Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Surprise!

Jake and I rented a movie from the library the other day, but we have yet to watch it. You see, it's on VHS (oh, and it's called The Day of the Triffids, based on an odd little sci-fi book from the 1950s we both read recently), and only the DVD part of Benson and Sam's VCR/DVD combo is working. There were rumors that the kids might have put something in the VCR, so we decided to check it out. This is what we found (along with our awesome movie):
Now, it seems reasonable that the kids didn't understand the difference between the two sides and therefore put the DVDs in the slot in an honest attempt to get them to play. But we're not sure what was going through their heads when we pulled all of this out:
We even found this when we realized there was something else in there and pulled off the top:

Sometimes it's enough to get us to rethink this whole "let's have kids someday" think...not really. But these past seven weeks have been a real eye-opener for me. Trying to reason with a screaming three-year-old? Less than amusing. But managing to get the picky eater to eat his broccoli without complaint by telling him he's a giant and the broccoli are tiny trees he's eating (and he even asked for more!) or getting a huge leg-hug from the two-year-old? Priceless.

In the meantime, however, the VCR still doesn't work right, even with all the army men pulled out. So we'll let you know how The Day of the Triffids is when we get our hands on a working VCR.

Just can't get away from Chicago

The latest news from the eastern front:

The wsj's law blog reports about "a lawsuit out of Cook County, Ill., in which a management company filed a $50,000 lawsuit over a tenant’s “malicious and defamatory” Twitter tweet. ... Jeffrey Michael, whose family runs Horizon, the real-estate management company that filed suit against tweeter Amanda Bonnen, said in response to a question about the suit: “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.”"

The wsj's post is aptly titled, "The Shortest Allegedly Defamatory Statement in History."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

World's Lights, New Romer Blog

Paul Romer has a new blog. He has done some fascinating economic research and I expect his blog to be quite interesting.

His first non-introductory post is worth checking out. Whoever knew that staring at the world's lights at night would be interesting?

Have a fantastic day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gov-Mart

Tired of high prices at the grocery store? Can’t find jeans that fit perfectly? Are sales people too pushy or do they ignore you altogether? I have the answer.

We need to create a government grocery/retail chain. The public needs a separate option from the private corporations and non-profit providers. The primary impact of this initiative will be to keep the retail industry honest. As every clear-headed person knows, the retail industry is practically a monopoly run by an elite few corporations (CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Amazon, Walgreen’s, Lowe’s, eBay, Family Dollar, Sears, Macy’s, Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Walmart, Crate and Barrel, Kohl’s, Medco, Toys R Us, Michael’s, Land’s End, Home Depot, Dollar General, Albertson's, Target, Savers, L.L. Bean, Bed Bath & Beyond, Payless, etc.) that squeeze every dime out of the poor.

According to many reputable sources, the only way to solve our retail crisis is to create a government-run option for the public. Any other method is laughable and intellectually dishonest. This will create “a better range of choices, make the retail market more competitive, and keep the retail companies honest.” These efficiently run stores can pop up all over the country within just 12 months using an effective method that the government has developed.

Nobody is proposing to force Americans to get their groceries from the government. All we are proposing is to create a corporation that can run unlimited losses and fund those losses by using the tax dollars paid by its competitors. If you already like where you are shopping, that is fine and nobody is going to stop you.

Do you duty as an American and support a fair market. Support Gov-Mart.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Glorious Food

Um, no pics because it's hard enough to get these kids to eat.

First the bad news. Ever since I saw Giatta make gnocchi on Everyday Italian, I've been dying to try it. Last week I bought some potatoes, and Monday I made the attempt. First of all, she says it only takes 20 minutes. LIES! I was rolling the stupid stuff for an hour. Second, I didn't realize that if you choose not to use it right away, perhaps putting it in a tupperware in the fridge overnight without some sort of flour coating or in a single layer. As you might guess, when I went to cook the gnocchi, the ones on top were OK and generally kept their shape, but the lower I got in the bowl, the more I had to just scoop the glorified mashed potatoes out with my hands and drop them in pieces into the water. The result: slightly gelatinous potato blobs. I had been planning to make a faux alfredo sauce using Laughing Cow swiss cheese, sour cream, and an egg yolk, so I just threw all of it into the hot semi-gnocchi, stirred until melted, voila! Really cheesy mashed potatoes. One of the kids said it tasted like mac & cheese. Not very appetizing to look at, but quite delicious. However, from now on I'll be buying the packages of gnocchi instead of making the darn thing. Way worth the three bucks.

In better news, my mother-in-law's (should that be mother's-in-law?) cherry trees are finally bearing fruit, so we got to partake in their bounty. But one gets tired of plain cherries after awhile, so I found this Baked Cherry Pudding (aka Clafouti) recipe from cdkitchens.com.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon orange zest (still good if you don't have any)
3/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup Bing cherries, halved and pitted
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment if desired

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a blender blend together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, the eggs, the milk, the vanilla, the zest, the almond extract, and the salt until the custard is just smooth.

Arrange the cherries in one layer in a buttered 3-cup gratin dish or flameproof shallow baking dish, pour the custard over them, and bake the clafouti in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is puffed and springy to the touch.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, dot it with the butter, and broil the clafouti under a preheated broiler about 3 inches from the heat for 1 minute, or until it is browned.

Pork tenderloin was a good price, so I bought 4 lb., used half for the slow cooker recipe below, and froze the other half for later.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard or country-style (regular yellow worked fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar (loved balsamic in this--I accidentally doubled it, and it was great)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

Preparation:

Wash and trim the pork and pat dry; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place pork in the slow cooker. Combine garlic, mustard, honey, brown sugar, vinegar, and thyme; pour over the pork. Turn pork to coat thoroughly. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or on HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

Remove pork to a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm. Pour the juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until reduced by about one-third. Combine the cornstarch and cold water; whisk into the reduced juices and cook for 1 minute longer. Serve pork sliced with the thickened juices.

Enjoy. And wish me luck getting the oldest boy to eat more than two bites of everything I make for dinner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The News You Didn't See, In Brief

Here are a few snippets I found interesting in the last few weeks. Click on the number for each article.

1) This is a pretty ridiculous article in Newsweek: "Is Obama More Catholic than the Pope? Without a Doubt - Why Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does." Maybe the Kennedys really do believe "Unit Corps God Country" (remember A Few Good Men?) with a few substitutions. Like... substitute self for unit and party for corps.

2) "When you look at the increase in spending per capita, health care spending per person rises by 350 percent, vet spending per dog rises by 335 percent, and vet spending per cat rises by 340 percent. ... [One commenter] wondered about the aging of America's pet population and whether illegal pet immigration might remedy the associated fiscal problems."

3) Here's some good advice: "Want to Keep your Wallet? Carry a Baby Picture?" In the study, wallets having a baby picture were returned far more often than the other categories with a 90% return rate. HT: Cowen.

4) "What tells you more about the Sotomayor nomination, all of the chatter and debate in the MSM over her "controversial" remarks or the single number from intrade: bids at 98,5, i.e. an estimated probability of confirmation of 98.5% (as of July 14, 11:12 pm EST)?"
Intrade is a fun tool to watch. You can buy an option for "Sotomayor confirmed" for 98.5 cents, and if it happens you get a dollar. I think Alex Tabarrok is saying that the Sotomayor confirmation hearing is big because there is nothing else to report on right now. I guess the alternative news to report would be, "This just in. Michael Jackson is still dead."

5) Could you sell civilization to a caveman? According to the book Spent, cavemen would choose to stay in their primitive world rather than live in modern society. However, I like Kaplan's critical book review: "The salesman should offer the cavemen a few leading questions: "Do you ever get bored of hunting and gathering? Fed up with meddlesome relatives? Well, civilization gives you a choice!" ... Economists may need to raise our social intelligence, but even we know how to sell heat to Eskimos."

I'm Back

After my pilgrimage of non-blogging, I have returned.

This post will mostly contain a recurring thought I've had over the last few weeks. But, first, a trivia question. Who said this?

"The most important distinction in this campaign is that I represent real hope for change, a departure from trickle-down economics, a departure from tax and spend economics, to invest in growth. But before I can do that, I must challenge the American people to change, and they must decide. .... You've had your chance and it didn't work. It's time to change. I want to bring that change to the American people. But we must all decide first we have the courage to change for hope and a better tomorrow."

I recently took a stroll through some old presidential debate transcripts and I learned a few things that I hadn't recognized before. First, Bill Clinton (quote above) could mop the floor with Pres. Obama in a debate. When Pres. Obama is not on script he is about average compared to past presidential contenders, while Clinton ranks about an A++. I highly recommend reading some of the '92 and '96 debates. Clinton was probably the best unscripted speaker in the last few decades.

It seems that the key in these debates is to present a position in such a way that the majority can identify with it (whether the speaker actually agrees with what he is saying or not), even if in practice people will hate it and disagree with you. Although I found some great examples, one of the good recent ones was in the first Obama/McCain debate.

"WARREN: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view? SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

What is interesting is that that is my position as well. I'm not exactly sure when that occurs. The answer to that question is above my pay grade. Now, let's put his answer into practice. Let's say there are only two possibilities, life begins at conception and life begins at birth. Also, let's say you are unsure (perfect ignorance) when life begins, so you assign an equal probability to each (.5). Now work out the math:

probability that life begins at conception * number of abortions = number of murders
.5 * 40,000,000 abortions = 20,000,000 murders

Those who are truly unsure when life begins are almost necessarily pro-life (either that or they just like killing). For those who say they are unsure but are still in favor of it, I see only a few possibilities. First, he is pure evil and likes killing people (despite what a few people on the internet say, I don't think this is true). Second, he is disingenuous and is lying about his position (possible...). Third, he is apathetic and really has no position, so he says whatever people want to hear. Given his background on abortion, I believe this is most likely. He takes the position of the party but doesn't stand as a public advocate of it.

The point of this is that he gave the same answer I would give, yet he takes the opposite action I would take (executive order in the first week of office). There's no real word for this that I know of. Does fabricating consent work?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

About two weeks ago, Jake and I went over to his old rental house to do a little yardwork. Apparently, Salt Lake City isn't so happy when Russian thistles in the backyard are over seven feet tall. For those of you happily unacquainted with these miserable weeds, let me give you a little taste.Weed eaters don't work against them at just about any height. Jake had to pull Karate Kid-style "sweep the leg" against them. Also, the entire backyard was taken over by morning glory and miscellaneous weeds. This is what we used to mow.
We should have used something I saw on an episode of Saturday Night Live from 1995 called "The Lawn Destroyer: for when you just don't care anymore." But of course, SNL is really good at keeping images and video off the web. So this joke pretty much fell flat. Sorry about that.

ADDENDUM BY JAKE: This is more like it:



The point is that four or five hours later, the yard was free of morning glory and most weeds, the thistles were knocked down, and our shoes were bright green. Yay for hard labor!