Okay, So I’m a Sap

Filed under:Cool,Television — posted by Anwyn on September 30, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

It always gets me a little when pro sports guys, especially the equipment-clad NFL players, hug each other or take a minute to say something private to another guy after a game. Especially between members of opposing teams.

I guess it’s just a little heartwarming to see right up front in our culture the camaraderie teams engender for their participants. Puts me in mind of my TV Quote of the Week, from Bones. Übergeek Zack has returned from an attempt to make it in the military–he’s been shipped home from Iraq because he “failed to assimilate” and was “detrimental to a military team approach.”

Cam: You’re very good for our team approach.
Zach: The army psychiatrist told me that I should question why the Jeffersonian is the only place that I can fit in.
Cam: All due respect to the army psychiatrist, but that’s a hell of a lot more than some people get.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Filed under:Blogging,Food,Heh — posted by Anwyn @ 5:37 pm

1) Docweasel asked for my contact info. It’s now in a page linked off the sidebar until I can figure a better way to display it.

2) Karol asked for recipes. My “signature” dish, so called because I’ve made it enough never to screw it up and it’s a yummy, nutritious meal, is pepper steak. I’m making it tonight, in fact.

–1 lb. beef for stir-fry (if your grocery store packages this already sliced into strips, so much the better. If not, get something in a sirloin-class cut and slice it perpendicular to the grain into two-inch strips)
–two or three cloves garlic, chopped
–one white or yellow onion, chopped
–two or three bell peppers, various colors, sliced into thin strips
–two roma tomatoes, quartered
–olive oil
–salt and pepper
–soy sauce, approximately 1/4 cup
–2 tbs. cornstarch
–1/4 cup water
–rice prepared according to box directions

Start your rice simmering according to box directions.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add approx. 1-2 tbs. olive oil. When oil is hot, add chopped garlic. When garlic is sizzling (if garlic begins to brown, turn the heat down!), add steak, salt and pepper to taste, and stir-fry until well browned on all sides. Remove beef and garlic and any liquid from frying to a bowl, add 1/4 cup soy sauce and set aside. Return pan to the heat and add a bit more oil, enough to stir-fry the onion and peppers until crisp-tender (they will be lightly coated with oil and take on a more intense color, but not brown or soften noticeably). Return beef to pan and add a dash more soy sauce. Soy should mix with beef broth and come to a boil. Lay quartered tomatoes on top of the mixture, cover the whole thing with either the pan lid or aluminum foil and turn heat down till the mixture is simmering enough to steam the tomatoes, about five minutes or until tomatoes look cooked. If there is not a reasonable amount of liquid in the pan, add water, soy sauce, or both and bring to a boil again. While the tomatoes steam, add 2 tbs. cornstarch to a bowl, add the 1/4 cup water, and mix well with a fork or a whisk until liquid is smooth.

When tomaoes are well steamed, add cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir. Sauce should thicken.

It’s done! It can sit on the very lowest “simmer” setting for a while without hurting it if your guests are late or you forgot to cook the rice, as I’ve done many times.

Serve over rice. Enjoy! When I make it tonight I’ll try to measure the soy sauce and update.

Update: If all goes well, 1/4 cup soy sauce is about all you’ll need, and I’ve updated the recipe accordingly. If, however, you cook the beef till the liquid boils away, you’ll need to add some water (1/8-1/4 cup) to your mixture after returning the beef to the pan, with maybe a dash more soy sauce. Mine is simmering and steaming the tomatoes right now, which means I’m live-blogging a recipe, which makes me some kind of serious fusion geek, I think.

3) nk asked for the tank/bra boobage pictures in order to judge whether it’s a traffic-stopping look or not.

Well, you don’t get everything you ask for.

Groping Towards a Right Understanding

Filed under:Language Barrier,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn @ 2:13 pm

In S. Renee Mitchell’s Oregonian column a week ago, she strongly disapproved Mayor Bloomberg’s “Opportunity NYC” program, which will pay poor adults to do things like attend parent-teacher conferences and hold down full-time jobs and poor teenagers to pass their school certification tests. The bulk of her column is overflowing with unintended irony–she sees and remarks on the incentives and motives that keep some poor people poor, sometimes for generations, and objects strongly to fostering a “gimme” mentality, but reverts right back, like a rubber band relaxing back into place, to the major bugaboos of the liberal attitude toward the poor as victims of a corrupt “education, banking and government systems that stubbornly keep people under poverty’s thumb.”

We can’t throw money at the poor here and magically expect those whose lives are the hardest to more closely resemble those whose lives are the easiest. Giving cash incentives won’t automatically end high-interest loans, reduce their vulnerability to crime, or jolt them out of the depression that often comes with living life every day on the edge.

Tell it to LBJ. If money is the difference between the poor and middle class and wealthy, then how is it that throwing money at the poor won’t change that gap? Obviously, what Ms. Mitchell comes so close to here but never quite hits on it is that it isn’t just money–it’s working for that money, understanding that nobody will give you money if you don’t work for it, and spending the money on appropriate necessities and luxuries for yourself and your family. And by her own statement, then why shouldn’t welfare systems heavily involved in “throwing money” be abolished? Ms. Mitchell speaks of her children as “not entitled to be lazy” as long as they’re under her roof. There is no more effective incentive for adult citizens not to be lazy than to have to work to eat because nobody “throws” money at them, and arguably none that will work at all if that one doesn’t.

And Ms. Mitchell clearly knows this. After describing her own childhood poverty, she states:

Eventually, my parents educated themselves out of abject poverty, but I’ll never forget the experience of never having enough. You can’t buy the kind of inner fire that stems from trying to escape a cycle of constant lack.

Incentive. And yet with her very next sentence Ms. Mitchell demolishes the idea she was so blithely tripping toward in the previous:

Productivity and self-reliance increased my self-respect. But over the years, I’ve encountered some low-income parents who share those values and some who don’t.

So now earning your own way is a value that can either be espoused or discarded. Tell me, Ms. Mitchell, what is a societal solution to the problem of those who choose to discard it?

While in Orlando, I wrote about an innovative — and expensive — Walt Disney World pilot program to get rid of all of the excuses that multigenerational welfare mothers had about why they didn’t work. Disney offered decent-paying jobs, as well as classes on budgeting, parenting and goal-setting. The participants received free rides to and from work, free child care and a chance to save for retirement.

An excellent experiment in incentivizing. Take away the excuses of those people who may not even recognize them as excuses, and see what incentive comes out ahead:

After a few weeks, I revisited one of the mothers I had interviewed for my article. She told me that she had quit her Disney job — and the opportunity to give her four children a better life — because she missed watching her afternoon soaps.

Implicit in this pathetic and disgusting story is the certainty that whatever assistance this person was receiving from sources that did not require her to work was sufficient to allow her to 1) feed herself and her children some amount of food and 2) watch television, which apparently are all she wants out of life. How can there be anything appropriate to do for that person other than to give her the incentive to work that her current source of subsistence does not? While I doubt that Mayor Bloomberg’s program will do the trick, certainly the current welfare system doesn’t either.

Poverty starved that mother of her productivity, integrity and self-respect. A hustler at heart, she wanted the most money for the least amount of effort. So, a job opportunity wasn’t appreciated in her household, where children were considered as excuses not to work.

Exactly backwards. She didn’t become a hustler because she lost her self-respect to poverty. She is a lazy sort of hustler who found out how to get something for not much and decided her self-respect and poorer lives for her children were a reasonable price to pay for the opportunity to go through life lazy and idle. Whatever sort of subsistence she’s on, and I have to assume it’s welfare, possibly supplemented by things like church food pantries and assistance programs, it’s been enough to incentivize her hustler mentality to remain on top, as well as setting a bad example for her children that one hopes they will find enough education to counteract.

Sadly, I doubt there’s any amount of money this program could afford to pay that would make people already not inclined to hold down full-time jobs do otherwise. But Ms. Mitchell’s closing comments about “the system” fall right back into the mindset that people have no choices or cannot be motivated by things that are implicitly important to them. Implicitly important to the mother in the story was her desire not to work, and whatever system she’s on is feeding it. At the worst, Mayor Bloomberg’s system will probably be indifferent in its effects, since if people are “getting by” on welfare they will not be inclined to get off their butts for a couple thousand more. At best, it might actually give some struggling families a leg up. Regardless, the contradictions inherent in Ms. Mitchell’s own mindset are the contradictions inherent in welfare systems nationwide. Returning to a right understanding about human nature and the factors that work to influence and incentivize it, rather than blaming a system that, surprisingly enough, works perfectly well for a vast majority in this country, is the only way we will stop “throwing money” and throw out the most insidiously enabling aspects of the welfare system instead.

Seven Ways [Not] to Commit Blog Suicide

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on September 29, 2007 @ 9:36 am

Anne tagged me with the learning curve for all new bloggers: things not to do on your blog if you want to have any readers. Aside, if Anne really has 40,000 readers after only blogging for six weeks or so, then it may be time for this blog to commit ritual suicide. I mean, not that she doesn’t deserve 40K readers. I mean, … on with the post.

Would you believe this is a hard post for me? Sure, I can reel off seven things that turn me (and likely a good many others) off of a blog, but … interesting? funny? Not really. So I guess rules #1 and #2 are be interesting and funny.

Wait, no. I read plenty of blogs that aren’t really that funny and, moreover, shouldn’t be–i.e. either their subject matter is too serious or their author is a good blogger but just not naturally funny (hem, hem). And there’s nothing much more socially or mentally painful, in its way, than either listening to or reading somebody who thinks he’s being funny but isn’t. So I guess rule #3 is don’t be funny if you aren’t funny.

Did I say “subject matter?” All blogs need subject matter. The age-old dilemma (possibly reaching back to 2004, experts believe): confine your blog to a single topic field or roam around? My blogroll/favorites lists seem to argue for a roaming blog. Let’s face it, the only way you’ll have enough material to fill a blog on one topic is if you are already an expert in that topic. So I guess rule #4 is talk about what you know or can form a reasoned opinion on, whether it’s one topic in depth or many lightly touched or a good combination of both.

Yeah, that one holds–even the funniest raving rants of insanity are always best when you’re already aware they’re based on sound reasoning. So I guess rule #5 is sure, pop off–but only about something you really know how to argue about.

I just realized I’m giving rules for how not to commit blog suicide. I guess that’s still within the topic limits. I also just realized there too many blogs (the kind regularly mocked by Ace, for example) that have thousands of readers even though they are shrill rather than funny, know-nothing rants rather than reasoned arguments, and general idiocy fests.

Before I get to #6 and #7, I’m going to throw in an #8 here, following Anne’s footsteps, but it’s more of a question than a rule: How personal is too personal? I’m finding these days that unless I’m reading an expert, I’m very interested in aside personal anecdotes of people I’ve been reading for months. But there’s a limit, of course. Too much and I won’t want to spend my time reading about your life instead of living (or writing about) my own. Hmmm. That brings up the whole anonymity debate. Which is far more than the scope of this post.

So I give up. Go forth, blog, have thousands of readers no matter what your style, because of the thousands of viewpoints out there, as long as you #6 don’t crowd your content with annoying graphics and ads and #7 respond to your commenters or have plenty of other commenters to do that for you, which you’ll only get by responding yourself.

Blog on!


Filed under:Cool,Sports — posted by Anwyn on September 28, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

Holy cow. !!!

Oregon Counties Lead the Way

Filed under:Priorities — posted by Anwyn on September 27, 2007 @ 5:45 pm

Two illegal aliens in Oregon are charged with the rape and murder of 15-year-old Dani Countryman, at least one of whom had a prior arrest but was not deported. Apparently as a result of that crime, officials in several counties are reporting possible illegals to ICE in much higher numbers. The surge is led by Clackamas County, where the Countryman murder occurred:

Clackamas County criminal justice authorities reported more foreign-born drunken drivers to immigration authorities in the past month than in the previous 18 months combined.

Rasmussen’s department sifted through approximately 700 DUII cases last month. The search found 62 foreign-born people who were not U.S. citizens and sent the names to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for review. During the previous 18 months, Rasmussen’s office referred 47 DUII cases to the agency.

Many of those reported were in the country legally, but federal authorities determined that at least 10 were subject to deportation, Rasmussen said. Five were taken into custody, and five are wanted on federal warrants.

Multnomah County contains Portland proper, while Clackamas and Washington Counties take in the suburbs.

Multnomah County plans to stick with a policy that’s been in place for years, said sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Jason Gates. Jailers ask inmates where they were born and forward the names of foreign-born inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement once a week, Gates said.

This is encouraging:

Within 12 months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement expects to have an agent assigned to every jail in Oregon. The closer ties between federal agents and local authorities should increase the number of illegal immigrants who are deported after serving their sentences, [ICE spokeswoman] Dankers said.

This is worrying:

As Oregon jails, prosecutors and probation officers send more tips, federal agents face busy times.

“It’s very labor intensive,” Dankers said.

If Clackamas County had called when [alleged murderer/rapist] Alejandro Rivera Gamboa was booked on suspicion of drunken driving, Dankers said, “We would have responded or we’d tell them why.”

Although the agency aims to respond to all calls, “We have to prioritize,” she said. “If we receive 20 calls in one night, we’re most interested in the rapist, the drug dealer.”

Except the DUI later became a rapist and a murderer, which is precisely the point. If ICE doesn’t have enough agents at present to even deal with the illegals who are reported, as they should be, by local law enforcement, then it’s no wonder at all that they can’t actively pursue leads themselves or seal the border. How discouraging.

But kudos to these Oregon county agencies for doing what so many locales in this country won’t do. It’s a start.

Math Bleg

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on September 26, 2007 @ 8:43 am

Anybody good at stats math? Percentages and decimals? I’m trying to figure something out for a post.

Yes, I Really Need the Caps

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on September 25, 2007 @ 10:30 pm


You’d need caps too if you spent your last few weeks of summer slogging tortuously through last season’s Heroes. I’ve never seen a show with less consistency of characters, less explanation for events, or less emotional impact for more effort put in. First Peter learns to control his abilities, then he suddenly can’t control the nuclear thing. First Nathan hops on board with his elders’ preposterous plan to allow a foreseen nuclear event in New York with some vague and unlikely scenario of the “world being healed” to follow. I think I know what kind of nuts the writers were smoking in that pipe, if you know what I mean, and yup, it turns out it’s just as crazy as it sounds with Truthers say it. Then Nathan suddenly has an unexplained change of heart and swoops in to save the day. People dead left and right, and we don’t even care. Except Sylar. I would be very grateful if I never had to look at him again. Alas.

Am I the only one who noticed that “save the cheerleader” didn’t have any direct connection whatsoever to “save the world?” It might have if Claire had been the one to pull the trigger on Peter. As it was, what did it matter if she was there or not?

Bad writing. Bad show. Perfectly decent acting that really makes me hate the characters, but if there are too many characters to hate, why do you watch at all?

Don’t even get me started on Niki/Jessica/D.L./Micah. It’s a big word, but say it with me anyway: Ex-tra-ne-ous. I’ve never seen a more uselessly irritating set of characters.

I made it all the way through the season, so I’ll watch long enough to see what they do with La Bell. After that I’m gone.

Because in case you missed it before, House is back and every bit as good as ever.

And yeah, I know Dancing with the Stars is back too. They are pushing the outer limits of my tolerance with this multiple-nights-per-week schtick. Two was enough and more than. I’ll get around to it, but sorry, ABC, not tonight … House was on.

“Both Barrels”

Filed under:Language Barrier,Priorities — posted by Anwyn @ 11:07 am

Allah characterized Bollinger’s description of Ahmadinejad as a “petty and cruel dictator” as the “money line.” It’s not. I am frankly stunned at the words President Bollinger used: deplore, no implication of “weakness of resolve to resist those ideas” or “naivete about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas,” dishonorable, no “rights of the speaker” but only “our rights to listen and speak,” “know thine enemies,” “mind of evil,” brutal, targets of persecution, intolerable, dangerous propaganda, ridiculous, “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated,” absurd, “defy historical truth,” state sponsor of terror, fanatical mindset. A very clear, forceful summation of Iran’s offenses that I couldn’t believe he would have given, to Ahmadinejad’s face, until I watched it myself, but Xrlq’s right: It was both barrels.

I disagree with Allah’s characterization of Bollinger’s speech as a Colbert maneuver. Colbert could count on nothing but support from his audience at the press dinner. It was a peacock move that succeeded about as well as anybody would who attempted to go so far outside his own milieu. I think it’s far from clear that Bollinger thought he could count on the same support, and as the cheers as Ahmadinejad begins to speak make clear, he certainly did not have undivided support even in the room. Pity the poor little teenagers, so full of their own education and confident in their years numbering more or less twenty, resenting being told how to judge Ahmadinejad more than the crimes of the Iranian government on people just like them in Iran.

As for Ahmadinejad, could he possibly have had any idea of this at the time he accepted the invitation to speak?

Last Name “Offensive” on License Plate

Filed under:Language Barrier,Not Cool — posted by Anwyn on September 24, 2007 @ 8:01 am

The Udinks of Oregon, father, mother, and son, have had their three license plates, Udink1, Udink2, and Udink3, invalidated by the state for being “offensive.”

I had to check my calender to make sure it wasn’t April 1.

“DINK has several derogatory meanings,” wrote panel member Yvonne Bell. She said it also can be a racial slur, especially toward Vietnamese.

House said the “U” in the front could be construed as “You.” It seems unreal to Mike Udink, whose name is Dutch. He says it is a common name in The Netherlands.

I think we used to call people “dinks” when I was in junior high. I always assumed it had some vague connection to “dork,” which I’ve also read has a vulgar sexual connotation. Did you guys know that when you were calling people “dorks” in high school? Because I never got the impression we knew or cared, it was just an acceptable non-cussword to call people. Wikipedia. Urban Dictionary. While the Wiki doesn’t mention the sexual slang, even the UD has many more connotations other than that. So based on the complaint of some dirty-minded concerned citizens, a family has their surname branded as “offensive” and loses the fun of having personalized license plates. Which is the state’s right, certainly, but doesn’t make it any less silly:

House said the state has the right to censor license plates, because the state owns them. Family names, it appears, are not immune.

“When people drive down the street nobody knows your name,” House said.

“We know some people have names that match something. We’ve also had a lot of references to ecstasy that we’ve pulled back in the past five years, because it became a nickname for a drug,” he said.

Implies they have “a lot” of people whose names either “match” or suggest the word “ecstasy,” doesn’t it? A search of three different forms of that word on Yahoo! people search turned up no people in Oregon.

Questionable action. Dumb justification. Welcome to Oregon.

… Swallow It, and Hack It Up in My Next Hairball for Any Ol’ Wraith to Find. Because I Do Not Care

Filed under:Heh,Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on September 21, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

… though I do know the way. Of course.

How to Be a Jackass

Filed under:It's My Life,Jerks — posted by Anwyn @ 12:12 pm

Demonstrated for you this morning by the Portland-area man in the silver sedan whose actions so dumbfounded me that I didn’t get the make or tag number but if I had they would assuredly be published here: Not only turn your head to get an eyeful of the stroller-pushing, exercise-walking mother who took off her jacket because she got too warm because she’s out of shape, thereby revealing her perfectly decent yet cleavage-boosting tank-bra top, which she pretty much expects and doesn’t mind much, but bring your car almost to a stop in the middle of the road to prolong the ogling process as if it’s your God-given right to cause a traffic accident because you spotted some unexpected boobage. Get a life.

Note to self: Consider investing in a sleeveless jacket.


Filed under:Cool,It's My Life — posted by Anwyn @ 8:54 am

Last year when I was setting up this blog, I had a few go-rounds in trying to buy (rent?) this domain. I played cat-and-mouse with the .net form a couple of times–waiting for the company that bought it to give it up after five days when it didn’t make them enough ad revenue to pay for the domain fee–and then saw that the .com was going to break loose after thinking it wouldn’t be available till this year. Then, because it was a Network Solutions domain, I just paid SnapNames their scalp money to get the .com for me before non-SnapNames/NS people could try for it. Done and done. Then NS ticked me off and I transferred the registration. Mwahaha.

I looked up the .net today. It’s owned by a company I never heard of but the contact email is at SnapNames. Now here’s the fun part–it’s covered in ads, of course, but most of them have to do with The Lord of the Rings. “Anwyn” is not a Tolkien name by nature–I decided it sounded like a name a girl in Rohan would have, that’s all (Eowyn, etc.). But I guess TheOneRing.net’s Anwyn pages sat high enough in the search engines long enough to make whatever system sets up the ad pages think that Tolkien was the most likely thing people would be looking for if they searched on Anwyn.

Which is a tiny little feather in my Fifteen Minutes cap. Kinda cool for a piece of Friday trivia.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace