Saturday, November 24, 2007

Putin to Queen's Knight Three

Well, there are better ways to make dangerous and implacable enemies, I'm sure, but not very many. I don't think Garry Kasparov is the kind of guy you really want to be escalating a conflict against, you damn thug Putin.

Then again, all the strategy and forethought in the world won't stop a billy club coming at your face. Think more, Kasparov.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black smack

I wonder exactly what it's going to take for any of our "leaders" to come right out and tell the American people that gasoline fuels terror?

Sure, sure, there's been a little noise made about Americans' "addiction" to foreign oil, but you'll notice that absolutely no action has been taken, and indeed that that noise was only made when oil lobbyists were pushing the "ANWR" button on the RNC control panel. No one significant has dared to really push the fact that since the United States has fairly small reserves of oil, bought-and-paid-for "scientific" reimaginings of ANWR notwithstanding, our continuing out-of-control use of petroleum puts us at the mercy of the likes of Hugo Chavez and the Saudi royal family, both of whom are known to generously support anti-American interests; and that says nothing of oil demand's role in Iran's nuclear program!

It's no wonder, of course, that none of our prominent Congressional leaders or presidential candidates want to tackle the issue. It's hard to imagine a pair of hot-button topics that would create more conflict in the average U.S. household than "terror" vs. "gas prices," say what you like about whether or not that would have been true seven or eight years ago.

But it's funny that the Republicans are silent on this issue. They are, after all, devotees of Ronald "Greatest Generation" Reagan, and the Greatest Generation tackled this very issue with unhesitating gusto:

Yes, that's a joke of sorts. Relax. The point is that people and nations can in fact have the courage to tackle issues like this.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Please pardon my digressions

Now, I'm as great a fan of vocabulary expansion as anyone, and indeed I've been known to lionize and panegyrize the rather prolix works of literature of prior days, but...

Well, the GRE.

It doesn't really seem right that admission to graduate school is so largely based on an extensive knowledge of unusual and often archaic words. There's more to life. Honest.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I have just returned from the Phinney Beer Taste, courtesy of $30 and the Phinney Neighborhood Association. It was awesome! Phinney is the greatest neighborhood there is, honestly. The Phinney Neighborhood Association is more active and progressive than many national political organizations, and not only has great social and gastronomical events like the Summer and Winter Beer Tastes, but also Contra Dancing, classes on everything from home buying to garden composting, and political action campaigns which include official motions to impeach George W. Bush and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Now that's a cool neighborhood.

It's also a liberal neighborhood, I know. I don't approve of slavish devotion to the platform of the Democratic party either, but I'm willing to give a little on things like gun control and affirmative action in exchange for knowing that all of my neighbors are actively fighting war crimes and torture, fiscal irresponsibility, and global corporate-commercial irresponsibility. And there's a damn cool farmers' market right next door, too, during the summer months.

3.14 etc

Lo, I have become as a god, for I have the power of pie.

I made a pumpkin pie with no pumpkins. Okay, actually, it was a winter Delicata squash pie. It is also the first pie I have ever successfully made, completely from scratch (all local, etc ingredients, too). It is delicious. Really delicious.

You may call me the piemaster, for I am the master of pie.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Local elections up here Seattle way are next Tuesday, should anyone local read this and not be aware. Vote!

No, wait: educate yourselves well, and then vote.

What's that, you say? You want to hear my opinions? Surely not! I am but a... oh, fine. You were gonna hear 'em anyway. Might as well.

Proposition 1 (Sound Transit & RTID)
This one was a tough call. In the end I had to swallow my pride and beat down some old, stupid prejudices I had left over from my days as a teenage environmentalist misanthrope. Look, here's the deal: we're not going to get rid of cars. It doesn't matter how much some people might want to. We're just not. We can however, get some cars off the road, and light rail will help with that quite a bit. No, this isn't the perfect light rail setup, but it's a start!
And yes, this allocates money to road repair and even roadbuilding, but if we're going to have roads, and have cars on them, they ought to be safe and efficient, right? Even if you just want to look at it from an emissions standpoint, the faster cars get to their destination, the less time they spend idling in traffic, right?
So: Prop 1? Yes.

City Council
Having listened to the candidates talk in pretty reasonable depth about their pet issues, I came away from the election coverage of a couple city council races with pretty strong impressions. Here's the deal:
Venus Velasquez and Bruce Harrell: Harrell, hands down. He isn't the ideal candidate in my book, but Velasquez is a weasel at best. After her recent DUI she claimed frequently and extravagantly that she was "regretful" and that she was accepting "full responsibility," but she pled not guilty. When asked why she admitted guilt and then pled not guilty, she responded that she thought that responsibility and guilt under the law were two different things. While I might agree with you if the law were coming down on your for your race, miss Velasquez, in this case you committed a crime and endangered others, and now you're trying to weasel out of the consequences. I do not want a policy-making elected official to say that she thinks that responsibility and the law are different things. That is not appropriate. Fuck you, Venus Velasquez. I hope you lose the race and your trial.
Sally Clark and Judy Fenton: I don't think there's much danger of a naive little prairie muffin like Fenton winning this race, but just in case, I thought I'd chime in. Here's my impression: Sally Clark, the incumbent, is a competent official, and I rather like her. Judy Fenton has no experience in any office, has no positions on any important issues, and is only running because she wants to have a naked statue at the art museum covered out of a misguided sense of conservative middle-America morality that I - and, unless I have a badly mistaken impression, the rest of Seattle - do not want.

That's it for today. Check out those voting guides, and get your butts to the polls on Tuesday. Local elections are where your vote can actually make a significant difference.

Brewin' green beer, if you will

Well, beer's gone into crisis mode, apparently. I suppose I should have known, but had never really considered, that the agricultural market operates like any other market. Decreased demand for barley and hops a couple years ago resulted in less planting of both last year, and a couple unlucky weather events sealed the deal. The result? Much higher prices on barley and hops, and uncomfortable times for American craft brewers and craft beer lovers. Obviously, it's also a bad time to be a homebrewer.


Now, this is probably a crazy idea, but in keeping with my recent resolutions to live in a manner consistent with my best understanding of the world - i.e. as locally and really green* as possible - why can't I grow some barley and hops myself? Well, no reason at all, actually. That's exactly what I'm going to do. I have a little space and some nice compost rotting happily away, and I intend to use them.

The barley, of course, will likely be a novelty if I can even manage to grow it. I have only a tiny plot in our back yard, and I don't anticipate I'll be able to grow enough back there for more than the most meager microbatch of scratch-made beer. Even if I can eke out a significant harvest, there's still the matter of malting and roasting it, neither of which are reputed to be easy to get right. All told, it will be an experiment, more for fun than for profit, and even more for practice than for fun. One day I will have more than a tiny backyard plot, and I will be ready!

The hops, on the other hand, might not only save me money, but might even be a viable business venture. They're a climbing vine, so they shouldn't need all that much space, and unlike barley, which has increased in price only some 80%, hops have become an astonishing 700% pricier this year. They also rather like the Northwest climate; so even if I end up having to buy barley, I can still grow my own bitter and save a bundle doing it!

Since I've arrived in Seattle and seen the number of food gardens even in our dense, relatively urban neighborhood - admittedly a few miles away from downtown and made up mostly of single-family homes with a few condos, not the large apartment blocks the real urban center - I've been wondering why more people nationwide don't grow more of their own food. Sure, gardening is a fairly popular hobby, but not nearly popular enough to be called common. I suppose, like many things American, it's a matter of patience vs. convenience. It takes a long time to grow tomatoes instead of buying them at the store!

As much as America has changed, though, since gardening started to become less popular decades ago, today would be a fine time for a resurgence in its popularity. We're not talking about landscaping with petunias here, either; even a man's man should be able to get behind the idea of feeding his family with his own By-God sweat and blood.

Hell, if American families grew a few vegetables, maybe it would even help reduce obesity and improve general health. I can't picture many parents allowing their families to get away without eating their greens if it were a matter of pride and not just prudence, nor can I see the blue-collar man settling for Bud Light any longer if the missus brewed up a fine, nutty Pilsner instead. I don't expect it to happen, mind you, but the idea has its merits.

* - Genuinely green is different from the dogmatic Green, you understand; they have in common certain things, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (which save you money, incidentally) and a strong support for public transit as opposed to driving (which gives me some time to relax and read before and after work, instead of swearing at traffic); but a free-thinking individual concerned with genuinely improving his life and minimizing his negative impact on the rest of the world's population, rather than making an absurd and ineffective political point, does not knee-jerk oppose genetically modified crops, nor think that the Toyota Prius is anything more than a small, ugly economy car.

Yuppies, you are not saving the world by giving up your Beemer and buying a Prius; you are marking yourselves as ill-informed and smug. You undoubtedly mean well, and you might, admittedly, be contributing to a movement which will encourage research into carbon-free automobiles, but not in an effective way, and I sincerely doubt you thought it through that far anyway. And, incidentally, "organic" is often nothing more than a corporately co-opted marketing tool! Buy local from independent businesses instead, and in so doing support your regional economy.

Yeah, that's right. I said economy, bitches. There's no point to trying to live a conscientious life if you don't do it in a way that makes things better for everyone, and that means human prosperity. Prosperous, content humans are also generous, educated, concerned, responsible humans. (Yeah, credit to Shellenberger and Nordhaus again)