Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Composition

Tonight we had a little family sushi dinner at Tachibana, and somehow got inspired to write a topical version of the Twelve Days of Christmas song. I'll just present the twelfth day:
The SUSHI Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Cups of Sake
Eleven Pairs of Chopsticks
Ten Zaru Soba
Nine Tuna Toro
Eight Pickled Ginger
Seven Edamame
Six Amaebi
Five Wasabi
Four Tempura Shrimp
Three Soy Sauce
Two Turtle Rolls
And a Big California Roll
Happy holidays, y'all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stunningly Superficial

That's about the best summary of a TV "news" talking head I can imagine.

What's really impressive is that Scarborough doesn't get why he's being taken to task. He keeps saying that he reads the newspapers and Foreign Affairs, so obviously he knows what's going on.

It brings to mind a snippet of dialogue from the wonderful movie "A Fish Called Wanda":
Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto, they just don't understand it! Let me correct you on a few things; Aristotle was not Belgian! The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself!" And the London Underground is not a political movement! Those are all mistakes. I looked them up.
I think it's safe to say that Joe Scarborough is not an intellectual, either.

Update: Purely coincidental, but TBogg used that same exchange as the title of a post on a completely unrelated incident.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Presents for Feet

Did I mention that I got ski boots for Christmas? I have never bought a pair of new ski boots before. When I went skiing as a kid, I always had used boots, since they weren't going to last long on my growing feet, anyway. And as a teen, I think I had hand-me-downs.

So since we started skiing last winter, I've been renting boots (and skis) with only limited success. I have very ordinary feet, but somehow, the boots nearly always manage to be uncomfortable. And when the feet, ankles, shins, etc. are unhappy, the skier is unhappy.

My new boots are very nice. I wore them in the store for quite a while. I'm looking forward to trying them out this weekend! My only disappointment is the color. They come in red/black, which is not my favorite. But they're comfortable, and I don't plan to look at them very much.

Nice present. My wife loves me, and wants my feet to be happy.

All Things Must End

Still not much explanation for the whole thing, but the guy who was camped out in the Mexico City airport for the last few months is gone.

I still have nothing cogent to say about it, but I like to follow up when I can.

You're welcome.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanks, Dad

There's nothing quite like getting back to the car after a full day of skiing, only to find one of the tires completely flat. Now, one could call the auto club and wait for them to come and change the tire. But it's cold, and about to get dark, and really, I just want to go somewhere warm and have a beer.

So I changed the tire. And it's really not a big deal. Sure, there are better ways to end the day than lying on the cold ground getting the jack set under the car, but really, it's not a huge thing.

My dad could fix anything (and frequently did). I'm really glad he taught me some of those tricks, like changing tires. I realize there are other ways to deal with it, but now and then it's nice to recognize one's own self-sufficiency, even on such a mundane matter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not Important, But...

I really hate it when you're rushing to get dressed, and when it's too late to actually do anything about it, you realize that the jeans didn't quite get fully dry.

Just sayin'.

Totally Great News

After eight years where politics has trumped science at almost every turn, I am thrilled to see that President-elect Obama is about to appoint a Real Scientist as his science advisor.

I'm particularly thrilled because I know John Holdren a little bit. Back in my young days as an academic debater, I used to quote from professor Holdren on various science issues, mostly pertaining to climate change (yes, it was an issue even way back then!). And as a student in the Environmental Science program at Berkeley, I had to take a required upper-division course taught by him ("Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems"), which was one of the best classes I ever took, and still shapes my thinking on a lot of matters.

But professor Holdren himself really impressed me. And it wasn't just that he'd recently won a Macarthur "Genius Award" Fellowship or the campus Distinguished Teaching Award, or that he was on the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. What impressed me was that this very busy, very accomplished man had time, even when I was no longer in his course, to talk with me and advise me about an article I was writing.

So I can say from first-hand experience that John Holdren is a terrific choice to advise the new president about all kinds of matters of science and public policy. He is not only a brilliant and accomplished scientist, but also a student and teacher of science policy with a terrific ability to communicate complex information in ways that it can be understood by different audiences.

Obviously, there are still political battles to be fought, but I now have confidence that the side of science will have a tremendous advocate.

Update: Good profile from the NYT here. Good link at the bottom of it to an appearance on Letterman. Worth watching.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sick, Sick People

No, I'm not talking about the virus that's been ransacking my family for the last couple of weeks.

I'm talking about some key people in the U.S. government for the last several years. Buried in an update to a long post by Digby on Dick Cheney is some material from Vanity Fair about the use of "intelligence" gleaned from torture:
“As soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood the damage it had done,” a Pentagon analyst says. “I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq.

“We didn’t know he’d been waterboarded and tortured when we did that analysis, and the reports were marked as credible as they could be.” However, approval for Abu Zubaydah’s treatment had been given at the highest level.
We've been over this before (though not recently): not only is torture wrong, it doesn't work. At least, not in the sense that it provides accurate information. At some point, the victim of the torture just tells the interrogator what (s)he wants to hear. But some sick folks find that useful:
“The White House knew he’d been tortured. I didn’t, though I was supposed to be evaluating that intelligence,” the analyst says. “It seems to me they were using torture to achieve a political objective. I cannot believe that the president and vice president did not know who was being waterboarded and what was being given up.”
So there it is: I thought it was bad that they lied about the intelligence to justify invading Iraq, but it's actually worse. They tortured people to generate the "intelligence" they wanted to justify starting a war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced, turmoil in the region and the loss of international respect for the country.

It's just stunning what these folks have been up to in our name. As the apologists keep making the rounds on their "Bush legacy" tour, we need to remember that this is the legacy we inherit and will have to work to live down.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Public Service? Whassat?

Buried down at the end of an article about the foreclosure mess in today's NYT:
In the meantime, homeowners are unlikely to see any new policy unveiled soon.

“It’s become clear that if you stick your head up, it’ll get cut off,” said one White House official. “We’re done in two months. The next administration can try to find a way out of that maze.”
Sheesh. I'm really, really hoping that the incoming administration has something more of a public-service ethic about them. Did I say "more"? How about any?

Hat tip to Josh Marshall at TPM; "Profiles in Courage," indeed.

P.S. Still ridiculously busy, but hoping for a long, curmudgeonly post soon!