Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

20 September, 2007

Dear Stu Levitan

Dear Mr. Levitan,

I drove by Todd Drive yesterday and noticed a large banner proclaiming the groundbreaking for the Arbor Gate development. I wasn't sure what it entailed completely until this morning when the WSJ explained the project in more detail. Here's an excerpt:

That meeting at Kayser Ford brought together Loren Mortenson, of Mortenson Investment Group, and Pat Baxter, owner of Kayser Ford. The Baxters, including son Sean, and the Mortensons, including son-in-law Brad Hutter, decided to team up to redevelop the area along the Beltline.

The first effort, a $22 million project called Landmark Gate planned west of Todd Drive, was scuttled after the developers couldn't win the cooperation of existing property owners.

But they regrouped and decided to build a bigger project east of Todd Drive.

Well now it's come to fruition and it seems to have done so without the government having to use eminent domain and scuttle the rights of business owners in the area. I remember all of your whining and the false accusations you hurled up at The Daily Page forum; I remember your dire predictions for the neighborhood if the government didn't forcefully take the property of citizens. And now look. A group of determined people have created an even larger project and all without having the government be their bully.

|| Palmer, 8:28 AM || link || (0) comments |

19 September, 2007

How Many Police Officers Will It Take to Make You Safe?

I've been reading a couple posts over at Paul Soglin's blog which address the rise in crime here in Madison - "Why the Prospects for Madison Are So Bleak: Part I" and "The Madison Plan to Fight Crime: Not Nearly Enough". After having finished, I can only wonder when the white flight is going to start. Outlying areas take note: you are probably going to be seeing an influx of refugees from class wars soon.

This is because the views of people like David Blaska are going to rule the day. "Stop the crime, the poverty follows. Or maybe not. But, at least, the crime stops," he bleats. With such rhetorical force, how could those ideas not carry the day? The MPD's request for 30 additional officers, up from 18, is just the tip of the iceberg. "More cops" is nice'n'jingoistic and a palliative for the anxieties of white middle-class people so they're going to eat it up while the potential of a more comprehensive plan will fall to the wayside. What are tax-hating conservatives like Blaska going to do when the police want yet more officers and more stations and more prisons? It's not that more police officers is unwelcome, but is having more people charged with standing in a roadway really going to solve anything? I think we can look forward to a referendum on building another city pokey in the near future.

Sought or unsought, we're headed for an MPD-Prison complex here.
|| Palmer, 2:44 PM || link || (0) comments |

17 September, 2007

It's the Horkening!

"The 118-year-old cylinder that is the international prototype for the metric mass, kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing weight..."
|| Palmer, 10:42 AM || link || (0) comments |

13 September, 2007


I've never heard so many smart people use the word "poo" in a half hour as I did after listening to this week's episode of Berkeley Groks, a science podcast. The topic was fecal science and featured an interview with Anish Sheth, M.D. and Josh Richman, the authors of What's Your Poo Telling You?

It was a fascinating, if odd, conversation. Take "poophoria". It's one of those poos that "is distinguished by the sense of euphoria and ecstasy that you feel throughout your body when this type of feces departs your system." And why is this, you ask? Let Dr. Stool explain:

The distention of the rectum that occurs with the passing of a large mass of stool causes the vagus nerve to fire. The net effect of this is a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn decreases blood flow to the brain. When mild, the lightheadedness can lend a sense of sublime relaxation.

The authors spared us actual photos but they did include illustrations. For instance, here's the Deja Poo:

Listen to the podcast or read the book and you too can find out why corn is good for you and your poo.
|| Palmer, 5:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

I Want My Link TV

The Wisconsin State Journal had a piece yesterday about the absence of the Big Ten Network from the channel line-up of Charter Cable. Despite being a UW alumnus, I really don't care if we get the BTN or not. In fact, I guess I'd prefer we didn’t when there's other channels I'd rather have added. Charter carries enough goddamn sports as it is. In addition to the stuff carried by the affiliates of the major networks, we've got six ESPN channels (including one in Spanish), the Golf Channel, the Speed Channel, several Fox sports channels including one dedicated to soccer, College Sports Television, Fuel TV, and the Versus Network whose coverage includes that of hunting. Those hunting programs sure must be exciting. And as Bill Lueders noted (scroll to bottom) last month, Charter recently began offering several new Christian channels so there's even more crap on TV now.

None of this is to say that Charter is Satan because there is some good stuff to be had on cable these days. I am glad we get IFC, the Sundance Channel, and BBC America, for example. But when our local cable monopoly starts thinking about expanding the channel selection, there are some networks I'd like them to consider that don't involve sports or Jesus. They also don't involve people pimping their favorite means of transportation or remodeling homes. Instead they offer a chance at learning and hearing new perspectives. Here's some stuff I'd like to see Charter carry:

Link TV - looks like it would give news and views of life outside of the United States. It'd be great to see non-whites on other continents doing something other than being killed.

Free Speech TV - non-corporate media. 'Nuff said.

The Documentary Channel - docs on Canadian animators, Cab Calloway, surfers, Iraq, and just about everything.

Classic Arts Showcase - life beyond indie rock: "animation, architectural art, ballet, chamber and choral music, dance, folk art, museum art, musical theater, opera, orchestral, recital, solo instrumental. solo vocal, and theatrical performances, as well as classic film and archival documentaries".

The Science Network - C-SPAN for science. Listen to scientists actually explain things in detail instead of suffering with soundbites. And no crackpots are given time so the coverage has a patina of "balance".

The Tennis Channel - OK, so I lied. But I include this only for my friend Otto so he can timeshift instead of having to take time off from work to listen to tennis on the Web.
|| Palmer, 4:59 PM || link || (0) comments |

I Don't Need No Mott's

Last night I made applesauce for the first time. It wasn't particularly difficult but it was time-consuming and a pain. My apple supplies are fairly low now. I began by peeling and coring the apples. This process dealt a savage blow to my new apple corer as the handle couldn't take the pressure too well. It got a bit off center but it held on.

Squeezing the lemons for the anti-browning solution got in a cut and stung like the dickens. I used a variety of apfels – Wolf Rivers, Galas, and perhaps a couple stray Wealthies. So once you're down to just the flesh, you slice them up and throw them into a kettle with a small amount of water. Cook them until they're all tender. Next you can either puree them for a smooth sauce or mash them for a chunkier style. I opted for the latter.

I had entertained ideas about adding a bit of cinnamon or some freshly ground nutmeg but eschewed all spice in favor of just a little sugar. I found that I had a couple dozen quart jars but hardly any pints. So I scrounged around the cupboards until I had six of them. One had a large crack running nearly the entire height of the jar so it was quickly discarded.

I also had a helluva time finding my canning funnel but eventually found it hidden in a bundt pan. In addition, it took me a while to find my water bath pot thingy. It too was hidden beneath all kinds of stuff in the basement. So the lesson here is to keep your canning supplies together. Much to my delight, I found that I had just enough applesauce for five pint jars. Here they are taking their bath:

And now here they are resting:

While it's a pain to stand around peeling and removing the cores from apples, I think it'll be worth it. There are some tasty applesauces on your grocer's shelves, but I appreciate being able to determine how much sugar is added and which varieties of apples are used. Plus there's the feeling of accomplishment and being able to tell the Mott's people off. Stay tuned to find out how it turned out.
|| Palmer, 8:10 AM || link || (0) comments |

11 September, 2007

On the Availability of Tubesteak

In today's Badger Herald Jason Engelhart has a piece called Chicago ‘Dog’ arrives tame in Madison" and he lies in the very first sentence:

For a long time, Madisonians who wanted a Chicago-style hot dog — that bewitching combination of a processed beef frank, mustard, sweet pickle relish, onions, tomatoes, a pickle, sport peppers, a dash of celery salt and a poppy seed bun — had to hop on the interstate and make a long journey south to Illinois.

This is sheer nonsense. Chicago dogs have long been available at Poppa Coronofoulos Gyros & Chicago-Style Deli on Buckeye Road. I do believe Madtowne Fried Chicken offers Chicago dogs as well. And one can probably get one from this guy too. How about Ella's?

Madisonians who aren't afraid to leave the campus area have been able to get a Chicago dog without having to cross borders for some time, Mr. Engelhart. Now, finding a *good* Italian beef is perhaps another matter.
|| Palmer, 10:24 AM || link || (2) comments |

Killed by ABC - Masters of Science Fiction

I watched the last two episodes of Masters of Science Fiction last night. The program was apparently scheduled to air last year but ended up on hold until it emerged last month as a late summer filler, exiled to Saturday nights. Ray Richmond writing for Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter has already chastised ABC and its president Stephen McPherson for not supporting the show so I won't do so here. Not much, anyway.

Masters of Science Fiction was an anthology series which adapted sci-fi short stories for the small screen. Six episodes were shot but only four aired. It is "hard" science fiction, thusly there's no battles with laser pistols or between giant spaceships. Instead, speculation of what the future may hold is used as a backdrop to tell very down-to-earth tales.

"A Clean Escape" started things off on a high note with Sam Waterston as Robert Hovelmann, a man who has lost his memory. Judy Davis puts in a charged performance as Dr. Deanna Evens, a psychologist who is trying to get Hovelmann to remember for her own all-too personal reasons. The truth of the situation unfolds slowly and it does so mostly in the confines of a single room. The dramatic tension and fine performances made for some great viewing.

The second installment was entitled "The Awakening". Terry O'Quinn stars as a retired army major who is hauled out of retirement to investigate a mysterious alien pod found in Iraq. The opening scene in that country features a confrontation between an American soldier and a member of an Iraqi militia and it sets the thematic wheels in motion. William B. Davis who was Cancer Man in The X-Files, is wonderful as the U.S. president. He confronts and is confronted by other world leaders via a bank of video conference screens and these scenes heighten the tension well in addition to providing fodder for contemplating our political situation today. While the show excelled for the majority of its running time, I found the ending a bit hasty and sentimental. Still, it was great fun.

"Jerry Was a Man" was adapted from a story by the legendary Robert Heinlein and featured a favorite actor of mine, Malcolm McDowell as Cargrew. He heads a company that genetically modifies animals to make custom pets for the rich in addition to its main business of creating Joes, which are human-mechanical chimeras that do tedious and/or dangerous work that people don't want to do such as serving coffee or clearing minefields. Anne Heche plays Marth Van Vogel, an exceedingly rich woman, who, along with her partner Bronson, approach Cargrew about breeding an ultra-exotic pet. While there, she encounters Jerry, created to clear minefields, and decides she wants to save him. And so she leases Jerry for a year. At the end, she takes Cargrew to court seeking to gain Jerry's freedom by proving that he is, in fact, a person. No one can play a baddie quite like McDowell and he delivers here. I must admit that I was impressed by Heche as well. She's not an actress towards whom I can admit much affinity but I thought she did a splendid job here. This episode was pretty good but I'm just so acclimated to Philip K. Dick exploring the "what is human?" topic that anyone else doing so just doesn't feel right to me.

Sadly, the final episode was "The Discarded", written and co-adapted by sci-fi's best-known curmudgeon, Harlan Ellison. It chronicles the lives of a ship of mutants – people who were afflicted with a genetic disorder. This band of outcasts wanders the galaxy looking for a new home since they are unable to return to Earth. Brian Dennehy plays Bedzyk, the erstwhile captain of the ship and leader of the band of outcasts. John Hurt is the smart-talking Samswope who, along with the second head growing out of his shoulder, is Bedzyk's friend. No off-Earth colony will accept the mutants and you can imagine that life aboard the ship is mercilessly sad. Indeed, the opening scene is of one of one person ramming their head into the wall until death. The bleakness of the circumstances are juxtaposed a rather sprightly jazz soundtrack which is at once disorientating and oddly appropriate. The ship is boarded by a representative from Earth who informs everyone that the disease has spread on the surface below but a cure has been found. But it requires the blood of Bedzyk and company as the disease has mutated and the blood of more recent victims does not contain the requisite component. That's all I'll say about the plot so as not to give anything away.

"The Discarded" is probably my favorite of the four because Ellison and co-writer Josh Olson do a great job of developing Bedzyk and Samwope in a very short time. They do so, not only by having the two interact with one another, but by having them interact with other members of the crew. Hurt gives some comic relief while Dennehy broods.

It's a real shame that ABC set up Masters of Science Fiction to fail. Although a fair sum was spent on special effects, they weren't front-and-center. Instead people with all their attendant conflicts and attachments were. I'll leave you with part of Richmond's rant with which I wholeheartedly agree:

But hey, as long as there's room in sweeps for such literary masterpieces as "National Bingo Night" and "Shaq's Big Challenge," ABC should remain safely insulated from most programming that could somehow be construed as brainier than your average speed-dating mixer. Imagine the same guy whose network boasts such MENSA candidates as "The Bachelor" and "Wife Swap" referring to a show that dramatizes short stories by such legendary writers as Harlan Ellison and Robert A. Heinlein as "very uneven" and "a little bit problematic." That's how McPherson described "Masters" in justifying his slicing it down and burning it off. And by comparison, this would make "According to Jim" . . . what? A bellwether of consistency? A landmark comedic achievement?
|| Palmer, 10:16 AM || link || (0) comments |

10 September, 2007

Women and Their Bodies

I had no idea that Britney Spears performed last night at the MTV Video Music Awards show until I read that she had bombed. Truth be known, I didn't know that the VMAs were still ongoing considering that MTV hasn't trafficked in music videos for some time. While I’m no fan of Spears, I found the above article disturbing at one point. In addition to poor lip-synching and equally bad dancing, the author of the piece noted, "The paunch in place of Spears' once-taut belly."

Now, on one hand, I can imagine that this information is relevant. Spears works in a business where image counts for, perhaps, too much and so, for better or for worse, I can understand how a physical description would be important to gossip hounds. Here is the offending body part:

On the other hand, part of me interprets the above sentence as being equivalent to "Britney is fat" which is ridiculous. That is not a paunch. I have a paunch so, trust me, that ain't one. Personally, I find her more attractive in the above picture than in previous photos where she had a taut belly. I'd be willing to let the statement in the article go if it had merely stated that she'd gained some weight but by using the term "paunch", the author knowingly conjures up connotations of overweight folks or obesity when she should have instead been trying to get across that Spears actually looks more normal, more like average women. I suppose it could be argued that the term was employed to heighten the notion of how far Spears has fallen since her heyday when she was swapping spit with Madonna on stage. But I think what comes across is "Britney is fat" and, by extension, women must be hyper-thin to be attractive and good performers.

While I'm on the topic of female celebrity bodies, how stupid is it that Vanessa Hudgens felt compelled to issue an apology for the actions of someone else? She took some nude photos of herself for her boyfriend, apparently, and then they get leaked to the Net. Contrary to the Disney spokesperson, Patti McTeague, taking intimate photos of yourself for your lover is not a "lapse in judgment". Who is McTeague to pass judgment on Hudgens' sex life? I've seen one of the photos and its just her standing there naked. The most shocking thing about it is that she actually has pubic hair. An apology is certainly due but not from Ms. Hudgens. Instead it should be from whoever put the pictures in the public domain. If it's true, as the article states, that "Judging from comments around the Internet, there's been a lot of anger and disgust over what Hudgens has done", then there's a whole lot of hypocrisy on the part of those commenters.

EDIT: For more of the Britney-is-fat stuff, head to the New York Post which declared her the "lard & clear loser" last night. Check out some of the captions of the photos too. She's the "porky princess" who was "looking a bit rotund". She goes from being an anorexic teeny bopper to a real woman and all the press can do is cry fat. I don't think she's ever looked better.

Well, now that I'm all randy, I had better "research" something else...
|| Palmer, 10:13 AM || link || (0) comments |

09 September, 2007

Vegetables, Fruit, and Creepy Crawlies

I grabbed a few stray tomatoes and a couple cantelope this morning as well as a habanera. Oddly enough, there are more habanera on the way but I don't know if they'll ripen with cool weather on the way. Not sure what kind of bug that is. And that spider is well over and inch long.
|| Palmer, 11:35 AM || link || (0) comments |

07 September, 2007


It has been quite some time since I've written about bier. This is not to say that I haven't been drinking it, but rather that I've just not been writing about it. I hope to correct that here.

Firstly I want to herald the arrival last month of Madison Beer Review. It appears to be a group effort and the folks are doing a great job with reviews, commentary, and news. In fact, they are much better than I could ever hope to be so I highly recommend heading over there with some frequency. In addition, Robin Shepherd over at Isthmus has begun writing with some frequency about beer. It began as a look at The Great Taste of the Midwest and has developed into a weekly beer review. The Daily Page is now a must-stop for beer aficionados.

As both Shepherd and the crew at MBR have noted, autumn nears and that means Oktoberfests!

I love autumn. I love the changing colors, the harvest bounty, and I love Capital's line-up. Beginning in September, I eagerly await each of their seasonals and limited editions through the spring. As I lamented last weekend, I was unable to attend Firefest at the Capital Brewery or, rather, I opted not to since I was on-call and couldn't drink. Had I been there, I would have witnessed the tapping of the season's inaugural keg of Autumnal Fire, brewmaster Kirby Nelson's fall limited release. It's a doppelbock that warms the palate and is the perfect beer to chase autumn's chill away. I look forward to this stuff just as I do to the leaves changing color. Capital's Oktoberfest is also available. This is another great beer and the pair yet again inspire me to thank Nelson for keeping lagers at the center of his brewery. There's no IPAs or race to the top of the IBU scale. I realize that Island Wheat is an ale and their most popular beer but, while refreshing on a hot day, I find it dull and uninspiring. It's more of a beer for hipsters to be seen drinking than anything else.

Over at my neighborhood brewery, the Ale Asylum, there's Diablo, a Beligan Dubbel as the fall seasonal. I turn from praising Capital for its lagers and praise AA for its line-up of Belgian style brews. Being able to head over there and grab a snifter of one of them is a real treat because they are tasty.

Over at J.T. Whitney's, look for their Marzen (i.e – Oktoberfest) soon. Their webpage doesn't list it as being on-tap yet. Yet. Also, kudos to them for having three different sodas on tap: Root Beer, Cream Soda, and Orange Cream. If you're the designated driver, you can still drink something that's made on premises. And, it's never too early to get kids to appreciate hand crafted foods, even if it's just soda.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that we can expect Fallen Apple once again from Furthermore. However, I have heard a rumor that a different beer will be introduced this fall. Let's hope we get both.

Ever since changing ownership, the Huber website has been under construction. Still, look for Berghoff Oktoberfest.

I am eagerly awaiting the opening of New Glarus' expansion where I can guzzle top notch brews in an Old World setting just like some of my ancestors did. Until then, we can take comfort in Staghorn Octoberfest. I was just over the age requirement when New Glarus opened and I took to their brews like a junkie to the needle. Staghorn quickly became one of my favorites, not only of the NG arsenal, but of any beer. It was the first fall seasonal that made me look forward to the season. Also note that this month is the last for availability of their Totally Naked.

I've waxed poetically over Tyranena and its beers several times here. Robin Shepherd reviewed it at The Daily Page a couple days ago.

Also available on a return visit is Hop Whore, an Imperial IPA. It's part of brewmaster Rob Larson's Brewers Gone Wild! series.

Moving up north to Chippewa Falls, the venerable Leinenkugel's weighs in with their Oktoberfest. Also noteworthy is this:

A Russian Imperial Stout is the latest in their Big Eddy series of true craft beers. I thought that the first in the series, an IPA, was magnificent and will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for this.

The Viking Brewing Company is quickly becoming a favorite of mine for many reasons. Their year-round brews are mostly lagers and they tend to eschew the hops arms race with their rotating brews which change every month. And they even make bracket, although I am still searching for it here in Madison. To top things off, their 4-packs are ultra-portable. As you can see, this month brings a ruach bier und a Swedish-style Imperial stout. Living as I do on the east side, I can say that the Jenifer Street Market carries a goodly selection of Viking's products.

Let's start our look at Brew City brews with Sprecher who has a wonderful Oktoberfest.

Lakefront has two seasonal brews – an Oktoberfest and a pumpkin lager. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin-spice beers and can handle only one per session. Unfortunately, I can't say that I've had Lakefront's Oktoberfest but I now dedicate myself to changing this sorry state of affairs.

Up in La Crosse, the City Brewery has their Festbier, a Marzen style brew. And they also appear to have a new variety:

At the moment, it appears to be available only on tap at locations in the west central part of the state and neighboring areas in Minnesota.

Moving over to Black River Falls and Sand Creek Brewing Company, we find Black River Red which is their Oktoberfest brew. Their other fall seasonal is the Cranberry Special Ale made with cranberries grown here in Wisconsin.

Something that the brewery introduced this summer was a hard lemonade. I have had it and I like it quite a bit, though it can get too sweet. I'll say more about it in a separate entry.

The MBR crew listed a number of Oktoberfest events at their "Oktoberfest" entry. I would add that the Essen Haus here in Madison will be having its festivities on the 29th of this month. Also on that day will be the 4th Annual Bay View Pub Crawl in Milwaukee.

The following weekend on 6 October will be Quivey's Grove's 14th Annual Beer Fest.

On 22 September in Mount Horeb will be The Thirsty Troll Brew Fest. Mt. Horeb is, of course, home to the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub.

More events around the state from Suds, Wine and Spirits:

September 7 – 9
29th Annual MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest
Old Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI

September 7 - 9, 14 - 16 & 21 – 23
United German Societies Oktoberfest
The Bavarian Inn, 700 Lexington, Glendale, WI

September 8
Brown Ales & Merlot Wine Tasting - 1-6 PM – Free
Three Cellars, 6955 S. 27th St., Franklin, WI

September 8
Wisconsin Rapids Lions 5th Annual Fall Brew Review - 1-6 PM
Robinson Park, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
(715) 423-0669 - ottlarry17@yahoo.com

September 8
7th Annual Clearwater Beer Fest - $25 ($22.50 Advance)
Eau Claire County Expo Park, Eau Claire, WI

September 13
Delafield Brewhaus Oktoberfest - Keg Tapping @ 5 PM
Delafield Brewhaus, Delafield, WI

September 15
4th Annual Great Lakes Brewfest - 4-8 PM
Racine on the Lake Festival Park, 5 Fifth St., Racine, WI

September 22
5th Annual Big Lake Brew Fest
Wessman Arena, UW Superior, Big Lake, WI

September 28
12th Annual Septembeerfest - 8-11 PM - $30
Oak Creek Community Center, 8580 South Howell Ave., Oak Creek, WI - (414) 768-5840

September 28 – 29
Old World 3rd Street Oktoberfest
Milwaukee, WI
|| Palmer, 11:46 AM || link || (0) comments |

Raise One For the Beer Hunter

The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, died a little over a week ago. He was a consummate and tireless promoters of good beer through his writing and even a long out of print television show. His work helped transform our notions of beer as a strictly blue collar drink and elevated brew into an art, on par with fine wine. Jackson was instrumental in helping Belgian beers find a wide audience here in the States.

He was 65.

|| Palmer, 8:10 AM || link || (3) comments |

05 September, 2007

People Are the Main Spring

UW Philosophy professor Lester Hunt recently wrote a post at his blog called "Completely Rebuild New Orleans? Sorry No." in which he argues against restoring the city to its pre-Katrina state. The issue of how to rebuild New Orleans is certainly contentious and Prof. Hunt's general position is certainly not one that I, someone who is ambivalent on the matter, want to dismiss out of hand. But I am sorely disappointed, if not outright dismayed, at how he chose to write about his opinion on the matter.

He argues that we (i.e. – taxpayers) shouldn't have to foot the bill to rebuild New Orleans in its entirety: "…completely rebuilding New Orleans would mean some of us indulging our sentimental attachments and aesthetic tastes at other people's expense". His solution?

Let's rebuild the parts of the city that make it great -- Tulane and the French Quarter, among others -- and move on. On to Baton Rouge, on to Houston! Some of the parts of the city that are just a place to live should be allowed to go the way of the Stutz Bearcat, the brontosaurus, and the liberal Republican.

Prof. Hunt does a great job of avoiding mentioning that the areas he does not want to pay to rebuild were mostly populated by poor black people. Indeed, he doesn't mention them at all and thusly tries to avoid race and, I would imagine, charges of racism. He does this by first saying, "I am a long time-time admirer of New Orleans, and of Creole and Cajun cuisine and music", as if admiring a couple genres of music and a regional cuisine somehow banishes all prejudices and makes one completely impartial. Instead of recognizing that his plan would actually affect human beings who somehow don't fit into his vision of what New Orleans is, he transmogrifies them into tracts of land. "Places to live" is a euphemism for the homes and lives of the poor and black. Those communities didn't have the romantic attraction of Rue Bourbon for the white libertarian(my term) university professor so they have to be reduced to mere areas of utility which are devoid of culture and all the intangibles that human beings create around adn amongst themselves regardless of where they may be. A couple paragraphs down Prof. Hunt notes: "Further, as I understand it, the parts that are below sea-level tend to be the parts that were built after the formation of the modern welfare state." Clever! Again, that actual human beings called those "parts" home is never directly stated and by using "modern welfare state" he can acknowledge that people lived there without ever having to mention them. Plus he gets to be critical of the evil, wasteful government that he despises. Two birds with one stone.

His argument comes down to not wanting to force "the taxpayers to repair all the bad effects of this government-caused mistake." It's mostly, if not all, about money so there's little wonder that he would neglect to humanize the situation. If he did, it would probably veer perilously close to "I don't want to spend my money to rebuild the home and communities of poor black people" and we all know that would go over like a lead balloon.

When confronted with trying to apply his reasoning to San Francisco and its attendant earthquakes, Prof. Hunt replies:

San Francisco can probably survive on the resources of people who find it profitable or in some other way worthwhile to pay for it. In other words, protecting the whole thing is worth the cost.

So, it's fair for taxpayers to fund projects that earthquake proof SF as much as possible because SF has rich private benefactors. But, since New Orleans doesn't seem to have such private benefactors, there shouldn't be a public one. If rich people find San Francisco profitable and thusly have much to lose, then why should taxpayers subsidize their businesses? They should pay for it since they have more to lose. If SF doesn’t need to suckle at the public teat, then why is Prof. Hunt saying that it's fine for them to do so?

Now I’m confused. This should hardly be surprising since I am without a PhD. If Prof. Hunt or anyone else does not want to pay to rebuild New Orleans to its pre-flood state, fine. If Prof. Hunt or anyone else (especially up on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line) wants to coerce the cities Houston or Baton Rouge, well, I guess good arguments can be made. But, please, don't gloss over the thousands and thousands of people whose lives were ravaged by the flooding and are now going to be affected by these actions; don't refer to their homes and communities derogatorily as mere "places to live" or the results of the modern welfare state so you can score points with your libertarian friends. Stop hiding certain parts of the tragedy under rhetorical cover.

I'm not accusing Professor Hunt of racism and I understand that the almighty dollar is an essential part of the recovery process regardless of what gets rebuilt and what doesn't. What got in my craw was that Prof. Hunt came across as issuing commands ex cathedra - Houston shall do this, Baton Rouge shall do that, and you poor folks will go here or there - without even paying lip service to the people who are going to make up the diaspora. Democracy Now! broadcasted from New Orleans last week and the programs were filled with the voices of the people who inhabit Prof. Hunt's "places to live" and to find them excluded in his post or reduced to inanimate units for economists and theoreticians to calculate was most disappointing.
|| Palmer, 1:26 PM || link || (1) comments |

04 September, 2007

Scott Milfred Has Hopped the Trolley

When the Madison Common Council meets tonight, it'll be considering, among other items, a resolution calling for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney. Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal came down against the resolution, labeled it a waste of time, and predictably laid all the blame at the doorstep of Progressive Dane. For its part, PD has pointed out the error of Mr. Milfred's assertion as has party co-chair Lukas Diaz at his blog. In light of this, the proprietor of Caffeinated Politics and Councilman Tim Gruber have publicly written in favor of the disputed resolution.

There certainly seems to be no love lost at all between Bush & Co. and the various Madison players mentioned above. Everyone seems to agree that Bush has, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "rendered himself obnoxious", but nary a mention is made castigating Congress. The Founding Fathers knew very well that the Executive Branch would be subject to men who sought to consolidate power. As Edmund Randolph noted:

The Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power; particularly in time of war when the military force, and in some respects the public money will be in his hands. Should no regular punishment be provided it will be irregularly inflicted by tumults & insurrections.

The ability to impeach is in our Constitution precisely because of a long line of men of which Bush is only a recent incarnation. (Though most of them were worse than our current president.) Human history is beset by men grabbing power, claiming authority, or in other ways dictating policy that is unmediated. For better or for worse, we do things by committee in this country, not by Executive fiat. The second that the words "impeachment is off the table" fell from Nancy Pilosi's lips, she should have been charged with dereliction of duty and removed from office. Didn't she swear to uphold the Constitution and not the Democratic party line? Our own senator, Russ Feingold, thinks that Bush and Cheney "may well have committed impeachable offenses", but steadfastly refuses to champion impeachment because he feels the Congress is unable to multitask. The only palliative the Democrats can offer is "ride the storm out". Well, REO Speedwagon song titles just don't cut it.

The resolution before our Common Council is not so much an anti-Bush statement as much as an attempt to implore the House of Representatives to do its Constitutionally-mandated job and hold the Executive Branch accountable for its high crimes and misdemeanors. Bush and his toadies are certainly worthy of vitriol and the criticism of the above-cited bloggers, but I am disappointed that my fellow Madisonians did not direct some at Congress. Milfred wrote: "Remember that Bush is leaving office anyway in little more than a year. By the time he were impeached, he'd already be gone." How many more heinous precedents are you willing to let be established to be taken advantage of by a future John Yoo, Mr. Milfred? Sixteen months is long enough for Bush to inflict more damage. Even if Bush were to actually protect our Constitution starting today and for the rest of his presidency, the damage has been done and it is compounded by a Congress who refuses to even consider impeachment, thusly allowing the dangerous precedents to stand. Riding the storm out, Mr. Milfred, does absolutely nothing to send a message to future executives that power grabs are unacceptable and will not be tolerated here. What did Edmund Burke tells us happens when good men do nothing? It is you, not the lefty politicos you berate, who are in the make-believe club. You are the one who takes the trolley trip into some la-la land where, once Bush is gone, our government suddenly becomes inundated with good, honorable men and women and where vigilance is unnecessary.

I'm not a big fan of local governments making proclamations on national policy but the resolution to be considered is not a policy, per se. It is not about trying to get Congress to vote the Lefty way. It's about getting Congress to do something that transcends party lines and something we all can agree upon - its job. For this, our Common Council can take a wee bit more time tonight.
|| Palmer, 11:06 AM || link || (0) comments |

02 September, 2007

Pecks of Peppers and Preserves

The North Side Farmer's Market was doing good business this morning when The Dulcinea and I arrived. It was my first time there and I think her's as well.

While not anywhere near as large as the Dane County Farmer's Market, the north side version benefits from not having as many yuppies drawing wagons that are the equivalent of SUVs around at a snail's pace. It suffers from a smaller variety but there were plenty of vegetables to be had as well as preserves, meat, and even a stand offering chili.

I had some of those chilies in a batch of pico de gallo that my friend Dogger and I made a couple weeks ago and, lemme tell ya, they are potent! There was also a stand selling apples but, having bought a country ton yesterday, I couldn't bring myself to buy any. The Dulcinea, however, did get a Ginger Gold which was nice and yellow with a blush. Very tasty – sweet with a bit of zest to it.

I also got to meet and chat with Lee Davenport who is the proprietor of Pamplemousse Preserves. I dated a former roommate of Lee's several years ago and I hoped that my ex didn't fill her head with nasty tales of me. Stepping up to her stand, she looked at me and commented that I was familiar to her. After revealing my identity, she opened up and we made small talk. Briana must have gone easy on me.

I bought a small jar of her Apricot and Pinot Grigio Preserves. Haven't tried them yet. Yet. However, I did sample her Black & Blue as well as the Black Currant & Pinot Noir preserves and they were fantastic.

I sure have a lot of cooking and preserving to do.
|| Palmer, 8:09 PM || link || (0) comments |

Going Deep Dish

With all the food shopping we did yesterday, I decided to make dinner using apples. To that end, I whipped up Beef and Apple Deep Dish Pie. It's not tremendously difficult but it is very time consuming.

The idea is to put beef stew in a doughy home. You season flour with cinnamon, mace, ginger, and pepper and then roll your stew meat in it and brown. Then sauté some onion. I used a Spanish onion that we'd bought at the orchard. Eating a couple slices of it raw was a real treat. My tongue was bathed in their tremendous sweetness and they were very juicy as well. These were the watermelons of the onion family. I threw in some bell pepper because our garden gave us a bounty of them. Once they're about done, pitch in the rest of your seasoned flour and cook so you have a bit of roux. Next, throw in the meat, vegetables, and your liquid – beef stock and red wine.

You end up with a simple stew which goes in a pie crust. My pie crust making ability is for shite. I prefer using lard but opted for vegetable shortening this time 'round as per The Dulcinea's request. I cut the shortening in with two forks and added water just a wee bit at a time but I couldn't get a ball to form by stirring so I ended up using my hands. I don't know why the ability to make good pastry dough eludes me so.

Here's a diagram showing pastry doughs at the molecular level courtesy of Harold McGee:

The middle section was what I was going for – flakiness. The upper half shows fat surrounding flour in an uncooked state while the lower bit is after baking. Last night I had to add a little extra water to get it to form a ball and perhaps this was too much. Resting the dough in the refrigerator not only lets the fats solidify again but it also gives the water time to distribute itself in the dough. I guess I just added to much because my dough wasn't as flakey as it ought to have been. Excess water causes the dough bits to stick instead of separate giving a nice light flakiness.

My failings aside, the recipe calls for a two quart dish. I lined one with dough and put my stew inside.

Then top it off with apple slices.

Here is it with a steam hole ready to get thrown into the oven.

I completely for got to egg wash the top and did so in a hurry by simply opening the over door and pulling the rack out a bit.

Hence the blotchy browning above. So, how did it turn out?

Well, aside from my rib-sticking crust it turned out on the mediocre side. What looks essentially like a big mess tasted good. It's just that it never bloody thickened! And I must remember to put more salt in the stew next time. Plus more apples. I really fucked it up now that I think about it. I definitely want to try this again with some modifications or, rather, additions. This will make a hearty meal come winter.
|| Palmer, 7:16 PM || link || (1) comments |