Thursday, April 27, 2006

post script on fuel prices

A reliable source in sunny SoCal observed that a gallon of gas - about $3.89 - costs the same as a round-trip ride on an express bus from a Very Nice City to downtown El Lay.

Great googly moogly.

I like offbeat links.

A roomful of dumb ideas

In May 2004, I wrote about rising gas prices. At the time, the commerce secretary thought maybe easing environmental restrictions governing fuel and refineries could offer some relief. That seemed stupid, and it still does.

It seemed, and still seems, to me that answers to high gas prices for Joe and Mary Consumer are to drive less, get a more efficient car or switch fuels.

It also seems to me that answers to high gas prices for Joe and Mary Lawmaker are to pay for public transportation, raise fleet efficiency standards or subsidize alternative fuel research.

Or, get the hell out of the way and let the rest of us figure it out.

But the ring of idiocy that surrounds Joe and Mary Lawmaker also serves as a sort of microwave oven for bad ideas.

In May 2004, I wrote that maybe a long run of high gas prices is just what we need. I stand by that, but I'm a little concerned at the tax-break and relaxed-standards approaches our idiot leaders and their fuckboy shills are pushing.

This isn't a crisis, it's an opportunity. Let's take it!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

flippin' bats

Prince Albert homered off Oliver Perez the other day and followed up with a head-down dash 'round the bases, in contrast, several stories went out of their way to exclaim, with the exaggerated bat flip (the bat, it is said, landed about 30 feet from home plate) on his previous round-tripper off Perez, in a game about a week prior.

In post-game interviews, Pujols pretty much said he showed up Perez previously because the pitcher showed Pujols up after a couple of outs. Pujols also said he was wrong to have done so, etc.


But why did the game stories and columns fail to mention the prince's little tantrum (in the game that included the big bat toss) and then go bananas when Pujols got back on the straight and narrow? Maybe there're too many writers and not enough angles.

Tony La Russa hit the mark in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by Derrick Goold on the heavy reporting of the flip and its aftermath:

"That's real tired."

Too right, Tony. Now, if you'd just keep the double-switches to one per inning, we'd be getting somewhere!

Monday, April 24, 2006

beyond the call of duty

After an early career switch from guide to detective, Accelerant Detection Canine Wiloa (seen here with her handler in an Oregon State Patrol photo) served more than six years with the Oregon State Patrol. Her retirement was announced this month.

"Wiloa has performed 6 1/2 years of service and worked beyond her 5 year obligation," said her handler, Detective Tom Hatch, in a prepared statement. "She not only performed her duties with distinction, but has been an ambassador for the Department while opening many doors for the section that were at one time closed."

Wiloa - Lolo for short - responded to hundreds of fires in her career.

"Many of these investigations have led to convictions and confessions resulting in the suspect serving time," Hatch said.

Besides active duty, the yellow lab spent hundreds of hours in training and certification. Replacements for Hatch and Wiloa will undergo training in November.

A gentleman's B-plus

Rumor has it the alma mater - maybe they should call it College of Lake Woebegone - isn't going to segregate honors and cum laude students from the mob at the upcoming commencement exercises because about a third of the class qualifies for honors.


There are about 1,500 students, which means - if you believe the 10-1 ratio claim - about 150 people are on the faculty. How is it that such a small group has fallen victim to such an easily solved problem?

The meritocracy isn't the only aspect of the college suffering from homogenization. The admissions office-provided overview of the college claims that:
a) 2006-07 will cost you about $40,000 for classes, "fees," a bed, eats, books and protractors.
b) The college gives need-based aid to more than half of students and $13 million over all. Even if the number was about 60 percent and ALL the cash was need-based, which it most certainly is not, the average award would work out to less than $15,000, leaving the folks (and loans) to cover one hell of a tasty candy bar, perhaps one that "provides a richer, more rewarding snack experience because of its crunchy chocolate, abundance of soft, chewy caramel and inherent association with money."

*** A humorous side note *** provided by the college for the benefit of Mercer Island and Lake Oswego types:

"We believe what happens on campus, not in the nearby big city, is what creates a great college experience."

If you come here for school, you'd damn well better believe that, too. The almost palpable protective shield around the college can only be defeated by a chosen few, either do-gooders or those who have cultivated loneliness.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

miscellany, plus lasagna

Had a peculiar dream Saturday night that was set partly at the Y. In the dream - this is the peculiar part, the rest of the dream was totally boring - Gary's "real" name turned out to be Tim. Bizarro - I named him Gary, for crying out loud.

Sunday's swim, which I just completed, was a nice two-miler, in about 75 minutes. That wouldn't be much progress except that includes the down time between the first 500 and the subsequent 2,650 (plus the break between that and the cooldown). So, some progress!

Last night was lasagna night, and also a chance to try out a totally irredeemable wine, a sangiovese/merlot blend made by Solaris, a supposed 2003 Rosso di Toscano "super Tuscan," which one taster called "super bad." The same taster remarked, "I don't know if this is drinkable."

True enough, but it wasn't a bad addition to the sauce for the lasagna:

Eight lasagna noodles, cooked, drained and cooled

Sauce (this makes enough to have leftovers):
2 strips good-quality bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium ribs celery, chopped
1 pound sausage (or 1 pound turkey with fennel, summer savory, pepper and salt mixed in, which is what I used)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 little can tomato paste
1 cup wine that doesn't clash horribly

One medium tub cottage cheese (a pound?)
grated mozzarella (I used about 10 or 12 ounces of OK-quality mozz.)
grated Parmesan (I used about 4 or 5 ounces)

Fry up the bacon on medium heat, then add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until somewhat tender, about 5 minutes. Add meat and brown, then stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and wine.
Cook over medium low or low heat for about a half-hour. If you've got it and remember, add however much chopped fresh basil you like :)

Assemble like so in a medium casserole (7x11 or whatever is close):

layer of sauce
layer of noodles (2.5 noodles)
spread some cottage cheese
sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella
layer of sauce
layer of noodles (2.5 noodles)
spread some cottage cheese
sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella
layer of sauce
layer of noodles (3 noodles)
spread some cottage cheese
sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella
layer of sauce
sprinkle with Parmesan

Presto. Bake at 350 until bubbly, at least 30 minutes...

Key elements here are the carrots, celery and bacon, plus grating the mozzarella. 'tain't like Ma's, but 'tis tasty.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A family favorite

They're more expensive than other brands, so I've tried all the others and haven't found any that can top King Oscar Sardines.

As the above link shows, the 'dines come in a dizzying array of flavors (in oil, salsa, mustard and whatnot) and formats (single-layer, double-layer, cross-pack).
The best of the bunch that I've had is double-layer in olive oil, but I would like to try cross-pack in olive oil sometime, too!

I wonder if the majority of sardine naysayers have even tried King Oscar (which as it happens are distributed by BumbleBee). If I had only encountered the other varieties, I wouldn't like the leetle fishies either.

The company Web site also has this delicious line:

"The brand, the quality, the new flavors, the new usage situations: King Oscar is still alive and kicking, 100 years old."

Ah yes, the new usage situations... they're endless.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cramps continued

but not so ferocious as Tuesday. Wednesday's version was more like the echoes of cramps, but I spent the whole 2,000 meters (grrrr. partly a slower workout, partly the lifeguards starting the session late and ending it early) wondering if I would get an encore.

I didn't, and I did have more carrot juice. Like I needed an excuse. I see V8 has plenty of potassium as well, but I like carrot juice better (Odwalla's anyway. The other brands I've tried aren't as creamy).

Both companies flog their fruit juice blends, which of course have significantly higher caloric content. Why is America growing?


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A lack of K

I suspect, is to blame for some fabulous leg cramps that put the kibosh on a good workout yesterday. I still made 2,000 meters, so it wasn't a loss, but I was cruising at the time.

I usually do my 500-meter warmup and the first 700 of the main body in the time it takes Gary to go 1,600, but I was at 1,300 when he finished (either that or he went short, but I doubt it. He models consistency), and I felt very good. The cramps showed up at about 1,800 meters and I shook off the first couple but couldn't beat 'em the third time.

So I promptly went home and had a bottle of carrot juice, which has 1040 mg of potassium and is super tasty!


Made pizza over the weekend (and Monday night):

Joy of Cooking pizza dough recipe (a packet of yeast dissolved in 1.5 cups 85-degree water with 1 teaspoon salt and a couple tablespoons oil added to 4 cups flour, kneaded for about 10 minutes then left in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for a couple of hours to rise. I like to punch it down and let it rise once more before rolling half out at a time for pizza skins)

Pizza sauce (1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in puree somewhat reduced over medium heat with the addition of about a tablespoon each of dried basil and oregano. yes, you could be fancier, but this pizza rocks as it is) - this makes enough sauce for five medium pizzas

shredded mozzarella (I use the el cheapo variety because, again, fancier isn't necessary)

Most of a green bell pepper, sliced at medium thickness. To be cute, you could cut it into rings
An equal amount of yellow onion, thinly sliced
About 1/3 pound of good ol' Italian sausage (pinched into little balls)

freshly shredded Parmesan to sprinkle over the top

Roll out the dough as thin as you can make it. It is pretty springy so this won't be super thin, maybe 1/4 inch thick. This makes a skin about 15-20 inches around.
Sprinkle your pizza pan with cornmeal and place the skin on the pan.
Paint the skin with sauce to about 3/8 inch from the edge. Don't paint it to the edge or you will be sorry later.
Sprinkle with mozzarella to your liking. But you should still be able to see sauce under the cheese...
Top with peppers, onions and sausage. Do not stack toppings at the center of the pizza: This will screw up both baking and slicing.

If you've followed these imperfect directions, you will have a pizza ready for the oven that looks like it has way too much in the way of toppings, especially of peppers. But they'll shrink and it will be tasty!

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (until the crust is rigid and has a nice suntan on the bottom) and eat!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Books are better than scrolls

The Web is rife with old-fashioned scroll-centric sites: CNN strikes me as a particularly villainous example, and there are plenty of others, including a few from my old stomping grounds: The Area Telegraph, The Salt Mine Times and The Rinky Dink Newsletter.

The International Herald Tribune's an exception, but not completely. For example, their sports index page is in the typical scroll-down format, as are their blogs (duh), but it appears that any given story is presented book-style. Here is another example, one that shows the easy page-flipping.

I reckon that scrolly sites are like news page designs that rely on jumping most stories and that the IHT site is like a design that minimizes jumps.

And how has that worked out? In the first three months of 2006, I jumped 85 of 226 front-page stories, which is 4.6 percentage points above the editor's goal of 33 percent. To me, the layouts don't appear to be better or worse than in 2005, when I didn't make a serious effort to control jumps. But maybe I'm missing something...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Another take on Monex

I am apparently not alone in the bemused-by-Monex crowd.

Bishop Robert Morneau, for example, used the ads as a springboard for this homily.

Another, darker take comes from Chuck Jaffe in an piece.

A severely darker take comes from the Better Business Bureau of Southland, which offers an "F" grade for the business, meaning:

"We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices."

I still think the whole outfit is hokey smoke and mirrors, even if they are a billion-dollar business. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't get past the Monex lady's drop-gold-on-the-scale-and-see-if-it-outweighs-paper-money bullshit...

more Monex madness

The crazy blonde gold-flogging lady who works for America's Trusted Name in Precious Metals for More than 30 Years was gone this morning from CNN, replaced by a silver-haired gent pushing, um, silver.

Besides the matchup of hair color to metal, I'm wondering if their employer has maybe woken up to the idea that maybe people realize gold appears to be at its highest selling point in recent memory and don't want to hop in at the zenith.

Silver's no different, though.

Hurray for war.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Getting to know Barbara Mulvaney

The prosecutor of Rwandan Col. Theoneste Bagosora, suspected of masterminding the Rwandan genocide, turns out to be an interesting sort, and Los Angeles Times writer Edmund Sanders' story about her is well worth a read.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

last call for clam chowder

Warm weather is fast approaching, so I made what I'm guessing is the last batch of clam chowder until fall. Usually, I'm not so much of a stickler for ingredients, but they matter here. This recipe is my improvement on the Joy of Cooking's.

In a large soup pot, cook over medium heat until crisp:
4 or 5 strips of high-quality, thick bacon (Smithfield, for example)

Remove the bacon to cool, but leave the grease. In it, saute until translucent and soft:
One large yellow onion, chopped
Add 1/4 cup general purpose flour, stir for a minute.

To this mixture, add:
liquid from three 10-ounce cans whole baby clams (I use BumbleBee)
liquid from one 15-ounce (or whatever's close) can corn
about 1 teaspoon salt

um, don't forget to reserve the clams and corn!

To the onion-flour-clam/corn broth, add 5 medium-size Yukon potatoes, cut into medium dice (whatever size you like in your chowder).

Lower heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, then add 1 quart milk (I use whole milk or substitute 1 quart 1-percent plus 1/2 cup heavy cream).

Chop the bacon and add, along with the reserved corn and clams. Check to see if you've added enough salt, then heat through and serve, ideally with freshly ground black pepper.

and garlic bread!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Deputies on the Pharm

The quest for Claritin-D took us on a field trip to Rite-Aid, which sells a Claritin-D substitute. The key element, I hope, is that both use pseudoephedrine sulfate, rather than the much more common pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (damn, those HCls come in handy!).

It was cheap - $5.40 including tax for 10 doses, the maximum allowable purchase. I get the whole War on Meth thing, so I don't really mind being ID'd for decongestants and I'm certainly OK with the price, but I didn't like that it took four Pharm employees to get the drugs in my hand (I shit you not: one to greet me and take my chit, one to hand her the two boxes (she was only supposed to dispense one), one to help her negotiate with the cash register when it rejected the second box, and a final employee to help workers 1 and 3 overcome the register).

My observations:

a) It sucks to deputize retailers. Yes, they take the money so they need to be responsible, but they aren't really trained to treat you like a customer and at the same time be cops.
b) Too many establishments expect the customer to hang around while they do non-customer-related tasks ("Pardon me, the Priority Mail display is out of envelopes..." "How many do you need?" "Four." "Here's 10. Put the rest in the display." {Uh, yeah, who's working for whom?}).
c) Rite Aid blows, and I should have gone to one of the non-chain stores downtown, which is where I plan to go when the waiting period runs out and I'm allowed to buy more over-the-counter drugs.

for Christ's sake.

Easy parcheesi peanut butter cookies

Not even remotely hard:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (banned in China)
1/2 cup white sugar (sorta banned in the North during the Civil War)

cream 'em and add:

1 cup peanut butter (I use Adams chunky)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (the only place I diverge from Joy of Cooking, which calls for less)

add 1.5 cups flour and convert into dough.

roll into little balls and squash with a fork on the cookie sheet.

Joy of Cooking claims you can get five dozen cookies. I got 53.

Very good, crumbly and rich.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Decongestant Times

I guess Safeway and Super 1 are trying to fight Meth Madness, because I couldn't find Claritin-D (which contains pseudoephedrine) at either market. So I'm stuck with *New* Contac-D, which contains phenylephrine instead.

Besides being a nasal decongestant, "When used by injection, phenylephrine is used to maintain adequate blood pressure and to treat certain types of irregular heartbeats," according to

Twenty minutes after taking the first pill, I can't say it seems like it has done much. But between drugs and snoot-rinsing, I hope to keep the situation at bay until the college opens its new pool!

Speaking of the world aquatic, I seem to have plateaued at 1.5 miles per workout. This isn't true on Sundays, when I have more time and tend to stretch out a little (when I'm not recovering from yard work :)

I think this obstacle might be more mental than physical: I'm not slacking, but I'm also not pushing overly hard. I'm also unsure of how hard I want to push. I had toyed with working toward 2-mile workouts and a half-mile isn't that much more, but I'm not sure.

I wonder if I might need some bona fide coaching at some point to work out whatever bad habits I've added in the past few months. To wit:

X - My flip turns are still inconsistent.
X - I'm close, but I'm not taking the same number of strokes per length.
X - I have slower stretches in workouts, particularly in the main body between laps 3 and 8 and laps 23 and 28.
X - My kicking sometimes slows down or runs too deep.

Of these, I think bullets 2 and 4 are working themselves out, albeit gradually. Bullet 1 probably is not a big concern because I'm not trying to outrun people, but my pushoff is catawampus and I'm still not hydrodynamically purrfect (I am holding my hands together, so that's an improvement. I'm just not extending my arms enough).

Bullet 3? I can't decide. I still only get in four workouts a week, so maybe this is just a conditioning problem. Doing five is OK, but then the chemical warfare comes back into play. Sheesh. I need to win the lottery and build my own pool. :)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Department of Weird

file this blog's close relative,, in that category.

with a capital W.

One thing it does have that my blog does not is the 411 on "the soon coming climax."

iced-out mouth, baby

Until last night, I thought scrolling LED dog tags and pimp cups were as good as it gets.

How wrong I was. Personal bling is taken to a new place here! I'm thinking that maybe the crazy Monex lady who has commercials every morning on CNN should hook up with Mr. Bling and Iced Out Gear to really get things rolling.

Forget the fake-o gold-weighs-more-than-cash stunt: If you really want to show people the new face of gold, show them the new FACE of gold.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

still unable to apprehend my nose

which continues to run, in spite of the rinse-sinuses routine after swimming. Having experimented with exhaling through my mouth, I'm still attached to forgoing the nose clip, and not just for coolness reasons.

I have discovered that Claritin-D is highly effective and apparently without side effects. Makes you wonder why all the loony drugs (Benadryl and whatnot) are even still on the market...

well, so it goes :)

Monday, April 03, 2006

before and after

Actually, the part on the left is "during."
The part on the right is also during, a little, because I pulled about 500 dandelions...