Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life Imitates Ancient Greek Comedy

Ashley was sharp enough to catch this one. We submitted it to Best of Web.

Real News vs. Greek Comedy.

Wikipedia includes one of Lysistrata's most famous lines:
Lys.: There are a lot of things about us women
That sadden me, considering how men
See us as rascals.

Cal.: As indeed we are!
UPDATE: We made Best of Web Today, but they didn't use the Lysistrata reference. Perhaps it is a bit esoteric for some.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And Counting

Walter Williams has a great article on JWR today.

Earlier this week I had a student who refused to call me Mrs. Miller because he felt using last names with adults was disrespectful. I just didn't respond when he called me by my first name. Curse you, high school, for putting first names on our badges!

In keeping with the theme of "Kids These Days": I've often thought about getting some sort of counter to track the number of times a student swears at me or in my classroom, but I think that the counter might get worn out in the first week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Honor of Three Years Ago Last Week

Three years ago I came home from studying abroad in London. Living there for that one semester changed my perspective in so many ways. I made friends (not something I do easily), learned about British literature, and somehow manage to mostly peacefully coexist with 34 other females.

I just finished a book by Bill Bryson called Notes From a Small Island. Bryson is from Iowa but moved to England in his early twenties, married a British woman, and lived there until his mid-forties. This book is a travel log of his final farewell to England. I find Bryson very funny, especially when describing British stoicism regarding queues and manners. But what struck me particularly last night was a passage about going walking with a couple of friends.

Now walking in the British sense is more akin to American hiking. This is why, by the way, Mr Bingley's sisters found Elizabeth Bennet's traipsing about the country so shocking. It's not that she was out walking in civilized parks and gardens; she was practically going for a survival campout.

I quote this passage from Bryson's book in homage to the many muddy, icy, windy "walks" I took in Jolly Old England, mostly with Melanie, but also with our host family in Yorkshire (the Wilkeys) and one particularly devilish walk with Mel and Sarah Cutler near Ambleside (where Byrson's walk took place).

"We made it to the top without incident. I counted thirty-three people there ahead of us, huddled among the fog-whitened boulders with sandwiches, flasks, and wildly fluttering maps, and tried to imagine how I would explain this to a foreign onlooker--the idea of three dozen English people having a picnic on a mountaintop in an ice storm--and realized there was no way you could explain it. We trudged over to a rock, where a couple kindly moved their rucksacks and shrank their picnic space to make room for us. We sat and delved among our brown bags in the piercing wind, cracking open hard-boiled eggs with numbed fingers, sipping warm pop, eating floppy cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and staring into an impenetrable murk that we had spent three hours climbing through to get here, and I thought, I seriously thought, Man, I love this country."

So to all my Londies, both male and female, both with child and without, both professor and student, thank you for a great semester three years ago. It marked a turning point in my life, and I'm glad you were all a part of it. Cheers!

PS: Shout out to the Grandma room from yours truly, the head Grandma!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who needs the shotgun when you can have a light sabre marriage?

From Scienceblogs and BBC:

"About 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi in the 2001 Census for England and Wales. In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000."

One commenter wrote:
"Last I heard of the Jedi religion, they were threatened by schism, with the argument being about the true nature of the Force: the Orthodox Jedi claim it is an energy field created by all living things, surrounding us, penetrating us and binding the galaxy together. The Reform Jedi claim it's some sort of bacterial infection."

HT: Tyler Cowen

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Mutemath is Here... Sort of

So, a few weeks ago I posted a video by The Myriad, mostly because it reminded me of the Mutemath style. However, now we have the real deal. Make it full screen to get the full experience. Some of you may recognize the song from Twilight, but we (in spite?) love it all the same. :) Just kiddin. Twilight was actually a decent movie.

Ashley and I were debating whether it is all one cut or not. Any thoughts?

MUTEMATH - Spotlight

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pictures

I always enjoy a clever picture with a clever caption. Perhaps this is why I started laughing when I saw the cover of The Economist today in the mail:

The Economist - April 25th 2009


I would like to tell you about Herbie. Herbie is the name of an affectionate pothole near our apartment. Herbie used to be about two feet deep. A car or two wrecked because of Herbie. Since then, the city filled Herbie full of dirt, taking his menacing two feet down to a measly six inches. Now he's barely deep enough to scratch your frame. Many people complained about Herbie, but he never bothered us... mostly because we never bothered him. I only got pictures after he got neutralized (on a rainy day):



It's hard to tell how deep it is from the picture, but he'll still get the frame of most compact cars.

Finally, a video description of the stock market over the last two years... as a roller coaster. Clever (HT: Mankiw):


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Honest Assessment

Jake pointed me to an opinion piece by Arne Duncan (current Secretary of Education and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools) in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. It's the kind of tosh that people in education crank out to mollify the masses without actually saying anything. Believe me: I've had to write it. Jake commented that the WSJ editors probably took one look at it, laughed so hard they cried, and said of course they'd print it just to humiliate the writer. (Hey, kids! Can you find all twelve mixed metaphors in the first and last paragraphs?)

Let's start with the title and subtitle: "School Reform Means Doing What's Best for Kids: Let's have an honest assessment of charter schools." No one goes into education and thinks to himself, "Hmm...I'm going to destroy our future by poorly educating children." Also, I'm not sure how the subtitle fits in because Mr. Duncan makes only passing mention of charter schools, never giving "an honest assessment" of them at all.

It's full of buzzwords like stakeholders, accountability, standards, and my favorite buzz-filled sentence, "We'll also have a strategy to address low-performing schools and provide incentives to compel improvement." Compel improvement? Incentives don't compel. It's an oxymoron (or some other highfalutin word like that). Maybe Secretary Duncan just needs a better thesaurus (I found stimulate, encourage, foster, spur, and incite on dictionary.com).

More importantly, what is the strategy? And what are the incentives? 1) Getting data from standardized tests (if they aren't getting the data already, why do kids even take the exams?) that might hold teachers accountable, and 2) merit pay. Two "solutions" that teachers unions never go for.

Finally, my favorite line of the piece: "No more blaming parents or teachers." WHAT? We're not allowed to blame kids for goofing off and choosing not to do their homework, and now we're not allowed to blame parents who have never required their children to do work or earn something. We are also not allowed to blame teachers who can't even remotely control their classes, who give unlimited retakes or everyone an A for trying, and who can't provide real-world examples of learned concepts. I have a hard time believing that failing schools are no one's fault.

When the Secretary of Education can't write a coherent essay on education, it's no wonder my high school seniors couldn't write one either.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

So Ashley and I flipped on Dennis Miller this morning for a few minutes and we were blessed enough to turn it on at the brief moment when he said the following (to the best of our memories):

"Today is Earth Day. I will be celebrating Earth Day in typical fashion by pouring diesel on old tires that I have collected throughout the year, lighting them on fire, and dancing around the fire, naked, except for a hemp thong."

We turned it off after hearing that. We knew that whatever followed couldn't compare with that beautiful imagery. We could not stop laughing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Brandt's Blog

I highly recommend visiting Brandt's blog (Poetic Blather) and let the mustache hilarity ensue. :)

The Moosestache is my favorite.

update: By the way, this WSJ article on immigration is great. The unions (Democrats) want to restrict legal immigration, while the Republicans can only get the message across "no illegals." The result is an immigration program with crazy incentives. Just ask someone with a work visa or the spouse of someone who has a student visa.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Favorite Friedman Quote

"Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it."

I'd rather live in a country with 50 mostly independent states that have free flowing immigration and are run by 50 monarchs than a single federal democratically elected government. With a single federal democratically elected government I cannot influence outcomes. However, with 50 free flowing monarchies I can always pick up and move to a more productive area, which has 100% chance of influencing the outcome. Unfortunately, there is no chance that this will ever happen. Larry Elder this week phrased it very well in his column:

"Today large numbers of Americans, to the extent that they even know about Article I, Section 8, couldn't care less about it.

FDR personified this view at the swearing-in ceremony for his second term. He later said that when it came to the words "support the Constitution of the United States," he thought, "Yes, but it's the Constitution as I understand it, flexible enough to meet any new problem of democracy — not the kind of Constitution your court has raised up as a barrier to progress and democracy.""

No thanks FDR.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Greg's Anatomy

Just warning you now, this is my rant about how House has been ruined... at least for me. House's target audience has shifted far far away from me. This is how:

In order to think about this more rationally, do a "before" and "after" picture of House. The before picture consists of clever cases mixed with interesting interactions and dialogue between House and Wilson, House and Cuddy, and then the team. It was a thinking evaluative show. The target audience had 14+ years of education and was probably aimed at 30-55 year olds.

Now we have the "after" picture. The shows now consists of the adulterer, the interracial bisexual couple, a love triangle of Chase, Cameron, and House, and a promise from the producers that House will "do the deed" with his single mom boss. ... ... ... There were two characters left carrying the show, and they just offed one of them out of the blue. The other character, Wilson, has been minimized into a Jiminy Cricket figure.

House has now become General Hospital. The target audience has 3+ years of education and is aimed at anyone who is willing to be sucked into the show. I plead with Fox to move House to daytime television where it belongs, or fire the writers. Hey, firing the writers worked with Heroes. This season of Heroes is awesome.

Well, at least House has freed up an hour of my time every week. I have gone from four shows that I watch to three. However, I do recommend "Lie to Me" as it has improved considerably since its season premiere. The best part of the show is probably the intro music though:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random Smattering

General update:
Jake and I are doing well. I'm enjoying my spring break. I've cleaned the whole apartment (even under the very dusty bed), fed the missionaries, grocery shopped, tutored, and walked outside in the sunshine. I don't love subbing, but I do appreciate the money it provides. I'm frequently surprised by the movies I have to show: An Inconvenient Truth in a chemistry class, Saving Private Ryan (unedited) in a 9th grade reading class, Macbeth (rated R, unedited, produced by Playboy), and Bowling for Columbine (also R and unedited) in a sociology class. Maybe my old district was just super strict on movies, educational value, and ratings, but I'm still pretty amazed at what these kids view.

New Favorite Song:
Jake heard this in the university bookstore last week. I forgot how much I love The Cure, especially their acoustic stuff. This isn't a video, but it's the best way for you to hear the song.


I also recently found an old Joe Jackson tape in my car. How can you not love this guitar at the beginning? Look Sharp is fantastic, but I really love Jumpin' Jive. Thank you, parents, for bringing me up on this instead of Abba.


Books:
I'm currently reading She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. It's a sequel to her childhood memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, which I loved when I read a few years ago. I'm enjoying the sequel just as much. It's more of a collection of memory essays than anything else. So far my favorite story has been when her older sister gets married at seventeen. "I stood frozen, listening to the sermon, the exchange of vows, the catch in Melinda's throat, and might have stood that way forever except that when Rick and Melinda went behind the altar to light the Unity Candle, Melinda turned her head too quickly and her veil caught fire. There is nothing quite like a bride aflame--it really puts a capper on an otherwise ordinary day." Flaming brides=comic gold. I laughed.

Projects:
Remember when I said I bought a new outfit? Well, I've finally hemmed the pants. See?
And here is the whole ensemble. Please excuse the not-exactly-done hair and general crookedness. My couch is not exactly the best camera stand.

And while I had my machine out, I discovered some long-lost projects. One of them is a baby blanket, and considering the dozen or so pregnant women I know, this might come in handy when I get my next baby shower invitation. I don't have batting or anything, so I can't actually put it together today, but by posting about it, it will always be at the back of my mind. I also recently shrank a pair of Jake's pants in the dryers at the laundromat. If they were old and ragged, I might not mind. But these were his best-fitting, nicest khaki pants. I unpicked the hem today and will see if I can make them long enough for the boy's legs when he gets home tonight.

House:
If you're a House fan (as in the doctor), you'll understand my disgust with the most recent episode regarding Kutner. I was so angry when I watched it. What a stupid way to write out a character. I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it, but if it doesn't resolve, I may just stop watching altogether.

Twist:
If you have found that the chocolate-cherry version of the dump cake is too dry, try this instead. Blend the chocolate fudge cake mix, two eggs, 1 t. almond extract, and pie filling. Bake in greased 9x13 pan at 350 for 25-30 min. During the last few minutes of baking, start the icing. Combine 1 c. sugar, 5 T. butter, 1/3 c. milk and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 min, then take off heat and stir in 1 c. chocolate chips until smooth. Pour over warm cake. Gooey and good.

Hyacinths to Feed My Soul:
And finally, I bought a bunch of mums at Jewel last Saturday (as in a week and half ago). They are still going strong. And they were only a dollar.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Food and More Food

I've been meaning to post a blog for quite some time, but I also promised that my next blog would be about food. So it's taken me a ridiculously long time to actually get the motivation to sit in the cramped windowsill where we borrow the unsuspecting neighbor's unsecured wireless connection while I load pictures of my various culinary creations. The first one does not actually have a picture. I forgot to take one. By the way, this is the one I told my mom I would send her but have not. Sorry Mom. Here it is.

Citrus Chicken and Rice
4 chicken breasts
1 3/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. uncooked white rice
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
Sauteed orange slices

Cook chicken in medium nonstick skillet over med-high heat for 10 minutes or until browned. Sautee the orange slices (you're probably not going to actually eat them, and if you do, they don't keep well as leftovers). Set chicken aside. Add the broth, orange juice, onion, and rice. Heat to a boil. cover and cook over low heat 10 min. Return chicken to skillet. cover and cook 10 min or until the chicken and rice are cooked. Stir in parsley and garnish with orange slices.

Mediterranean Orzo
12 oz. onion-and-garlic flavored chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2" thick half-moons (I used turkey Italian sausage; turkey kielbasa would probably work well too)
1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. canola oil
3/4 t. dried oregano
8 oz. orzo (I could not for the life of me find this kind or rice-shaped pasta. I used ditallini. You could also use melon-seed pasta that I found in the Hispanic foods aisle at the store.)
8 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
2 t. olive oil

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Add sausage to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 min. Ad tomatoes, 1 T. vinegar, canola oil, and 1/2 t. oregano to pan; cook 2 min. Place sausage mixture in a large serving bowl. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook orzo according to pkg. directions. Ad green beans to past pot for final 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place pasta mixture in serving bowl with sausage mixture and add remaining 2 T. of vinegar, 1/4 t. oregano, feta, parsley, and olive oil. Stir to combine; serve. Makes 6 servings. Jake loved this.

Flank Steak in Amy's Marinade.
Flank steak, whatever size you think will feed your family
1 T. olive oil
3 T. lime juice
3 T. pineapple juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. soy sauce

Marinate steak for at least 30 min. If you don't have a grill, the broiler in your oven works great. Turn a couple times until desired doneness. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Grandma Pitt's Brownies (1/2 batch)
1 1/3 sticks margarine or butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour, stirred and measured
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Melt butter and chocolate. Set aside. Beat eggs until thick. add sugar, salt, vanilla, and choc. mixture. Blend well. Stir in flour. Add nuts. Spread evenly in greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool. Frost.

You might not think that brownies need frosting, and if you're talking about Betty Crocker from a box, you're probably right. Vida's brownies aren't as sweet and need the added oomph. It's better if you make your own frosting. My mom uses a standard chocolate buttercream frosting. The following is the one my great grandma used.

1/4 stick margarine or butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1 T. cocoa
1 3/4 c. (1/2 lb.) powdered sugar
3 T. cream
pinch salt

Beat together all ingredients. Add enough milk or cream to make spreadable. Beat for 5 min. Long beating makes creamy frosting. Frost brownies going clear to edges.

Corned Beef and Potatoes
Medium-sized corned beef brisket with seasoning packet (2-2 1/2 lbs)
5-6 red potatoes
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper

Trim fat from meat. Place in large stock pot or dutch oven; add juices and spices from package. Add enough water to cover meat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 2 hours or until almost tender. Add potatoes and onion to meat. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add cabbage if you are so inclined (I wasn't). Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes more until tender. Thinly slice meat across the grain. Transfer meat and vegetables to a serving platter. This made a great St. Patrick's Day feast.

Three-Bean Tuna Salad (good for hot days when turning on the oven or stove is just too much. Also requires no touching of raw meat, Sheri)
1 lemon
2 T. olive oil
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
3 cans assorted beans (I used canellini, red kidney, and pinto. You could also use garbanzo, pink kidney or any firm bean)
2 cans tuna, drained and coarsely flaked
4 large Boston lettuce leaves (I tore up Romaine leaves)

From lemon, grate 1 t. peel and squeeze 2 T. juice. In large bowl stir together lemon peel and juice, oil, celery, green onions, salt and pepper. Stir in beans until coated, then gently stir in tuna. Serve bean mixture over lettuce.

Asian Honey-Barbecue Tilapia
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/4 c. honey
3 T. soy sauce
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. lime juice
2 T. white wine (or vinegar)
2 T. peeled fresh ginger, grated (this was too much, especially for leftovers--maybe just try 1 T.)
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds discarded, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 tilapia fillets (6 oz. each)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In med. bowl, combine all ingredients except fish. Stir until well mixed. Set sauce aside. In 9x13 glass baking dish, arrange fish in single layer. Spoon sauce over fish. Roast 12 min or until fish is opaque throughout. Serve with sauce in baking dish.

Clearly, I'm obsessed with food. I'll post something real later this week.

6 Million Hits in 2 weeks

Absolutely incredible. So incredible, I question its realness.




HT: voluntaryXchange

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Zombie dream updates and "Look Around You"

As I mentioned before, most of the ideas for my marketing plan final came from a dream where I was getting killed by zombies over and over. Well, I aced the final. I guess inspiration comes in many forms. This was more of an inspiration along the lines of Mahler's Totenfeier. Dreams are weird.

Sometimes I'm reminded of one of Ashley's favorite youtube videos. People just need to look around. Ashley brings home the high school paper for our entertainment. There have been a string of articles complaining about the terrible "new" program where parents can look at their child's grades, tardies, and absences online. Complaints about this evil program include "parents can't understand the complexities of the grading system" and "don't you trust us?" Almost exactly 10 years ago, this system was implemented at my high school. The program is not new children. Your grievances have no substance. Look around you.

A similar thought came to me when I saw Harry Dent's new book, "The Great Depression Ahead." His argument is, of course, all about demographics. In assessing this argument we need to apply "look around you." Italy and Japan's demographics have gone through what the United States is going to go through in the next 15 years. While it is true that this is not good for economic growth when a smaller percentage of the population is in the workforce, stagnation, not depression, is usually the result. While this is not great news, selling a book predicting a depression that will last for years and years based mostly on demographics does not seem realistic. There are some arguments for a prolonged recession (a currency crisis caused by a flight from the dollar because it loses "tallest pygmy" status or high inflation caused by the money supply expansion to name a few), but I highly doubt Dent delves into these.

Oh yeah. If you wanted a great response in the letters section to Krugman's Newsweek piece, here it is. I was thinking along the same lines, but Boudreaux's letter is much more effective.