Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It’s The Flinstones, the modern post-Apocalyptic Family

August 9, 2017

So, apparently my president has channeled the parts of the Bible where everyone dies to warn North Korea to play nice.  Watching Trump deliver this ultimatum does anything but fill me with confidence. He looks lost, he looks like he’s lying with his lack of eye contact and constant blinking, there is no conviction to his voice as he threatens Armageddon, a lack of sincerity that feels especially galling considering the threat he’s stumbling his way through.

Watching him talk, you wonder how the hell anyone believes in this guy.

Then you read a twitter feed for one of his prominent supporters, and it becomes clear. They mimic the same vapid, macho bullshit he’s saying. Nuke’em first, kill’em all, etc. To hell with the millions of innocents who will be caught in the nuclear crossfire.  They aren’t Us. They are Them. So it’s okay to kill them with blissful nonchalance.

We’re seeing the ugly self-centeredness and more bankruptcy that is America’s underbelly. As a nation we’ve long been too eager to jump at supposed horrors that lurk in the shadows, from racism to communism to rap music to Islamism; usually while we an actual terror stands in stark relief in the light, daring us to notice.

How should we react to NK? Calmly, with measure. Enforce the economic binds the UN has recently placed on them. Continue to try to talk. And be patient. NK is going to get the bomb. Years of self-imposed and enforced exile from the international community has all but guaranteed it. The fallout from that isn’t something that has to be rushed from a cliff, though.


so, why was she white again?

May 24, 2017

or maybe the question should be why was Ghost in the Shell (GitS), the recent live action adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, is set in an Asian locale since three of the main characters were Caucasians speaking English?  Ever since there was an initial blow back on the movie for whitewashing I sort of blew off the controversy.  I loved the original anime, and if they made a good live action movie starring Scarlett Johansson I wasn’t going to complain. After all, simply casting a white woman instead of an Asian one for the lead shouldn’t be enough to essentially hit a film with a racism charge.

The problem with GitS, and what makes the whitewashing so obvious that it becomes impossible to ignore, is how the rest of the film was essentially left in place. This was not a story that was appropriated, where its core elements were lifted and fit together with a different culture to create a legitimately new and self-standing work. This was putting white people into prominent roles because appeal to an audience solely through the whiteness.

To draw a comparison, look at Scorsese’s move The Departed. It was a reworking of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, among others. What GitS did would be like Scorsese filming a remake of Infernal Affairs set in Hong Kong, starring Asian actors and actresses in all of the side roles, using Asian motifs and cultural touch stones, and then still casting DiCaprio and Damon as the leads because, well, white guys.

What’s confusing is that this should have been an easy fix. If you want to cast a bunch of white people in the leads, set it in New York or LA or even London or Paris. Just pick a city in the west and go with it. Maybe they were worried about turning off fans of the original anime if they changed too much of the story, or maybe they just wanted to keep the Asian motif and didn’t think of how shallowly it used it. I don’t know. But it was a reflection of the general laziness in the script and execution that plagued the entirety of the film. It’s an incredibly slick movie. It looks incredible. But the writing was weak, the dialog clumsy, and it ended up not doing justice to the source material or to the actresses and actors.

Well, then where is single payer?

May 6, 2017

Give him credit, at least he’s facing his constituents. Of course, the line he offers at the end about Obamacare being unsustainable is an unadulterated line of horse manure, but at least he’s saying it to their face.

Our health care spending add a lot to our federal budget/debt. It’s expensive no matter how you cut it. The truth is, though, that the ACA has done more to reign in those costs and control them than we would have seen without it, or that we will see with the AHCA.

For the talk of the cost of premiums going up, they have still climbed at a slower rate than they did the decade previous.  For anyone who had health care, take a look at your premiums. They never went down. And while some places had hikes that were abnormally high, others didn’t. As a whole, it put our health care system in a better place.

It also extended the life of the social security fund. Now, to be clear, social security was never going to go entirely bankrupt. Even after the fund that was set up runs out of money to guarantee 100% of expected payouts, the yearly money coming in was still expected to meet anywhere from 75-85% of those costs. It was never going to shrink to zero and, if some pretty simple and relatively painless (compared with the pain of screwing over the elderly in 15 years who won’t have those social security checks they expect/need) taxes are enacted, there won’t be any short fall.

The ACA has made it possible for a whole bunch of people to have insurance that would have otherwise went without.  And going without insurance does, in fact, kill people. I’ve talked about the moral imperative of caring about your neighbor before. Personally, I think it’s just a bit easier to be okay living in a nation where we decided to put our money where our mouth was and ponied up to try to make sure they could be a bit more okay.

This doesn’t touch this unsustainable malarkey that Rep. Tom Reed went to, though.  The truth is that if the ACA is unsustainable, then market based insurance is going to be unsustainable unless you’re fine with everyone but the very wealthy being able to afford to see a doctor. Which is essentially saying that a whole bunch of people are going to live painful, disease-ridden lives before dying before their time in likely miserable, painful ways while afflicted with diseases and conditions that could have at least been mitigated with proper health care. This is a long way of saying screw the poor. Or even middle class, because health care is really really expensive and even if you’re pulling down $70K a year, if you get hit by the cancer stick you’re also going to get hit with the bankruptcy stick just trying to survive it.

The only fall back at that point is to just go to the emergency room for everything, where they have to see you and treat you since a law Ron Reagan signed in 1986, and then just not pay whatever bills result.

Which will increase costs for everyone else. So even if you’re not paying for someone to be on medicaid, you’re still paying for their care but in a far less efficient way. In other words, you’re spending more money to provide care to that person than you could have spent if you just made sure they could have some sort of insurance.

But, yeah, the ACA isn’t sustainable. Which should mean the only rational choice is to move to a single payer system. Instead, we’re going to go with a more expensive, less efficient system that gives coverage to fewer people. Because rich people, taxes, and an insanely selfish, short-sighted GOP that lies through its teeth about all of this.

I don’t need a Big Brother

April 21, 2017

There is something about the perceived dichotomy on the right between Big Brother and social welfare programs. We’re seeing the budget for the military likely expanded again. In the past fifteen years I’ve witnessed the rapid growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the acceptance of the government essentially having carte blanche to surveil its citizens and to use the information gleaned from that for whatever purpose they want. I’ve seen off-shore prison sites used by my government when they want to get around things like due process. And I’ve seen the FBI throw itself into the middle of a presidential election to influence the process. All of this represents a growth of government. And it seems the majority of those who make up the right wing of American politics is fine with it.

What they are not fine with is socialized medicine. Food stamps. Public housing. Even public lands, really, unless someone gets to pollute and destroy it first to try to pull a privatized buck out of it. I will unapologetically say that these things represent a growth of government, too, except it’s not a growth bent on killing or imprisoning people.

I will also admit to not knowing why the right supports the former but not the latter. I know there are all sorts of possibilities thrown about from a misguided belief that we live in overly violent times (we don’t) to just a pure one-sided “If it’s my team, I don’t care, as long as we win” mentality.  Maybe it just boils down to the idea that one is for our safety while the other is for freeloaders, though I think it takes a remarkable level of pessimism and disconnect with humanity in general to believe there is just this sea of freeloading ne’er-do-wells looking to take advantage of our kindnesses, and that this sea doesn’t include any of ourselves or the people we know and love. It’s all those other people.

A lot of this post stems back to Trump’s proposed budget that essentially slashed all discretionary spending to things like NPR, NEA, science funding, etc. to throw another half billion at the military. It’s also a reaction to the whole idea that you’re un-American if you ever don’t support spending more on the military.

I do not support spending more on the military. Pay the troops more, sure, but lets make fewer air craft carriers then, since they’re now being said to possibly be ineffective.  Our most effective strategy against ISIS has been making sure the locals are trained better paired up with smaller special ops units and targeted drone strikes.

Before I wrap this up I want to also say that I don’t support things like single payer health care and stronger social safety nets and free university education because I want or need the government to look out for me. I support it because I want to look out for my friends and neighbors and it’s my tax money, too. Knowing that the family down the road wouldn’t have to worry about their finances crumbling if their kid gets leukemia means something to me. I care about that, even if I don’t know them. Knowing that all of our kids could go to university or to a vocational school and not put themselves into thousands of dollars of debt to learn a skill to live better lives (and, in turn, to likely enrich the lives of many others) means something to me. This isn’t wanting my hand to be held. This isn’t being a snowflake or some other stupid disparaging crap.

This is how I define being human.  Caring about each other, supporting each other. Life is inherently unfair, and will always be unfair to some degree. But we have the ability to mitigate that unfairness, to level the playing field a bit to at least provide a minimum degree of safety and assurance. We have the ability to give a damn.

Yes, we’re just too damn lazy

April 12, 2017

At least that appears to be what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. I don’t know about most people, but my wife and I work our asses off working, raising our kids, and renovating our house. We cook most of our meals and do our own minor maintenance on our vehicles. The amount of time we get to spend with each other is maybe 90 minutes a night on weekdays, while the weekends fluctuate a bit because we are continually trying to fit more into our days.

Cowen talks about the midwest knowing the “answers” for why the economy is tanking, and it’s that we’re lazy. Not that we’re overburdened. Not that going to college dumps tens of thousands (if you’re lucky it’s that low) of debt onto you. That those of us who should be in the most aggressive stages of our careers were kneecapped by the financial crisis and still haven’t recovered (and likely never will, as our earnings will be lower at every step of our careers than those who came before us and those who will follow us).

We don’t start new businesses or move every five years or anything else because we can’t.  We have two kids. Right now we have insurance through an employer. We have a roof over our heads. No, that’s not something we can toss to the wind and hope it comes out on the right side. Not when things like Amazon and Wal-Mart make a business putting folks like my wife and I out of business. Not that we could get a small business loan to begin with (circle back to those college loans and now our house loan and, looky there, there’s a mound of debt there). And then there is the shrinking social safety net that the GOP looks to continually chip away at because, I don’t know, Amurica or something.

This isn’t laziness. This is just reality for the majority of us. Our jobs don’t pay enough, our debt load is too high, and there isn’t a good enough social safety net to catch us if we fall. Want us to take more chances? Make us less desperate just to hang on. Make it so we know we can take our kids to the doctor  because we have a single payer health care system. Make going to college affordable for our kids since it wasn’t for us. Maybe invest our tax money into our infrastructure and schools instead of into air craft carriers (though I guess bringing up military spending as a place where we can pull back on our budget makes me a bad American, huh Standler?) .

While Cowen laments white males earning less in 2015 than they did in 1969, instead of saying it’s because America is too lazy maybe it’s because the Right has fought tooth and nail to destroy unions for the past thirty years. Maybe it’s the result of high paying manufacturing jobs off-shoring or being lost to automation. Maybe it’s the fact that the minimum wage has been allowed to fall so far behind inflation that it’s worth less now than it was in 1969, too.

We are not lazy. We are not drug addicts. We are not monsters. We’re Americans. We work hard.

They Get What They Deserve

April 12, 2017

Alright, I guess there was some sort of election in Kansas to see who would take over the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, and the Democrats didn’t get clobbered as badly as they usually do.

Which is good news. And I get that it might portend well for future such races. And it might reflect a growing disillusionment with the GOP. And all of that stuff.

None of which I really want to talk about.

What I do want to think out loud a bit of is just how…blind? Kansan voters must be. They elected themselves a largely GOP local government from the state houses to the governorship. And their state has been in free fall ever since. Their local economy? Sucks. The number of folks with health insurance? Sucks. Their schools? Sucks so bad their schools had to take the state government to court just to get adequate funding.

And they keep voting for the GOP.  They keep voting for the people who have sent their state into disarray. At some point I can’t feel sorry for the midwest. Yeah, changes in our economy have really decimated parts of this country. Yeah, it sucks. But coal isn’t coming back as a big thing in Appalacia. Steel isn’t coming back as a big thing in the Rust Belt. And what factories do open up will employ far more machines than people. And it’s not going to matter how much money we let the wealthy keep in their pockets, or how much of our natural resources we allow them to pollute, steal, and destroy.


kids do stupid things

February 10, 2017

Raise your hand if you have a teenager. Alright, so you know exactly what I’m talking about in my post title.

The Boy has just been making stupid decision after stupid decision lately, all concerning school and him trying to get out of doing all of the work tasked to him.

Now, if The Boy had actual difficulty with school I could sort of understand it. He’s at that point in junior high where they begin ramping up the homework to get kids ready for the harder world of high school.

The Boy doesn’t have that issue, though. School work comes exceptionally easy to him. Even when he complains about his pre-calc being “hard” he is getting it done within half an hour and getting an A on it.

Academically he is ridiculously gifted.

He’s just immature as hell. Like 8 year old level of maturity.

I could understand not wanting to stack his time after school with homework if he gained anything from it. But he doesn’t. The amount of time he can sit in front of a video screen doesn’t change. His bed time doesn’t change. Nothing changes.

Until his grades slip, we have numerous “discussions,” and he begins to lose his screen time entirely while he gets his grades back into shape.

This week he compounded that by breaking a mouth piece on his clarinet and not telling us for a week –  at which point his band teacher emailed us to let us know what was going on, and having a poster project due in English that he didn’t tell us about, and now tried to use weekend plans to get out of doing it.

It’s just a vicious lack of maturity leading to a compounding of stupidity. And in eight about eight minutes when The Boy gets off the bus I get to run head on into this and deal with it. What I would give for just a week of non-stupid mistakes. Screw up but don’t do it because you’re being willfully stupid.

Good luck with that.

How To Embrace Red Ink and Buy A Lot of Expensive Spices

February 7, 2017

This weekend I was driving around far too much and I caught part of a cooking show on the radio.  I love radio in the car. I loath putting a CD in the majority of the time, unless I’ve gotten something out of the library and I just want to make sure I listen to it before I have to return it. So, I’m driving around and I’m listening to the radio when this cooking show comes on and I’m like, Alright, this is good. I like cooking, I like people talking about cooking, I’m going to stick with this.

It wasn’t a bad show. I want to put that out there first, because other than that I’m not sure I’m going to say much else that’s positive because I have such a gripe about it. The main segment that I caught was talking about substituting things in recipes for various reasons, and the lead-up to this peaked my interest because why wouldn’t it? The idea of inserting weird things into common recipes to give them a twist, at least that’s what I was sort of thinking it would take for its direction.

And it did.

Except it was always taking out this pretty common (read: inexpensive) ingredient and popping in this much more expensive ingredient.

Now, we cook a lot of our meals. I would say that in any given week six of the seven nights of the week involves me standing over the stove.  Shopping for ingredients isn’t uncommon and I’m pretty well accustomed to the prices I have to pay for most of what I want, and where I can skimp.

Which is where this radio show irritated me. Nothing against the substitutions themselves, which I’m sure would be at least interesting to try out. It’s more the price difference.  There comes a point where continuously subbing out low cost ingredients for high cost ingredients does more damage to my finances than the benefits it brings to my table. And if your goal is to push people to diversify what’s on their table then putting a financial hurdle in front of them isn’t exactly the best place to start.

Cooking/baking isn’t meant to be affordable, I guess.

Twitter is just too depressing

January 26, 2017

I think I am going to have to start limiting my twitter reading. Frankly, it’s just too depressing with a constant barrage of news involving more anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-humanities, growing racism, growing ethnocentrism… .

I really don’t get the appeal of this world or why people want it. I hear constant talk about how good it “used to be,” but when was this? The rapid growth of the US after WWII was fueled by folks coming home from being abroad and enjoying things like the GI Bill to go to college. While it might sound trite to refer to fighting in the war as an opportunity to travel, it’s something I have heard referenced continually by vets as something that opened their eyes to the world, just the ability to go out and see more of it. And it is still something I hear from people who do a lot of traveling now.

Now…I don’t know. I get this impression of fear and distaste for the other, for education. People don’t trust science because…why? Is it just that they are being told things they don’t want to hear? Do they blame it for losing their job? I don’t get it.

While the bulk of my twitter feed is filled with people wanting/trying to fight these things, it’s still just overwhelming and depressing.

Hail Chris Kimball! Hail Chris Kimball!

January 23, 2017

well, yesterday I made veggie bibimbap. It’s a Korean dish with rice, a whole bunch of veggies, some pickled veggies as a side, and a soft fried egg – though we went ahead, broke the yolks, and cooked them through. I had very little confidence in pulling this off at all, especially the eggs where my general lack of patience in putting together a meal really just works against me in all sorts of ways.

But apparently I damn near nailed it. Even the kid didn’t hate it, or at least he didn’t mind everything but the pickled veggies (carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber).

Except I didn’t nail it. Chris Kimball nailed it. The recipe I used comes from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. If you’re a vegetarian, or your spouse, or whoever…this is quickly becoming a must have recommendation from me. I have it out of the library right now, and I went through it and bookmarked all of the recipes that seemed interesting, and essentially 3/4 of the book has a slip of paper tucked into it. This has become the first step in deciding what cookbook we want to buy.  Needless to say this is a book that has passed this first step.

But this isn’t so much about the book as about the guy who apparently built this empire of foolproof cooking. The Wife and I were talking about the bibimbap last night, and I had just heard part of the Milk Street Radio Show while picking up some chocolate covered pretzels that we’re selling as part of a parents of toddlers group we’re in, and it became a conversation about the singularity of Chris Kimball.

From what I understand, everything began with Kimball putting together Cook’s Country magazine, which was very…spartan, I guess, when it first came up. Perhaps a better way of explaining it is that it had a honed focus on creating the best recipes it could, and giving people the ability to cook something, and to cook it well, just by following the directions.

Cook’s Country is still around.

Then there is America’s Test Kitchen.

Now there is Milk Street.

These three things encompass many things within their spheres from television shows to radio shows, from podcasts to cookbooks, to a cooking school.

Yes, this man is busy. He’s also exacting, talented, and a true gift to the at home cook. In twenty years, he is someone who should be talked about in the same vein as Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin as chefs who brought the nuts and bolts of cooking into the home, pulled back the curtain, and made it wholly accessible. This is different from people like Mario Batalli and Anthony Bourdain (both of whom I also enjoy). Yeah, they’re chefs, yeah, they talk about food. But they don’t make it accessible. They don’t put the pan in our hands in the same way and make their experience ours.

If you like cooking, and somehow have not drifted into Chris Kimball’s orbit, you need to do yourself a favor and take yourself there.