Saturday, August 29, 2009

The State of American Education

One of the newest books at my library:

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Week in Food

If I had access to this much butter, I would probaby fill the reflecting pool at the Christian Science plaza with b├ęchamel sauce. But students at the Ontario College of Art and Design had other ideas.

Go fishing if you want, but think twice about eating your catch.

Kid Cuisine Nuggets, Pepperidge Gold Fish Crackers, and Scooby-Doo Macaroni and Cheese: see what Time says you shouldn't feed your kids.

It's great that Max's porridge was still hot when he returned from the land of Wild Things, but what about dessert? (hat tip to Boing Boing).

Having solved all of the city's other problems, Los Angeles authorities are cracking down on unlicensed cheese.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Heights of Incoherence?


I'm always amazed (I don't know why) at the mindless idiocy of the American public--whether it's the fact that Thomas Friedman's trite panegyrics to globalization continually make the best-seller lists or that Rush Limbaugh has millions of listeners (although no one can agree on how many millions).

Because I'm a masochist I did a Google News search for "Rush Limbaugh Ted Kennedy" to see to what new lows of tastelessness that troglodyte could sink. What I got instead was a bizarre "tribute" to Kennedy that reached a new level of incoherence even for him--the "him" being Limbaugh, not Kennedy.

He basically tried to appropriate Ted Kennedy's name and prestige to the cause of opposing health care reform:

Will there be a single liberal to come forward and embrace Senator Kennedy's example of seeking and securing the best medical care available? Ted Kennedy, lion of the Senate, the United States government was never a partner in his death.

Limbaugh seems to have forgotten that Kennedy fought for universal health care (i.e., "socialized medicine") from 1973 until his death (he also seems to have forgotten how to form complete sentences). Or perhaps he's saying we should follow the examples of hypocrites? Surely as a veteran, Ted Kennedy was eligible for treatment in VA hospitals.

Limbaugh went to say that

to put his name on the health care bill...and say, "We're doing this in his memory" is hypocrisy, and it would be insulting to his memory.

I'm not sure when Rush got so protective of Kennedy honor, considering he joked about Kennedy's impending death last March, or that he has long been in the habit of calling Kennedy "Swimmer," one among many of his several tasteless references to Chappaquiddick. He also said that he would "vomit and puke"* on anyone who joined the predictable chorus of praise for Kennedy's life and work today.

And then, with through-the-looking-glass logic so demented it's brilliant--because you know his listeners will buy it--Limbaugh says that health care reform would be a disservice to Kennedy's legacy because

he did not inspire a health care plan to deny people their own right to die, and seek to live, in their own way by their own choice. He didn't. He was not limited in any way.

And in a feat of mental gymnastics comparable to the antebellum arguments used to justify slavery, Limbaugh states health care reform would mean

elites get one way of being treated and the rest of us another way. I thought it was a right.

Read all the way to the bitter end. You'll find it.

In my (very brief) days of teaching English I apparently did my students no favors by trying to teach them to write and think logically. Otherwise they could have been talk radio hosts making millions.



*"Vomit and puke?" Does Limbaugh think those words mean two different things?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Week in Food


One more reason to love the Washington Post: they've published a stellar guide to preparing one of my childhood favorites--fried okra.


Relax, Colbert. We're in no danger of running out of sugar.


I've heard of "aged butter" but this is carrying things a bit too far.


Caramel pretzel sticks, chicken lips, fried Twinkies: Lindsey Grooters of Indianola, Iowa is on the food-on-a-stick diet.


Can't think of what to buy the cannibal in your life? Sears has the answer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Scenes from a Recession

At this point you may be tired of tales of recession woes. But if compassion fatigue hasn't set in, read this Washington Post article on the privations the residents of one New York town suffer. It's searing reporting in the tradition of How the Other Half Lives or Down and Out in Paris and London.

If you want to feel the pain of someone who can't afford that $200 visit to the colorist, or who has to think twice before buying their fifth-grader that $100 pair of jeans, read "Squeaking by on $300,000."

You might want to grab a hanky first.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quote of the Week

From Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post, commenting on Sarah Palin's role in the elimination of "end-of-life provisions" from the health care reform bill:

"we can only write laws that make sense to people who can't name a newspaper?"

You can read the full column here. The Robert Stone quote at the end is quite fine as well.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Week in Food



The Neanderthal genome may hold the answer to one of the burning questions of our time: what's up with people who don't like brussel sprouts?





Place cooked potatoes in sealed pouch. Heat to 250 degrees for three minutes. Subject pouch to 100,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to crush microbes: welcome to cooking for the Mars mission.


Top a patty of bison meat with three cheeses (American, cheddar, Monterey Jack), lettuce and tomato. Serve spicy mustard and fries on the side. It's the Barack Obama Burger.

Cut marks on some 9,000-year-old bones may add a new chapter to the history of English cooking.

One creative baker has given new meaning to the term "brain food."


It's official: the Bacon Movement needs to be stopped. Brooklyn Brewery reportedly has bacon-fat beer in the works.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Coming to America

During the Bush years many foreigners coming to the U.S. who used all the legal channels encountered difficulties. There are signs of a thaw, however. Some in government have begun to realize that we need foreign workers--at least when it comes to harvesting crabs.

There's been a shortage of nurses in this country for years and yet....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seven Months In....

Everybody in medialand has decided to take the August recess as an occasion to reflect on how Obama's doing six months into his first term--even though by my count it's closer to seven months, but what do I know?

Obama came into office with a clear mandate: he was the first president since Lyndon Johnson whose party won both the popular vote and control of both Houses of Congress, so you could argue that progressives were entitled to expect sweeping change. Thus their disappointment when Obama assembled economic team that included men who laid the groundwork for the current financial crisis: people behind the deregulation of credit-default swaps, former executives at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

But honestly, to fix the economic crisis you need people who know the situation inside out. And who would know more than the guys who created it?

The administration is even taking heat over the initiative that arguably has done the most good: the stimulus. In good old Keynesian fashion, the government has been priming the economic pump with an injection of money. Take Cash for Clunkers: some whiners are saying that the fuel efficiency requirements for the cars former clunker owners get to buy are so lame that this will do little to combat global warming. Honestly, there's no pleasing some people. Obama will probably get flack on the clean energy provisions in the stimulus: $2.4 billion for battery and electric car projects. So what if 98% of clean energy research proposals are rejected by the administration?

Obama has also been taken to task for the dismissal of gay military personnel--a policy he vowed to change. They're fond of pointing out that a gay officer fluent in Arabic was dismissed from the military and decry this as an appalling waste of skill. Come on, people, it's very unusual for Americans to know foreign languages. This begs the question, how did he know Arabic? This guy has al-Qaeda sleeper agent written all over him.

And then there's the health care reform bill. People are up in arms that Obama has negotiated some shady backroom deals with Big Pharma, and that the bill doesn't provide single-payer health care, which a majority of Americans want.

Will you give the guy a break? It's understandable if he's sometimes out of touch with what Americans want. After all, he is Kenyan.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Cheddar Has Landed


I'm a bit late with this, so pardon me, but the space-bound wedge of cheddar has been recovered. It landed in a Buckinghamshire garden. Somewhat bemused to find a piece of cheddar attached to a weather balloon and a GPS device, the owner of the garden took it to local police.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Week in Food


Where no cheddar has gone before: some English cheesemakers are waiting to find out if 300 grams of their finest actually made it into space.


A word of advice for the violent: if you're going to attack people in a restaurant, you might want to pick one where the employees aren't used to wielding steel skewers.


It seems the mania for combining bacon with everything imaginable isn't over yet.


We're learning more and more about the environmental costs of raising animals for meat. And it's a weak retail market. So what's an aspiring businessman to do? Start selling business cards made of beef, of course.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

America's Finest at Work

It's been almost eight years since a major terrorist attack on American soil, so it would be understandable if those in law enforcement and security were starting to get complacent. Not so. The men and women of TSA are as vigilant as ever, and they're willing to go the extra mile, whether it's confiscating the toys of a grieving eight-year old, taking a woman's jewelry, or detaining and interrogating a man who's doing something totally out of line like carrying money.

And you'll be happy to know the men and women in local government are following their example: the fire department in Columbus, Ohio stepped up to protect the staff of JP Morgan Chase from a timer, and two cops in DeKalb County, Georgia took the initiative to do a background check on, well, guess who?

You can't be too careful.

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