Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Christmas!

Hey, imaginary readers! I meant to put up a holiday post, and then I was having a good time with my family and I forgot. So here's a song from me and Hugh to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, too.

Sinifesela Ukhisimusi Omuhle Nonyaka Omusha Onempumelelo!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ultimate links of 2009

And by ultimate, I mean the last ones I am going to post this year. Yatta!

* After the scary underwear attack of the pantybomber, airlines are apparently considering banning the use of laptop computers during flight. So I'm going to start bringing my desktop machine.

* Apparently, Star Trek appeals to liberals, and Star Wars appeals to conservatives. Of course, I proved this with a survey a dozen years ago as an undergrad, back before the data was muddied by the prequels.

* Plants want to live, and try to avoid being eaten. If you're a vegetarian for ethical reasons, how do you feel about that?

* An Arizona girl with no arms can fly a plane. In comparison, I have two arms and change, and I can barely drive a car.

* A computer doesn't work like your brain. This might mean we are even farther from artificial intelligence than we think.

* Yay America! Yay flag!

* This one is really interesting. This guy has written a series of very short science fiction stories, each one centered around a different element from the periodic table. For example, the Hydrogen story is about zeppelins. Awesome!

* And finally, a blog that tracks funny acronyms.



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just a bunch of stuff

So, it's Thanksgiving. RB is at her sister's in Atlanta (the other sister, not the one who wanted my chili recipe). And I am trying not to think about all the pie in the fridge. So, basically, I'm bored and grouchy.

Time for a link-fest!

* Did you know that Africa + South America = Dinosaur? Because it does.

* Did you know that European children are just as stupid as American children? Because they are.

* Lots of straight lines on maps are crooked, sometimes because the surveyors were drunk.

* Iraqis are relying on high-tech dowsing rods to detect bombs at security checkpoints.

* Good news for RB: Catching up on lost sleep works, according to a new study.

* My friend Marc is in a BBC documentary you can listen to online. I myself was once interviewed by the campus newspaper. Well, not the official campus newspaper, just something some students were putting out. But, you know, it was still a big deal.

* New favorite blog to waste fifteen minutes with: Asian Poses, documenting the ways Asians (particularly Japanese and Koreans) pose when someone points a camera at them.

* Aliens do not love synthesizer music as much as you have been led to believe.

* Do you feel like eating fast food, but you're not sure where to go? Wonder no longer!

* Speaking of food, a farmer speaks up on Thanksgiving about the miracle that is modern agriculture. (Thank you!)

* Apparently, pink is the new black. (Yes, I know. Lazy hack joke. But it's late.)

It's over!!!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The underground music scene

Lately the musicians who play for tips in the Davis Square T stop have been playing some really beautiful music. This morning, a guy on guitar wans playing something that sounded a great deal like Come Unto Jesus. I had to get on the train before I had a chance to talk to him, but certainly a few bars were the same.

And last week, there was a guy playing Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, on the trumpet. Very cool! I actually got a chance to talk to him for a minute, and mentioned that I knew the guy that had arranged the piece.

I was referring to Mack Wilberg, because what he was playing sounded just like the trumpet part in the choral arrangement I had sung in Men's Chorus. But he had never heard of Mack Wilberg, and mentioned another composer who had arranged the entire piece just for solo trumpet. I've been trying to remember the name for the last week, but I can't, and I'd really like to hear more than I got from a hurried morning waiting for the subway.

So I think I'm looking for a CD of brass setting of hymns. Any ideas, imaginary readers?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I know I should have started thinking about this weeks ago, but I don't know what to be for Halloween. Ideally, it would cost less than twenty dollars, be super original and fun, and work as half of a couple costume. But two out of three ain't bad.

I hunted around this morning for a Captain Hammer t-shirt, but all the official ones my size are sold out. And.. you know... I want to do an official one if I'm going to do this.



PS - Going as one of the groupies is still an option. But I don't like that t-shirt as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recipe fun time

My sweetheart-- let's call her Rainbow Brite-- had her sister in town last week, so we did a little cooking. RB's sister asked me what was my favorite thing to cook, and I said chili. It's a true American art form, like blues, barbecue, and silly t-shirts.

She said that she would like to try my chili, so I cooked some up on Saturday night and we enjoyed it with quesadillas. She then asked for a recipe, which I sent her by email. Here's the report:

Just ate dinner. Jeremy said, "This is easily the best chili you've ever made." :)


And as I rejoiced in having spread my meaty gospel, my thoughts turned (like Lehi) to my loved ones. Since this is the first time I've written the recipe down in several years, I thought I should share it with you, my imaginary readers. It's not the only way I make it, but it's probably the easiest version. Enjoy!

House of Payne Quick and Easy Chili


2-3 pounds lean (90% or better) ground beef
1 pound pork sausage (bulk sausage, not links or patties)
1-2 medium sweet onions, chopped smallish
2-3 cans (15 oz.) beans (pinto, black, or small red)
1 can (15 oz.)stewed tomatoes (or diced)
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped fine
1/4 cup brown sugar (or more if you like)

Spices: salt, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg,
cayenne (optional), cilantro (optional), oregano (optional).

Brown the pork sausage in a large pot. Do not drain. Add the beef and brown. Turn the heat down to medium-hot and keep it there. Shake on salt and pepper until it tastes good. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic. Shake on chili powder until it's pretty much all red. And add a little cayenne if you want-- about a half a teaspoon, I think.

(You can also do this using stew beef. Just substitute it for ground beef, follow all the above steps, and then put it in a crock pot and cook it for about 6 hours or until it completely falls apart. Then proceed with the recipe as follows.)

Add beans (no need to drain them, but you can if you like). Add cumin to taste-- maybe like a teaspoon or a half a teaspoon. Stir in the brown sugar. Add a tiny, tiny pinch of cinammon, and an equal amount of nutmeg. You don't need hardly any. Stir in tomatoes. Add a can of water or two if you want it thinner. And again, salt to taste. (Wait until it's almost done before you add the oregano and cilantro-- and don't use too much.)

Cook until hot and then serve with a sharp cheddar or some real sour cream. (You can also just turn it down to simmer for another half hour or an hour. This helps the flavors marry, but it's not essential if you don't have a lot of time.)

It takes about 20-30 minutes start to finish. Good luck, and bon appetit!

You're welcome! (And let me know how it turns out!)


Friday, October 09, 2009

Barack's Nobel Intentions

So apparently everyone in the Norwegian Parliament is in love with Barack Obama. The last sitting US President to get the Nobel Peace Prize was Woodrow Wilson. Let's compare their achievements.

Wilson ended the First World War (in which more than 15 million had been killed and more than 70 million had been mobilized) by sending US troops to break the stalemate and force the Germans to sue for peace. (Most historians now agree that Germany would not have been defeated without the US joining the war.) While the war was still being fought, Wilson drew up a 14 point plan for peace to make sure such wars would never happen again. After the war, he went to Versailles to negotiate the peace treaty. Unlike the other participants, he negotiated not to gain advantage for his country but to implement his plan for peace for all the world. And he founded the League of Nations, a predecessor to the United Nations. All of this had been accomplished when he was awarded the Nobel.

Barack Obama has given several speeches which were well received, some of which were in foreign countries. He has promised to decrease the number of American troops involved in the war in Iraq, and has been publicly considering doing the same in Afghanistan. He has also talked about ending the practice of indefinitely detaining enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, although he has acknowledged that many of them will have to be indefinitely detained somewhere else. In other words, the US has not really been acting more peaceful.

He has also managed to wheedle a new set of promises out of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, etc., which greatly resemble the previous set of promises given to Bush. But there is so far no sign that the behavior of any of these countries has changed in any substantive way. In other words, he has not persuaded any other country to behave more peacefully, either.

So, seriously Norway-- what the hell?


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Band Names Challenge

Read this Mark Steyn blog post, and pick out the best band name. My pick is Tripedal Catnappers, so just try to beat that if you can.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From my new favorite comic

She may be Canadian, but this woman speaks the truth!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kitchen apes

So science has proven that cooking is what makes us human. Maybe that explains my love for fire. And food.

This study also says that the institution of marriage is all about meals, and that sex is incidental. Personally, I hope mine will have a little of both.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 5: Closing the Ring

In the summer of 2008 I had a Ron Paul nut subletting in my apartment, and he was convinced that the sky was falling. He kept making these dire predictions, but every time I tried to nail him down on specifics, he would skitter away. In the fashion of 9/11 Troofers and other conspiracy-mongering morons, he would say that he was just 'asking questions.'

So one day he was blathering on again about how shadowy, evil forces were manipulating the global financial system, which would very soon experience a catastrophe of biblical proportions. The stock market would collapse, he said, and even paper money would become worthless. And then he made a specific, empirically testable prediction. He said that in the next year (or two), the price of gold would rise and stock prices would fall such that the numbers for the price of an ounce of gold in dollars and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would meet (probably at around 3,000).

So I made him a wager. The gap between the price of gold and the Dow Jones was then about ten thousand. If it were to close to half that distance in the next year or so, then I would admit that his prediction seemed to be coming true and would make a large donation to Ron Paul. For his part, he said that if this did not come true, he would not donate to Ron Paul.

(Yes, he bet nothing. It was a cowardly dodge. But in his defense, he's seen that none of his predictions of doom ever come to pass. He has accordingly concluded that the Secret Masters are manipulating events to make him and Dr. Paul look foolish. Also, he has no money to bet, because even though he understands the financial system on levels I never will, his investments never turn out and he is always poor. Again, those darn Secret Masters.)

September 2009 was the deadline, and here we are. And what a trip it has been! I'll admit, there were some moments where I genuinely wondered if this blind squirrel had managed to stumble across an acorn. But then our Magical Unicorn Rider-in-Chief saved America or something and the economy staggered to its feet.

So here are the numbers for the last three months:

July 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 8,915.94 points
* Price of Gold = $947.75
* Difference = 7,968.19

August 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 9,505.96 points
* Price of Gold = $940.50
* Difference = 8,565.46

September 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 9,778.86 points
* Price of Gold = $997.00
* Difference = 8,781.86

And the winner is: Me! In the last fifteen months, the price of gold has not substantially risen and the stock market (though it had problems far larger than what I would have expected) has demonstrated amazing resilience. Hooray for capitalism! Hooray for optimism! Hooray for America!

And boo for crazy old Ron Paul and all his nutty followers that stocked up on gold and guns and apocalypse repellent.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

A year of movies

Okay, I'm tired of having this dumb post about a video game at the top of my blog. So how about we talk about movies? It's been almost a year since I posted my first set of reviews. And I know that you, my imaginary readers, have been eagerly anticipating the sequel-- which, here it is!

Fall 2008 movie reviews

* * Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist : I love George Michael, but this movie was mostly pretty vapid. I guess I just could not relate to the protagonists, rich teenagers in New York City who are immersed in the indie music scene. It just seemed ridiculous to me; even the music was a mixed bag.

* * Twilight : One day, Robert Pattinson will bite me and I will become a glittery fey vampire who sparkles in the sunlight. Until then, I will have to watch this movie and dream. The best part of the experience was that my date and I were alone in the theater with, like, a whole middle school worth of girls, who oohed and ahhed and giggled their way through the whole film. Now I know what it feels like inside the heart of a thirteen year old girl.

* * Quantum of Solace : Kaboom! Explosions! Punching! Cars! Solace! Oil! Girls! Blammo! Whatever!

2009 movie reviews

* * * * Coraline : Stop-motion animation about a little girl who discovers a doorway into a world of magic and spookiness. Like a Tim Burton movie, but cuter. Some of the visuals were just unbelievable. See this on the big screen if you can.

* * * * Doubt : The four principal actors were all nominated for Oscars, and for good reason. It's a great, great movie-- especially because there's no big courtroom scene where the evil-doer is confronted with the facts. In fact, it's not even completely obvious who did wrong. The story is left ambiguous. Fascinating.

* * * Taken : Want to see Liam Neeson punch every sleazebag gangster in Europe in the throat? I know I did! Wish he could have spared one for James Bond.

* Terminator Salvation : This film made me long for the the careful realism of James Cameron's original, not to mention the understated, subtle performance of Arnold Schwartzenegger. Sorry, Batman.

* * * * * Up : Thank you, Pixar, for the best movie I have seen this year.

* * * Star Trek : It's a new flavor of Trek, but I like it. I thought New Kirk = New Coke, but the final scene convinced me I was wrong. Plus, Simon Pegg as Scotty was hilarious.

* * * * (500) Days of Summer : I liked this movie a lot. I've been thinking about a lot of these same questions-- what is love, how do I know when I've found the right woman for me, etc.-- and so I really identified with the protagonist. Plus, great music. (Sorry, George Michael.)

* * * * Julie & Julia I almost want to give this five stars, just for the Julia parts of the movie. But the Julie parts of the movie are clearly three-star material. But go see this just for Meryl Streep. Genius! This is the kind of love story we need more of. The kind with food is what I mean.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Does the PhD cause the stupid, or is it the other way around?

Sometimes I wonder.

So, check this out. Read this article, and see if you buy into the narrative. Seriously, read it and come back. I'll wait.

So, here's how I see it: This is not a story about some poor professor of "media" at Loyola being mistreated. This is a story about a tool who mistreated everyone else.

Think about it. In the game, players are divided into heroes and villains, and encouraged to fight each other. But why? These people have no real grievances with each other. It's a human tendency to see people outside our group as adversaries, but that's not a good tendency. It's bad. I'm not trying to sound like a hippie here, but this tendency is one of the roots of many human problems: bullying, racism, war, etc.

To their great credit, the players had risen above the original constraints of the game to create a truly novel online environment, where superheroes and villains interacted peacefully and even worked together. Instead of allowing themselves to be mindlessly railroaded into an artificial competition, they had created their own, cooperative game experience. Pretty cool, right? To my mind, any time order and cooperation spontaneously arise out of chaos and conflict, that's a great accomplishment, and one that we should try to learn from.

But instead, along comes this tool. Like any other stupid hater, he gives everyone grief and wrecks their fun. He destroyed the community build by these other players, and says it was an experiment to see how they would react. Well, civilization depends on human beings seeking to build order. If someone came to his house and started wrecking up the place, he might react like the people in this game did. Because order is precious, and all of us protect our little pockets of civilization ferociously.

This guy is a dirtbag. And the icing on the cake is that he had to write an article and get it published in an academic journal whose only purpose is to childishly shout into the void, "I'm not a tool, you're a tool!" Idiot. He deserves all the derision that has been heaped on him.

And if any man behave likewise, let him be anathema. For he is TEH SUXXOR. So let it be written, so let it be done.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 4: The Hinge of Fate

Faithful imaginary readers will recall that last summer I made a bet with a Ron Paul nut. He predicted that the Dow Jones and the price of gold would converge in the next year or two. I told him that if the gap between these numbers closed half the distance (from 10,000 to 5,000) before September 2009, I would make a donation to Ron Paul's campaign.

For the first two months, the gap remained unchanged. Then in October of last year, it narrowed rapidly as the stock market collapsed. For the next six months or so, the gap flirted with 6,000-- a mere thousand from the magic number.

Happily, though, the stock market began to recover in the Spring, and the price of gold has remained pretty stable. So here's the data for the last three months:

April 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 7,969.56 points
* Price of Gold = $888.75
* Difference = 7,080.81

May 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 8,292.13 points
* Price of Gold = $937.50
* Difference = 7,354.63

June 22, 2009 (no data for 6/21)
* Dow Jones = 8,339.01 points
* Price of Gold = $919.25
* Difference = 7,419.76

For the last few months, the gap has been averaging just under 7,500, which is about halfway between the starting line and the victory line for my Ron Paul-loving friend. It's not as good as I would like, but it's way better than 6,000. And the bet is over in September, so there's not much time left for Ron Paul's doom to destroy us all. Hooray!

We seem to have turned an important corner. On April 2nd, the numbers were over the line predicted by the Ron-Paul-nut-theory for the first time since October. It was as if the hinge of fate had swung. And they've stayed over the line every day but one (April 7th). Awesome!

Thank you, American economy. Thank you for justifying my faith in you. Now please don't let me down, okay?


(Update 6/29 : Will someone please tell the reverend Dr. Paul that refusing to condemn vicious anti-democratic thuggery is objectively pro-fascist? Thanks!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Romney Award


Today, we give the first annual Mitt Romney Honorary Suspected Arsonist Award. This prestigious award goes to blogs that are so hot, so wicked awesome, that you might wonder if they set your church on fire.

The 2009 award goes to a group blog, IMAO. We recognize IMAO today for their lifetime of achievements, including the work they have done to expose America's enemies: wimps, puppy eaters, and crazy old men. But IMAO's most important work has simply been to help us better understand the world in which we live.

Congratulations, Frank J. and company. And thank you.


PS - Yes, my church burned last month. :(

PPS - No, no arson. Just old wiring in the attic.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Future self and me

So I got to teach the lesson at FHE this Monday, and I am going to post it for you, my imaginary readers. Why? Because I like you.

But more importantly, there are a LOT of things in this lesson that I still need to learn. Curse my stupidity!

So, anyway, here it is. Enjoy!


1. The shadow of the future
• I recently saw a couple of movies about people who got to see the future. (Inmate-turned-cyborg Marcus Wright in Terminator Salvation and curmudgeonly Carl Fredricksen from Up.)
• DISCUSS : What do you think the future is going to be like?

• It’s always fun to hear people’s predictions about the future. I like to read science fiction from the cold war and even earlier, because it’s funny to see how much people got wrong. Things never turn out how you expect, which is something that the characters in these movies learned.
• DISCUSS : Has your future turned out like you expected, or have their been surprises?
• DISCUSS : If you could go back in time and tell yourself how to prepare for the future, what would you tell yourself?

2. The power of acting early
• Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying that “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” He’s probably not the source of the quote, but I still think the idea is interesting.

• DISCUSS : What does it mean to say that “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe?”
• Well, let’s say I want to have a million dollars in my retirement account by age 65.
• If I start right now, and put away the same amount every year, I would only have to put in a little over $270,000. Compound interest makes up the rest of the million.
• If I wait ten years to start, I would have to put in almost an extra two hundred thousand dollars.
• So the earlier you start, the less you have to put in to get the same result.

• God told Joseph Smith: “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” (D/C 29:34) Is there some spiritual principle underlying this observation about compound interest?
• Making a good choice now will give you better results than waiting to make the same good choice later.

• This is not true for every part of your life, or for every kind of reward.
• Consider the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), in which master of the vineyard hires each laborer for the same amount, even though he finds some of them in the morning and they work all day, and some of them he finds at the end of the day and they work just a single hour.
• It doesn’t matter how old you are when you make the baptismal covenant. Everyone who is baptized gets the same deal.

• But, there clearly are areas of life where this principle does work, where the earlier you make a good choice, the better result you get in the end.
• DISCUSS : Where can you make this principle work for you?
• finance, as we have discussed
• fitness, weight loss
• any learned skill: athletics, arts, etc.
• the language of the spirit
• knowledge, especially spiritual knowledge
• “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D/C 130:18-19)
• All kinds of human relationships grow stronger, deeper, as you share time together. Better to start early than late.

3. Fight the future!
• We are all time travelers. We are all moving forward into the future. And all of us need to prepare now for the challenges that we will face later.
• Amulek told the Zoramites: “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)
• God has promised that he will reward you immediately for making good choices. So why wait? The earlier you make a good choice, the happier you will be.

• Remember, you’re not just a tourist, traveling to a future that already exists. You are building the future, with every choice you make every minute of the day. So think about what your future self would tell you. Don’t put off your good choices. Act now, and change your future.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This week's weird sex story, brought to you by Japan

It's actually safe to read. It's about men who call themselves herbivores, because they're more interested in gardening and other solitary, passive pursuits than the competitive worlds of business and dating. According to some estimates in this story, up to three-quarters of Japanese men in their twenties and thirties consider themselves to be 'herbivores.'

I go to a ward (Mormon congregation) out here that is mostly composed of single people in their twenties and thirties. I wonder how many of my brethren would identify with the herbivore lifestyle in some way? And I wonder what the girls would say about how many of us boys are herbivores? Then again, maybe now is not a fair time to ask this question, since we had a big discussion in church this last Sunday about how boys need to be more aggressive and active in dating. So we've kind of primed the pump, as it were. Ahem.

Anyway, just for the sake of clarity, although I applaud many of the herbivores' ideals (quiet reflection, opposition to a consumerist culture, love of nature, etc.), I could never fully identify with a movement whose name suggests abstinence from eating meat. But if there was a group that abandoned competitive pursuits in favor of barbecue, I would be sorely tempted. Maybe we could be the Meat-loving Monks?

Or maybe not.


(UPDATE 6/20 : Looks like the whole movement is a little fruity. So, yeah, I'm definitely out.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

One cannot trust anybody these days

See, this is why I always make my students hand in a paper copy in addition to an electronic copy. Lousy sneaks...


Thursday, June 11, 2009

More fanboy evangelism

Warbreaker is out. And my autographed copy should be arriving in the mail today or tomorrow.

If you haven't read a Brandon Sanderson novel, give this one a try. In addition to the hardcover which just got published this week, he also has a free version available on his website. So, what do you have to lose?

And remember, I'm not only the president of the Brandon Sanderson fanboy club-- I'm also a client.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mad science news of the week

Scientists have discovered a set of genes associated with "tameness" in animals. They hope that their research will allow breeders to "pass specific genes from one generation to the next as a way to produce tame animals."

Sounds like a great idea! Reminds me of this drug-- the Pax. "It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression." And it worked for 99.9% of the test population. I can only hope this new experiment works as well for critters.

Or maybe we could try it the other way, and remove the tame gene from currently domesticated animals. Then the cows can see sky, and remember what they are.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Real American Hero

So, some Hollywood idiots have decided to ruin another beloved treasure of my childhood. Some people will be tempted to see it, even though they know better. They have only my contempt.

But I expect better of you, my imaginary readers. You know where I stand on this contemptible betrayal of a cherished American icon, and I hope I can count on you to stand with me.

In the good news department, I am pleased to announce that IDW Publishing is re-releasing the classic G.I. Joe comic books from the 1980s as trade paperbacks. If you have a jones for G.I. Joe, I highly recommend these books. (Especially good is volume 3, which has issue 21, the acclaimed and groundbreaking "silent issue." It's the first appearance of Storm Shadow. So awesome...)

Yo Joe!


Friday, May 08, 2009

Indian summer

Tonight one of my roommates invited some of our friends over and cooked Indian food. Yum! Everything turned out really well, but I was especially proud of the mint chutney I made. So I thought I might share the recipe.

Basically, all you do is take a bunch of herbs and stuff and chop it up in the blender. Here are the ingredients I used:

half a bunch of fresh cilantro, minus stems
a 3 oz package of fresh mint (about half as much as the cilantro)
one smallish onion
one green pepper (or two jalapeno peppers) including seeds, etc.
four cloves of garlic
a teaspoon of sugar
salt to taste
several dashes of cumin
a little canola oil (like one or two tablespoons, probably)
maybe a cup of water

I just chopped all these things up and then put them in the blender until it was smooth. Delicious! I was very pleased with how it turned out. It was as good as any of the mint chutneys I've had at Indian or Afghan restaurants.

The only problem is that this makes a LOT of chutney. Like five cups. And it doesn't keep very long. So I'm going to have it on my corn flakes tomorrow.

Super yum!


(PS - I wanted to try this with avocado. I think it might make an interesting dip. But that's for next time.)

[UPDATE 5/12 : Leftover mint chutney is great with pork chops and grilled chicken. Not bad with pasta.]

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Look, Ma! No hands!

I don't know what that title means, but I have been asked to speak for ten minutes in church this Sunday. So, what would you, my imaginary readers, want to hear someone say on Mother's Day? (And what would you not want to hear?)

Let the comments flow like hot, hot tears.


(UPDATE: My congregation is composed of single people age 25-40. So there won't be many actual mothers in the audience.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm sorry, internet

You know I didn't mean those things I said. After all, you've given me so much. How could I stay mad at you?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Google is ruining everything!

The old internet is dying, and it is all Google's fault-- somehow.

When I first returned from my mission in 1894, I got a free CD in the mail and installed America Online on the computer that had been handed down from my father to my sister to me. (Its hard drive held less than 100 MB.)

I put up my first personal web page there on AOL, and when I left I exported my web page to Geocities. A few years down the road, Yahoo purchased Geocities, and that made me happy because I thought Yahoo was a company with staying power.

Then I stopped updating my webpage. And I guess everyone else did, too. And now Yahoo is dropping the axe. In a few months, Geocities will be dead. It's sad. But I guess the internet changes.

Even worse, Yahoo killed Launchast a few months ago. I'd been using that site for almost ten years, and had rated tens of thousands of songs on the way to building the most awesome personal internet radio station in existence. Now it's all gone.

Thanks a lot, internet.


PS - Enjoy this before Yahoo buys it and kills it, too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poor Old Hugo Chavez

President Obama has been making a lot of diplomatic gestures aimed at improving US relations with other countries, including rogue states like Cuba and Iran, and rogue-ish states like Venezuela and Russia. Trying to improve foreign relations is a good goal, and of course to do this will involve lots of high-level talks between representatives of our government and their governments.

Obama wants to do more than improve intergovernmental cooperation, though. He wants to conduct public diplomacy, to speak to foreign publics directly and try to improve their feelings about America. That's also a fine goal.

But Obama needs to remember one important thing: all heads of state represent their governments, but not all heads of state represent their people. This is particularly important to remember when you are feeling apologetic. Because dictators like Hugo Chavez do not represent the oppressed. They are oppressors.

Consider Cuba, where the case is even clearer. Many people believe that President Obama will relax the half-century-old US embargo on trade with Cuba. When he does so, it would fit with his foreign policy style to apologize for the suffering that the embargo has caused in Cuba. Okay, but who can he apologize to? Not Castro. Because Castro does not represent the suffering Cuban people. He is the chief cause of the suffering of the Cuban people. He is an oppressor.

Obama needs to remember as he goes around the world that some of the smiling men who shake his hand are vicious thugs who have murdered their political rivals, chased them out of the country, or thrown them in jail. It's the fate that lots of loony lefties kept thinking was right around the corner for them during the Bush years. Except that Bush was not a dictator. He didn't cancel the elections. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore and all the other paranoid moonbats spent the Bush years on CNN, not in jail.

But in Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, etc., the people who speak up against the oppressors really are in jail. So as President Obama travels around the world, I just wish he would ask himself one question before he shakes anyone's hand: "How will this look to the people in the camps?"


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Return of the right-wing terrorists

So the Department of Homeland Security has published a report warning that the US might see increasing numbers of right-wing terrorists in the next few years.

Here's the key paragraph:

The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.

I have two responses.

1) Duh. Of course.

2) No, this doesn't mean that Obama thinks all Republicans are terrorists.

Any questions?


PS - Read the report. It's only like seven pages long. And it's a little bit interesting, even for non-specialists.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unfortunately true

Interesting thoughts on habits from 4-Block World. Share and enjoy.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some stuff I read about

Nerd news:

* Some guy rates movie trilogies. He's mostly right, although totally wrong about Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

* The SciFi channel is changing its name to SyFy. John Scalzi has even better reasons for thinking this is stupid than I do.

* Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, has passed away. Nerds, pour out a Mountain Dew for a fallen brother.

* The last book in the Wheel of Time series is going to be released in three volumes, with the first being released this November. Hooray!

Wastes of time:
* Ever wonder what anagrams could be made from your name? Wonder no longer! My favorites: Jean Navy Did Hop, A Hand-Jived Pony, Vend Any Jihad Op.

* Robot Chicken video clips from Adult Swim. Awesome!

Crazy foreigners:

* Japanese people are paying money to hang out with cats. Oddly enough, this insane new fad from Japan appears to have nothing to do with sex.

* French people who are afraid of getting fired lock up their bosses until they get what they demand. Apparently, kidnapping is not a crime over there. (Although I would advise French people to beware of Liam Neeson.)

* Swedes + Guidos = Swedos!

* Yet more proof that Brazilian prisons are the world's crappiest. Or that Brazilian prisoners are the world's awesomest.


BONUS: Cry havoc and unleash the scooters of war!


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Super freaky

I just learned that Richard Alpert and Batmanuel were played by the same guy. That's freaky.

You got one freakier than that?


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Adventures in cooking

So tonight the missionaries came over for dinner. I cooked, and thought I might share with you, my imaginary readers, what worked and what didn't.

This was the menu: Stir-fried chicken with vegetables, rice, a green salad, and a fruit salad. Also, Mr. Potter went down to Lyndells and picked up some apple tarts, which were pretty good.

The chicken was the weakest link, I think. I cut the raw chicken into bite-sized bits and let it sit in a marinade for twenty or thirty minutes. (I got the marinade recipe from this cooking magazine my brother subscribed me to for Christmas.) This was mistake number one. I should have let it marinate for longer-- overnight, maybe? The chicken was not bad, but I think it would have been better if I had let it soak in more flavor.

Anyway, after marinating, I threw the chicken into a skillet and cooked it. Then I added a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables. This was the second mistake. Fresh vegetables are always better; these were mushy. Worse, adding so many veggies to the dish diluted the spices and made it all bland.

The third mistake is that I didn't have any corn starch to thicken the sauce. So, like I said, this dish was the weak link. But it was still okay.

The salads were better. For the green salad, I started with a recipe for Asian carrot slaw, which I had made on Tuesday and really enjoyed. I used three green onions, but only one carrot, and added cabbage and lettuce. It was quite good, but could have been even better if I had waited until the last minute to toss it with the dressing. (Also, I tried toasting the sesame seeds before sprinkling them on. I didn't notice any difference, so I think that was probably a waste of time.)

Last, I did a very basic fruit salad. I chopped up two oranges and one apple, and tossed them with some peanuts and craisins. That's it. No dressing or anything. But very good. I think that might be the first time I've ever made a fruit salad, but it was a successful experiment. Very tasty, and it went well with the other dishes.

Actually, I think everything went relatively well together, and that is probably the thing I am happiest about. I can usually get a single dish to taste good, but I have trouble getting a whole meal to work. But this time I think the meal was pretty well coordinated. And next time I have some ideas that might make it even better.

And of course if you have any ideas, put me some knowledge in the comments.

Yay food!


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 3: The Grand Alliance

It is increasingly clear that Ron Paul and Barack Obama have entered into a grand alliance. President Obama has, of course, learned of my promise to donate to Ron Paul's campaign if the gap between the Dow and the price of gold closes to 5000 by September of this year. And so to benefit his ally, Ron Paul, he is now deliberately wrecking the economy. There can be no other explanation.

And their diabolical plan is working. Since we last checked in, the actual gap between the Dow and the price of gold has been even smaller (and closing faster) than my Ron Paul nut expected. In other words, my prediction of economic stability has been wrong and his prediction of economic catastrophe has been not just on track, but ahead of the curve.

In my defense, Ron Paul and his nutty disciples have been prophesying a meltdown like this one for decades, and they've always been wrong before. Without his ally in the White House, he would be wrong again this year. But as anyone can see, Obama is determined to make Ron Paul's direst doomsayings come true. Grrr!

Anyway, here are the numbers. (A reminder for my imaginary readers: The difference was more than 10,000 in July of 2008, and my friend the Ron Paul-bot predicted that this would be halved by September of 2009. So the magic number is 5,000.)

January 21, 2009
* Dow Jones = 8,228.10 points
* Price of Gold = $849.25
* Difference = 7,378.85

February 20, 2009 (no data for 2/21)
* Dow Jones = 7,365.67 points
* Price of Gold = $989.00
* Difference = 6,376.67

March 20, 2009 (no data for 3/21)
* Dow Jones = 7,278.38 points
* Price of Gold = $954.00
* Difference = 6,324.38

If things don't turn up in the next few months, then Ron Paul and his grand allies in Washington will have won, and I will have to make a donation. Curses!

Come on, Obama! Give me some of that hope and change, man.

And a unicorn!


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lost and found

February has been a really good month for me, and I thought today might be the day to try to recover some lost data. See, my laptop was stolen last month, which wouldn't have been so bad if I had been better about backing up my data-- but I haven't been.

I have an external hard drive, and I used to use it to back up my stuff. But last summer, I transferred all the backups back to my laptop so my brothers could use it to transfer files. I always meant to do another backup, but I didn't. And although I started moving my old backups back to the external hard drive, I never finished. Long story short, I lost a lot: all my dissertation work, all my BYU teaching stuff, years of photos, letters, journals, personal records, fiction writing, etc.

It's sucky, but I'm dealing. I mean, I wish I hadn't lost it, and I pray every day that a miracle would happen and I would get my laptop back. Actually, I pray that I will get my bag back, because it also had my scriptures in it, which I have had since my mission. Also a scarf and hat that my mom knitted for me for Christmas. January was a real loser month for me. But it's okay. I've rebooted my dissertation with a new topic, and it's rising like a phoenix from the ashes. Awesome!

So anyway, today I downloaded four or five free data recovery programs and went through the external hard drive with a fine-toothed comb. It was a lot of work, and it didn't go quickly, but I got some of my stuff back and that felt great. Mostly it was old pictures, but but I also got some dissertation notes and some records. So it's not like the stuff itself was super-awesome, but it just felt so sweet to get something back after all that loss.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

A final lesson

I don't want to be one of those guys who can't stop talking about his last relationship, but it's only been a month since the breakup. So I think I'm still in the window. And I do have something I've been thinking about for the last few days. So as a follow-on to my previous post, I'm going to share a fourth and final lesson that I have learned from contemplating my relationship with "Jem."

4: I regret not trying much more than not succeeding. This is true for all parts of my life. When I give something my best effort, I can always feel good about having tried, even if I fail in the end. And when I don't put in the effort, I always regret it.

Right after Jem broke up with me, I looked back for missed opportunities-- chances to save the relationship that I had blown. And I couldn't see any. But in the last week, I have seen one: the night she officially broke up with me.

It had been a week and a half since she had left my home to go back to her home, and in that time all our attempts at conversation had been brief and unpleasant. I knew that something was wrong, but I didn't know what. My dating experience told me that I was about to be dumped, but I still hoped that we might be able to last it another few days until we were both back in Boston and could sit down and really talk. But that's not what happened.

One night she called me up, and after a few curt sentences she paused. I thought to myself, she is trying to figure out how to tell me that she wants to break up, but she can't figure out how to start. So I asked her if there was something she wanted to tell me. And she said yes, and in another few sentences she broke up with me and then we hung up.

I now think that that conversation was a missed opportunity. It was a time where I failed to try. In that long pause, I could have told her what I was feeling. I could have said that in the last few weeks I had seen that she was not happy and that something was wrong in our relationship. More importantly, I could have said that I wanted to know what she was feeling and thinking, and that I wanted to make our relationship work. Instead of seizing the opportunity to try to make things work, I prompted her to break up. It was a cowardly act.

That was my last chance, I think. And at this point, I certainly don't see any chance of us getting back together. (In fact, some time in the last few days she took me off her list of Facebook friends. So I'm officially persona non grata.) I know that, and I accept that. But in that conversation, I had a chance. I don't know how she would have reacted, and maybe it would have made no difference in the end. The choice was ultimately not in my hands. But I'm sorry that in that moment, I didn't cowboy up and do everything I could to try to win back the woman I loved. Next time I am in that situation, I am not going to chicken out. I'm going to toss the dice. Lose or win, succeed or fail, I will try.

Okay, so now I'm done posting about this. Thank you, imaginary readers, for enduring a little melodrama. We now return to our normal schedule of posting about politics and comic books.



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Schroedinger's Valentine

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I might talk about my love life. As many of you, my imaginary readers, are no doubt aware, my girlfriend of four months broke up with me about three weeks ago. I would have talked about it before, but the breakup kind of messed me up. This week we sat down and talked things through, though, and I feel a lot better now.

For those of you who have not heard this story, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version. To protect her identity, I will refer to her as "Jem." And to protect my own identity, I will refer to myself as "Snake Eyes."

We started going out in September, and very quickly were seeing each other almost every day. I was hesitant at first, but then gave in and let myself be happy. We made plans to visit each other's families over break, which I had never done before, but things were going very well, so it felt like the right call. My visit to Jem's family went very well, I thought, but when she came to meet my parents she seemed very distant. On the first day we talked a little bit about some of her concerns, but that was our last real conversation. She broke up with me a week and a half after the trip, but I knew it was over the day I drove her to the airport.

What killed our relationship? This was very hard for me to understand. Personally, I was very happy-- until January, when it became apparent to me that something was wrong. But things had been wrong for a while. That became clear in this week's little post-mortem discussion. There were lots of little things that were making Jem feel unhappy, unloved, unimportant. I don't want to blame these little things, though, because none of them would have been hard to fix. In virtually every case, they would have required nothing more than a few words and maybe a slight change in (my) behavior. These were not big problems. The big problem, the one that killed the relationship, is that I didn't know about any of the little problems. That's what did us in. The longer we were dating, the more little problems were stacking up without getting fixed. One day she reached a tipping point and had to get out.

Now what? My friend Rachel Van Kirk told me years ago that it's important after a breakup to think about what you have learned from the experience, and what you still need to learn. So here are three things that I think I have learned in the past five months.

1. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I thought our relationship was super-awesome because I saw no evidence of problems. But I was wrong. There were problems-- I just wasn't seeing them. And in truth, I don't know that I was looking very hard.

2. Always look for ways to help, instead of waiting to be asked. I had heard that it sometimes takes hard work to keep a relationship healthy and happy. I thought I was willing to put in the hard work, but I always thought that meant making difficult sacrifices and compromises after problems had been identified. It had never occurred to me that I might be required to work hard to find problems to be solved. I thought I was ready to do whatever Jem wanted, but what she really wanted (I think) was to have me actively spend time and attention making our relationship better instead of passively waiting around to be told there was a problem.

3. If something is wrong, holler until you're heard. In January, I knew something was wrong between us. I tried to raise the subject delicately, but I knew it wasn't working. I guess I was afraid that if I pressed the issue too hard, Jem would get upset with me and it would damage the relationship. Boy, that was stupid. Problems usually don't solve themselves spontaneously, and relationships don't stay in stasis like Schroedinger's cat until we can find the perfect moment to really open up and see what's happening. I was right in thinking that something was wrong between us. And it was getting worse every day, every hour. So, next time, I'll be direct. If I'm not happy, I'll raise a ruckus and I won't stop until I know that I am heard.

These three lessons are all I'm sure of right now, but I suspect that there are lots of other lessons I have yet to learn. In fact, I wouldn't have reached 33 as a bachelor if I didn't have lots to learn about women and relationships.

And if any of you, my imaginary readers, have lessons you want to teach me, you're in luck. I'm in a teachable mood. So please feel free to drop me a comment.

Put me some knowledge here, man.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey

A couple of tunes for a Wednesday morning at 3 AM.