Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Give Until It Hurts

Ok… so NOW the contest begins in earnest. The Sprit of America contest officially kicks off on Dec. 1st, and runs through midnight (Pacific Time) Dec. 15th.

Did you know we hadn’t actually started the Spirit of America contest yet? No? Did you already contribute your money because you didn’t know better?

Well tough. Any money you donated earlier now needs to be replaced with new official contest money. Suck it up, it’s for charity! (Incidentally, if you really did contribute earlier, those contributions still counted. Just hasslin' you.)

Anyway, my strategy is to set a weekly amount to kick in to keep the steam-roller that is the Northern Alliance team rolling. Money is the grease that will keep the treads of our mighty machine rolling on its way to crush the (um… friendly) opposition!

It’s not often the big-boys in town invite us small bloggers to participate in anything more than drinking and carousing with them, (not that I’m knocking the drinking and carousing). But this time I’m stepping up to meet the coach’s challenge.

Do you have a spare buck or two lying around? Or perhaps… my readership being largely Republican, and therefore rich and greedy according to Hollywood… perhaps a spare hundred dollar bill you were about to throw away because it’s wrinkled? Send that sucker in! Check the couch cushions. Check your pants pockets. Deprive Mr. Cratchet of his Christmas bonus money, and donate to Spirit of America!!

Just click the little logo below and do the right thing.

Blogosphere, We Have A Problem

Oh ‘fer cryin’ out….

I was perusing Mitch’s archives today… I mean the really early stuff. Back in the early Jurassic period of Shot In The Dark.

Why? Just curiosity, really. As I told Mitch when I finally met him face to face, I can’t really remember how I found or when I started reading his blog. I just sort of wandered in one day and kept going back. I was curious to see how his site had developed over time.

Doing a little browsing I was a little surprised to see how long he went without any comments from readers. So I was very curious when I got to September of 2002, to suddenly find some posts with multiple commenters after a long string of nothing. And what do I find?

Comments from September and November of 2004. (I’ll link the post with them, but knowing that Mitch is deleting spam from his comments, I’ll copy the funny bits here as well in case they go away)

We start with this, posted on September 7, 2004.

“Corry's Law:
Paper is always strongest at the perforations.
fioricet for headache And it should be the law: If you use the word `paradigm' without knowing
what the dictionary says it means, you go to jail. No exceptions.
-- David Jones

Meaningless garbage, right? Well you’ll notice the bizarre use of the word “fioricet” in there. A quick Google search tells me that is some kind of pharmaceutical you can buy online. So you have apparently just been subliminally programmed to buy this drug. Sorry about that. But I'm trying to illustrate a point.

Next is my favorite of all, posted on November 5, 2004:

“Thank you for the coments on your website. Can you recomend a good location for me to find cheap medicines? My mama is not well right now. Can you advice? Thank you.”
So the subsequent posts are not actually going to be spam. They're just responding to this poor fellow. Got that?

Then we get some advice only a moron would follow, on November 23, 2004.

“hey, nice site, perhaps youd like to check out mine: daigoro”

Going to have to pass on that one, muchacho. But does anyone want to bet that the site links to overseas pharmaceutical selling sites? Which is not to rule out the notion that it also loads up your computer with spyware.

And finally the direct approach, from November 25, 2004:

“Please check the pages in the field of: (drug selling website) (another drug selling website) (another drug selling website) etc., etc.” All dedicated to the selling of something called “phentermine.”

How much of Mitch’s archive is polluted by this garbage? I have no idea. It’s bad enough the freaking spammers have to make a mess of current comment threads. But to go back and spam a threads more than two years old?!

Things like this make me realize why “law and order” types hold appeal even in freedom loving countries. Because few things would give bloggers more delight than watching some of these spammers perp-walked into prison to share a cell with Big Daddy.

Hewitt's Personality Disorder Explained

Well one of the puzzles of Hugh Hewitt’s strange personality was solved yesterday. I enjoyed his “what books you re-read” post yesterday, wrote up a little thing about it, and fired off a notice to Hugh yesterday morning. A little disappointed he didn’t link it, but no big deal.

But then, listening to his show yesterday, when speaking of his thread on the topic he claimed that Michael Medved had mentioned Herman Wouk’s Winds of War, and War and Remembrance. This was followed by a little banter about James Clavell’s Shogun, and Tai-pain, and how Hugh could never figure out what order to read them in. And then a little plug for Leon Uris’ Trinity.

Well, Hugh, there was someone who mentioned all of those books in that specific order yesterday. And maybe we all blend into “Medved” for you, but...

Excerpt from my post yesterday:

Other historical fiction that has truly captured me that way includes Herman Wouk’s Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and James Clavell’s Shogun, and Tai-Pan (Gai-Jin wasn’t as good, but still better than most other historical fiction out there). And I might as well toss in an honorable mention to Leon Uris for Trinity. All of those are very worth reading and re-reading. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go dig around in my storage room to see if I can find my Wouk or Clavell books.

I think this begins to solve the riddle of Hugh coming out of nowhere with bizarre claims about people he insists are true. Think Lileks and the Hummels, or “Peeps” the Elder. It seems Mr. Hewitt can retain those sorts of details quite well, but he simply can’t keep straight who they pertain to. Perhaps it is Michael Medved who collects Hummels, and James Lileks who stays kosher. Maybe the Elder served as a Generalissimo for some banana republic in the 80’s, while Hugh's sidekick Duane is the one with the fondness for marshmallow Easter candy in amusing shapes.

Listening to Hugh yesterday, I got the feeling he was about to start talking about how Dennis Prager was a big Kurt Vonnegut fan who had just discovered that Charles Williams was back in print (those were also in my post yesterday).

It could have been worse. Since I mentioned East of Eden, he might have confused me with Oprah.

UPDATE: Well, well. The circumstantial evidence begins to mount. I'm still not sure about Lileks being kosher, but the notion that the Elder was once the Generalissimo of a banana republic is starting to look overwhelming.

Fact #1: After a bad experience when an underling (in this case a waiter), failed to bring him a preferred beverage the way he liked it, where did he instinctively turn for a remedy? Cafe Havanna!

Fact #2: When the Northern Alliance needed a leader to raise funds to battle their opposition, who automatically stepped in as the Supreme Leader of the effort (to which you can donate right here, incidentally)? That's right, the Elder.

So we now know that the Elder has a fondness for obsequious Latin American underlings, and that he naturally assumes authority over others. Now we need to discover "Generalissimo" Duane's feelings about amusingly-shaped, seasonal-themed marshmallow candy, and the circle will be complete.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Blog Renovation

Okay. I've been doing this blog long enough now that it's time to take off the training wheels. There are a few improvements I'd like to make in the next couple of months, and they are as follows:

  1. A URL that does not include the word "blogspot."
  2. My own unique blog design.
  3. An e-mail address for readers who want to contact me, but don't want to do so publicly.

Now here's the hard part. I've done a little research and there are various ways to go about this. There are companies that would offer everything I said above in a package deal, for a nominal fee. But I truly have very little knowledge about what the good alternatives are out there.

The unique blog design is probably the only one I truly can't do myself, being artistically impaired. I checked out Blog Moxie today, since Captain Ed plugs them. Good looking work, but their designs seem a little tilted toward the double X chromosome side of the blogosphere. But not exclusively. They're not out of the running, and their prices do seem within my range.

I recalled Stephen Green plugging Sekimori, who did his site as well as Varifank's (among others). Really nice stuff! No prices posted at all though. I suspect this option might be a bit pricey for my modest needs.

There is always the do it yourself option. If a get a little help from friends who have artistic taste, I could handle the tech part myself. I came across this article with some good tools for heading down that road. A bit longer and more labor intensive, but not out of the question.

So anyway, if anyone reading this has some good tips, I would be most greatful. I'm not so concerned about leaving Blogger, but I wouldn't rule it out either if it would make the above issues easier.

Books We Read More Than Once

Hugh has an interesting topic on his blog today. It’s about which books one reads more than once.

He’s specifically addressing modern novels, though he does toss in his own non-fiction re-read list. Coincidentally, Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, and Robert Massie’s Dreadnought are also on my own non-fiction re-reading list. As are William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and Collapse of the Third Republic (his lesser known but just as excellent narrative history of France from the late nineteenth century through its collapse in WW II). Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence is another. I could go on quite a bit about non-fiction I re-read, but that's not really the main point, so I'll leave it there.

Then we come to modern novel re-reading list, and again Hugh and I share a fondness for a couple things. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis' Great Divorce are mentioned (though I don’t recall re-reading that specific Lewis work, I pull out various works from Lewis for re-reading somewhat frequently). Hugh also mentions "other Inklings work." I wonder if he's ever read anything by Charles Williams. His books are all out-of-print as far as I know, but I once tracked some down in the public library archives when I lived in Peoria, Illinois (All Hallows Eve, and Place of the Lion). Really good stuff. Hard to put someone on a re-reading list when you can't find his books though. (Great googily moogily! A quick search shows me they're back in print! Ain't Amazon a grand thing!)

But I was most enthused to see that Hugh is as big a fan of Colleen McCullough’s “Masters of Rome” series (starting with The First Man in Rome, and ending with The October Horse). This is by far the best historical fiction I have ever read - and she sustains its quality through six thick volumes. Roman history has always been a bit of a hobby for me, and McCullough truly did her homework. Every time I thought she had some specific detail wrong, and went to research it, McCullough’s version was proven at very least plausible, and more often simply true. Oddly enough I just started re-reading the McCullough series last week.

Other historical fiction that has truly captured me that way includes Herman Wouk’s Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and James Clavell’s Shogun, and Tai-Pan (Gai-Jin wasn’t as good, but still better than most other historical fiction out there). And I might as well toss in an honorble mention to Leon Uris for Trinity. All of those are very worth reading and re-reading. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go dig around in my storage room to see if I can find my Wouk or Clavell books.

Another modern novel I consider worth re-reading is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It was a book I first read the summer after my freshman year in college. I’ve re-read it a couple of times since then. Grapes of Wrath was good, but never really grabbed me as deeply or personally as East of Eden.

Kurt Vonnegut is another author worth re-reading, though I don’t think all of his books hold up as well as others. The ones I would re-read are Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle, Sirens of Titan (which seems to anticipate the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - another fun re-read), and Bluebeard. Bluebeard is the oddest of the bunch, written later in Vonnegut’s life. I had burnt out on Vonnegut during a phase in college where I read pretty much everything he wrote through the 70’s. Eventually I was overcome by Vonnegut’s sense of existential ennui. It became depressing reading him. And then I came across Bluebeard and was stunned to discover a Vonnegut book in which the prevailing message, intertwined with a sly wink through another seemingly existential novel, was hope. Reading Bluebeard actually made the earlier Vonnegut works bearable again, knowing that they did not in fact lead inevitably to despair.

Anyway, that’s my list, tossed off the top of my head. I’d enjoy seeing this meme kick off a number of similar posts from other bloggers.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Interview Ironies

Sometimes life seems to throw irony at you, just to see how you'll react.

Just a couple of days ago, I pulled a comment from the Elder at Fraters Libertas regarding NPR's Terry Gross to rip on her as an overrated interviewer. I also lauded CSPAN's Brian Lamb as one of the two best interviewers today. (The relevant stuff is in here, but you have to scroll down a bit.)

Tonight, flipping around channels, I found myself watching bits and pieces of Brian Lamb on CSPAN's Booknotes interviewing the author of a new biography of President Franklin Pierce. Interesting stuff.

But then came life's little shot across my bow. After the show came an announcement that CSPAN 2 was about to show an interview with NPR's Terry Gross, regarding her own new book. Of course I flipped over to watch.

The interview was conducted on a big stage in front of an audience, and hosted by Barnes and Noble. If I ever get around to publishing a book and wind up getting interviewed in a Denny's somewhere I'll keep all of those details in mind to keep me humble.

Frank Rich, left-leaning cultural critic and occasional political moonbat at the New York Times, conducted the interview. On a snarky note, never having seen him before I was surprised. I had never pictured him as possessing such a balding, corpulent, and terribly dull physical appearence. I had always pictured Rich as more of a dandy - like Tony Randall perhaps, only more scowling and less likable. The real Frank Rich could easily blend into the background in any insurance underwriting office in the country.

The interview itself was not bad. After a babbly starting note, Rich kept himself out of it and focused the attention on his subject. And the subject, Terry Gross, is not boring. She's not terribly important in my opinion, nor terribly good at the craft she's lauded for, But she didn't make for a dull interview.

I did bail out halfway through, but that was more due to the clock and the fact that I work in the morning than the interview itself.

One thing that did come across is that my dislike of Gross's interviewing style is no accident. She thinks her quirky questions coming out of (and generally leading) nowhere in particular make a great interview. I think they make for great NPR style points and a lousy interview. History, rather than the current leftist intellectual clique dominating NPR and the NYT will prove the ultimate judge.

She does think her role is to find the "story behind the man." I agree with that. I just think her technique isn't good at doing it. It produces anecdotes in skewed context which often as not provide an inaccurate picture of the subject.

This also served to remind me that I've been negligent in going after my own next interview (and incidentally, no. I don't think I'm personally a world-class interviewer. I'm a hobbyist and an amateur who just likes the stuff). I have the subject - another one of the NARN guys - already staked out in my mind. The real trick is getting him to actually agree. Certain other NARN guys are painfully shy about having their words recorded by the crack Bogus Gold investigative team. Mitch was certainly accomodating though. Perhaps I need to make it more clear that drinks are on me for the course of the interview. That may not be as persuasive for the next subject I have in mind. We'll see.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

My Kind of Shopping Spree

I made a sanity pilgrimage to Surdyk's tonight. For those who don't know, Surdyk's is the best liquor store in the Twin Cities. It's got selection, price, quality, and amazing customer service. In addition to wine, beer, and booze, they have an excellent walk-in cigar humidor.

They also have a little gourmet cheese shop with hundreds of cheeses from around the world. Not sure if you want to spend $25.oo per pound on a specific cheese because you're not sure if the flavor will match the intriguing description? Just ask for a taste. You can taste any cheese you like before deciding if you want to buy.

I am the proverbial kid in a naughty sin-centric version of a candy store when I'm at Surdyk's. When I get too burnt-out by work and parenting, I try to budget a little mad-money to go crazy down there.

Tonight I bought three different cheeses for me, and one for the kids (my son's favorite cheese in the world - no fooling - is Port Salut, from Normandy - though he calls it his special white cheese). I got a domestic ewes-milk blue cheese, English farmhouse cheddar, and something I had never heard of, and can't remember the name of from Italy. Added a little Calabrese Soprasetta, from Italy.

And then the fun part. Into the liquor part of the store to find some fun wine to match with it (and any good bargains or binge "must haves," within my mad-money budget).

One of the things I especially like about shopping for wine at Surdyk's is that they can blow you away in every price point. There are other good wine stores in town that have great selections in the higher price points, but they seem to intentionally make the cheap stuff as uninspired as possible. At Surdyk's if you fon't want to spend more than $10 a bottle it's no problem. They have terrific values all the way down there. And if you truly are someone for whom price is no object, they have plenty to keep you satisfied as well.

This trip I kept my wine prices pretty modest. They were running a sale, knocking about 20-25% off lots of really good wine. So I tried to keep my choices to the sale wines, and under $15 a bottle. Only one ended up going over, but only by $2.50, and that was still a sale price. I made intentionally eclectic choices. An Aussie Shiraz I had never previously tried; a reliably excellent New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the new 2004 bottling; an unfamiliar Spanish Rioja considered a great value and also on sale; an always excellent Italian Salice Salentino; another Italian red I have never heard of in my life; a California Zinfandel from a favorite winery but an unfamiliar year; and a Gerwurtzraminer from the state of Washington I've never tried.

I can hardly figure out where to start. I want to taste them all. And it's not even a work night! But no. That would be wrong. This incidentally represents the danger of me ever opening a wine bar. Make this kind of thing my work and you'll never see me sober again. I think I'll stick to software for now - a career in which suffering a hangover punishes you all day as you're forced to solve thinky problems while last night's revelry thumps against your skull with the rapidity of African tribal rhythms, and the force of railroad spike drivers.

Nonetheless I am enthused. Expect to see some happy wine-blogging in the near future.

Oh yeah. On the "binge purchase" level, I also picked up a bottle of Pravda - a new Polish Vodka that won a prestigious vodka taste-off in San Francisco, and was dubbed "Best Vodka in the World." The last one to win such an award - in Chicago, rather than San Francisco - was Grey Goose Vodka. Up to this point, Grey Goose has been my favorite Vodka - and I have tried other premiums to compare. Interesting to see if the champ is about to be dethroned.

And speaking of vodka martinis, where the heck has Stephen Green disappeared to. He appeared to have some technical problems post-election, but after all this time I'm wondering if the guy has died, or perhaps moved to Canada in a post-election buyer's remorse induced panic. Even his sometime blog-mate Will Collier doesn't seem to know where he is. Could this be a budding mystery in the blogosphere to keep us occupied through the holidays?

Friday, November 26, 2004

More Odds, More Ends

Just another odds and ends post for today. I'm still in holiday mood.

Rick at Stones Cry Out, after writing his excellent exit poll analysis is being beset by lefties in his comment section, since he was linked by Kos. Poor guy. Have to compliment the Kostlings in that most of them have been polite and intellectually honest. If you're in a combative mood, please consider helping Rick out by advocating the wild notion that Bush did not manufacture votes to steal the election on his thread.

My biggest quibble with the entire thread (as I suggested to Rick the night before he posted it, by challenging his idea for the post in a separate thread) is that this sort of debate at some point risks becoming harmful to the electoral process itself. Why? Because we will never have an electoral system totally free from the possibility of fraud. At some point the presentation of actual evidence of fraud - not just harping on those possibilities - ought to be the entry point for serious public debate.

Why? Because the effects of such debate are not simply the public reputations in an arcane academic field. They affect the results of elections for everyone. Casting doubt upon the results of elections is, for the record, one of the classic ways insurgents are taught to destabilize democratic governments.

This being said, real fraud is a serious problem which ought to be handled very seriously. Of course the best method of doing so is transparent to all involved parties, and pro-active - meaning you address your concerns before the ballots are cast.

Via Rick's thread, I'm discovering some things about the left in regards to electoral fraud. For one, there are plenty of genuinely concerned people regarding this issue. For another, they are not nearly as concerned about illegitimate voters casting ballots. They worry more about centralized corporate cabals committing fraud. I'm wondering if there is some happy medium of reform which might please enough elements of both sides.

Some day I will blog about the notion of sufferage as I see it. I really do find it fascinating. It's not really all that obvious why it is held in such high regard when you think about it practically. Should Albert Einstein's vote be nullified by Homer Simpson? How can that possibly be the best way to run a government? Not many people think about sufferage in such basic terms anymore, but we ought to (and for the record, I don't automatically defer to Einstein in the question above).

My beloved Nebraska Cornhusker football team ended their season today with a loss to Colorado - a university I despise as a sporting institution, but where a beloved younger cousin currently attends school, so I refuse to condemn categorically. Going to be a difficult bowl season. It's the first time in my entire life Nebraska has not gone to a bowl. This was the worst performance I have seen a Nebraska team give my entire life. New coach, Bill Callahan, has spent every cent from his honeymoon year. We expect better next year.

Saw the latest Harry Potter movie tonight. Best of the bunch easily. I haven't seen a single one in the theater. All have been on DVD. So if that made a big difference in any of them, ignore my opinion. And I haven't read the books, so if you're a huge fan of those, I have nothing for you. But this one ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban") was a darn good movie. The wife and I both enjoyed it very much.

Also, we both agreed, the main cast - Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasley - have aged very well together. I have heard rumors that they are now considered too old to do the next one. That would be a shame. Our household very much likes them together - growing older as their characters do.

Nothing to tie this together as usual.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Pre-Holiday Odds and Ends

Getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. It's just us this year. We're travelling no where, and no family is coming here. And much as I like my family... Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. A relaxing four day weekend.

We don't have to clean up any clutter that doesn't personally bother us or endanger the kids. We can eat Thanksgiving dinner when we darn well feel like it, and leave the dishes for as long as we like afterward. No one has a "favorite dish" that we just have to prepare. And no one will bug us in the kitchen by insisting on "helping."

I hope the rest of you have a good Thanksgiving also. While you're remembering to give thanks, don't forget to spread a little good fortune to our favorite charity:

Just a couple of brief notes tonight.

First of all thanks right back to Jo at Jo's Atttic for the nice mention in her good and thoughtful Blogger Thanksgiving post. It has been an interesting initial blogging year for me as well. Having the opportunity to meet many fellow bloggers - including fellow rookie bloggers - who are truly fun and interesting people has been one of the highlights. Jo is one of the ones it has been a pleasure to meet as well as read. Jo is actually even more engaging in person than on her blog, because in person she always has something to say, whereas she takes lazy breaks from posting to her blog at times (Heh! Zing me for my perpetual wordiosity will ya?!) .

Secondly, Rick at Stones Cry Out is THE place to stop if you want an intelligent and well researched counterpoint to those who attempt to use exit polling data to cry "conspiracy" and "stolen election." Rick knows this polling stuff scary-well, and unlike many reporters is not afraid to pick up a telephone to get to the bottom of niggling details. His post is also another excellent case study in a blogger eating the MSM's lunch on an important story. Remember when reading Rick's post that he did it for free, while the guy who wrote this got paid big bucks for it. I leave it to your own judgment which is better journalism (extra points if you can spot the one who has unintentionally become the print embodiment of Kent Brockman, from the Simpsons).

And finally, the Elder at Fraters Libertas (also the team leader for this), wrote a very good piece responding to another very good piece from Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost. The topic is NPR versus Talk Radio. Good reading all around. But I would like to call special attention to this specific comment from the Elder:

"[NPR's] Terry Gross is the most overrated interviewer on the planet. Yes, more overrated than Larry King. I've listened to Gross more than a few times in the last couple of months and I find her almost unlistenable."

Darn straight! Okay, maybe I wouldn't go so far as "almost unlistenable." "Mediocre" would be my choice. She has nice pipes, which perhaps lull other listeners into a false sense that they're hearing quality. But once she gets beyond the obvious questions anyone might think to ask, she is terribly erratic. And when on occasion she stumbles across something truly interesting, her followup instincts are terrible.

You want the tops of the interviewing kingdom in the MSM today? Brian Lamb from CSPAN on Booknotes, and James Lipton from Inside The Actor's Studio on Bravo. Lamb is the "disappear into the background" kind of interviewer, who nevertheless has a knack for guiding his subject into continually saying fascinating things about their work, their process, and themselves. Lipton is best at bringing out his subject's personalities and humanizing them, as well as bringing out the mechanics of how they work (and if you ever dabble in acting, directing, or writing he draws out some truly amazing stuff you can often find useful in your own work). Both have a knack for interviewing people I had never previously cared for but suddenly found fascinating and informative - and more than occasionally riveting - once in one of their interview chairs.

And how do all these topics fit together? I don't know. And holiday brain makes me not worried about trying to figure it out. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

An Unexpected Wine Review

I had avoided buying Royal Bitch wine in the past, because it seemed like such an obvious marketing ploy. Obvious marketing ploys rarely mean good wine. More often they’re meant to allow novelty purchases to overcome a sucky product.

That being said, there are exceptions. And this very well might be one of them.

They had a little promotional tasting of the wine at my neighborhood liquor store this evening. I sampled on the basic principal that it was free booze, and found the Chardonnay surprisingly excellent – especially for an $11 Chilean wine. I picked up a bottle for dinner.

Technically the wine is called: Royal Bitch, 2004 Reserve Chardonnay. Let’s break that down for you:

“Royal Bitch” is the market-tested name some Chilean company decided would appeal to American wine consumers. We really are a crass lot these days. The lady walking the aristocratic-looking dog on the label barely allows it to qualify as a double entendre.

2004 is the year it was bottled – aging not being a factor in improving the taste of the majority of wine, this is not a problem.

“Reserve” is an interesting term in the wine industry. It means nothing. Not a darn thing. There are no regulations or restrictions on using that term in the American market. Sounds like it means this is the special wine, with the regular crap going to those other customers. But it doesn’t. Just means their marketing department knows "reserve" sells better than not having the word reserve on the bottle.

Chardonnay… now that is an interesting term. If you’ve been polluted by California wineries your entire life, you think it means a “heavier” white wine, full of flavors like “toasty oak,” and “melon.” It’s not. That comes from putting the stuff into oak barrels, and has very little to do with flavor from the grape. Chardonnay is actually a very light and delicate wine, with flavors sensitive to the micro-climate in which it is grown. Taste a few Chardonnays not aged in oak barrels, and you gain a whole new appreciation for what it can be.

It is this last element which attracted me to this wine. As I have noted earlier, Chardonnay grows darn near anywhere, but doesn’t taste very special most places. This one is an exception. It’s crisp and racy. Almost Sauvignon Blanc-like in mouth-feel. Notes of grapefruit, and pear. Delicate though. Nothing overwhelming. It whispers rather than shouts. This wine would pair very well with shellfish.

Catching the Spirit

Have you ever had that dream? You know the one. It’s the big game. Time is running out. Thousands of fans cheering as your favorite team drives down the field, needing just a few more points to carry them on to victory. And when the moment for the big field-goal arrives the coach turns to the stands and points to YOU and asks you to go win the game for the team. Ever have that dream?

Me neither, but I think I saw it once in a beer commercial.

Anyway, the Northern Alliance is doing something kind of like that in their Spirit of America fund-raising drive.

Here's a bit about the charity itself. And here's the scoop on what the current drive.

The Northern Alliance blogs plugging the cause alone would have been enough to generate some serious charity fundage. But they’ve gone above and beyond.

Like the coach in the fake dream I referenced above, the Elder from Team Leader blog Fraters Libertas, has pointed into the stands and called us down to join the team:

"Just because you're not officially part of the Northern Alliance doesn't mean that you can't join the SOA team. We encourage other bloggers to climb onto the bandwagon."

There's a bit of a (so far) friendly competition between various bloggers to see who can raise the most money. So here I come, rushing down to the sidelines to do my bit to help the team. As long as it doesn't involve washing Atomizer's unmentionables after the game or anything.

I encourage readers of my blog to follow the link below (or just click the picture) and consider a donation to this very worthy charity.

Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge

Northern Alliance of Blogs Donation Page

Everybody Wants To Be A Cat

I've always found the "cat-blogging" thing to be a little silly. But today I find myself sympatico with our feline friends. But no matter how much I might laud the virtues of those impish lions of indoor suburbia, PETA would NOT be happy with me today.

I got out of bed after the wife and kids had already bustled out the door on their way to an early doctor’s appointment in Maplewood. Awaiting me was a note from the wife: “Please throw away the broom. There is a mouse stuck to it.”

Unusual way to start the day. I had images of the tiny creature skewered messily upon the stiff bristles. We could call it a suicide when the ASPCA arrived to investigate. Perhaps the mouse, suffering from depression sparked by seasonal affective disorder, saw the broom as a convenient way to free himself from this veil of tears. Plausible. But in reality I assumed the wife had smacked the little vermin this morning and was either too grossed out by the blood, or shielding the kids from seeing the same, to properly dispose of it.

But as I approached the broom, I noticed a wiggle from a mysterious square of black plastic propped up against it. I then cautiously raised the broom to find a very live mouse stuck to not one, but two glue traps (the mysterious piece of black plastic was one of them), as well as to the broom.

Two dark little eyes stared into mine as I tried to figure out what etiquette called for in this situation. I decided on the husband-as-automaton course. I walked outside to the outdoor garbage bin, and threw the whole mess in there.

No merciful sharp blow to the head to end its misery. The tiny rodent can lie in the garbage, shivering to the end and pondering the cruel fate that lead it to seek warmth in the house of someone who HATES mice. Well I suppose pet mice are ok. You need something to feed the pet snakes.

And why do I hate mice so much? Because I was once too stupid to hate mice, and it played a key role in the saga my wife and I call “The House of Plague.”

The House of Plague started off innocently enough. One might have even expected it to be a charming and romantic memory, being the first place my wife and I (fiancé at the time) lived together. I had just graduated from college, while she still had one year remaining. Both of us being seriously tired of navigating through two separate sets of roommates whenever we got together for a romantic evening (nothing spoils romance faster than a hairy roommate walking through the room wearing only boxer shorts and scratching places best left unmentioned – and don’t get me started on MY roommates [ba-da-bum!]), we decided to scandalize our families and move in together.

The place we selected was far off campus, in one of the old neighborhoods in town; a renovated- many-times house from the late nineteenth century. It wasn’t very large, but had been converted to have one apartment downstairs, and another upstairs. We had the downstairs apartment.

One evening we turned on the light only to be startled when a mouse quickly scurried out of sight. My wife immediately started talking about traps and bait and poison. Psshaw! Said I. One tiny little mouse? He’s actually kind of cute. Let’s buy the kind of traps that don’t kill, and set him free.

And so we did. We bought a few mouse traps which had doors configured to spring shut when the mouse came to take the bait, safely locking in the mouse for later release. We baited them with peanut butter and waited. And waited. And several days later we had not caught a thing. Now and then we did see the little critter scurry away, or hear him in the walls. He sure seemed to be getting more active. But no matter what bait we tried, or where we placed the traps, we couldn’t catch him.

And then one evening we heard our friend the mouse scurrying above the tiles in the ceiling of the living room. In two places at once. We turned to one another with the stunning realization that we had not been seeing the same mouse over and over. We had been seeing different mice (that would probably cheese-off PETA as well – they all look alike to me). Our house was infested with them.

After a frantic week of more traps – including the traditional killing kind – still failing to get a victim, I walked into the kitchen one evening, turned on the light, and the biggest mouse I had ever seen was sitting on the edge of the wastebasket. He was so big I actually wondered if it was possible to have both mice AND rats at the same time. He lazily turned to give me a dirty look, slowly hopped down and sauntered over to a hole in the wall to get away. I’m convinced he was merely bothered by the light. He certainly wasn’t remotely frightened of me. The mice were becoming convinced that this was their house, and they weren't all that thrilled with our presense anymore.

The next day we went nuclear – at least as nuclear as you can go in terms of battling household pests. We bought D-Con rodent death crunch with new improved flavor, or something like that. It was poison. But it was a special kind of poison that tasted great to mice, and left them enough time alive to go feed their little babies the same stuff before keeling over. Like Jonestown, only tinier and squeekier.

The morning after the first night we left it out we found evidence that some of the mice had gone for it. We left it out longer, but perhaps didn’t need to. We didn’t see or hear from the mice again.

However, there is a downside to killing mice this way, as we discovered. You see, dead mice tend to smell bad when they decompose behind your walls. Did I mention this house had no air conditioning?

There is a further troubling aspect of decomposing mice and their associated stink. Flies pick up on that stink. Flies like it. And flies are even smaller than mice, having no trouble finding the tiny holes the mice used to make their way back to those stinky decomposing mouse corpses. Flies like to lay their eggs there so their whole family can enjoy the great stinky feast. And so they did.

Sometime later, I returned home in the middle of a bright and sunny day. I noticed the kitchen seemed awfully dark. We didn’t have curtains for the kitchen window, so the sun ought to be shining in. Walking in to investigate, I discovered that the kitchen window was completely covered by thousands of tiny black house flies. Standing there in shock I noticed a few more flying out of a little hole near the baseboard.

Two or three cans of RAID later; I realized that these were the new baby flies resulting from the larvae that had feasted upon the rotting mouse carcasses in the walls. I sealed up the hole they emerged from and HOPED they wouldn’t find another (they didn’t seem to).

After we finally moved from the place, we also discovered several dead, rotten mouse corpses in boxes of our clothing in the basement. We had lost other items in the basement when it flooded (told you it was the House of Plague. And I haven’t even mentioned the kitchen deluge from the upstairs bathtub overflowing). So the mice even managed to spoil that little salvage operation long after they were dead.

I summary, mice and I do not get along well together. Had God graced me with superior night-vision, cat-like reflexes, and sharp claws, I would hunt them for sport. I root for Tom rather than Jerry. I apply extra WD-40, lest a squeeky hinge even remind me of a mouse.

And a further warning to rodent-kind: I'm the softy on the mouse issue in our household. Perhaps you might try wintering with the neighbors instead.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Lazarus Rising!

Episode 97, in which I rise, Lazarus-like, to blog again!!

Ok, perhaps I'm overdoing the melodrama of the illness thing. I am feeling quite a bit better this evening. Not like I'm ready to compete in a marathon (though this is perhaps an unrealistic expectation, as I never have felt that well in my life), but still better than anytime since Saturday evening.

Orson Scott Card has a very nice Thanksgiving tribute I thought I'd like to point out. Here's an excerpt:

"This Thanksgiving there are thousands of people I have never met, to whom I owe a debt that cannot be repaid.

To you, Marine, still weary from the battle house to house in Fallujah, whom we called upon to overcome your natural fear and go into combat in our cause: What went through your mind and heart in those days of fighting is between you and your fellow soldiers and the God who knows your heart as no mortal being can. All I can see is the outward deed -- the courage to act on someone else's orders, in protection of someone else's life, at risk of your own.

To all you soldiers, sailors, pilots, marines who have served under fire, at risk of life, volunteers in the American cause: You carry with you painful memories so that countless civilians back home will not have such memories; the vast majority of your fellow-citizens remain innocent of the agony of war precisely because you have been willing to immerse yourselves in it.

You create and maintain the safe haven in which I live. Thank you."

Another one I wanted to point out from this past weekend is by Jeremy Brown, guest-blogging Michael J. Totten's blog: Nazis are from Mars, Fascist Jihadists are from Venus. Excerpt:

If anti-Semitic blood libel was good enough for 1st century Greece then why shouldn't it still be happening in 21st century Westchester, NY (via Solomonia):

This Saturday (Nov. 20), a fundraiser will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, raising money to bring a Palestinian art exhibit to the New York metro area. Here's one of the paintings from the proposed exhibit (previously shown in Houston, TX), portraying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon collecting and boiling a young Palestinian's blood:


Also included in the exhibit would be art and text that glorifies terrorist murder:

[t]o several of the artists, the subject of the martyrs is an all-important topic. A true martyr is anyone who gives his life in service of his people, including...suicide bombers that attack Israeli civilians.

I can anticipate the objections some people will have to my characterization of this, so let me say that I have little patience for those who denigrate the Palestinian populace as a whole. But I can think of no greater insult to a nation, race, or creed than to purport to represent the soul of its culture through the words and images of its most sociopathic element. Let's see Palestinian art that tells ugly truths, that challenges comfortable assumptions, by all means. But -- does this really have to be said? -- let's please not make apologies for the murdering fascistic militants who are just as poisonous to the future of a free Palestine as they are to the future of Israel.

Damn straight! The failed Euro-Carter-Clinton model of peace in the Middle-East failed for precisely these reasons. The flower of Palestinian excellence cannot be expressed by the trash who blow themselves up to world-acclaim because they take a few innocent Jews with them. If there is ever to be a viable Palestinian state, it MUST be based on a rejection of this at a bare minimum. And knocking off the Nazi-era anti-Jewish propaganda wouldn't hurt either.

And to finish with something a bit more local, Flash at Centrisity is falling for a leftist meme that contributed to their loss last election. He seems to think that objective evidence of leftist intolerance and idealogical cleansing of the universities can be cutely reasoned away by ... well he doesn't say, but he cites a couple of letters to the editor...

"Academics are trained to reason using logic, to question evidence and to consider and evaluate several possible interpretations of events. All these activities are discouraged and indeed ridiculed by the present Republican leadership.

"A successful career in academia, after all, requires willingness to be critical of yourself and to learn from experience, along with a lack of interest in material incentives. All these are antithetical to Republicanism as it has recently come to be."

Here at Bogus Gold, we encourage Flash to keep stoking the leftists in their notion that they are entirely logical, and open-minded to all sides of a debate while remaining completely clueless about any intellectual debate to the right of the New York Times editorial page. A healthy dose of time in the political wilderness (the inevitable result) might actually bring some sense to the left again, and that would probably be a good thing.

All the same, the notion that lefties themselves are finally noticing the objective evidence here - that our universities have been more or less politically and ideologically cleansed - is probably a good thing. One must not expect to build Rome in a day. Simple faith in humanity would lead one to believe that honest academics on the left will tire of their echo chamber eventually. And maybe one day will even condemn their opposition to intellectual diversity in the first place. But that's years down the road. Babysteps will suffice for now.

Congé Maladie

Let’s recap my weekend. It started unexpectedly a day early, when a two hour car appointment turned into all day, making a journey into the office impossible. A rather expensive way to earn a day off. But c’est la vie.

Then, Saturday, I finally got around to raking and bagging the leaves in my front yard. Unfortunately it was a rather cold and windy day, making extended exposure to the elements perhaps a bit less than healthy. And so perhaps I should have not been entirely surprised to wake up Sunday morning with a nasty case of stomach flu (as you may recall, my daughter had come down with it Saturday evening).

Yesterday was spent largely reclining in various places around the house. I couldn’t bring myself to sit up straight for any lengthy period of time without being overcome by nausea. And the fever and muscle ache made moving around less than pleasant anyway, so I played bump-on-a-log.

Not quite over the flu yet today, but I am a bit better than yesterday. I can remain seated upright without throwing up for example.

This is all a roundabout way of saying, sorry for the scanty blogging this past weekend. There were a number of things I wanted to get to – and other blog posts I wanted to respond to. But it just didn’t happen.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Saturday Evening Relaxing

Portait of the beginning of a nice relaxing evening: A lovely dinner with lively and entertaining post-dinner conversation with the beloved wife is interrupted only briefly when the middle child is discovered to have fallen asleep in the other room. After picking her up and tucking her in properly to her bed, we retire to the four-season porch for amusing games with the four year old, and more engaging adult-level conversation.

Portait of the beginning of a not-nearly-so-relaxing evening: A lovely dinner with lively and entertaining post-dinner conversation with the beloved wife is interrupted only briefly when the middle child is discovered to have fallen asleep in the other room. After picking her up and tucking her in properly to her bed, we retire to the four-season porch for amusing games with the four year old, and more engaging adult-level conversation. Shortly afterward, previously slumbering two year old cries out in bed, and inquisitive parent discovers she has vomited all over her favorite blanket, clothing, pillowcase, and bedding.

She’s awake now. Watching Barney in a state of sleepy sickness. Ugh.

Of course, mommy and daddy’s plan of a peaceful evening are shattered. We’re now scrambling to do laundry, keep the other kids satisfied, and hopefully eventually get to bed ourselves.


I had some great ideas for blogging tonight. They have been officially pre-empted.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bush Twins Insulted and Turned Away From NYC Restaurant?

Heck, I don't know if this is true. If not mea culpa. I'm as stupid as the guys who believed the early exit polls on November second (you know who you are).

But I stumbled across this report from Gawker.com via Free Republic:

...Freemans tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins along with 2 massive secret service men tried to have dinner they were told by the maitre 'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years upon hearing the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots it was amazing!!! [Ed: We're hearing that this is actually true.]...
First of all, take this with a grain of salt. Lots of Freepers have convinced themselves this is true and some have even done some independent investigation to verify (scroll down the linked thread to see). But I'm personally still skeptical.

Two points I would like to make though.

First, Liberal New Yorkers turning the daughters of a political opponent into the modern equivalent of Rosa Parks are a fine sight. This is the sort of thing my baby-boomer dad can't understand when I try to explain why I don't find his generation's liberal ethic credible. Because they LOVE to discriminate against those they themselves are biased against. Even the children of those they politically disdain are fair game. And through this lens, I judge the moral principles they try to convince me they hold, and find them lacking. To convince me you know what tolerance is about I have to see you practice it on occasion. And of course everyone in that restaurant was my dad's age. Or perhaps I'm projecting a bit too much here. Let me try again.

How about it's pretty telling when the opposition party to the guy "just as bad as Hitler" feels free to insult and mock his daughters with impunity. Are we to believe all of these people are bravely making a statement of conscience knowing that they will be among the first to the concentration camps?! Or is it perhaps more likely that this "Hitler" they decry is nothing of the kind, and that they're simply ill-mannered slack-jawed yokels, for whom Bush is Hitler when the Times tells them he is, and who is an ineffectual, powerless bufoon when the editorial line changes?

Second, as a peace offering, Alexandra Kerry is invited over for dinner at our house any evening of her choosing. She'll be welcomed, and treated as an honored guest. The only condition is that she wears that dress she wore to Cannes.

When it Rains it Pours

When it rains it pours.

Well not the weather anyway. But I had my car into the shop today. And yikes! What a bill. Probably earned it though. I haven’t had any work done it other than oil changes for quite some time. But wouldn’t you know the big unexpected bill comes right as Christmas shopping commences. Ouch.

I took it to a local business in Fridley called Bona Bros. I love the place. The service is almost unbelievably polite. The waiting area is not the typical hard plastic, metal chairs with a few magazines on crappy little tables. They have overstuffed leather sofas, dark wooden walls with built-in bookcases, dark wood furniture. The books on the shelves are real, and meant for browsing. I noticed Bill Bennett’s "Book of Virtues," Tom Clancy’s "Sum of All Fears," and Thomas Hardy’s "Return of the Native." How’s that for a little light reading while you wait for your oil change? Oh they have a few magazines and newspapers too. The place is always clean, and surprisingly smells more like a family den than an automotive shop. Soft classical music plays over the music system.

And they do excellent work too. The only AAA endorsed automotive repair shop in Fridley.

This does help take the sting out of the bill a bit. I have no idea when I crossed from the “lowest price” kind of guy to the “I’ll pay for the best work” guy. But I did. And when I get to sit on comfy leather furniture as part of the deal, it’s a no brainer.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hugh's Target Crusade

Just because I'm feeling mischievous....

Hugh Hewitt is pimping a blog-meme again.

I have enthusiastically supported him in this in the past, when I think he has picked a meme that is important, and with which I agree. But there is the whiff of the New York Times pursuing Augusta National here.

There was a moment between Powerline breaking the Swiftvet story and Rathergate when those guys became filled with a bit of hubris which was awkwardly misplaced. I'm talking about the point where Hindrocket decided the role of the blogosphere was to get AP reporters fired. Remember that one?

Riddle me this... was that reporter fired? Docked pay? Impacted in any way?

No. Because that wasn't within Powerline's role or sphere of influence. I don't mind their attempt. But from the start my thought was that the guys were a bit full of themselves. They were not positioned to take down AP reporters, and efforts to that goal were some combination of self-aggrandizement and hucksterism.

Umm.. Hugh? You're not taking down Target here. I know you feel the whiff of gunpowder, and the troops seem to be forming up to march to victory. But it just won't happen. And forming up the troops for a failed charge does the opposite of bolstering their influence.

I fully support castigating Target over their Savation Army decision. But organized boycotts which fail to bring serious economic conseqences to their targets make a mockery of themselves, and betray their inherent weakness - which is remembered. I consider this an emotional squandering of otherwise potent political capital.

Tech Toy Gossip

Bought a new toy today. Actually it’s very practical for work and home use. But I can’t pretend that’s why I bought it. I just think it's cool.

It’s a tiny little device designed to fit on a key-chain called a "flash drive." It has a USB 2.0 connection on it. I can plug it into the USB port on any computer and feed it 256 megabytes of stuff. I can erase and rewrite new stuff as much as I like, so it's not like burning a CD (yes I'm aware of rewritable CD's - I have two different RW capable CD drives. But this is faster, and it's a new toy, so humor me). There were also versions the same size that held double and triple that amount, but their prices were a little higher than I wanted to pay on a binge purchase. Wait a few months, and they’ll be down to the $30 I paid for this one.

And this got me thinking about the speed of technological change within my lifetime. Heck… just in the past ten years.

I’m not going to bore you with another overdone litany or laundry list of major changes in that time. You lived through it too.

But it does get me thinking about how quickly things can pop up we didn’t anticipate – not because of a new invention – but because of how much better-faster-cheaper the old inventions are becoming. My new toy is just a refinement of inventions which have been around since the 70's. The blogosphere is another great example. So is the Web itself. Yes, yes, there was some more inventing that brought all of that about. But really only very modest steps building upon the giant leaps that were put in place for other reasons.

I just bought my wife a new notebook computer for Christmas (I can post it here – it’s not a surprise). This makes us a three computer household now. And I have yet another old one boxed up in the storage room.

We have a broadband connection to the Internet – the largest network in the history of the world – and a wireless network which allows us to connect from anywhere in the house (including the back deck).

I now have the ability to pop a tiny device into any of our computers, and transfer many times the information contained into the Encyclopedia Britannica between them. Cost me thirty bucks. (If I spent a little more time setting up the home network with our wi-fi, I wouldn’t even need the little device thing, but that’s pretty cool too – multiple solutions to a problem, all of which are cheap and easily available).

You can keep your visions of the future with monorails and hover cars. We’re in the age where universal information is becoming darn near omnipresent and darn near free, and the kind of cool stuff we haven’t even imagined which will be popping up from that is going to make the next 10 years even more interesting than the last. Fun times.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Tom Delay Matter

Swiftee from Pair O' Dice has saved me from having to blog about politics. He said everything I would have cared to regarding the House rules change topic.

Read Swiftee's post
and carry along my complete agreement.

Maglev – Energy Independence Faster Than A Speeding Bullet Train?

Came across this article today: Winning the Maglev race

The authors of the article are described thusly:

"James Powell and Gordon Danby are the inventors of superconducting Maglev. They received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering in 2000 for their invention "using superconducting magnets and subsequent work in the field." They are directors of the MAGLEV 2000 of Florida Corp. "

Now I’m certainly not opposed to inventors being proud and optimistic about their invention. And I’m not opposed to companies trying to convince people the future lies with a product they sell. But I am opposed to crappy reasoning that might persuade the gullible into forking over unneeded tax dollars with a smile.

The thrust of Powell and Danby’s article is to persuade us that a “perfect storm” is coming and their invention - superconductive Maglev railroad - can save the day.

“The United States faces a transportation crisis in the next 10 to 20 years - an oncoming perfect storm of declining world oil production, rising fuel prices, increased roadway congestion and accidents, more global warming from vehicle emissions and dirtier air.

“In 20 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation predicts truck ton-miles and auto miles will almost double. U.S. demand for oil, most of which goes for transportation, will also almost double. Most oil experts predict oil production to peak at the same time. The oil prices will rapidly climb as the U.S. and other nations fight over the shrinking amount of oil. The U.S., with only 4 percent of the world's population, currently consumes 25 percent of the oil. As other nations industrialize, particularly China and India, the U.S. will not hold its 25 percent share.”

You get the picture.

This argument is incidentally very persuasive to a lot of smart people. Orson Scott Card, Sci-Fi author, and one of my favorite 9-11 Democrat pundits, writes about this impending crisis regularly. He is totally sold on it. Plenty of other serious policy and science figures are similarly convinced. And, lest any of you doubt my own totally un-qualifiied credentials, I have very little understanding of the specifics that lead them to this conclusion. So take that for what it’s worth.

But I do know a little about free market principles, and I know a bit about the history of predicting these kinds of calamities 20 years out.

I’m recycling some of this stuff from an earlier post of mine regarding some of Orson Scott Card’s comments on impending oil shortage. Since it seems relevant, I think it bears repeating:

“Speaking of foolish optimism ...

There is only a finite amount of oil in the world.

Everybody knows this.

Someday, we'll run out.

It will be gone.”

Well... maybe. See there is this Abiotic Theory of Oil Formation which would tend to refute this. Nontheless, even as little as I know about the merits of that debate, it seems safe to say this is a theory pretty far off the mainstream, so Card's basic thesis stands. We need to plan as if oil is finite.

Now we come to some of the more thought provoking items.

"Optimists tell us that the free market will eventually deal with the problem. Their theory is that as oil gets harder to extract cheaply, the price will go up; then other forms of energy will become economically attractive and we'll switch over to them.

Therefore, they say, government should stay out of the business of trying to limit the use of oil or encourage alternate energy sources.

Here's why their optimism is nothing short of suicidal.

First, there's no guarantee that without intense government-funded research and financial incentives now, the new energy sources will be available in quantities large enough to replace oil when it does run out.

In other words, if we wait until it's an emergency, our economy could easily crash and burn for lack of energy sources sufficient to drive it. "

Two problems I have with the above. The first is the ought-to-be-more-famous wager between the late economist Juilan Simon, and the always-wrong-but-never-discredited doomsayer Paul Erlich. There is no doubt that every commodity that was part of this wager is finite. And Julian Simon had no special knowledge of the unknown. He just knew the way the market worked and the historical trends. His optimism turned out to be realism.

The second problem is with the line, "there's no guarantee that without intense government-funded research and financial incentives now, the new energy sources will be available in quantities large enough to replace oil when it does run out." There's also no guarantee that we'll have this with government intervention. And we can be certain we'll waste a lot of money by removing market discipline from this research.

And what is the thrust of the Powell and Danby article?

“With our colleague, James Jordan, we have proposed a 16,000-mile National Maglev 2000 Network built alongside the interstate highways, an idea of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It would connect metropolitan regions into a seamless web serving 90 percent of the U.S. population, with 70 percent living within 15 miles of a Maglev station, from which travelers could go anywhere in the U.S. in a few hours. The network would be built in 20 years for only $20 billion per year. It would save hundreds of billions of dollars annually, create hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing jobs, and provide a major export industry.”

Why wait for the market to react? Fund a 20 year 4 trillion dollar (estimated only – expect that to be a lowball figure) Maglev system to save us from this certain oil shortfall before our doom falls upon us!

Hey I love the thing conceptually. I went to Disneyland as a kid and thought the future would be full of monorails too. But then I grew up and realized it is important to balance benefits and costs, and the market does that SOOO much better than government, I want to see a heck of a lot more evidence. Especially since our scientific community that has bastardized itself in pursuit of political agendas for thirty years.

For anyone collecting public opinon, count me as a “No” vote on this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gay Marriage - Full Speed Ahead?

Should I do it or not. We had a nice happy wine post yesterday. Nice and peaceful. No one got hurt. And yet…

Today Army of Mom linked to an article I wrote a few days ago regarding the gay marriage debate, in a successful attempt to stir up some discussion on the topic. I tried to add my comment to her post earlier, but when the comment started getting out of control length-wise, I decided that blogging etiquette required me to post it to my own blog, or shut the heck up. I’m still undecided as to which path I should take.

Incidentally, I’m probably less personally bothered by gay marriage issue than anyone would guess if they heard me explain WHY I’m opposed. Honestly it just doesn’t terribly bother me... personally. Like most other people my age, I already know real live gay people. They’re not some mysterious “other” to me. Homophobia? I can’t possibly entertain it. Makes no sense to me. I’ve known wonderful people who are gay, and *ssholes who are as well. Their gayness doesn’t frighten me, or bother me in the least. I get annoyed if they start getting sexually explicit in my company – but I feel the same around heterosexuals exhibiting the same behavior, and honestly I’ve encountered more of the latter than the former.

So I’m not personally bothered by the idea of a gay couple getting married. That means I should just ignore it? Whatever changes make them happy, right? Won’t affect my personal happiness, so none of my business?

That’s a really shallow and irresponsible way to think about this issue – or any other societal issue for that matter. Set aside the fact that something being right or wrong has nothing to do with my emotional state regarding the matter. When did we conclude that a wise basis for creating public policy is to check whether we’d personally be emotionally affected by it, and if not full speed ahead?

This isn't just about whether it will affect someone's mood. There are very real ramifications of gay marriage having monetary and social costs. And beyond the known costs, there is a staggering amount of unknown territory we can call “risk.” What happens two or three generations down the road when children have grown up with the societal affirmation that gay-marriages are just as legitimate as those of traditional marriage? I can’t possibly know. And neither can anyone advocating the change.

People keep mocking the anti side by stating “I can’t possibly see how a gay couple getting married will affect MY marriage.” A smaller number make that observation as an honest admission, instead of sneering dismissal. Regardless, that’s about as egocentric and short-sighted as one could imagine. My own marriage has been fine for over twelve years now. No divorce here. Does this allow me to conclude that no-fault divorce laws did not have a deleterious effect on the institution of marriage? Ignorance of social implications beyond your own life is a terrible basis for making social decisions. If you admit you don’t know something, isn’t the rational response to find out before jumping ahead?

Stanley Kurtz is one of the only writers on the topic I know who has been consistently doing this. In his article: “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia,” written for the Weekly Standard last February, he looked at marriage in Scandinavia, which has had something close to fully sanctioned gay marriage for about a decade now. What does he observe?

“…The Nordic family pattern--including gay marriage--is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.

More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.”

True, there is simply not enough data to be certain that gay marriage is the cause of this. The best known gay marriage advocate – Andrew Sullivan – immediately dismissed Kurtz’s observations because they didn’t prove causation (for a perfect illustration of how intellectually dishonest Sullivan has been regarding his gay marriage advocacy, as well as further examination of the demographics, read Kurtz’s response).

But of course, as is the case with most social trends, it will be impossible to be certain of what will result before actually experiencing the results afer a generation or two. We must do our best with what less-than-certain evidence we can gather, and try to make a wise decision. What evidence we do have regarding this is troubling at best. And the expectation of perfect evidence to completely seal the argument beforehand is unrealistic in the extreme.

Here are a few questions a reasonable person ought to be able to answer (at very least to their own satisfaction) before advocating the gay-marriage plunge: Are there any examples of societies in recorded history which sanctioned the kind of gay marriage we’re proposing? If so, what happened when they did? If not, can you explain why they didn’t in any terms that aren’t ego-centric (i.e. we’re more enlightened these days)? Considering the demographic time-bomb awaiting Western Civilization’s welfare states inherent in their declining birth rates, is it wise social policy for the state to endorse inherently non-procreative couples at this precise moment in history?

Elaborating on that last question, societies do die out, you know. Making policy for the sake that it “feels good” at the moment is a pretty good recipe for eventual societal ruin. I have yet to see an argument for gay marriage that adequately balances long-term societal welfare, admits and addresses the potential risks of making this change, and shows respect for societal consensus. Instead I see an atomistic view which wants to consider only the individual, and damn society to roll with whatever the results turn out to be. We’ve been down that road for the past couple of decades, and the results are not turning out so great when measured against the assumption that we see the long-term survival of Western Civilization as a good thing. Gay marriage is certainly not the cause of social decay. But it might very well be a sufficient kick at a teetering institution to do serious long-term damage to society we would otherwise avoid.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A Little Angst, A Little Wine

Well I suppose it’s not a good idea to leave the blog unposted for yet another day. I haven’t been doing this long enough that any of you could have built much confidence that I’m coming back if I leave for too long.

I’m having a case of “blogger-block.” Perhaps it’s caused by post-election fatigue. I’ve started several different posts the past couple of days. And once I get three or four paragraphs into them, I suddenly realize I just don’t care and toss them into electronic oblivion.

The common theme to these? All were about politics. So I’m not even going to try to go there at the moment. Needs a rest. Including Policyguy’s good suggestion of tackling wine shipping laws. I’d love to take a shot at it, but can’t manage it right now.

But wine is a topic I have neglected lately. Blogging about it anyway. My consuming of it has been quite healthy, thank you very much. And yes, it is healthy. I’m thinking of those studies that show wine drinkers – especially red wine drinkers - are healthier than teetotalers. They actually suggest 2-3 glasses of red wine per day for health. At the rate I’m going, I’ve almost made up for all those days before I turned 21, when I didn’t get my three glasses (rimshot).

In that vein, I think it’s time for some wine-blogging.

I’ve selected something a little better than the bargain bin this time – though it is one with a terrific reputation for value. It’s the Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintner’s Blend, 2002. This is one I buy every year. Ravenswood is one of the pioneers of the Big-In-Your-Face-Fruit style of California Zin. Their motto is “No Wimpy Wines.”

Their single vinyard bottlings can get a little pricey. But the Vinters Blend takes some grapes from the Ravenswood holdings, and blends them with Zinfandel grapes selected by their chief winemaker, but purchased elsewhere. The result knocks anywhere from five to fifteen bucks off their other Zinfandel bottling prices, and is usually still a very nice wine to boot.

So here we go. It’s got a natural cork, leaving me with the charming possibility of a spoiled wine tasting of mold and rotted cork. Let’s leave slavish devotion to inferior tradition to the French. This is a fixable problem winemakers: screwcaps, synthetic corks, magical fairy spells, whatever. Just pick a solution and go with it. Anyhow, this particular cork looks ok. Let’s try the wine.

The color is a nice deep garnet. A bit on the lighter side judging by the “jammy Zin” scale. The nose is rather subdued. Hints of earth, and cherries, or maybe currants. But nothing really leaping out.

On the palate, the wine is also fairly closed. The tannins are well structured, not overbearing. And I’m thankful for them, because the remainder of mouthfeel is surprisingly soft. I expected something much more assertive.

The flavor is also subdued and subtle. And what comes through is surprisingly non-Zinfandelish. In a blind test, I’d have trouble distinguishing this wine from a Syrah. The earthiness is almost characteristic of Red Burgandy. The fruit is peppery and curranty, and not at all jammy. The peppery quality is about the only Zin like trait.

This is not one of the better years I’ve sampled for Ravenswood Vinter’s Blend. But it is perhaps one of the most interesting. Instead of the expected smack in the face of jammy, peppery fruit, this one is softer, subtler, and more intellectually engaging. It is also probably going to pair with a wider range of food.

I’ll see if the wine opens up a bit as it’s open. I have a hunch it will. Not many mass market Zins benefit from aging, but this one very well might.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Just a Quick Note

Didn’t make the NARN Veterans Salute at Keegan’s tonight. The kids were super squirrelly and wore me out. Thankfully they also wore themselves out, with both the older ones falling asleep where they sat well before their normal bedtime. But they still left me too pooped to go carousing. I’ll set my sights on the rumored upcoming MOB event.

Is that enough to count for today’s blogging? If not, sue me. I’ve noticed lots of blogs taking unusually long stretches of time off post-election. I’m joining the club. Sort of. But mostly just because I couldn’t get time to myself for any period longer than 5 minutes in a row today. And all the ideas I wanted to write about are not in the “cute pithy blurb” category. Maybe I’ll get one out tomorrow.

In the meantime check out this from Ace of Spades, in response to the freakin’ bizarre news report that some key Democratic Party strategists think the key to understanding Red America lies - not in examining issues of national security, moral values, or the economic realities of working families in the 21st century - but rather, the key lies in dining at Applebees. Like most others commenting about it, I need to clarify – this is not a joke or hyperbole. It seems to be a real strategy. From the side who claims to have all the smart guys. Anyway, Ace mocks it well, but in this case it might actually be underplaying the absurdity of it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Radio Stalking

Heh. That was fun.

I called into Hugh's show a moment ago, while the NARN guys were subbing. I wasn't going to, being busy with the kids and not having had the opportinity to listen to a lot of the show. But then I heard Chumley call in from a Taco Bell. If Chumley can toss off a call-in while ordering fast food, I figured I could manage it after dinner was already past at home.

Their topic was a whimsical celebrity trial theme. When I heard James Lileks' indictment of Hugh Hewitt, I knew I had to call. James essentially indicted Hugh for annoying him. However, my clearest memory of James being annoyed comes from him blogging about his annoyance when a fall-themed paper towel pattern failed to properly match his other kitchen decorations. The prosecution being obviously impaired in judgement, I called in a "not guilty" verdict.

Made it on the air too. Those folks have no standards.

But I did enjoy tweaking Mr. Lileks, whom I esteem more than pretty much any other writer on the planet. And, being himself, he rolled with my dissent and made more humor out of it. High comedy it was not. But I enjoyed it. I hope I didn't come across as a total git.

Good times. If the dice come out right, I'll see them all down at Keegan's tomorrow as well.

Revelry - As Recalled the Morning After



*Blink* *Blink*

This is not good. Why can they not be Keegan’s Friday Night Trivia events? I crawled into bed at 1am last night. And here I am, staring at a computer screen like it’s… I dunno… a regular workday or something.

Yes, I finally made it down to Keegan’s for trivia night again last night. Not exactly a “Cheers” moment, but a few people there did indeed know my name. Only more than half of them seemed to think it was “Bogus.” Close enough. I ordered a beer.

Got to see Saint Paul, and Atomizer from Fraters Libertas; David and Margaret from Our House; Jo and the shadowy character “MSM” from Jo’s Attic; Chumley Wonderbar from Plastic Hallway; and Soil and Water enthusiast and occasional Fraters contributor Jim Styczinski.

The trivia contest was heavily weighted in a Veterans Day direction. Number of veterans in the group I mentioned above? Zero. Chumley did volunteer that he had watched a lot of Star Trek, but you’d be surprised how little of that knowledge was applicable.

But trivia was not really the main reason to be there last night. The main reason was to watch David Strom and Jo pick at each others insecurities. Seems they’ve joined forces in some kind of “league” to battle the forces of injustice. As super-hero comics have taught us, this inevitably leads to the same kind of saucy verbal repartee one finds in police “buddy” movies, and David and Jo are no exception.

Overall, it really was a great time. As I recall, once the serious issues of Soil and Water conservation were hammered out (something about Jim wearing a miner's hat as I recall), we talked about all sorts of things not remotely limited to politics.

Lesson learned however. When you’re sitting there ordering another round after the fabled spirits-enthusiast Atomizer has already called it a night, you’re probably not planning ahead.

And now, back to (YAWN) work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I Live In Purple America, And You Probably Do Too

Is this post political? Sort of. I'm tryyyyying to hold back, I promise.

Anyway, hat tip to rphaedrus for this... a more accurately shaded representation of America than the simple "Red versus Blue" stuff.

Folks, clean and neat as the "red versus blue" state and county maps are, they're misleading. Every day we live and work with people who voted for the other guy than we did. Demonizing the other guy's voters - even in fun - is demonizing your own neighbors.

Go ahead and mock the moonbats - that serves the useful function of marginalizing impending sociopaths. But try to remember there were plenty of people just as grounded as you who didn't support your candidate - they might even continue to think he's completely terrible.

And you know what? You might find some of those very same people to be pretty good guys (or gals) all the same. Ain't Democracy funny? Let's just appreciate that funny little fact rather than trying to force our "enemies" into perfect alignment with our political decisions, 'kay?

Rambling Along

Time for another rambling post. I’ve been too one-topic-oriented in posts lately. I’m not the freakin’ Instapundit. Though I fear he does infect my thinking more than may be healthy at times. Heh. Indeed.(See?!!)

Did I mention it’s fall here? I did? Well forget it. We’re into winter now. The leaves are off the trees, snow is in the forecast, and as usual I have yet to pick up the kids' toys from the yard, let alone rake it. My wife even tried to bribe the 13 year old girl who watches our kids sometimes to rake the yard for some extra cash. You think I’d be ashamed, but I’m not. Builds character in the yunguns. I just get a back ache.

Besides it’s dark by the time I get home from work these days. So the only chance I get to rake is the weekend. We were out of town last weekend. And I have plans this weekend.

I’m also hoping to make it down to Keegan’s for trivia tomorrow night. Odds of me making both tomorrow night and Saturday? About 20 percent. But I figure by maximizing my plans I stand a better chance of making one or the other.

So Jo has given up on Blogger for the richer world of Typepad, eh? Well I’m stayin’ put. I will bend it to my will and show it who is the master and who is the servant here!! Besides I just learned how to do trackback pings on blogger, even though it officially doesn't support them (thanks Rick).

I do need my own unique blog template though. I’m tired of the blog looking pretty much the same way it did after I spent five minutes creating it. Anyone out there who is better at template design than me want to direct me to some decent resources? I’ve even tossed around the idea of paying someone to do it – because I have some basic wishes and all, but I am really not a natural at creating good looking interfaces. Functional? Yes. Attractive? No way. I can’t wrap presents nicely either. Perhaps related?

Apropos nothing, I have ripped Professor Bainbridge (good naturedly) a couple of times about his wine reviews. I still reserve the right to take future shots at him as I deem appropriate. He’s a big-shot as a blogger and a wine reviewer these days, and us little guys need to take our shots at the big guys from time to time. It’s the American way. But just so you know, his new wine blog is awesome. One of the best wine resources on the Web in my opinion.

Funny thing about wine on the WWW. Before the blogosphere, when the Web was young, all sorts of wine knowledgeable people rushed to get their stuff out there for free. No one knew how to make money off the Internet yet anyway, so the general model seemed to be “toss anything on the Web, and pretty soon the money will start rolling in for some reason we can’t explain.” Lots of terrific wine content, updated regularly, all over the place at that time.

Then we came upon the “I’m not getting rich" period where most people realized all that work they were putting into their web sites was not making them a dime. Some content dried up, and the updating started to truly suck.

Next we came to the days of commercialization, and professionalization. This was where every Tom, Dick, and Wine Spectator (Wine Spectator is one of the few professional wine publications to eventually figure the Web out though, to their credit) thought people would pay them around $50 a month to read their web site. And to add insult to injury, a lot of them were pretty amateurish and had weak content. It didn’t pan out. The remainders of this are still around here and there.

I think the blogosphere has started making the idea of good information being free fashionable again. It’s like the wonderful early phase of the Web, but without silly unrealistic expectations of getting rich. People who enjoy sharing knowledge about this stuff just share it for the fun of it. It might generate a little blogad revenue at the larger sites, but that’s not really the motivation. The motivation is that its fun to talk about things that you truly love.

Which is the element in play that scares the bejeebers out of the people used to charging people to buy the same sort of content. In the wine world and everywhere else. It’s not that they necessarily believe that the free content is as good as theirs. But they’re worried it might just be good enough. And they’re right to worry.

Outside of a few absolute word wasters in the old media (*cough* Nick Coleman *cough*), revenue models aside, I think most of the real journalists out there could do pretty well embracing the opportunities of the blogosphere. I seem to constantly discover people who are current or former journalists with truly terrific blogs. Wherever the blogosphere goes, those folks are going along with it, probably in the very top tier.

Which is just fine with me. Now and then an unconscious sense of competitiveness drives me to seek bigger traffic for its own sake. But I always catch myself before I head too far down that path. That’s not why I blog. I’m more of a small community guy. I can name almost every one of my blog’s regular readers. In most cases, they have blogs I read myself. It’s really an interesting experience in cyber community. Different than Free Republic, or Usenet, e-mail lists, or chat rooms. More free form, more personal, fewer rules, and in a way a lot more intimate.

One of the lessons I try to stick to is to just keep going, try what I feel like trying, but don’t feel pressure to be who I’m not when I write here. Which makes it really odd when I meet people who read my blog face to face. In some areas, those people know more about me than people I’ve known for years. From the quirky to the serious.

I’m really pretty guarded in person most times. Introverted even. So when I meet people who read this blog it can feel weird, because on one level we just met and on another they know me pretty well already. I remember trying to explain to Margaret from Our House that I grew heirloom tomatoes the first time we met. Her reply was something like, “I know, I read that.” Of course she did. I even posted pictures.

Has this rambled enough yet? Enough for now I suppose. Notice one topic that didn’t come up? It begins with a “P,” and ends with people shouting at each other and threatening civil war. Interesting and important as that all is, some of us (me being one) need to make a concerted effort to step back into the rest of our lives and let the “P” word take a back seat for a while. No promises I’m ready to go cold turkey or anything. Babysteps.

But when I have 3-5 things on that topic I want to blog about every night which cause my emotions to run from mild-simmer to full-boil, and no other topics I can think of that don’t start with the “P” word, something needs to be done.