Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making Bouillabaisse Tonight

I've got at least four blog posts in my head, but it's 3:30PM here in San Diego and I plan on making Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse* tonight, so I need to get started. Rather than try to do too much and botch the posts, I'll just say,

Happy New Year!

I'm very grateful for the good friends I've found through this blog and others on the Internet. It's been a wonderful year here in the Catican and we all wish you the very best in the year to come. God bless you all.

* - Here's the cookbook for my recipe - it's filled with great stuff: Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans

Cheezburger of the Day

Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I Love Wolves

... not the animals*, the English Premiere League team**.

First, there are a few things you must know. At the end of the season in the 20-team EPL, the bottom three teams are sent down to the minors and the top three teams in the minors are promoted to the EPL. That would be like seeing the Washington Senators sent down to AAA and the Albuquerque Dukes moved up into MLB. It makes the season exciting on both ends of the standings. The Wolverhampton Wanderers, aka Wolves, are a terrible team. Last year, they finished with the same record as the #18 team, but had a one goal advantage in goal differential, a goal they scored in the last minutes of their last game, a game they lost. Only through the most ridiculous of circumstances did they manage to stay in the EPL.

That's Wolves all over. They'll get their brains beaten out by a mediocre team one week and the next they'll beat Manchester United. Their games are filled with inexplicable, boneheaded blunders and logic-defying, preposterous heroics. Last weekend was the perfect Wolves game.

They went into Emirates Stadium (Arsenal's home field) to play Arsenal. They'd never even tied there before, much less won. They had lost their last 6 away games and it looked to be a total stomping of Wolves by an Arsenal squad that was absolutely on fire. What happened? Well, they gave up a breakaway goal to Arsenal in the first 8 minutes in a positively stupefying mental breakdown. And then ... well, dig this***:


In a wacky 5 seconds of pinball craziness, Wolves managed to score and tie the game. I loved the look on the Arsenal keeper's face. You can just see him thinking, "You have got to be kidding me." Wolves had almost no other scoring opportunities and the other 89 minutes, 55 seconds of the game was a marathon of impossible melodrama as Wolves thwarted attack after attack after attack. Wolves tied mighty Arsenal, 1-1.

Glorious. Simply glorious.

* - Well, I like the animals, too, so don't get me wrong.

** - I love EPL soccer. I've skipped blogging about it up to now, but it's just too much fun not to share. I'll try to keep these posts as interesting as I can.

*** - Despite the fact that the highlights are available for free on foxsoccer.tv, they don't give you an embed option and the EPL is crazy serious about hunting down and stamping out highlight videos on YouTube. The Arsenal fan who posted this one to DailyMotion recorded it from a Spanish-language broadcast. You can see the official EPL highlights of the game here. I'm not sure how long that link will be good.

Who Took Away The Insulin?

Walter Russell Meade, in a lengthy piece about the Eurodebt crisis, links to an NYT article describing the human cost of the Greek austerity measures. Here's the quote he lifts.
The free clinic here opened about a year ago to serve illegal immigrants. But these days, it is mostly caring for Greeks like Vassiliki Ragamb, who was sitting in the waiting room hoping to get insulin for her young diabetic son.

Four days earlier, she had run out of insulin and, without insurance and unable to pay for more, she had gone from drugstore to drugstore, pleading for at least enough for a few days. It took her three hours to find a pharmacist who was willing to help.

“I tried a lot of them,” she said, gazing at the floor.
There will be plenty more stories just like this one. For years, the socialists have screamed about the greed of the wealthy and the corporations. They slandered anyone who opposed new social programs as being heartless and cruel. Well, the money is gone now because they couldn't be bothered making sure the money was earned before it was spent.

And so is the insulin for Vassiliki's son.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheezburger Of The Day

The Help

Last night, my wife watched The Help. (I watched Wolves vs. Arsenal upstairs.) I saw a tiny bit of The Help and in the little bit I saw, the rigid, narrow-minded, rich, white, married, Southern mom talked about how she read that being gay could be cured. I wanted to puke.

I just can't take another drop of gay-rights moralizing at any level. I feel like it's jammed down my throat constantly. I'd be much more interested in some movies or TV shows about this.

I'm not holding my breath. Hollywood hates people like me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

But I Still Eat Bacon

... and cook with bacon grease, despite the fact that science has shown that it's not good for me. And I'm even a (lapsed) scientist!

Sam Harris has written a book on how science can determine moral values.


I'm sure it can. The question is: Will anyone listen? Knowledgeable people thought the Facebook Revolution in Egypt would lead to enlightened self-rule, too. That didn't turn out so well. People don't always behave in ways that are rational to the academic world.

Moral codes are only as good as their enforcement mechanisms. That goes for Greeks avoiding taxes and Mafia goons breaking the knees of people who don't repay loans. I'm sure Mr. Harris has argued coherently and has whiteboards full of flow chart diagrams, but unless he's found a way for the powers that be to agree with him, he's just another guy in a coffee shop pounding away on his laptop generating moral codes for himself and a few thousand readers. If he does it in the wrong country, he's just another guy in prison.

The Hitler Blade Has Struck Again

Long ago I blogged about one of our Cuisinart blades that ought to be melted down and formed into little statues of Hitler because it gashed me so often. Well, it did it again. I keep it with the other Cuisinart odds and ends in a plastic water pitcher. I went to use the pitcher and somehow the blasted demon-blade leaped up at me and sliced the end of my left middle finger. That was a few days ago and it still hurts.

I hate the thing.

The blade and a Hitler statue. The resemblance is uncanny.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cleaning Algae Off The Bottom Of A Birdbath

We've got a stone birdbath where the bottom is unsealed, either from manufacture or age. The bowl of it looks like this.


The algal growth has gone into the stone and is impossible to remove with cleansers or bleach. Looking it up on the web, it seems as though the best way to deal with this is to sandblast it clean and then give it some kind of epoxy coating like you'd use on a garage floor.

Updates as events warrant.

Cheezburger of the Day

The Problem In One Photo

From the Puppy Blender's post on the higher education bubble comes a perfect statement of a problem that bedevils the West.


It's kind of late to be asking this question after you've borrowed the money, don't you think? Note that this image applies equally well to Greece, Illinois, Social Security and any number of municipalities.

Somewhere, we lost the ability to grasp the concept of earning what we consumed. There's a cure for that.

Update: The photo is even deeper than you might think. It's easy to understand why she's yelling, but what's remarkable is that she is yelling at us. She either thinks it's our fault or she wants us to do something about it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you joy and love as we celebrate the ultimate inflection point in the history of Man.
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Don't Think We're Paying You For This


The smaller of the Catican Guards slacking off.

December Sun Cat

It's been a little chilly here in San Diego, but then there are days like today where the sun is shining and if you've got a nice coat of black fur, you can find a place to get toasty warm.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some Christmas Swing

... from Louis Armstrong. Crack open an Abita Turbodog beer and enjoy some serious trumpet playing from the master!


By the way, the song was written by Steve Allen of all people. I knew he designed race cars, computed lunar orbits for NASA, advised the UN and hosted The Tonight Show, but I didn't realize he wrote music for Louis. That dude had some serious creative juices, cats and kittens!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Roger Corman Made Movies About Stuff Like This


The Ooze From 5,000 Fathoms starring Ward Bond and Barbara Payton!

A Very San Diego Christmas


Surfers at Sunset Cliffs today.

Reflected Warmth

Good friends of ours have a daughter who just returned from 15 months in Ecuador where she served with Heart's Home. Here's the scoop on what they do:
Heart’s Home is an inter­na­tional Catholic non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that works to pro­mote a cul­ture of com­pas­sion around the world through a range of chari­table and cul­tural efforts.
There's lots more here. Here's a photo from where they live and work in Ecuador borrowed from their website.


We contributed financially a tiny bit to the effort, but we reaped tremendous benefits from her work. The reflected radiance from her love and kindness far away warmed us through her parents. We went out to breakfast today and her father spoke of her return home with tears of pride and joy in his eyes. I'm still smiling, thinking about what she did and the difference she made in people's lives.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Saying No To A Tablet

... for now.

For the last few months, I figured that #1 on my Christmas list would be an Android table like the Samsung Galaxy. I walked past them at Costco a week or so back and took a long look at them.

Meh.

I've got a killer laptop that's got the performance (and size and weight) of a Lamborghini. It's got a 17" screen, a 1 TB hard drive and an i7 processor with full Adobe Creative Suite 5 installed. The tablets have a 10" screen. That means as long as I'm willing to stay seated with my laptop and not prance around the house, I can browse over to foxsoccer.tv and watch Newcastle thump Wigan on a screen almost 3x the size of the tablet.

It's all about mobility vs raw power. Is the ability to pick up your Internet device and wander around like a gypsy more important than the ability to pick out the greenery in the teeth of the Wigan keeper as he grimaces, download the video and play with it in Adobe Premiere? Mind you, I'd have to pay $450 for the privilege of gypsification. In the end I had to say no. I could think of lots more interesting things to do with my $450.

Do I want this or a Prius?

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Ligneus, Tim and Dean

I just figured out how to work the Blogger comment spam thingy. I found lots of your comments stuffed in the spam folder while plenty of marsupial sex toys comments got through. Sorry about that! I went through and published all of the unjustly spam-accused comments of yours and went back to October and marked a bunch of the creepy comments as spam.

Contemplating A Change In Christmas Gift Giving

At our house, we have 6 people in the immediate family and two grandparents on hot standby. We have three birthdays within 30 days of Christmas. The combinatorics of Christmas alone give us a need for 8*7=56 gifts at a minimum, not including stocking stuffing and multiple gifts between spouses and from parents to kids. Add in the three birthdays and you get to 77 gifts required.

All of us have plenty. We try to make Christmas lists, but there's usually not more than one or two things that we're just dying to get. The end result is lots of stress and bother. The lists are quickly exhausted and freestyling becomes difficult when the thing we all need the most is more free time together.

Over on Facebook, I proposed a Feline Christmas. We stay home, eat delicious foods and lay quietly. I posted that as a lark, but quite a few people liked the idea. Last night at a friends' house, a family Christmas vacation was suggested. This morning, driving in to work I considered the possiblity of a secret Santa program where we each draw two names out of a hat and buy for those people. That would mean each person would have two things to open on Christmas, inter-spousal gifts and stockings not included.

If you've got a take on this, I'd love to hear it.

Update: The thing I'd like to do the most is to go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and have a family volunteering excursion where we all go spend time with people who need it. Unfortunately, shopping is taking the place of both of these things.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Plankton Model Of Human Life

John Rosenberg, blogging over at Discriminations, posts an ironic essay, Why Not A Marriage Tax? Here's a tidbit.
With the unwitting help of Ruth Marcus, liberal Washington Post opinion writer, I have a suggestion for you: revive and increase the marriage tax.

“The marriage gap presents a real cost,” Marcus writes.
If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.
That’s because the educated and rich are marrying more and getting richer; the uneducated and poor are marrying less and falling further behind. “Family structure,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told Marcus, “is a new dividing line in American society.”
John makes some great points, but allow me to suggest that he's missing the underlying assumption which is the most amazing part of all.

When people talk about these inequalities, they imply that marriage and education are things that just happen to us. Just as plankton has no way to influence the tides, we are driven along by forces too large for us to control and these forces lead us to learn and get married. Each of us has a doom laid upon us, a doom we cannot escape. That's the entire basis for our social spending. We don't seek to reward some behaviors (self-denial) and punish others (hedonism). Instead, we treat the symptoms of these behaviors as if their sources were a complete mystery.

Hey, plankton isn't even aware of the tides.

Is this all there is to our lives?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Constantly Complain About Politicians

... then you've probably given them too much to do. Here in the US, handing them $3.5T at the national level might be a smidge high.

Like almost everyone else on the planet, Jeffrey Sachs, writing at The Guardian, laments the poor quality of our political leaders.
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of failed summits. Governments proved themselves time and again to be failures at addressing the growing crises engulfing the world, whether the eurozone debacle, climate change, or budget politics in the US and Europe.
So the folks we elected haven't managed to find a way to give us everything we want for free, stop all wars and control the weather. It all seems so simple. If only we had the right people in charge, these things wouldn't trouble us and we could go back to watching TV.

Peter Drucker, in one of his books on management, said that if your plan requires above average people to succeed, it's probably not a good plan.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The New England Primer

or, "Things Aren't As Static As They May Seem."

I recently bought myself a copy of The New England Primer. It's a book that was widely used to teach reading and English comprehension in schools both public and private up to 100 years after the establishment of the US Constitution. Every page has a reference to God and/or Jesus. It is as much catechism as it is reading instruction.


We've spent a good deal of time and effort over the last 50 years attempting to purify ourselves of every vestige of religion in our governmental affairs. Los Angeles recently redesigned its official crest to remove a tiny cross that apparently stained the thing with subtle attempts to convert you to Christianity. "Separation of church and state" is invoked like a magical incantation whenever any tiny blot of faith is found in public places.

It was not always thus.

Reading The New England Primer, it is absolutely impossible to come to the conclusion that our current obsessive compulsive disorder for removing religious symbols has any basis whatsoever in the actual Constitution. The people who wrote it, debated it and signed it and then produced case law based upon it for 100 years allowed their children to be taught with this book. Unless you're going to make the case that they were too busy holding truths to be self-evident to notice that little Hezekiah or Constance were being instructed with a catechism book, there's no historical basis for our mania at all.

Instead, you pretty much have to make the argument that you believe the Constitution is a living document that must be reinterpreted by each generation, informed by the culture of that era.

If that's the case, what prevents us from turning around and going back to claiming that crosses here or there or Bible study in public schools is perfectly OK?

Gorgeous

What a beautiful ad. Try it in HD and full screen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Can You Tell If You Falsely Believe Yourself Free?

Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings have the photo below in this post. (Read the post. It is most excellent.)


I'm sure Goethe was a fine fellow, but this quote doesn't make much sense. How would you know if your view that you were free was false? If you continually test the hypothesis and the data causes you to deduce that you are indeed free, what difference does it make if you are somehow not free? In all the ways that matter to you, you are free.

I think Goethe had washed his tonsils with one too many steins of beer when he thought this one up.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World

Italian bond rates continue to climb while European politicians debate new and increasingly complex governmental structures to deal with the fiscal crisis. It's kind of sad, really. Raised in a stew of secular progressivism, the leadership of Europe is utterly unable to cope with the concept of earning money to pay their bills and people taking responsibility for their own lives. The idea that government is just an inefficient conduit for taking money from one person and handing it to another has been obscured by their worship of the State as a force for moral good.

Meanwhile, the inexorable freight train of financial doom continues to highball down the tracks.


You can put all the governmental regulations and organizational process documents in front of it you want. It ain't stopping.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Cat-thedral

As an early Christmas present for our Maximum Leader, we got her a new piece of furniture so she can relax in comfort and splendour in our family room, watching over her subjects and providing guidance. It's called the Cat-thedral and she took to it right away. The Catican Guards can now provide their services at a properly respectful distance.

What is thy bidding, Your Serene Furriness?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blogging From My TV

My Logitech Revue recently updated to the new version of Android and it's got an improved version of Chrome and lots of great new apps. It doesn't turn my TV into the big beast PC that is out in the Catican, but it's good enough for text blogging and surfing the web. The Twitter app on it is pretty nice, too.

I recently moved all of my music up into the cloud on Google Music an the Revue has an app for that as well. I love it. There's a couple of my favorite apps - Google Listen for podcasts being one - that aren't yet available, but all in all, this is much closer to the vision of every screen in the house, from the big TV to the tiny smartphone, having the same capabilities.

Sadly, Logitech has shut down their Revue production line. They lost a ton of money on the release of the thing, something like $100M. I think shutting it down was a mistake. I might even see if I can pick up another one on the cheap. Sony is still in the game with Google TV, though, so the concept lives on even if Logitech is getting out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Cautionary Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who lived with her two dogs in a castle of ice. She was beset day and night by a terrible ogre who would not suffer her to leave the castle. It was terrible, especially when the smaller of the two dogs kept peeing on the carpet in the great hall.

One day, a handsome prince and his cat rode to rescue her. We're talking really handsome here, Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back handsome. So anyways, the handsome prince and his cat rode to the ice castle to do battle with the ogre and rescue the princess.

The combat lasted most of a day until the ogre tripped over the cat who was sprawled out on the ground, snoring loudly, and the handsome prince was able to slay the ogre by smiting him on the head with a hardbound copy of Volume 18 of the Federal Register while he lay prostrate. And that's not prostate, it's prostrate. We looked it up.

The princess was overjoyed. She and the prince were married that day in great pomp and splendour. The cat was given a large bowl of tuna and the reception party was kept very quiet so as not to disturb her as she slept it off. Something was done with the dogs to keep them under control, but we're not sure what. We think it had something to do with Percocet.

That night, the princess and prince retired to their bedchamber in the ice castle. The princess stole all the covers and the prince froze to death.

THE END.

Friday, December 09, 2011

On Internet Celibacy

So I spent a week (mostly) refraining from partaking of the fruits of the Internet. Facebook, Twitter and my favorite blogs and news sites were avoided. I peeked once in a while, but never more than once a day for a few minutes. Here's what I picked up from the experiment.

Pro: Increased concentration! At the suggestion of a friend, I'm listening to Your Brain At Work. It's a pretty good book discussing the mechanics of brain activity as it relates to things you try to do in the course of a day. Your brain can only juggle a few items of data at a time and trying to hold disparate ones simultaneously makes a hash of everything. Keeping my Droid away from me and not thinking about blog posts made all of my other activities and relationships richer and deeper.

Con: I think my IQ dropped 20 points. How in the world do people who don't read the web know anything at all? The San Diego Union, covering the Euro debt crisis, told you little with the exception of one very nice front page article today. Lots of other big stories were just completely ignored. Not being able to interact with the authors and other readers was weird. I felt like most of the article was missing because there wasn't a comment thread at the bottom.

Conclusion: Discipline will pay off! The web is just too good to miss. So is the rest of the world. Each needs its place and each needs time where you concentrate on just it. When you leave your computer, leave it completely. I'm also going to avoid surfing the web on my phone as much as possible. It's a great alternative to have when there is absolutely nothing else to do, like when you're in a waiting room where the TV is playing daytime rubbish, but for the most part, I'm going to put the thing down and leave it alone.

There were quite a few other observations, but these were the biggest of the bunch.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Week Of Celibacy

... no, not that kind of celibacy. Internet celibacy. I've decided to take Sunday night to Friday* off from the Internet. No Twitter, no Facebook, no reading the blogs or blogging. I've got a great post scheduled for tomorrow, so be sure to come on back for that, but as of now, I'm personally done.

I've read that our use of the Internet makes our relationships shallower, so I'm going to spend the week really being with the people around me. I've frequently found myself thinking about things I've read on the web, planning out a blog post in my head or wanting to surf Twitter or the blogs to see what's going on, all while I'm with friends or family.

I'll still get up early, I'm sure that habit won't go away. Instead of blogging, I'll do the prep work for cooking delicious dinners - a daily, sensual treat for the woman I love.

Hey, I'm not that celibate. ;-)

* - Yes, I know this is not an actual week. However, Saturday is the Newcastle game on Foxsocer.tv and I'm not about to miss it.

Overthinking Things

Janet Daley, writing at The Telegraph, has a decent analysis of the latest bits of Eurocrisis. Buried in her otherwise interesting column is this.
In truth, it is almost impossible to understand the European dilemma because it is so arcane – so weighed down with historical accretions and ideological obscurantism – that it has become impenetrable even to the principal players in what is turning into a tragedy of monumental proportions.
Actually, it's not that hard to understand at all. It's pretty simple, really.

They spent too much.

They promised too many people too many things and relied on an economic model that valued consumption and borrowing over production and saving because they thought they were being compassionate. They weren't being compassionate and they should have figured this out about a decade ago when it became obvious that their spending was unsustainable.

The Problem With Believing In Historical Evolution

... is that it depends on everyone thinking like you do.

Marx's historical imperative had the world inexorably moving towards a classless society by way of a few million dead bourgeoisie. The people were killed, but history failed to cooperate. The Obama Administration had Egypt moving towards an enlightened, progressive democracy by way of getting rid of their dictator and then getting rid of the military. After all, the only thing holding back those hip Facebookers was the evil dictator and the reactionary military.

Fantasy, meet reality.
CAIRO—Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections ... A hardline religious group that wants to impose strict Islamic law made a strong showing with nearly a quarter of the ballots, according to results released Sunday...

The High Election Commission said the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6 percent of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast for party lists. The Nour Party, a more hardline Islamist group, captured 24.4 percent.
My math says that's 61% for the Islamists with the even more Islamist hinterlands yet to vote. That would mean the hipsters picked up at most 39%. So much for being on the right side of history.

It was a fair election and he lost. Maybe next time, we could actually try, you know, like understanding the people we're dealing with rather than fitting them into our own personal fantasies.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

"The Nation" Magazine Is Suffused With Violence

So I finally clicked on the links I gave in the last post. The one that took me to The Nation showed me this.


Fists, target sheets with bullet holes, no time to pull punches threats, accusing people who disagree with you of waging war, the thing is just filled with angry, violent imagery and rhetoric.

I think it's time progressives just shut up about right wing violence and hate.

Two Essays

... from today's Real Clear Politics feed.

Gingrich's War on Poor Children - Charles Blow, New York Times

Rick Perry's War on Women - Jordan Smith, The Nation

I have to admit, I didn't read either of them. I just liked that they were both in the feed on the same day.

Friday, December 02, 2011

On Writing A History Book

At work, I'm part of a small team contracting out the effort to write a history of our organization. We recently interviewed a fellow who had written other such books and in the conversation, he mentioned how important it was to research it fully and make sure the book was accurate. If living witnesses to the things recounted in the book found errors, the book's public reputation could be easily destroyed.

It reminded me of the sections in The Case for Christ where Lee Strobel researched contemporary objections to the New Testament, particularly the parts that were written soon after the death of Christ and found no contradictions to the major components of the narrative.

Thursday, December 01, 2011