||2010-11-03 Wed 10:13|
Last night when I went to bed, I thought we were losing in the Attorney General race, and I thought we'd lost Jerry McNerney, which I would've been really sad about -- ever since his freshman term, he's been an important figure in supporting expansion of alt-energy and public transit investment. This morning, if you visit the Close Contests page at the Secretary of State's website, apparently Kamala is up by a pretty solid half-percent. And Jerry is up by 121 votes, out of 172,936 votes cast. That's a 0.07% lead. Can you say, "Recount"? The pattern tends to be that Dems gain votes in a recount; I sure hope that holds.
On the propositions, we won the two most important -- defeated the effort to kill the global warming law, and passed a majority budget rule -- but lost everything else (at least, with respect to my own vote; I ended up having mixed feelings about 19, since I found my friend Wade's arguments against it fairly persuasive, although I still kinda think that any step towards ending Prohibition would probably be better than what we're doing, and that if there were bad consequences we could sort them out by further steps in that direction). I'm particularly disappointed about 26; now ANY measure to raise revenue requires a 2/3 vote. So we can pass a budget, but we're constrained, basically forever, to the revenue structure we currently have, which has shifted, over the past forty years, to be more and more regressive. You cannot provide everyone in society a decent infrastructure to live their lives in, if those who benefit the most from gov't services do not pay their fair share. Instead, we'll continue trending towards a return to the 19th century: the very wealthy can buy their own private services -- gated communities with private security, private sources of clean water, etc. -- and the rest of us can have inadequate police and fire protection, water that may from time to time poison us, etc.
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...from my friend Wade, who is a sufficiently centrist guy to have bothered with endorsements in both the Dem and GOP primaries this past spring. (He confesses to being liberal, but I'm pretty sure he's still several notches to my right.)
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My friends bostorus and elissali posted their endorsements here and here, respectively, and each of them cites to some new, interesting sources of information. bostorus makes a fair case for the other candidate in the superindendent race, and adds some worthwhile points on Props 20 and 27, and there was some good discussion of Prop 24 in the comments on elissali's post.
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For many of these, you can refer to the Primary endorsements for more details. If I don't provide any explanation here, it's because what I have to say would pretty much be a copy-paste from that previous post. (I suppose I could rant about how awful Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are, but really, don't we all know that by know?)
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Tsuki is sounding kind of sniffly today, and I'm a little concerned about her being out in the cold, even with her little house to shelter in... I'm wondering if there's something I could put in there that would keep the temperature inside the little house at a minimum of 68-70F. It would obviously need to be designed such that it wouldn't shock her if it got wet, and well padded. (I'd stick it under the other towels I have in there, but still, she has claws... This seems like a sort of improbable device, I guess. :-/
Maybe I could just find some kind of large cage that would fit in our bathtub, and keep her in there.
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Since I was planning to be around NYC, and had a pretty freeform schedule for today, last week I emailed a few NYC Slaties that I've talked to over the years, to ask whether they might like to have lunch, or a drink after work. ( cut for lengthCollapse )
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As mentioned previously, we went to Graffiti today, after having gone to sbtorpey and oddthink's place for brunch. (I made french toast in S~ and J~'s kitchen, S~ made a salad and a frittata, surpheon and anemone brought syrups and beverages, and another friend, who I think may not be on LJ, brought a bunch of fruit to toss over things. jilflirt and her husband, who I think is on LJ but whose handle I can't remember, showed up too late for brunch, but we got to hang out and chat for a while.)
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We'd originally planned to go to Graffiti, Chef Jehangir Mehta's original restaurant, but due to vagaries of planning we couldn't get a reservation there for tonight. (So we're going there tomorrow. *g*) We had a reservation for five at the brand new place, Mehtaphor, which ended up falling down to three by this evening, after one friend I'd thought might be able to come couldn't, and another who'd said he was coming had to bail due to some family emergency. I ended up going with just Xta and Dan (my best friend from growing up).
Chef Mehta was sitting at a desk reviewing some kind of paperwork when we came in, and was talking to patrons when we were on our way out, so I got to say hi, express my admiration, and get my copy of his book signed. So, yay. I also mentioned that it seems like I have a taste for the work of chefs who started out working on pastries and desserts, with Elizabeth Falkner being another chef whose style I really enjoy; he seemed to be pleased with the comparison.
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I guess I should've gotten Xta to take some photos, but we were too focused on, you know, eating. :-I *nom*
ETA: I should also mention, last night we went to Khyber Pass, a nice little Afghan restaurant on Saint Mark's Place, where I used to eat before going clubbing when I was an intern at IBM Research over summer '98, and I'd just started getting into the goth scene. I was really pleased to find it still there. :-)
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||2010-10-08 Fri 10:58|
For some reason all my Office toolbars have spontaneously reverted to their default configurations. The only thing I did, between having them show up the way I'd heavily customized them, to this reversion, was install an update to Adobe Reader. Why the heck would that matter?
(Stupid Ring. Stupid Quest. Stupid Fellowship.)
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I was wondering why it is that domestic cats have slit-shaped pupils, whereas none of the big cats (tigers, lions, leopards) have them. Turns out that scientists have only relatively recently started figuring that out. It probably has to do with chromatic aberration. The adaptations that give cats excellent night vision would actually impair their vision in brighter conditions if they had to contract a round pupil. (See the diagram in this article.)
Slit pupils are apparently also seen in a variety of other animals that are partly nocturnal and partly diurnal, and that have relatively small eyes.
Science is awesome.
And yes, this is totally the way I waste time at the end of the day. Doesn't everyone get obsessed with random knowledge?
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The top-ranked econ/business blogs are almost uniformly blogs I regard as worth reading from time to time, and the #1 is one of the things I read daily. Even the conservatives who appear are pretty good -- Mankiw is usually worth listening to. You have to go all the way down to #14 to find a goldbug. (OTOH, the second page, 21-40, contains a bunch of Mises/Hayek silliness.)
TriplePundit, the Presidio-originated green business blog, is at #34. I'm sort of surprised Marginal Revolution (which is one of the other conservative/libertarian-leaning blogs I like) is all the way down at #53. Really? 3P gets more hits than Tyler Cowen?
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As many of you probably know, I subscribe to the SF Opera, and sell some the tickets for shows I've seen many times. Because I get the subscriber discount, I can sell them significantly below the cost you'd have to pay to get individual tickets from the box office. (Weekend singles on the SFOpera website are currently listed at $125. The face value on mine is $100, and I add $0.50 per ticket, from the shipping-and-handling charge I paid with my subscription. So each pair is $201.) My seats are Dress Circle E126 and E128, on the first aisle out from the center. The view is superb.
I currently have two pairs available:
Each opera is preceded, one hour before, by an educational lecture.
I'm flexible in arranging payment and delivery -- I can meet you somewhere to exchange the tickets for cash (I live in Mountain View, near where Rengstorff Ave meets Central Expwy), or you can use PayPal or mail a check, and I'll mail the tickets back. If you're interested in seeing a show, but the date doesn't work for you, I'm happy to exchange to a different date, though of course the seats will likely be different. If you want, I can either meet you somewhere, or dial the SF Opera Box Office into a three-way call with you, so you can pick out your date and seats. I'm willing to sell the tickets separately, if I happen to get two solid offers; I want to avoid ending up with a stranded single.
I also will be selling Dress Circle J128, a few rows back from my regular seats, for Das Rheingold on Jun 14, 2011 at 7pm, and Die Walküre on Jun 15, 2011 at 6pm, for $115 each. (Xta didn't care to re-watch the first two operas; my mother wants to see the whole thing. So I'm going with my mom to the first two, and all three of us are going to the latter two. But the only way to do that was to get three full-cycle seats.) There are "a la carte" showings of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, on May 29 and Jun 5, respectively, so if you bought these tickets, and the a la carte tickets for the latter two episodes, you'd have a "bargain cycle". You'd be seeing the latter two episodes first, but you'd save roughly a thousand bucks -- the price for a full cycle subscription in dress circle includes a "mandatory donation" of $460 per seat, and the single-ticket price is $135. I haven't received my Ring tickets through the mail yet -- I just have the letter confirming my seats -- but I'd be happy to arrange the sale in advance.
Please feel free to share this post with friends.
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||2010-07-16 Fri 15:58|
I just received an email from you, suggesting that I sign up for a Mint.com account, because you're planning to shut down Quicken Online towards the end of August.
Now, I'd already heard about this, so that is, in itself, not too upsetting. A conversation with a friend of mine, a few months back, revealed that features I value in QO were already being imported into Mint. I'm sure that Mint is a perfectly good service.
However, when I followed the link in your email, suggesting I might want to sign up for Mint, I was not taken to any kind of special "Transitioning from QO? Here's how!" page. I was taken to the frontpage of Mint. I looked around to see if there was any info about importing my QO data; there was not. I did the initial part of the signup, and when it took me to the part where you add accounts, I looked around some more. No dice. I checked with your help forums, and found this:
If you are inquiring about importing data from your Quicken Online accounts (and I see several of you are), the timeline and details for migrating existing QOL accounts over to Mint is still being worked through, but rest assured that when it happens, your historical data (financial institutions, accounts, balances, transactions) will be preserved. That said it is likely that some information in your QOL accounts may be lost. Functionality that is tied to custom categories will be very difficult to migrate and we expect that users may need to do some work to recover entirely. We understand that this is not ideal and we are looking for ways to minimize any pain.
Let's not mince words: This is idiotic. Does Mint.com not let users create custom income and spending categories? I suspect it does; if it does, it should not be so terribly difficult to automate creating the same custom categories, and tagging transactions appropriately. The basic structure of accounting transactions has been well-known for centuries. If you can't figure out how to merge or transfer transaction data, your data managers are incompetent. I've dealt with far more difficult data sets -- try interweaving Chinese and English language data some time.
Similarly, I should not need to enter my account data. How much data could there be to transfer? The institution, the account number and/or username, and the password. If there are security concerns, I'm willing to re-enter my passwords at Mint.com, rather than having those transferred; though I'd frankly prefer to simply enter my QO password once, and have everything sucked over to Mint automatically.
Monthly budgets, as well, aren't exactly rocket science; there are spending categories, one budget number for each past month, and a number set for the current month (which, unless changed, carries over to the next month when the calendar turns a page).
What were you thinking, announcing the closure of QO without having already provided for this transition? I've been a loyal customer for something like 15 years -- I've used TurboTax to deal with my taxes every year since I started earning income. I currently am offering consulting services to small businesses that need to deal with QuickBooks. I have quite liked Quicken Online (and my fiancée was using the offline version of Quicken for years before we consolidated our finances).
It took a great deal of time and effort to get QO running: categorizing transactions often enough to get the system to do things right on its own, at least most of the time; adding the categories we needed to make the trend reports meaningful for us; figuring out how to properly record transfers, refunds, "off-balance sheet" transactions like tax withholdings, and so on. I cannot believe that you are just going to toss my investment of time and energy out the window. I'd sooner find another company to do my taxes and personal accounting with, than just meekly accept that.
I would never have expected you to treat your customers so shabbily; this is wildly different from my past experiences, and extremely disappointing. I expect an apology and a remedy.
PS: In regard to your statement that, "After careful consideration we made the decision to not transfer or allow customers to transfer their data from Quicken Online to Mint.com," I suggest that you consider some more. :-P
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Just edited in the judicial races, and the local measures.
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I filled in the rest of the Propositions. Still need to do Judicial races.
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Governor: Jerry Brown. He's the only serious candidate running on the Democratic side, and I do quite like Governor Moonbeam. I had dinner with him a couple times. Many years ago, I was dating his web-mistress, and offered to do some perl coding for her. She was working out of the loft apartment/office he was using, while mayor of Oakland, and if we were there around dinner time he'd come and invite us to join him at the table. He has an amazingly wide-ranging intellect, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. And his policies as governor last time around, particularly in the area of energy, were groundbreaking. Robert Batinovich (his appointee to run the California Public Utilities Commission) basically invented the concept of "decoupling", a policy under which you tell utilities that if they provide their customers with enough efficiency services to lower demand a certain amount, they will then be allowed to raise rates. The utility gets some more revenue, and has lower costs to procure power in the first place, so their profits get a boost; but the customer still gets lower bills than they would've otherwise seen. This win-win policy is the reason that CA has seen its energy-intensity per dollar of GDP shrink dramatically over the last three decades, while the rest of the country basically stayed constant, learning nothing from the '70s oil shocks.
Lt. Governor: Gavin Newsom. I had a conversation with him, at the convention in L.A. in April, about the tidal power project at the Golden Gate, and he knew the names of bidding companies, details of the technology, etc -- I found that very impressive. It's one thing to be generally on top of managing things, it's another to have lightning-fast recall on details that you could just trust to staff. And I think his don't-take-no-for-an-answer attitude in San Francisco -- implementing a city healthcare program, providing a public bank to drive out the payday-loan sharks, etc -- is commendable.
Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. Aside from the fact that she's the only candidate, she has done a superb job. I appreciate having somebody in charge of elections who actually cares that they're fair. Bowen sponsored a thorough investigation of voting machines, and disqualified the ones that had serious security holes. She has pushed registrars to do better and more standardized training for clerks. And she's been an advocate for experimenting with alternative election methods (mostly IRV and STV-PR, but I've talked to her about Range and Approval, and she is certainly not opposed to them and seems to think the law she sponsored to allow municipalities to try alternate methods out out should allow for them).
Controller: John Chiang. Only candidate, and seems to have done a competent job this term, continuing some of the good things Westly did -- setting up a free e-File system for folks with simpler returns, taking business tax evasion seriously, etc.
Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Only candidate.
Attorney General: Kamala Harris. I've been kinda torn on this one because while I do think Kamala is the candidate whose policies I most agree with -- she's been particularly good in pushing programs to reduce recidivism -- I'm concerned about whether the charges that she's "soft on crime" will stick in the general. I considered voting for Pedro Nava, but polling suggests that the race is basically between Kamala and Chris Kelly, former chief council at Facebook. I might've actually considered voting for Kelly -- he's been endorsed by a friend of mine who's prominent in the party structure who went to law school with him, and I'm generally well-disposed towards techy folks (even if I have issues with Facebook's behavior around user privacy). But Kelly has sponsored viciously negative, dishonest campaign ads against Kamala. I am emphatically Not OK with that. So, I get to vote strategically for the person I actually wanted to vote for in the first place!
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with De La Torre, but Jones has particularly impressed me (and, apparently, a supermajority of CADem delegates -- we endorsed him) with his past efforts, as a legislator, to improve health insurance regulations. He's also sponsored a bill that would create incentives for auto insurers to validate drivers' milage (like, get verified statements about the odometer from your mechanic), and charge according to how much you drive. This makes sense on many levels. Most obviously, it's fair, since the more you drive, the more opportunities you have to get in an accident. It also creates incentives to shift from driving to alternate transportation, which is good for the environment. Jones has also been a vocal opponent of Prop 17 (more on that below), because it is likely to lead to more uninsured drivers on our roads.
Member, State Board of Equalization, District 1: Betty Yee. She's the incumbent, and seems to have done a decent job in her first term.
U.S. Senator: Barbara Boxer. Duh. Barbara is one of my heroes. (I've been kind of entertained by Mickey Kaus' stunt candidacy, and if he were running against Feinstein I'd vote for him. But not against Barbara.)
U.S. Representative: Anna Eshoo. No other candidate, and I like Anna a lot -- she's a leader in the House on energy and environment issues, and business/tech issues as well.
State Assembly, District 21: Josh Becker. As some of you may know, I've been volunteering for Josh's campaign, and have posted a bunch of links to news articles here and on my Facebook wall. I think Josh has an amazing blend of experience -- from policy work at the state and federal level, to starting multiple businesses and investing in more, to creating the Full Circle Fund and helping launch its numerous efforts to apply business expertise to difficult social problems. (One of my favorite Full Circle projects is SIRUM. It was launched as a local project a year or so ago. It's a database that taps into the inventory files of private hospitals and pharma warehouses, and alerts them when a batch of some drug that they've held in surplus is going to hit its expiration date soon, so that rather than waiting and tossing it in the trash, they can donate it to local community hospitals and clinics who have shortages. It costs basically nothing, but has delivered $300k of healthcare in our region in just one year.) I admire and respect both Rich Gordon and Yoriko Kishimoto, but I think Josh will bring a different kind of perspective to Sacramento. He'll be particularly helpful in areas such as deploying the data infrastructure our schools need in order to compete for federal "Race to the Top" funds. Anyways, I could go on for pages on this race; check out his website for more.
Santa Clara County Democratic Party Committee, District 21: Jim Thurber, William James, Diane Rolfe, Anne Mack. These are folks I know personally and who I've seen work hard to advance progressive principles.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #7: Thomas Spielbauer. I'm not thrilled with either candidate for this slot. Spielbauer has apparently been accused of crossing the line from zealously representing his client, to misrepresenting information to a judge. (He denies this.) McCracken has "vigorously led the district attorney's fight against sunshine rules in San Jose that would have given the public greater access to police records." (And that line is from the SJ Merc's endorsement of her.) In any case, after looking at the statements and browsing a few other articles, I'm inclined to go with the person whose business was helping people fight the banks, over the person whose busines was trying to keep the public from finding out what the DA's office was up to during a period when it was (according to the Merc's own reporters) up to no good. Even if the former does look to be somewhat shady as well. :-/
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #11: Vanessa A. Zecher. I agreed with the Merc's take on this one (see the same endorsement link from the previous item -- it covers all three judicial races). Both candidates look good; Zecher looks better.
Judge of the Superior Court, Office #19: Bob Camors. Both candidates in this one look quite good. (Why couldn't one of them have run in the #7 race?!) The Merc endorsed Alloggiamento, but I'm going with Camors, because he's an expert on technical issues that are important to Silicon Valley law, and I generally think the legal world could use more people who have "studied physics, math and engineering to better deal with these cases, an unusual asset for the court." (Also, while I get the impression that Alloggiamento is not a "lock-em-up, tough-on-crime" zealot, seems to have felt the need to put a paragraph into her ballot statement where she pretends to be.)
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson. Was endorsed heavily by the party. I spoke with him at a caucus meeting and at an evening mixer at the convention. He has experience in the high school and community college systems, and focused on education during his Assembly tenure. He's worked on ensuring that school facilities are safe; on offering good options for students who would rather pursue trades than the college track; and on allowing charter schools room to experiment while holding them accountable for results. A couple of newspapers, in endorsing other candidates, have suggested that Torlakson is too close to the teachers' unions; I'm not convinced. Yes, he has their support, but in speaking to him, I didn't get the impression that he was unwilling to acknowledge that the union can be wrong.
Santa Clara County Assessor: Larry Stone. Only candidate, and he's one of the most respected non-partisan officials in the state -- he's the guy that other assessors call when they have a difficult professional question.
Santa Clara County District Attorney: Jeff Rosen. Dolores Carr, the incumbent, has been a disaster.
Santa Clara County Sheriff: Richard Calderon. The incumbent Sheriff's competence is also in question due to some of the problems brought up in the articles I linked to in relation to Dolores Carr, particularly the investigation of the De Anza rape case, where evidence was not processed by police in a timely manner. Martin Monica has gotten endorsements from a number of people I know personally and respect, but he does not seem to have much support from the law enforcement community itself. I have some internal conflicts in terms of whether I'd want to see the police organizations totally lined up behind a candidate for Sheriff -- if you think some reforms are needed, the current police might not be trustworthy to judge who best to come in and push them to change. But I would expect to see some police voices on the side of the reformer, and Calderon's statement does at least claim that he sees the problems with Smith's performance and wants to change things.
Prop 13: Yes. This alters the property tax rules to roll earthquake retrofits under the existing Prop 13 rules. While I oppose Prop 13 in general, and would like to see a split roll reform, it does seem reasonable to make the tax system not act as a disincentive for earthquake retrofits. As far as I know, nobody is seriously opposing this -- the CA Democratic Party endorsed it.
Prop 14: No. I'm plagiarizing a friend of a friend for this paragraph: The "jungle primary", where the top two under plurality enter a run-off, magnifies problems with vote splitting and tactical voting. It's the system that produced Louisana's famous Edwards/Roemer/Duke fiasco. In the primary, it was pretty clear that Roemer was the leading candidate, and the question was whether Edwards (the crook), or Duke (the racist) would be in the runoff. Unfortunately a lot of people who couldn't stand Duke voted for Edwards, and a lot of people who couldn't stand Edwards voted for Duke. Roemer unexpectedly didn't make it to the general election, for reasons of over-trusting polls and tactical voting (with a side of vote-splitting: a 4th candidate, Holloway absorbed some of the votes too). From my own thoughts, if you look at the current A.G. race, where there are (as I count) two or three serious Republicans but five serious Dems, you can see how you could have 40% of people voting for Repubs, and 60% voting for Dems, but have the larger number of candidates on the Dem side lead to a runoff between two Repubs. The parties would have to resort to backroom arm-twisting to prevent that, which I think is even worse than the kind of primaries we have currently. I might favor some kind of open primary -- say, one that worked on the principles of STV-PR, or Proportional Approval or Range, and that advanced the top 3-5 candidates to the general, where you'd use single-winner Range, Approval, or a Condorcet method. Prop 14, even if some of its proponents are well-intentioned, is a loser.
Prop 15: Yes. (Partially plagiarizing the remarks of former Asm. Speaker Pro-Tem Sally Lieber at her Facebook page.) Prop 15 creates a pilot project for "clean money" public financing for the elections of Secretary of State in 2014 and 2018. This opt-in public fund would be supported by a significant increase in the registration fees for professional lobbyists and lobbying firms. To qualify for funding, candidates would have to demonstrate grassroots support by gathering signatures and $5 donations from 7,500 registered California voters. Once opted-in, they would be prohibited from raising or spending money from outside the public finance system. If a private-money candidate enters the race against them, and raises more than the public budget provides by default (roughly $1M, which is adequate to get your message out statewide even in a state as large as ours), the public fund provides matching dollars up to a total budget of 4x the original amount. Prop 15 is our best chance at reducing the impact of special interest money in politics, please vote yes. When similar systems were adopted in Arizona and Maine, many legislators who opposed clean money at the time subsequently opted in and came to appreciate being able to take all the time they used to spend on fundraising, and devote it to their constituents. (A Republican from Arizona, I believe named Marc Spitzer, came to Sacramento to testify in favor of an effort to pass a Clean Money system through our legislature.)
Prop 16: No. This is a power grab by PG&E. Currently, your duly elected representatives at the municipal level have the option under state law to organize a "Consumer Choice Aggregation" program, under which citizens can opt-in to buy green power, the city can contract with a clean power provider to take the money and allocate capacity to the city's demand, and the utility is obligated to take the green power into its grid. Obviously the reality is that once power is in the grid, you can't tell which electrons go to who, but the overall effect of CCA is that there's more green power, and the people who wanted it pay for it. It's a good system. PG&E is taking millions of dollars -- dollars paid in by its rate-paying captive customers -- and spending them on a campaign to require a 2/3 vote at the ballot box to allow a CCA program. They find it a hassle to deal with taking in power from providers that are picked by municipalities rather than by themselves. Aside from the fact that if PG&E has millions sitting around, they ought to lower their rates to folks like me who have no choice but to pay them for power, the entire campaign is offensive. They called the proposition the "Taxpayer's Right to Vote Act", when no taxes are involved at all; they're playing to the Republican base, who will be turning out for their Senatorial and Gubernatorial primaries. They also are trying to overturn the outcome of negotiations with the legislature and CPUC with which they were extensively involved. If they weren't happy with the way CCAs were working out, they could've come back to the CPUC and the legislature and said, "Hey, you know, how about we say that CCAs can request green power, but we'll be responsible for picking the providers?" I usually actually like PG&E fairly well -- of all the private utilities in the country, they arguably perform the best at providing efficiency services to customers, and they do seem committed to expanding their green power supply and meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard. (The RPS is actually related to Prop 16 -- I believe green power under CCAs is not being counted towards a utility's RPS requirement, which is arguably unfair.) But at the moment, I am red-hot furious at PG&E. I'd be thrilled to see my city launch a muni utility, at this point. Incidentally, part of why there has been little opposition spending, is that the parties directly negatively impacted are cities and their muni utilities -- which are forbidden by law from campaigning! I think we ought to apply some similar rule to regulated utilities -- no spending ratepayer dollars on campaigning. Maybe we could let them, if they get a two-thirds vote of approval from the ratepayers. :-P
Prop 17: No. This is a power grab by Mercury Insurance. According to analysis by Dave Jones, it would likely result in more uninsured drivers on the road. Say you're a working class citizen, and due to financial problems, you miss the due date on your car insurance by a couple days. Under Prop 17, your insurer can say that your coverage was revoked for the missed payment, and then, because you now have a "gap in coverage" in your history, can charge you a much higher premium if you want the same policy reinstated. If you're already struggling, you might just decide to give up on coverage. Prop 17 is also opposed by VoteVets and by my insurer, USAA, the non-profit cooperative which is the main insurer for uniformed service personnel and their families. (My dad served in uniform for over 20 years, hence my access to USAA.) Military personnel are particularly vulnerable to having gaps in coverage, hence the opposition of military-affiliated groups.
Measure A: Yes. Bonds for school facilities. Investing in long-term assets is the standard use for debt.
Measure L: Yes. Continues an existing parcel assessment, which would otherwise expire, to support local libraries.
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I am selling some opera tickets.
Faust, Sunday 6/20 1:30pm
Girl of the Golden West final dress rehearsal, Friday 6/4 2pm
Feel free to share with any friends you think might want them.
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Apparently revenues at Goats.com are down steeply, to the point that the author is considering scaling back or abandoning the project. Which is sad -- it's one of the longest running webcomics. Its bizarre, loopy humor has entertained me for over a decade. If Jon Rosenberg was British and wrote novels instead of comics, he'd be Douglas Adams. Except for the being dead part. Every now and then somebody will remark on a funny t-shirt I am wearing. Invariably, it's the product of Jon's twisted imagination. (This happened twice today, once with a total stranger at the grocery store; I'm wearing Protobama.) The Kittens = PopTarts storyline, from before Jon had even really learned to draw, remains one of the most sublime works of comic-strip humor I've ever seen -- I practically know it by heart, and it still cracks me up. ("Damned if I know!") The strip has love, death, aliens, digital cosmology, the death of G*d, a Mayan demon lord who may be a hero, and occasional ninjas.
It's hard to grow an audience when you're literally years into a complex plot. Multi-year-long TV shows, and series of novels, have similar problems, but people expect depth in those media. The audience for comics is, I guess, less tolerant of a storyline that you can't easily enter without learning the whole backstory. It's sort of odd, too, considering that graphic novels / comics are considerably less time consuming than either of those other media. (I read the entire four-book run of Nausicaa, sitting in the passenger seat on the drive up to Ashland, a few years back.)
If you like comics at all, Goats is one of the strangest, and best. It's even available in the convenient dead tree format, that lets you read large amounts at one sitting, while riding the train. I need to get other people to read it and buy the books, because otherwise it will go away without getting properly finished. And then I will be sad.
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...the company from which Xta and I got ours, SodaStream, is having a "refer a friend" promotion. I can send you a coupon code, and if you use it, they also put a credit on my account, so next time we need to swap a CO2 cartridge we'll save a little money.
We've found having our Fountain Jet highly convenient. It's definitely cheaper than buying sodas, in the long run, and you never have a moment of "Oops, we forgot to get that at the store." (Regarding price, if you're comparing to club soda -- which we were buying a lot of, to mix with our home-made syrups -- it works out to something like getting cans for 10¢ each. If you're buying their syrups, it works out to being a little more than 25¢ per can.) And of course, it decreases your greenhouse gas footprint, because you're no longer shipping large amounts of water around on trucks.
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I'm really curious how my observant Jewish friends feel about the White House Seder. It's hard to figure out exactly what the motivation is behind holding it, since it's clearly not part of Obama's own religion. Is it just a way to celebrate with the members of his staff who are Jewish? (There are a lot of those, including top advisors like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod.) Does he think it's a good ritual to share with Malia and Sasha? Is it partly aimed at Jewish voters? (Seems very likely -- but doesn't it also stand a chance of offending some of them?)
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For those of you who are registered to vote in California: You may be aware that passing revenue and budget bills in our legislature requires a two-thirds supermajority. While the term "supermajority" sounds like it's somehow better, or "more democratic", the truth is that, just as with the filibuster in the Senate, this provision creates minority rule. There's no accountability; the majority can't actually make policy, and the minority just nihilistically thwarts efforts to address problems, and then blames the majority when things go wrong.
We need to restore democracy to our legislature. There is a petition circulating for an initiative to be placed on the November ballot. The text reads: "All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote." And that's basically it, other than some boilerplate pointing out where this means changes, in the current constitutional text. (You can read the entire thing; it fits on a page in legible font.)
Please consider downloading, printing, and mailing in the single signature petition. Signatures are due in by April 5th.
And tell your friends to sign, too!
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I was thinking about the term limits problem (most members of the CA legislature haven't been around long enough to build up a network and learn all the parliamentary procedures they need to know in order to lead major policy initiatives, and non-term-limited lobbyists can dominate policy simply by being the only people in Sacramento who really understand the existing law and the process for changing it) and it occurred to me to wonder whether anyone has ever considered having candidates "tag team" an Assembly office. The idea is, you'd have two people campaign with and for each other, with the goal of trading off terms, so that the pair of them can hold the office for twelve years instead of six. It might be difficult to break into the public consciousness with the idea that the new name on the second term ballot is effectively the incumbent, but the payoff might be worthwhile... Another problem is that the out-of-office member of the team would, of course, need to have an income stream, which could raise conflict-of-interest issues... :-/
Anyways, possibly not practical in most cases, but it might work for the right pair of candidates.
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Just in case anyone downloaded my letter-size version of the petition, it turns out that you have to print the four-signature sheet on legal-sized paper; the letter size version would get rejected if turned in. There is a single-signature letter-size version available on the Californians for Democracy website; if you want to collect signatures from friends, you need to either make a lot of singles, or go print some legal size sheets at Kinko's. The deadline for signatures to get in to the Secretary of State is April 12, so if you're going to collect signatures and then get them to the organization, you probably want to mail stuff by April 5.
Please consider getting a few signatures from your friends. We need to end the practice of letting 34% of the legislature (elected by roughly 34% of the voters) completely dominate our government.
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A significant portion of what is wrong with California can be traced to the fact that essentially all action on our budget requires a two-thirds vote. As a result, a minority can stymie the will of a substantial majority, and there is no way to truly hold the majority accountable. If a majority could actually enact their priorities, you could judge their performance based on the outcomes of their actions (or their choice to avoid hard choices, if they went that way). As things stand, nothing ever gets done to fix our pressing problems, and you can't entirely be sure whether that's only because of the hardline minority, or whether some of the majority are perfectly happy to have the excuse.
Californians for Democracy is circulating an initiative, the relevant portion of which reads, "All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote." (Unlike the many corporate-backed initiatives that get circulated by paid signature-gathering firms, this one fits, in its entirety, on a single standard sheet of paper; other than the basic declaration, the rest is boilerplate; read it for yourself.) Note that this only affects legislative action -- it does not touch property taxes, because the limits on those were based in voter action. Again, you can read the detailed text yourself; it's pretty straightforward.*
If you think that we ought to end the practice of letting a nihilistic one-third minority shut down our government and destroy services -- everything from parks, to schools, to police and fire protection, to streetlights, to libraries, to treatment and education programs that would help reduce recidivism (and thus overcrowding) in the prisons -- then please download the petition, sign it, and mail it in. If you'd consider getting the four-signature version, and getting a few friends to sign, that'd be even better. Note that the four-signature version on the CA4Democracy site is legal size;
if you'd like a letter-size version, I made one and stored it here. ETA: If you want to use the four-signature version, it's apparently legally required that you print it at the font size given in the original PDF, on legal size paper (8.5" x 14"). My letter-size version apparently would be rejected if turned in. (I guess they're concerned for people with poor eyesight?)
Pass it on. Getting signatures from 8% of all registered voters is not easy; normally it costs about a million dollars to hire paid gatherers to do the legwork. CA4Democracy only has the determination of good citizens.
* I still think a split roll, and/or a shift to a Georgist land tax, rather than a property tax, would be a good idea. But it's not the subject of this initiative.
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I can't remember why it came up the other night, but I was pining for the Sha Cha Noodles at the Silk Road Café in Baltimore. They're made with a fairly hearty wheat noodle (similar to lo mein noodles, maybe a bit thicker), which get stir-fried with vegetables, meat or tofu, and a spicy paste which mixes with the stir fry oil to form the sauce. The flavor is a bit like a southeast Asian version of barbecue sauce.
I remember I did find the dish at a Taiwanese place over at Cupertino Village, but the place was terrible -- the dish was bland (not enough of the paste), and they had low quality noodles, meat, and veggies. Does anyone know where I might find a good version? I successfully located good Tan Tan noodles last year -- they have them at JingJing Gourmet in Palo Alto, and I'm told that Café Yulong on Dana St in Mountain View is decent, too. (I used to get Tan Tan at a Chinese place in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, but I don't get up that way very often anymore.)
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Slate has a new feature called "The Hive" where they're trying to develop a system for taking ideas from readers and filtering them. (It's still kinda buggy, and the interface for browsing needs work.) The first competition is about simple, easy ways to save energy. You should vote for my submission.
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...I thought it was worth pointing to a measured, reasonable article by a conservative, making an argument backed by data.
I bet there are a lot of things that Ron Unz and I would completely disagree about. But if you have somebody who's willing to defer to the data, and to admit that social dynamics are complicated, and he doesn't have all the answers, you can at least have a productive debate.
I'll have to browse his magazine a bit over the next week or two, to see if the signal-to-noise ratio is good enough to make it worth regular visits...
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Bob Reich has some interesting comments on anger in the news.
I know a lot of people think that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann is little better than Fox News. I disagree, for many reasons -- he is frequently, openly critical of people on "our side", he apologizes for and corrects mistakes, he has a sense of humor about himself, and I believe he fundamentally sees his mission as providing a broad view of the facts. Yes, there's opinion layered in -- but no news can completely exclude bias, and I generally think it's better to understand the biases of your news sources than to pretend they don't exist. At the very least, editors are deciding which stories are relevant, and reporters are deciding who counts as a reliable source when investigating a story. Yes, Keith tends to spend more time covering stories that liberals care about, and he talks to sources who liberals trust. But he does not start with a desired narrative and then design his reporting to support that; he covers stories that are important and interesting (plus some fluff that the entire world is covering) and talks to people who have real and relevant expertise. (Fox, on the other hand, literally sends out a memo every morning desribing the day's narrative, and even specific phrases that should be repeated often in support of it. Their "reporters" serve the goal of controlling perceptions. They frequently lie, and more often insinuate. This is why it is hardly surprising that when you run large polls, you find that many people who get their news from Fox are completely unhinged from reality, believing crazy conspiracy theories -- "Obama is a Muslim non-citizen who wants to kill your grandma!")
Keith shifted from providing carefully neutral reporting at first, to more open partisanship, because his neutral reporting was already being called liberal. If you refuse to equivalate between views that are supported by facts, and views that are based in lies and distortions (e.g. treating global warming deniers as credible and deserving of equal time with scientists, or treating advocates of abstinence only education as credible when the studies say that their curriculum leads to higher rates of pregnancy and disease, and so on), then apparently you are a liberal, in today's America. Similarly, calling a lie a lie, rather than a difference of opinion, apparently makes you a liberal. During the Bush years, it frequently seemed like much of the media was cowed into treating administration lies as though they were just equally-acceptable interpretations -- this went all the way back to the campaign, when Bush was never called out, by most of the media, for his ludicrous claims that his tax cuts would not lead to budget deficits. You did not have to be a math genius to find that his claims didn't square even with his campaign's own publications. Apparently Paul Krugman was the only person with a major media platform who was willing to point this out. I think it's a good thing that we now have at least a few more people who are willing to do that sort of thing.
However, I have to agree that it seems like Keith has gotten more over-the-top over time -- shifting from partisanship to anger. This is probably related to the "yelling sells" factor that Reich is observing. I have been wishing, lately, that he'd dial it back a few notches. But, there are surely plenty of people on "my side" to whom anger sells well. I think Rachel Maddow still tends more towards being a policy-wonk, and more towards humor than anger, which I like; it's certainly attuned to my own temperament. (Also, Rachel definitely is capable of having a civil conversation with ideological opponents, as Jon Stewart recently observed.) One of the things I like about Obama, as well, is that he's a wonk at heart -- as John Hodgman put it, he's our first Nerd President. (He also gets in trouble because of this -- like when he tried to give an "on the one hand, on the other hand" answer about bank executives' pay, when much of the public is out for blood and the GOP is ready to launch hypocritical attacks on this topic even though they firmly oppose any regulations or pay limits.)
In any case, I think it is unlikely that Dems could accomplish anything truly bipartisan with the current batch of Republicans in Congress, who are committed to a just-say-no approach where they vote against even ideas they campaigned on, because they want to appeal to their base and deny the Dems any accomplishments. And I also think the Dems ought to wise up to this strategy and adjust their own strategy accordingly.
And I think it is completely reasonable for a news show to both report on the fact that Republicans are saying things that are not true, and doing things that are hypocritical, and to specifically call them liars and hypocrites. When you, to take an example, declare that the Obama budget has higher monthly deficits than Bush had annual deficits, you deserve to be called either an idiot who doesn't know the numbers, or a liar who is trying to misrepresent them. When you campaign in 2008 on a plan to allow people in the 55-65 age bracket to buy into Medicare, and then when the Dems propose doing that as part of health reform you specifically call it out as "socialized medicine" and declare yourself opposed, that is hypocrisy. This is not a matter of opinion.
But I think it's a terrible shame that things are working like that, and I hope that the few sparks of real bipartisanship -- e.g. from Congressman Anh Cao (R-LA-02) -- may eventually lead back to some kind of consensus governance.
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Do you live in California's Eleventh Congressional District? Know anyone who does? The district is a bit odd-shaped (like so many). It includes areas around 680 from Danville through the Dublin-Pleasanton area, the southeast tip of Santa Clara County (Morgan Hill), and an arm that goes out to Tracy, Lodi, and Manteca.
In any case, the excellent House Rep from CA-11, Jerry McNerney has started his ballot paperwork. He is looking to submit signatures in lieu of a filing fee -- candidates have the option of substituting signatures for money. I am generally in favor of anything that roots a campaign in broad citizen support, rather than large amounts of cash.
If you or anyone you know would like to send in their signature, you can find the petition form here.
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||2010-02-05 Fri 09:42|
CEOs have always argued that companies need to pay them gigantic salaries, because you need to pay top dollar to get the folks who will lead the company to greater profits. Well, it turns out that the CEO's share of a company's compensation to its top five executives* is indeed related to profitability. Inversely related. Why am I not surprised?
* I'd be willing to bet that the kind of company that awards the lion's share of compensation, from among the top-5, to the top-1, is also the kind of company that awards more compensation to the top-5, relative to the top-100, and so on. Certainly that's how the overall income distribution across the country works. To a first approximation, the US income distribution is an 80-20 power law; within any slice starting from the top, the top 20% within that group earns as much as the other 80%. The top 0.2% earns as much as the remainder of the top percentile, the top percentile earns as much as the 95th-99th, the top 5% earn as much as the 75th to 94th percentile, and so on. (This may not hold precisely true, but it's reasonably close. And I believe the wealth histogram is even more concentrated -- something like a 90-10 power law.)
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It's hard to believe it's been fifteen years since the boy and his tiger wandered off into the sunset.
Check out the interview, the article about the strip, and the sampling of Watterson's pre-Calvin work. (Does anyone else find it kind of hilarious that Watterson apparently lived in Chagrin Falls, OH, when he was first working for the Sun Newspapers? It sounds like the sort of town Calvin would live in...)
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||2010-01-27 Wed 23:02|
Fesenjan is a Persian pomegranate-walnut stew base. It is delicious, and was actually rather easier to make than I expected -- it came out very well on the first attempt. I think the below recipe should make enough for 4-6 servings, depending on how large the servings are.
The traditional accompaniment would be a long grain rice. plymouth doesn't like rice. I thought about using some saffron in the couscous -- it's what would be in the rice -- but I decided that really, the saffron would just be wasted; fesenjan is strongly flavored. I'd rather use saffron in my starchy side dish when the main course I'm serving it with is a bit more subtle. So I just went ahead and hit the couscous with similar flavors to what was in the stew.
If you wanted to make this vegetarian, you could use seitan (as long as it's not overly salted or soaked with soy sauce) or a very firm tofu, or maybe some sort of firm mushrooms or chunks of eggplant.
Lamb and duck are also traditional proteins for this; with the duck, you want to basically render the fat out of the skin at the beginning, and use that in place of most of the walnut oil that's used here.
- 1 to 1+1/4 pound boneless chicken, cut into pieces (1" cubes)
- 1/2 pound walnuts (whole raw shelled)
- roughly 1 cup pomegranate concentrate or molasses
- 1 medium onion, chopped (any color is fine)
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- walnut oil (just have a bottle around -- the amount used isn't precise)
- lemon juice (similar)
- 1 large sweet pepper (preferably red, but orange or yellow will do), finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1+1/2 cup couscous (the Moroccan kind, not the Israeli kind)
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- roughly 3 cups of some kind of lightly savory liquid -- we used water with roughly 2 tsp of white miso dissolved in it, because the only broth we had handy was an entire large box that we didn't feel like opening; you could probably use pom juice as your main liquid, rather than having pom concentrate (I think I'd enhance it with some miso if I was doing that, to get back the savory quality you'd get from a broth)
- salt and black pepper to taste
At least a few hours ahead of time: After chopping the chicken, put it in a bowl or tupperware that is just large enough to contain it; in a separate container, mix up a splash of lemon juice and a drizzle of the pom concentrate (about a quarter cup juice, maybe a little less than that of pom) and the sumac, cardamom, and cinnamon. Stir around to coat the chicken, cover, allow to marinate.
- In a 1.5 to 2 quart pot over medium heat, sautee the garlic and bell pepper in walnut oil with a little salt (to extract liquid) until the pepper softens and turns slightly translucent.
- Mix 2 cups of liquid with a quarter cup each of lemon juice and pom concentrate, add to pot.
- Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat off, dump in couscous, cover.
- After a few minutes, stir/fluff, re-cover, and allow to finish absorbing any remaining liquid.
- Toast walnuts at 300 degrees until they start to darken slightly and give off a distinct toasted-nut aroma, about 10 minutes, maybe a little more. (I used the toaster oven for this.) Remove from toaster oven, set aside.
- Put a 2 to 3 quart pot over medium-low heat. Heat just enough walnut oil to cover the bottom of the pot when you're moving the pot in a swirling motion or tilting it around (if you stop, it should tend to contract back into a smaller pool that doesn't completely cover the bottom).
- Turn heat to medium-high, and add the chicken pieces, using a slotted spoon and attempting to reserve most of the liquid in the bowl the chicken was in.
- Sear chicken on outside until it no longer looks raw. Use slotted spoon to transfer chicken to a larger, clean bowl.
- Add a little more oil to the pot, and dump in the onion and shallot.
- Sautee until translucent. Use slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl with the chicken, attempting to keep as much of the oil as possible in the pot. Turn heat to low.
- Add the walnuts, a bit more walnut oil, and any remaining lemon juice, pom concentrate, and broth/liquid. Use a stick blender on low power to pulverize the walnuts; you may need to tilt the pot to make sure the head of the blender can be completely submerged, so it doesn't splash. (Alternately, you can transfer all this stuff to a blender or food processor.) You don't need to render the fesenjan completely smooth like peanut-butter or anything, you just want to break the walnuts down finely enough that the mix begins to thicken and you can't find any significant chunks. Some variations of the recipe call for blending the onion/shallot into the sauce, but we kinda like having identifiable pieces of them left at the end.
- Put the chicken and onions back in the pot. Cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Serve over couscous, with salt and pepper as desired.
If you happen to be able to acquire Persian ice cream (saffron-rosewater -- quite similar to a traditional flavor of Indian kulfi, which you can get at Bombay Ice Creamery in the mission) and/or faloodeh (very fine noodly things commonly served over shaved ice with a rosewater syrup) for dessert, that would round out the meal nicely.
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Keith Olbermann, the other night, compared the Citizens United decision (CU, by the way, is the Orwellian name of the corporate creation that was trying to pay to put the defamatory Hillary: The Movie on network TV in primetime) to what would happen if all pay rules were repealed in pro sports -- the rich, big-city teams (such as the Yankees) would instantly get a monopoly on talent. Popular teams from places like Green Bay, WI would wither and die.
The other interesting thing I saw recently is this (posted on a mailing list; I have not been able to determine the original source):
Water flows through a pipe. Raise the pressure and more water will flow. Pressure is the driving force; pressure is not water. Electrons flow through a wire. Raise the voltage and more electrons will flow. Voltage is the driving force; voltage is not electrons.
An American citizen has a right to stand on a soapbox and state his or her thoughts. The person can increase the reach of those statements by using money to pay for various means of propagating them. Money is the driving force; money is not speech.
Corporate freedom to spend money to make a loud noise will squash the ability of the average citizen, who does not or cannot spend similar quantities of money. Corporate freedom to amplify speech deprives others of the same freedom.
If the pressure in a pipe is increased without limit, the pipe will burst and shrapnel will damage the surroundings. If the voltage across a wire is increased without limit, the wire will melt and adjacent material will catch fire.
Big money controlling the government agenda will cause tremendous distortions in our society and economy. Consumers' ability to even discipline corporations through the market can be overcome if those corporations can prevent competition through control over the government. This is a pipe we do not want to burst!
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I was attempting to acquire commercial-size basket filters, to use as liners in my big steamer pan, for esoteric purposes, and the item I thought was those, on Amazon, turns out to be the standard home-machine size, so I have a pack of filters of a variety I have no use for...
I can't seem to find the larger, restaurant-size filter anywhere. I found some listings for "commercial size" filters, but those also appear designed to go in machines that produce twelve cups at a time. Maybe CostCo might have them? (I also found a company called Restaurant Depot, in San Jose, but, like CostCo, they appear to require a membership to shop there.)
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Question for John Roberts: How much money should Saudi BinLadin Group (www.sbgpbad.ae), or GazProm (www.gazprom.com), or Sinopec (english.sinopec.com) be allowed to contribute, through a US subsidiary, to candidates in US elections?
We need an immediate patch to corporate law, making abstention from electoral spending a condition of maintaining a corporate charter. And we need a Constitutional Amendment declaring that for purposes of US law, you can only be a person if you're actually capable of, you know, eating, breathing, etc. Unfortunately, I'm not all that optimistic about either of these things happening. We basically need the Tea Partiers to wake up to the fact that their rage about stuff like the banking industry bailouts, is helping those very same corporations, by making it impossible for the party that wants to rein in corporations to do so.
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According to the best poll released thus far (there sample size within the universe of Obama voters who voted for Brown is 500 people, which is pretty darn good for a definition that specific), these defectors said 3:2 that they wanted a stronger healthcare bill, and for Dems to be more aggressive in general.
How did voting for Brown help with that? WTF? Do they not understand that, as Barbara Boxer put it, elections have consequences? They have just torpedoed the healthcare legislation, and probably the financial industry regulations that were just starting to get discussed as well. And if they want to complain that, oh, Obama is too hung up on healthcare when he ought to worry about jobs -- well, they've just made it nearly impossible for the Senate to take any actions towards job creation, too.
Yes, Coakley was a lousy candidate and a lousy campaigner. But the fact that Scott Brown seems like a nice man is not a reason to vote for him, given that he has publicly made clear that he wants to help a nihilistic minority paralyze the government.
And of course, the dozen or so moderate Senate Dems will likely take this as an excuse to say that this is a message to Dems to be more moderate (which is to say, conservative, since the media-defined "center" in this country is ludicrously far to the right, compared to where it was even in the '80s -- IIRC, Saint Ronald only scores 40% on the 10-question purity test recently proposed by a couple GOP house members). The truth is, they need to grow some f*ckin' stones and start actually passing the kind of policies Obama campaigned on. A healthcare bill with a real public option, accessible to any American (including those who want to opt out of their employer's lousy plan) would be a good start. The bank liability tax would be an even better follow-up, considering the current popular rage at the banks. That would be good policy and good politics, a great opportunity -- but the Dem leadership, as they used to say about Yasser Arafat, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
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( Experiment the First: Lemon Panna CottaCollapse )
( Experiment the Second: Pomegranate Miso DressingCollapse )
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My friend Phil Gelb has started posting his vegan recipes, daily, at philipgelb.blogspot.com. I syndicated his blog onto LJ, as philipgelb_blog.
I am not generally nuts for veganism -- I'm not even vegetarian -- but I love Phil's cooking style. He brought in lunches for us at Presidio, during residency, during the time I was there, and I think out of the roughly 70 meals I had from him, only a handful were anything short of delicious.
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Or, at least one...
Back in '06, I joined a service that was, at the time, called GreenDimes. It's now called "Precycle," and is one service of a web-portal company called Tonic. It's basically a service that triest to reduce junkmail coming to your home. (I sort of wish they would get back to just focusing on, and expanding, their original service, since I frankly don't care about the rest of what they're doing. But I guess they were having trouble making money on that; the direct marketers have been lobbying state legislatures to try to make it difficult for companies like Tonic to act on behalf of consumers -- they want laws that say a third party can't opt out for you, you have to do it yourself. Anyways, it seems like they've stopped investing effort in adding more catalog-mailers to their database of "companies whose catalogs we know how to stop".)
In any case, when they originally started, they offered, as one of the options, a long-term membership, and all memberships were based on periods of time. They've recently changed the policy to basing membership on location -- you buy once for your house, but you have to re-register when you move.
I wrote in to complain about the fact that this basically meant they wouldn't be honoring my long-term membership. Within minutes, they emailed back, and after a few quick exchanges, we agreed that they'd refund most of my original membership fee. They actually offered to refund the whole thing, but I would've felt guilty about that, so I said they could keep the equivalent of what it would've cost under the new policy to register at the places I've lived while using their service.
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But I can't remember who.
In any case: The majority of jobs (about two-thirds) are created by small young companies. "Kauffman's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data [shows] that companies less than five years old created nearly two-thirds of net new jobs in 2007."
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Previously mentioned... Here is the actual CraigsList posting. Feel free to share with friends who might be looking for a place, post to boards at your workplace, etc.
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I have noticed, with increasing frequency, the use of the word "anymore" in a positive sense. Somebody did it on Talk of the Nation today, though I've now forgotten the exact context... The kind of thing I'm talking about is, "I used to prefer chocolate, but I prefer vanilla anymore." The word gets used to describe an activity that started at some point in the recent past, and is ongoing.
From my point of view as a descriptive linguist, this is kind of fascinating; it's an interesting generalization of the word, which used to only be usable to talk about an activity that ceased in the recent past, and is expected not to start again. "I used to like chocolate, but now I like vanilla -- I don't like chocolate anymore." English actually does usually play fast and loose with negative versus positive inflections. (Anyone who speaks Spanish is familiar with the stricter version of this, the way that the negative/positive on the verb affects the use of words like "ningun" or "nadie".)
But from the prescriptivist, former-writing-tutor point of view, it makes my skin crawl. Quit doing that, people! It's not like the etymology of the word is unclear. "I won't do X any more." It does not continue. There is not any more of it. In the positive, you have to use "some" rather than "any". "Please sir, may I have some more." "I think I will jog some more tomorrow."
This may be the first widespread linguistic error/evolution that I have found even more annoying than the degeneration of the difference between the adjectives "nauseated" (suffering from nausea), and "nauseous" (which used to mean "so disgusting as to cause nausea in nearby persons" -- a synonym for "nauseating"). People have used it incorrectly for so long, and so widely, that M-W now has a usage note declaring that current usage is dominated by the "nauseated" meaning, and therefore people who think the word ought to mean what it meant for hundreds of years ("nausea" and its various inflections date back to the 16th century, and originally referred specifically to seasickness -- note the similarity to "nautical") before ignorant valley girls misappropriated it are "mistaken". I find that kind of rootless ahistoricism... nauseous.
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I've had two very positive customer service experiences in the last few months, and just wanted to record them for posterity -- so often folks tend to blog their complaints, but not give positive feedback when companies behave well.
Ideal Pet Products makes pet doors. I had one of their sliding glass door inserts years ago, and then used the cut-in doors at my last couple places, and Xta and I recently bought another door insert for the Sky Den. The cats promptly managed to break part of the door; I'm not sure if it was a manufacturing flaw in that particular unit, or if they were being particularly rambunctious, but they'd never managed to do that before. In any case, I was able to email Ideal, and they promptly offered to send a replacement part. Fixing it was as easy as undoing a few screws, putting in the new part, and screwing it back together.
Zyliss makes a variety of kitchen products, including rotary cheese graters. I bought this product because it has a wider barrel, which is good for coarsely grating medium-firm cheeses like cheddar and gruyere, which don't do so well in the narrow-barrel grater I use for hard cheeses. A couple days ago the handle on the coarse drum shattered. Although Amazon said their returns policy only covers things for 30 days, when I contacted Zyliss USA, they offered to send a replacement coarse drum, free of charge. So, yay.
I have to admit, I wouldn't actually buy this particular product again if I had it to do over; I like the larger drum, but the handle design is a little awkward, and you can tell it's a bit flimsy when you handle it. The problem is that it attaches at the rim, rather than having the drum closed on one side, or having struts across it, to allow the handle to attach at the center. Their smaller grater has the handle screw into a thread at the center, which works really well (and makes the disassembled pieces easier to clean). Still, given that I sank some money into it, I appreciate that Zyliss is willing to make some effort to maintain/service their product. If it breaks again, though, I'll probably just buy something else.
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I agree with Bob Reich. While I sort-of understand the Nobel committee's reasoning (Obama's re-opened diplomatic discussions, and already advanced the ball on both North Korea and Iran more in nine months than Bush did in eight years); and while I definitely understand how, to the average American, this may represent a realization of the campaign promise of improving our standing in the world; I think this award was kind of a weird pick.
And I think the best thing Obama could do is turn it down. Give a short speech about how he's incredibly honored, and that he hopes that the vision he's laid out for America inspires not just our people, but the people of the world, etc etc... But that there is still too much work to do, he can't rest on laurels. Keep it to ten minutes or less, and skip flying to Sweden.
The loons on the right (who are just itching to have another round of the kind of craziness they had when Al Gore won) would be completely dumbfounded. He'd totally defang the claim that he has a messiah complex. And the downside is, what, the Nobel committee feels a little miffed? It's sort of like a "Sister Souljah moment," except it dissociates him from "out of touch elitists," rather than from a minority/disadvantaged group.
At a bare minimum, he should pledge to donate the prize money to some organization that has a more legitimate claim on the notion that they're doing the most to promote peace. Say, past Nobelist Médecins Sans Frontières.
ETA: Wait a minute, Mickey Kaus had the same idea before I did. Maybe it's just contrarian, not good.
ETA: So, apparently he's going to accept and donate the money.
( Statement from the President: 'To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize...'Collapse )
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I have two pairs of opera tix for sale -- Abduction from the Seraglio on this coming Sunday 10/11 (a quite good Mozart comedy, with ahead-of-its-time portrayals of strong women, and a rather sophisticated, humane Turkish pasha) and Otello on Sunday 11/8 (Verdi adaptation of Shakespeare, one of the all-time greats of Italian grand opera). Feel free to pass the craigslist links to any friends who might be interested. I'm willing to consider a discount for friends who are into opera but don't get to go very often.
Also, if you can afford full price just for yourself for the Seraglio ticket, I've been going back and forth on whether I want to sell that one. I've seen it once before, but I really liked it and wouldn't mind seeing it again. Otello I've seen half-a-dozen times, and while I'd happily go again if I had income, I can't really afford it at the moment. I've been maintaining my subscriber status for the last couple years so that once I have money again I won't have to start out from lousy seats again and gradually trade into the nice ones; but I've been selling off half or more of my tickets...
Also, I have tix for Salome on 10/18. I've never seen that one, but it's Richard Strauss (the student of Wagner who wrote Also Sprach Zarathustra, a.k.a. the music from the film "2001") working from a play by Oscar Wilde, based on one of the Biblical stories that is most packed with sex, intrigue, and violence. Am really looking forward to it; I think Xta is waffling on whether she wants to see it. If interested in joining, send email; I'll let you know if Xta decides she doesn't want to go.
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Xta and I and our friend dragondawn420 went to see the Tut exhibit, and went to dinner at the restaurant in the Cal Academy. It's very good. We'll have to go back some time...
Hemingway Daiquiri: white rum, grapefruit, maraschino
Margarita Ahumada: mezcal, lime, black sea salt
Viognier, Cold Heaven "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard", Santa Barbara County, California, 2007
Country style pork terrine, house made pickles, mostarda di frutta, frisée. The pickles included cucumber, onion, and an amazing pickled carrot; I don't know exactly what they'd pickled it in. I think maybe they had some fennel seed in there, or something. Mostarda di frutta is kind of an Italian version of chutney -- a savory preserve, heavy on the mustard seed. They'd done it with some very good apricots. The whole appetizer was great with the fresh crusty bread. (We shared this as an appetizer.)
Roasted eggplant ravioli with cherry tomatoes, black olives, garlic, basil. Christa had them hold the tomatoes. There was a lot of garlic, roasted til it was basically spreadable. Topped with some sauteed spinach. (I think it was the same spinach as appears listed in the "Sides" part of the menu: local spinach, harissa, golden raisins, pine nuts.)
Bullfeathers Farms quail, caramelized peaches, purslane, pancetta, balsamic reduction. I think this was the best use of purslane I've ever run into. I could've wished the quail was a little bigger, but overall, superb. The peaches appeared to have been coated in a light syrup and then torched -- browned on the outside, but basically still raw on the inside.
Grilled American "Kobe" bavette steak, watercress, charmoula vinaigrette. DD had this; I got a taste of it, and was really impressed with their chermoula. You could definitely taste the pickled lemon in it.
Combier Crème Brûlée, vanilla marmalade sandwich cookies. Sort of a "dreamsicle custard". The cookies were shortbready, and had an intense vanilla aroma. The marmalade between them was more like bits of candied orange peel than marmalade -- no excess liquid. But not overly sweet, very orange-y.
Roast Peach and Summer Berry Parfait, with crème fraîche custard, buttermilk biscuit, praline streusel. Xta had this with a glass of Quady Red Electra. We've been fans of the Quady for a long time. I think jencallisto introduced us to their Elysium. Red Electra is what grape soda aspires to be -- very distinctly grape-y (purple flavor!), with a light, pleasant sparkle, and hints of other summer fruit flavors (especially peach and blackberry). It was a perfect complement to the parfait.
Devil's Chocolate Cake, with fleur de lait ice cream, malted powder, crispy wafer. I'm not sure I ever tried (or even saw) the wafer, so I don't know what was in that. Fleur de lait is an extremely simple ice cream, basically just milk, cream, sugar, a pinch of salt, and a bit of starch for thickening (usually cornstarch). There were actually two kinds of malt powder (chocolate and vanilla) sprinkled in arcs around the edge of the plate. The cake was incredibly dense and fudgey, and around 20-25% of the entire thickness was ganache frosting (thick layer on top, and a thinner layer halfway down). The cake was so rich that DD couldn't finish it, even with assistance. (I was pretty full after my own dessert, so I only had a couple bites.)
Today we're doing more unpacking. Earlier I sorted and arranged a bunch of random cables (power, networking, A/V, etc). And supposedly people who contacted me through Craigslist are going to take away my old bureau, and the empty boxes, later today...
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The Republicans have been showing big scary confusing flowcharts to suggest that health reform will create a gigantic new bureaucracy.
Here's the truth, courtesy of Nicholas Beaudrot.
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You can learn more about each opera behind the links. All operas are preceded, one hour earlier, by a free educational lecture. My seats are Dress Circle E126 and E128, the latter of which is an aisle seat, on the first aisle out from the center. You can see the view from Dress Circle on the seating chart page.
If you're interested in an opera, but the date doesn't work, I can exchange for equivalent seats on a date of your choice (check the website for the dates of various shows) and send you the new tickets; however, I can't promise specific seats in that case.
I paid $96.50 per ticket (including processing and shipping fees), so each pair is $193 (and I strongly prefer to sell the pairs together). Non-subscriber price for the equivalent tickets would $120 per seat, $240 per pair -- so I'm selling at roughly a 20% discount relative to buying from the SFO box office. I'll be happy to cover the stamp to mail the tickets to you, or make other arrangements.
Please feel free to direct friends to this post.
ETA: It occurs to me to mention that we're selling a sofabed, because not all of our furniture fits in our new place.
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...please direct them to this data from the Federation of Tax Administrators. California's total tax collections at the state and local levels, as a percent of income earned in the state, are 12.1%, ranking it fourteenth out of the fifty states. Compare to Wyoming (16.6%) and Alaska (15.1%). If you include all revenue sources (taxes, plus various service fees, plus revenue from fines and tickets, etc), California is at 18th out of 50, collecting 17.6% of gross state income. Again, compare to Wyoming (26.4%) and Alaska (35.5%).
CA has a relatively high income tax, and a fairly high sales tax, but has extremely low property taxes, and has a fairly business-friendly tax environment in general. Conservatives telling you that our taxes will drive business out of state are basically just making stuff up -- there's no data to back their claims.
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The New York Times had an article last month, that I missed until now, about the Alta Rock deep geothermal project up in the area of The Geysers, a current geothermal field. They discuss the numerous small quakes that are already created by the expansion and contraction of rock in the area as water is injected (causing cooling and contraction of the rocks, opening fissures), as steam is created (creating pressure that further expands the fissures and creates new cracks), and as the steam is extracted (relieving pressure).
They also have a story about a similar deep well in the vicinity of Basel, Switzerland, that seems to have caused some significant shaking. The article feels to me a bit overwrought in its descriptions of the problems in Basel. They play up how terrifying the quake was, and barely mention the fact that nobody got hurt. Not even people standing directly over the borehole. This sounds to me like an argument for building your geothermal projects out in a rural area, rather than right by a major city. Alta Rock's project is, in fact, far from any major city, suburb, or exurb.
A lot of people seem to be scared that the Alta Rock project might set off a truly major quake. Color me skeptical. Major quakes happen when pressure builds up along a fault line for a very long time, and then the energy is all released at once. Having numerous small quakes sounds, to me, like a good thing. If it really turns out that we can induce quakes, it might actually be a good idea to start doing so at significant stress points along the major fault lines, on an ongoing basis. The fact that this happens to be a method for producing extremely high-temperature / high-pressure steam, which can generate a lot of energy, is an added bonus.
Geothermal is, IMHO, one of the more promising sources of base load energy generation; if we have to provide some relocation funding, or funding for people to build houses that can withstand small quakes on a regular basis, fine. But I don't think we ought to have the "paper of record" suggesting that it's going to cause a huge quake that will knock down San Francisco when it seems equally-or-more likely that it will actually help relieve pressure through small quakes, reducing the chance of a "Big One".
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