Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What Does It Mean to be Stupid?

Okay, I admit it. I had a bit too much time on my hands today, and I'm glad, I tell you! Glad! Do you hear me? Glad!

Anyway, it was the first time in quite a while (and probably the last time for a while) that I found myself sitting here without anything I needed to do, anything I wanted to do, anything hanging over my head, or anything on my mind at all. First I poked around on the web for a bit, but when all the stupidity I encountered in cyberspace started to get to me, I decided to try something different. I started investigating stupidity itself. Specifically, what I did was put every English word used to insult someone's intelligence that came to mind into the box on Google and hit the "I Feel Lucky" button. Allow me to describe what I came up with.

First I tried the rather pompous and dated word simpleton. What popped up was those Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed that sent the Muslim world into a frothy fit. Silly talked about molecules with weird or ridiculous names, while dumb talked about weird or ridiculous laws in the United States.

Taking it a step up to dumb-dumb got me to a really strange site with some really twisted, interactive flash animation. Both dummy and jerk talked about movies with those titles (Dummy being about a Jewish ventriloquist and The Jerk being about, well, a jerk). Butthead, not surprisingly, got the "Beavis & Butthead" home page, and jackass led me to the unofficial website of the TV program of the same name.

Speaking of appropriately-named media, dork called up the official site of the Dork Tower comic book, which is aimed at geeks. As for geek itself, it gave me an online gift-shopping website for, you guessed it, nerds. Strangely enough, however, while stupid also led to weird gift-shopping, nerd got me the home page of a band called (wait for it...) NERD (No one Ever Really Dies). (They don't really look like geeks to me, though I won't try to vouch for their intelligence.)

Stupid and music seem to go hand in hand. Besides the nerd link listed above, numbskull, retard, and lameass all found me indie music sites. Lamebrain, on the other hand, turned out to be a free, open-source mp3 encoder for the Mac, and gimp was an open-source GNU image manipulator program. (Hmm...are they implying that progressive music and open-source software are stupid?)

Some of the links turned out to be surprisingly literal. Mongoloid called up the Wikipedia entry for that term. The word asshat has its own dedicated website. Dumbass deals with news of the stupid in the world, while moron deals only with news of our beloved President. Idiot just makes an idiot out of the person visiting the site. Tellingly, both fool and drip get you investment advice, while dumbhead gives online dating and webcam links to people that are too dumb to get a date on their own. I should also point out that "dumbs**t" got me a scary-looking list of links to porn sites that tended to involve excretory functions (and I will not link it). However, perhaps the most unbelievably literal, and maybe even the funniest, was ass-bite (may or may not be SFW).

It was kind of strange that knob found me looking at a website for a ski resort, but it was far stranger that scar-mar (an insulting term from my junior high days) got me to a page from an official marriage registry! What does that tell you?

I think it tells me that I have WAAAAAYYYYYYY too much free time right now. Time to make myself useful...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

You Guessed It. Another SCC.

After a heady debate subject, it always helps to shift gears for a bit. Here is another Snabulus Caption Contest.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Where Do We Really Belong?

(Here I go again with my tendency to bring up sensitive topics...)

Not long ago, I saw a program on BBC News in which they were interviewing the leader of a far-right political party in the UK (whose name I don't recall at the moment). The main platform of that party was the barring of all immigrants and the removal of all non-English (or at least non-whites) from England. Part of the interview went as follows:

Party Leader: We want all members of all minorities to understand that they have nothing to fear from us.
Interviewer: But you say, if your party wins, all immigrants would have to leave the country?
PL: That's right. All of them would have to go back to their home countries.
Int.: Even non-white British citizens who were born and raised here in England?
PL: That's right. All of them would have to go back.
Int.: You say that they have nothing to fear, and yet you would uproot them from the only home they've ever known and send them off to a country that would probably be totally alien to them?
PL: That's right. We would send them back to where they belong.
Int.: And that doesn't sound the least bit ridiculous to you?
PL: (pause) Well, it may sound ridiculous to you, but it doesn't sound ridiculous to a lot of people. You democrats have already succeeded in making a total mess of the world, and it's up to people like us to sort it out!

I am reminded of this exchange because I find myself confronted far more than ever before by one of our planet's ugliest and most complicated ethnic conflicts: the Israel/Palestine issue. The best way to come to understand anything is to become acquainted with someone who has a direct connection with it. I have met a number of people from the Middle East over the years; I've become acquainted with and even befriended people from Yemen, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UAE, and Iran. All of them were rightly concerned about the Palestinian issue. However, I never actually met someone of Palestinian descent until now. I'm referring to a recent addition to our growing circle of blog friends, Saba (a college student in Canada whose family lives in Bahrain, but is originally from the West Bank city of Ramallah). Understandably, Saba's concern for the plight of the Palestinians is very close and personal. On her blog, she delivers her concerns with frankness and two-by-four-across-the-face impact. I will be frank myself and say that I think some of her views are rather extreme (welcome to the club...), but reading and viewing accounts from someone who can speak from direct, family experience is very eye-opening to say the least. Anyone who still has a heart or soul cannot help but be moved by this.

I have already heard plenty about the other side of the story. When I first came to Japan, there were two fellow members of the program, friends of mine, that were Jewish and planned to go to Israel and serve with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) as soon as their contract here ended. They spoke of Arabs, Lebanese, and Iranians with considerable respect, but their regard for Palestinians was disturbingly reminiscent of the way the Afrikaaners in South Africa regarded blacks...or the way early American pioneers regarded "injuns". In other words, their attitude was along the lines of, "The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian."

Try getting to know a Palestinian...most definitely a human being who cares very deeply for her family and her people...and see if you can defend that way of thinking. I can't.

Unfortunately, trying to look at both sides of the story makes an already difficult situation horribly complicated. Saba refers to the Israelis as people that don't belong there. Yes, from the Palestinian view, that would be appropriate, since the Israelis uprooted them from their land and more or less forced them onto reservations like my ancestors did with the Native Americans. However, too much time has passed, too much has happened, and it's no longer so cut and dry.

When the modern nation of Israel was founded, a lot of things happened that shouldn't have. Israel then went on to do a lot of things that they shouldn't have. (Ramallah is probably the best example; historically, it was the Prague of the Middle East, a home of poets and thinkers, but it has suffered horribly during the occupation...particularly as a result of the Israeli settlements that have been built around it...on forcibly expropriated land.) The problem is, while it's relatively easy (or at least should be) for Israel to pull its troops and settlements out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it's a different matter to hope to eliminate Israel entirely. It has been there for half a century now. Much if not most of its current population was born and raised there, and it's the only home they know. On the other hand, the Palestinians that were displaced from "Israel" are becoming older and fewer in number, making the claim more of a historical one than a direct one.

If historical claims are universally valid, then my family doesn't belong in its home in the quiet, coastal town of Waldport. It was originally the home of the Alsi, a very peaceful tribe that got along well with white settlers until it, along with its kin, the Yakina (Yaquina) tribe in what is now Newport, was forced to relocate to the Siletz reservation. That happened more than a hundred years ago. My mother was born and raised there. I was born there, too. Is it wrong for us to call that land "home" because our ancestors siezed the land wrongfully a century ago? Should we suddenly just say, "We're sorry," move to Scotland/England/France/(wherever else our ancestors came from), and turn the whole territory over to the Siletz Confederation? That would be a very generous thing to do. However, to quote that BBC reporter, it would also be ridiculous.

I honestly hope Israel grants full, sovereign statehood to the Palestinians. I hope they get their asses out of Palestinian territory (currently identified as the West Bank and Gaza Strip), stop treating the people there like shyte, and allow them their livelihood and their self-respect. On the other hand, I hope the new Hamas government somehow finds the wisdom to understand that Israel's roots have gotten to be too deep, and it is not going to disappear anytime soon. And also, though I see more than ever now that they have plenty of reason to be angry (an anger that I, as an American, will probably never fully understand), I hope the intifada concentrates more on constructive forms of resistance, e.g. political and economic, and less on blowing people up. If they do, they definitely have the full support of this white American...who lives in Japan.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St. Pat's Dessert Climax!

Alright, last but not least, a little light finish for the St. Pat's Irish meal! I usually make this a day ahead, as it takes a little time to do the shamrocks properly.

Lucky Lime Salad, Crafting Traditions, Reiman Publications, Mar/Apr 1996, pg. 17.

1 package (3 oz) lime gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp lemon juice
2 cups whipped topping [softened]
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained [optional]
1 package (6 oz) lime gelatin
2 1/2 cups boiling water

In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water; stir in cold water. Chill until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, lemon juice and whipped topping until smooth; stir into gelatin. Fold in pineapple, [if using]. Pour into and oiled 9-in square dish. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. For shamrocks, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Pour into an oiled 11-in x 7-in x 2-in pan. Chill until firm, at least 3 hours. Using a 2-in shamrock shaped cookie cutter [oiled as well], cut plain green gelatin into nine shamrocks. Cut gelatin in the 9-in pan into nine squares; top each square with a gelatin shamrock. Yield: 9 servings

1-It's important that the cream cheese & whipped topping (I use Cool Whip) are at room temperature, otherwise they will not mix well. Sometimes I add a smidgen more lemon juice for flavor.
2-I HATE pineapple in gelatin desserts, I've always left it out.
3-Tips & Tricks for getting perfect shamrocks:
a-Oil everything well -(the pan, the cookie cutter & a small spatual).
b-Second, I very gently mark the 9-in pan into 9 equal squares beforehand, so I can center the shamrocks perfectly on each slice - I don't recommend trying to get the slices out before serving, (unlike the recipe says).
c-Third, to get the shamrocks out with out distorting the shape, I place the cookie cutter cleanly into the jello, leave it in, cut away the surrounding
jello, slide the small spatula underneath the form that's left, lift off the cookie cutter, then use a butter knife to move the shamrock from the spatula onto the space reserved in the pan.

St. Pat's Penultimate Main Dish

I realized I've only a day to get you all this "very important" info - the week got away from me! This is the only Corned Beef recipe I like, and of course I serve it with potatoes, you may do mashed or simply boiled to fall-apart goodness, as you desire~!

Corned Beef and Cabbage, Crafting Traditions, Reiman Publications, Mar/Apr 1996, pg. 17. Recipe attributed to Connie Lou Blommers.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsps finely grated orange peel
2 tsps yellow mustard
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 corned beef brisket (2-3 pounds)
2 medium onions, sliced
2 quarts water
1 cup apple juice
8 carrots, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 small head cabbage

In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients; set aside. In a Dutch oven, place corned beef and seasoning packet. Add onions, water and apple juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove brisket from cooking liquid and place in a greased roasting pan. Rub sugar mixture over warm meat. Bake at 350° F for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add carrots to cooking liquid. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Cut cabbage into eight wedges, leaving a portion of the core on each wedge; add to carrots. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Thinly slice meat; serve with the vegetables. Yield: 8 servings.

1-I usually double the brown sugar mixture part of this recipe. It's surprisingly tasty and everyone wants a little bit on their piece of meat!
2-I use French's yellow mustard.
3-Most supermarket Corned Beef that's sold in the US has a little seasoning packet included in the packaging.
4-I cook the meat a little longer, as that lets the brown sugar/clove mixture carmelize a little more. I don't use a roasting pan, but a glass baking dish which I've covered well with oil. The brown sugar mixture can be messy to clean up, so you may want to line your baking dish w/aluminum foil as well.

Friday, March 10, 2006

St. Pat's Irish Recipe Mega-Finalé!

Preface or "Ode to Food": I've fixed the following recipes, (with the exception of the seafood appetizer) for more than 5 years for my family. Since I will be too busy w/work this year to actually fix a St. Pat's meal this year, I'm submitting these delights in virtual form to our little cyber community. Thanks to Snabby, you'll get to see some pictures too!

I've divided the the St. Pat's meal into 3 parts, (this-a seafood appetizer, a corned beef main dish, and finally a funky jello dessert).

-You'll also note the picture shows the seafood WITH the shells, along with pretty vague cooking descriptions; a lá "you must be a real cook who knows what he/she is doing so I don't really have to tell you" kind of attitude. Most likely Georgina got to eat at these fine Inns all over Ireland, made her secretary type up the manuscript, then got to sit back & cash the publisher's check, "Editing? What do you mean recipe editing?!".

Monkfish, Clams & Mussels in a Light Fish Reduction, Irish Country House Cooking, Georgina Campbell - Epicure Press, Dublin, Ireland, Revised Edition, 2001, pg. 10. Recipe is attributed to Aherne's Seafood Bar, Youghal, Co Cork.

(Original recipe says quantities are given per person, for a main course; but I plan to halve those amounts for an appetizer.)

4 clams & 8 mussels
White wine & olive oil, as required
5 oz monkfish (1), skinned & cut into medallions
Vegetable julienne, (1/2 small onion, 1 small carrot & 1 celery stick, finely diced)
1 tomato concassé (2) (peeled, deseeded & chopped)
A little basil pesto (3) (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper & lemon juice (4)

Steam open the clams and mussels with a little white wine. Remove from the shells and reserve the cooking juices for the sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan. When very hot, fry the monkfish medallions in it briefly on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside, than add the white wine & cooking juices from the shellfish, the vegetable julienne and the chopped tomato. Add a little basil pesto, if using, and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and lemon juice. Replace the monkfish and shellfish in the pan and reheat thoroughly before serving.

1-What the hell is monkfish? Well, here's a site that gives all the info here.I'm just planning to use high-grade halibut or cod when I get around to making this.
2- Tomato Concassé? C'mon, you just mean a chopped up firm-fleshed tomato w/no seeds & no skin!
3-You can buy small squeeze tubes of all different kinds of pesto in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket, usually near the fresh herbs; or if you want to go Martha Stewart, here's a link.
4-Does it need to be said? I give you permission to use regular ol' table pepper!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spwingter Part Deux and more

The bad news is that the (pathetic) Blazers are mathematically eliminated from the possibility of a winning season. The good news is that the New Orleans Hornets finally got to play in their home town and the game was sold out. It was a small break that many people there truly deserved. Also, for those fed up with the off-court drama that is NBA basketball, the IBL's Portland Chinooks and Vancouver Volcanoes are playing in the Rose Garden this Sunday. Check 'em out. On to the pix!

These daffodils stare at the snow below them wondering how this could happen in March in Oregon.

For these daffodils, Jack Frost was worse than a pounding headache.

Blossoms of white snowflakes surround the pink froth of these cherry blossoms (or possibly plum).

The ground is white again tonight, so we could actually see a couple inches by the morning (5 cm). Indeed, another day off of school would not receive many complaints from kids around here. The MiniSnab's school is at a higher elevation than our house (about 700 feet higher), so they will probably have several inches on the ground by morning. Spring melds with winter becoming spwingter.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ranking the Blazers

Well, the Blazers traded away a few players and got a couple new ones. This messed up my ranking system that I posted here last week. I had to do it all over again. Here are the results:

There are a couple of new players and Brian Skinner shows up as a top guy right off the bat in both rebounding and (lack of) turnovers. Just for fun, I ran my weighted statistics on some really good players just to see how they stacked up against each other and the Blazers. All of them scored significantly better than the best Blazer (Zach Randolph). From top to almost top, the order was: Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Alan Iverson. It seems as though my weighted scoring system is somewhat biased towards centers, but that might be okay since they do often have a big impact. As I mentioned to Blazer Prophet in last week's comments, this isn't the BCS so nothing is riding on this calculation. It might be fun to see if there is a way to download XML of the stats to try a weighted system for everyone. Jolly good fun, eh?

My simple ranking system is an obvious waste of math (Steve Nash would have been the 9th best Blazer? I don't think so). The weighted system is doing okay, but I think there are a few shortcomings that need some looking at. I used the same weighting system as last week.

The really unfortunate thing is that I might be about the only one who is interested in this. It wouldn't be the first time.