to get my daughter to say "One Nation under Canada." No luck yet, but I'll keep trying.

I hadn't heard of these attacks. But they improve my opinion of Obama. Ron Rosenbaum, in Slate, In Defense of Obama's Patriotism:
You've probably read about the viral—and misleading—e-mail accusing Barack Obama of refusing to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. (The video, in fact, shows him listening to the national anthem with his hands clasped in front of him, although some consider that a sacrilege, too.)

The widely circulated e-mail seems designed to play upon Obama's previous public decision to stop wearing a flag lapel pin. To suggest there's a pattern there. If so, I would say all these pledge-and-pin, hand-and-heart, loyalty-ritual fetishists are misguided about American history, especially the importance to that history of the challenge to loyalty pledges. If it's a pattern in Obama's behavior, I think it's a courageous challenge to conventional wisdom on firm constitutional grounds (however politically self-destructive it may prove in the short run). When was the last time you saw a politician make that trade-off?

Does anyone else feel the way I do? Glad to be an American, privileged and grateful for its freedoms, but conflicted about pins, pledges, flag worshipping, and other rituals of compulsory or socially enforced patriotism, like the hand over the heart during the national anthem?

I certainly feel allegiance, though less to the inanimate flag than to "the republic for which it stands," but, paradoxically, the moment when I feel most rebellious about that allegiance is when I'm being forced by state or social coercion to pledge allegiance. The America I feel allegiance to isn't the America that requires compulsory displays of loyalty. t

Monday, November 19, 2007

Question of the day

Wherein probably more than one might think, though not enough to matter for the candidate in question

Do GOP primary voters in Iowa and Ironic Chuck Norris Appreciators have a lot of overlap?

Friday, November 16, 2007

In other news, edited

Wherein it rained last night and I made sure to save as much as possible so Alabama and Florida won't get any of my precious fluids. You want water, put some desalinization plants in the Gulf.

Guns don't kill, bullets do:
  • new Thursday challenge
  • Only three tracks left to go on the Jimmy Carter comedy album
  • Rocky: The Musical
  • The Mommy War Meme
  • Constructive criticism from stupid, stupid people
  • Floyd Landis writes an editorial: First Dr. Brenna, the WADA puppet who changed his testimony in the second half of the trial after learning that his testimony, the truth, would mean an exoneration because the math didn't work and so he made up a new technique called eyeballing.
  • Note to TRUST BUT VERIFY guys HUMANS: It is not necessary to link back to me for the above link. I'm not saying anything, I'm just linking to you. I do not require nor do I expect a link back. Seriously, sometimes you just have to let it go. Other than, keep up the good work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pushing Envelopes

Wherein type envelope more than afew times and it just starts to look weird

Over at Alan Sepinwall's post about HIMYM: Shattered Glass, language pet peeves were discussed in the comments. A popular one was the proper use of pushing the envelope, or edge thereof, and how it was used in the The Right Stuff. Thanks to the internet there's no need to remember anything, just look it up!

Searching Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff for all uses of "envelope."

  • page 8: One of the phrases that kept running through the conversation was "pushing the outside of the envelope." The "envelope" was a flight-test term referring to the limits of a particular aircraft's performance, how tight a turn it could make at such-and-such a speed, and so on. "Pushing the outside," probing the outer limits, of the enveloped seemed to be the great challenge and satisfaction of flight test. At first, "pushing the outside of the envelope" was not a particularly terrifying phrase to hear.
  • page 10: pushing the outside of the envelope
  • page 83: He always knew where the outside of the envelope was
  • page 113: pushed the outside of the envelopes
  • page 148: probing the outer limits of the envelope
  • page 160: hole in the supersonic envelope
  • page 331: They knew where the outside of the envelope was
  • page 337: where the limits of the envelope
  • page 339: The outside of the envelope!
  • page 344: Up above 100,000 feet the plane's envelope

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

While we're waiting for Ken

Wherein it's Tuesday and there's nothing in my inbox

Last week I attempted by own Ken Jennings #7 style question. These are questions known for their interesting degree of difficulty but with an added twist that makes them completely annoying:
What unusual distinction is shared by these four movies? Annie Hall, Funny Lady, Guys and Dolls, Tender Mercies

Answer: They all feature actors in singing roles who were also in The Godfather.
  • Marlon Brando, Guys and Dolls
  • James Caan, Funny Lady
  • Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies
  • Diane Keaton, Annie Hall

I almost included Al Martino, who plays Johnny Fontane. Martino sang the title track for Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but did not appear in the movie.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Jimmy Carter comedy album

Wherein comedy about him not by him

1977's Trust Me.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Phrase of the day

Wherein these people are even more annoying than marketing

In the comments

Bull kept chanting "Cry, cry, cry," each time the ball ricocheted off his son's skull

Wherein don't try this with a 5-year old after a league soccer game. I swear no one has a sense of humor, anymore. Community service my ass. You know what would be a community service? Learning to pass the frickin' ball to the open man in front of the frickin' goal.

Michael Jordan's son Jeffrey has beaten him at basketball and, surprise! Michael's not too happy or proud. I hope I'm not the only one who immediately thought of the Pat Conroy's The Great Santini. For the movie, this scene was memorably recreated by Robert Duvall and Michael O'Keefe; both of whom were nominated for Oscars. According to his wiki, O'Keefe was married to Bonnie Raitt and is a Zen priest. Okay.
Then Bull shouted at Ben, "Hey, jocko, you gotta win by two baskets."

The backyard became quiet again. Ben looked at his father and said, "You said by one."

"I changed my mind; let's go," Bull said picking up the basketball.

"Oh, no, Bull," Lillian said, marching toward her husband. You're not going to cheat the boy out of his victory."

"Who in the hell asked you anything?" Bull said, glaring at his wife.

"I don't care if anybody asked me or not. He beat you fair and square and I'm not going to let you take that away from him."

"Get over here, mama's boy," Bull said, motioning to Ben, "and let's you and me finish this game."

"Mama, I'm gonna play him," Ben said.

"No you're not," his mother answered harshly, with finality, then speaking to her husband, she said, "He beat you, Big Marine. He beat the big Marine where everybody could see it, right out in the open, and it was beautiful. Big Marine can't take it that his baby boy just beat him to death on the basketball court."

"You sort of like winning, don't you, Dad?" Ben said, trying to sound unconcerned and in control, but fear lay heavy on his voice.

Bull went up to Ben until they were almost nose to nose, as Ben had seen Drill Instructors do to recruits. With his forefinger, he began poking Ben's chin. "You get smart with me, jocko, and I'll kick you upstairs with your mother so you pussies can bawl together. Now guard me. You gotta win by two."

"I'm not gonna guard you, Dad. I won, Ben said, his voice almost breaking. He could feel himself about to cry.

Bull saw it too. "That's it, mama's boy. Start to cry. I want to see you cry," Bull roared, his voice at full colume, a voice of drill fields; a voice to be heard above the thunder of jet engines, a voice to be heard above the din of battle. Bull took the basketball and threw it into Ben's forehead. Ben turned to walk into the house, but Bull followed him, matching his steps and throwing the basketball against his son's head at intervals of three steps. Bull kept chanting "Cry, cry, cry," each time the ball ricocheted off his son's skull.

Quoting from Gary Taubes

Wherein tonight for dinner it's a slab of bacon washed down with a tub of mayonaise

I'm currently reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Fascinating research and it's a continuation from his ground-breaking article from ma few years back, What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? (NY Times, July 2, 2002).

From chapter 1, The Eisenhower Paradox:
From the end of World War II, when the USDA statistics become more reliable, to the late 1960s, while coronary heart-disease mortality rates supposedly soared, per-capita consumption of whole milk dropped steadily, and the use of cream was cut by half. We ate dramatically less lard (13 pounds per person per year, compared with 7 pounds) and less butter (8.5 pounds versus 4) and more margarine (4.5 pounds versus 9 pounds), vegetable shortening (9.5 pounds versus 17 pounds), and salad oils and cooking oils (7 pounds versus 18 pounds). As a result, during the wors decades of the heart-disease "epidemic," vegetable-fat consumption per capita in America doubled (from 28 pounds in the years 1947-49 to 55 pounds in 1976), while the average consumption of all animal fat (including the fat in meat, eggs, and dairy products) dropped from 84 pounds to 71. And so the increase in total fat consumption, to which Ancel Keys and others attributed the "epidemic" of heart disease, paralleled not only increased consumption of vegetables and citrus fruit, but of vegetable fats, which were considered heart-healthy, and a decreased consumption of animal fats.

I'm only a couple of chapters into the book and I'm already wondering how many people Ancel Keys has killed with his bad science:
In 1957, Keys insisted that "Each new research adds detail, reduces areas of uncertainty, and, so far, provides further reason to believe" his hypothesis. This is known technically as selection bias or confirmation bias; it would be applied often in the dietary-fat controversy. The fact, for instance, that Japanese men who lived in Japan had low-blood cholesterol levels and loe levels of heart disease was taken as a confirmation of Keys's hypothesis, as was the fact that Japanese men in California had higher cholesterol levels and higher rates of heart disease. That Japanese men in California who had very low cholesterol levels still had more heart disease than their counterparts living in Japan with similarly low cholesterol was considered largely irrelevant.

Keys, Stamler, and their supporters based their belief on the compelling nature of the hypothesis supplemented only by the evidence in support of it. Any research that did not support their hypothesis was said to be misinterprested, irrelevant, or based on untrustworthy data. Studies of Navajo Indians, Irish immigrants to Boston, African nomads, Swiss Alpine farmers, and Benedictine and Trappist monks all suggested that dietary fat seemed unrelated to heart disease. These were explained away or rejected by Keys.

...Once having adopted firm convictions about the dangers of dietary fat based on his own limited research among small populations around the world, Keys repeatedly preached against the temptation to adopt any firm contrary convictions based on the many other studies of small populations that seemed to repudiate hus hypothesis.

Taubes quoted in John Tierney's Junk Food or Junk Science? (Round 1):
I have two comments about Jeff’s post. First, anyone who can tell you “with certainty” that MacDonald’s is bad for us is the kind of zealot who can be dangerous if taken seriously. He might believe it, and he might have good reason to believe it, but telling us “with certainty”? I don’t think so. I can give him numerous examples of populations with epidemics of obesity and diabetes that were fast-food-restaurant free. McDonald’s may be serving up foods or nutrients that are bad for us (as may be Starbucks, for that matter), but the negative effects will depend entirely on what people order and what they then eat.
Secondly, of course, Jeff’s assuming that saturated fat, sodium and calories are bad, all of which can be (and probably are) the victims of the same kind of cascade you’re talking about with trans fats. My concern about [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s ban of transfats is: What happens if the nutrition research community should actually get its act together, do the necessary research, and conclude that sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup, for instance, are considerably worse for us than trans fats? They’re no more natural, even if the former has a slightly longer pedigree.
Would Bloomberg ban the use of sugar in New York restaurants? That would be fun.

Random House promotional interview:
Q: Everywhere we look, from Cheerios boxes to New York City’s recent ban on trans fats, we see the message that minimizing dietary fat will help prevent obesity and heart disease. How did we come to believe this “conventional wisdom” and when/how did you begin to doubt it?

A: We first came to believe this fifty years ago primarily because a handful of medical researchers of very dubious quality came to believe it unconditionally. They managed to get the American Heart Association to go along, which in turn convinced the health reporters and the politicians and it spread from there. The evidence never came around to support it, but after a while nobody cared. Or at least they didn’t consider the copious evidence refuting the hypothesis to be an impediment to believing that it was true.I came to doubt it initially because I had interviewed some of these people when I was doing an investigative article for the journal Science on the equally unsubstantiated belief that eating salt causes hypertension. My previous two books were about how hard it is to conduct good science, how rigorous and skeptical the scientists have to be, and here I was interviewing these prestigious and respected medical authorities, and they didn’t seem to have a clue what real science was all about. I decided to look into the fat story, knowing nothing about it, simply because these people were involved and claimed to have played significant roles. What I found was the scientific equivalent of a house of cards. These people would do a study to test their beliefs and it would come out either negative or just ambiguous. Then they’d interpret it as supporting their preferred hypothesis—that all fat or just saturated fat was harmful—in light of the fact that there were other studies that also supported their beliefs. And when I looked at the other studies, those were equally ambiguous but were in turn interpreted as supportive because still other studies appeared to support the fat-is-bad hypothesis. And that’s how it went, all the way down and back to the beginning. To mix my metaphors, there was a lot of smoke, but never any fire.

WTF was that all about?

Wherein I suspect I'm missing something

In an almost amusing article about people's exercise quirks, there's this paragraph:
Tamilee Webb, a fitness instructor in San Diego, teaches three to four times a week. One of her students repeats this mantra before each workout: “It’s hard body time — 1, 2, 3 woof!” When he’s not doing cardio, his shoes must be untied. He always wears sweat pants, which he tucks behind the tongues of his sneakers (Nike, of course). And his hat is always on backward.

What's up with the parenthetical "Nike, of course?" No where else is Nike mentioned, or any other brand name show. I wasn't aware that Nike was a code word for OCD. Or the author is making a cultural reference that must be common place for her, and the editors, but it flew completely over my head.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My smug alert is set to very high

Wherein Hey Sweden, where's MY medal?

Haven't checked my mileage lately. But with gas up to $2.99 a gallon I thought I'd see how well I'm doing. Also, the last couple of mornings it's dropped down around 30 degrees and all my motorcycle riding coworkers have parked their bikes for the winter, so it'll just be my scooter in the motorcycle parking section for the next four months.

Since my last fill up I've gone 181.1 km. Multiply by .6213 to get 112.517 miles, then divide by the 1.577 gallons it took to fill the tank for a wicked:



Wherein in case you forgot

Another Thursday Challenge.

I'd rather live in a van down by the river

Wherein yuck to both

Instapundit reports: IN THE RACE FOR BEST ONLINE COMMUNITY, it's neck-and-neck between DailyKos and Little Green Footballs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Newt Gingrich, corporate wench! Along with: your car sucks

Again with the 10 points

Jeffrey St. Clair:
Gore didn't make many friends in the House, but his propensity to techno-flatulence (e.g., "The government is just a big software program") soon prompted him to sniff out a kindred soul in the form of a pudgy young Congressman from suburban Atlanta with a marvelous facility for rotund phrase-making on any issue to hand. From the time he was first elected, in 1978, Newt Gingrich was positioning himself with precisely the same blend of opportunism, albeit at a noisier level, as Al Gore.

The two consecrated their amity in a group called the Congressional Clearing House on the Future. They met monthly, published a newsletter and hosted lectures by futurists and pop scientists including Carl Sagan and Alvin Toffler. But these monthly klatsches were not enough to satiate the passions of Gore and Gingrich for heady chat about meta-technical trends, artificial intelligence, the population bomb and extraterrestrial life (Gore believes ardently that We Are Not Alone). The two would meet for dinner at each other's houses. Poor Tipper, hoping for a romantic candle-lit evening with her spouse, would open the door to see the beaming, porcine features of the rising Republican star from Georgia on the doorstep. The relationship didn't end when Gore reached the Senate. In fact, in 1985 he and Gingrich co-authored a bill titled the Critical Trends Assessment Act. The legislation called for the creation of a White House Office on Futurism (WHOOF) to "study the effects of government policies on critical trends and alternative futures". In his career in Congress, Gore was rarely the principal author of a bill. This was an exception, albeit a doomed one. Although the two battled for WHOOF strenuously, it never went anywhere.

So after seeing all the friendly press his former best bud has been racking up, Newt decides to get in the game with his version of environmentalism. The November 2007 issue of Outside Magazine, has an interview with Newt Gingrich about his new environmental book. Here's some of the Q&A:
How different is your philosophy from that of the Bush administration?
I think we're more willing to set strict standards. We have a deeper interest in incentivizing alternative-fuel development. We also take the idea of a national energy strategy more seriously. We need a strategy that's good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for national security. Unless you can meet those three tests, you don't have an adequate energy strategy.

Isn't that exactly what Al Gore would say?
I'm sure Gore is very sincere in his concern for the environment, but I think in a lot of ways that concern is an excuse for higher taxes and more bureaucracy.

So what's your solution?
The left focuses on punishing people, and we need a strategy that rewards people. Terry and I believe that we are on the edge of a huge scientific revolution. We believe that markets work, and have historically created more choices, of higher quality, lower cost, and greater convenience. The great breakthroughs in human history have occurred when people—like Thomas Edison or Jonas Salk or Bill Gates—came along and suddenly created something new and different.

There's also a small review that doesn't discuss much of the book:
This "richer is greener" ethos takes up much of the book, with the authors extolling cooperation between the public and private sectors. They cite, for example, a partnership between Ford Motor Company and Conservation International to promote eco-leadership in business, and the Dutch government's tax incentives for those who invest in cutting-edge alternative-energy projects. There's little quantitative evidence among these feel-good anecdotes, however, that market forces alone can stop ecological meltdown.

Hmmm..."little quantitative evidence"...sounds like every other "saving the earth" book.

Maybe this is the space to ask "what has happened to gas mileage and cars? Looking at this Bureau of Transportation Statistics chart, there is a very gradual uptick in fuel efficiency. For example, 1995 passenger cars are at 28.6 and by 2005 there's a 1.4 mpg increase to 30.0. But while there's a gradual improvement for whole categories, the ultra high mileage cars have disappeared. For most of the 1990s I drove a Geo Metro that at 160,000 miles was still averaging 55 mpg. This 1995 Environmental Magazine article also mention a Honda Civc VX hatchback"at 47 mpg city/56." I occassionally commute in a 1994 Honda Civic 4-door that at almost 190,000 is still pushing 35-37 mpg. What happened?

Looking at another list at, there are no cars rated at above 50 mpg. There are only two in the 40s: Toyota Prius Hybrid and Honda Civic Hybrid. Just a couple years ago, weren't there a handful of hybrids claiming mileage above 50? Heck, even our 5-year old Saturn Vue gets close to 30 mpg. In addition to what seems to eb the decreasing efficiency of hybrids, I've never been convinced they're worth the extra cost. The Honda Civic Hybrid starts at $22,600 and has an estimated highway mileage of 45mpg. The Honda Civic Sedan starts at $15,010 with 36 Hwy mpg. Is that extra 10 miles per gallon really worth about $5,500? Seems like if I really wanted to spend that extra $5k, I could find more productive ways to use it. Like outfitting the house with tankless water heaters and saving energy and water.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sharing unusual distinctions

Wherein no need to study literature when an eclectic CD collection was just as helpful

1. Bundy...probably looking for a more complete answer.
2. Pudding pops -- Theo was the clue.
3. That Robert Altman film, Short Cuts, I think.
4. The guy who became a quarterbacks for the Rams. Kurt Warner.
5. Qatar?
6. Was going to guess ostrich, then remembered the title to this excellent Trailer Bride CD. Turned out to be the correct answer.
7. I've lost interest in the #7s. I'm working on a trivia question that, if I get it to work, will be as annoying as any Ken Jennings trivia question. By working, I mean I've thought of it for a few minutes and have two working parts. I'd like to have at least 3 more for a proper question and this will require some work.

Later...after not much short, but I'll go with it: What unusual distinction is shared by these four movies? Annie Hall, Funny Lady, Guys and Dolls, Tender Mercies

Monday, November 05, 2007

"inexcusable" and "garbage"

Wherein more Floyd Landis

via Trust But Verify, who is also running a multi-part series called "Integration For Idiots":
Integration is the process by which we get the carbon isotope ratios out of the IRMS peaks. The sample gets burned up into carbon dioxide, ionized, and detectors for the m=44 and m=45 ions determine how many of carbon 12 molecules vs. the number of carbon 13 molecules there are.

Even the idiot version is making my head hurt. Guess I shouldn't try reading it right after a heavy lunch.

From the Gainesville Sun:
Bruce Goldberger [University of Florida forensic toxicologist], who heads the world's leading academy for forensic science, said he came to the case reluctantly. Goldberger is not an expert on performance-enhancing drugs, but Landis' lawyers wanted Goldberger to examine the methods that French scientists used when collecting and analyzing Landis' samples.

"I looked at the data and I couldn't believe what I saw," he said. "So I called (Landis' lawyer) Howard (Jacobs) and said, 'I'm in.' "

Goldberger delved into boxes and boxes of documentation, tracing the initial test that showed Landis had heightened testosterone levels. Goldberger said he found cases where paperwork used to track Landis' samples in the lab contained errors, opening up the possibility that some of the testing had been conducted on specimens that weren't taken from Landis.

In other cases, scientists used White-Out to correct mislabeled paperwork. The use of White-Out is a major taboo in testing circles because it covers up mistakes and makes it impossible to retrace what may have gone wrong, Goldberger said.

"It's inexcusable in a lab that does doping analysis," said Goldberger, who is president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists.

What I learned this weekend

Wherein not much

Jumping rope is hard. Having knees that sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies doesn't help with the jumping up and down.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Campaign rumors and gossip

Wherein if you're into that kinda thing

Read about it at undercoverblackman.

Friday, November 02, 2007

"This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere"

Wherein I agree

From Bruce Schneier's The War on the Unexpected:
This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat; the police cordon off the area, make arrests, and/or evacuate airplanes; and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling, or a cell phone in an airplane seat.

Of course, by then it's too late for the authorities to admit that they made a mistake and overreacted, that a sane voice of reason at some level should have prevailed. What follows is the parade of police and elected officials praising each other for doing a great job, and prosecuting the poor victim -- the person who was different in the first place -- for having the temerity to try to trick them.

I would elevate this to most important:
Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

For the record

Wherein this counts as "lame" for quality of blog content

Thingthrowers are discussing the only football game I'll purposely watch, this year. My only comment on the game:
I don't much care for football and even I am looking forward to this game.

Mostly due to Gregg Easterbrook's increasingly annoying hatred of both the Patriots and satellite tv, I hope the Patriots win by 70 and a DirectTV executive kicks Easterbrook in the balls.

Satellite tv deserves a defense, but time is short. I still have that Gingrich thing hanging over my head. For now I can just tell you that we love the DISH, love the service we get from independent contractors, that we lose DISH service less often than we ever did with cable, and if we couldn't get satellite TV I'd go without television before I ever again deal with any of the assholes for any cable company.

Match the lyrics to the artist is done

Wherein even blog posts can be outsourced

I've passed the Match the lyrics to the artist off to this other Bill at 45 and 33. I don't really know the guy but he's trying to do this musical thing so I thought I'd help him out. He's calling it the "Thursday Challenge." Whoo! that's original.

Thursday Challenge I

In a final accounting for the three weeks I ran this thing, the final leader board reads:
  1. justkim, 2 points
  2. the rest of the internet, 0 points

Congratulation, justkim.