Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 March, 2007

On the Tele

This week's Life on Mars was great and found DCI Gene Hunt in fine form.



"Blahdy blahdy history bloody blah! It doesn't take a degree in applied bollocks to know what's going on."



"Now - yesterday's shooting. The dealers are all so scared we're more likely to get Helen Keller to talk. The Paki in a coma is about as loud as Liberace's dick when he's looking at a naked woman. All in all this investigation's going at the speed of a spastic in a magnet factory."

Hunt ranting (mp3).

John Simm plays Sam in Life on Mars and it has been rumoured that he was going to appear in this season's Doctor Who. Well, it appears to be true. Head over to the Doctor Who homepage and watch the Series 3 trailer there and you'll find:



He appears in the penultimate (and ultimate?) episode of the year, "The Sound of Drums" which also stars Sir Derek Jacobi. Rumour has it that this episode heralds the return of The Doctor's archnemesis, The Master, as played by Jacobi who takes over the body of the character played by Simm. And Captain Jack also returns here as well. Add a two-part Dalek story (with part 1 entitled "Daleks in Manhattan") on top of this and we've got a season that sounds like it's going to be an absolute blast.

Don't forget, the first show of the new season, "Smith and Jones", will be broadcast tomorrow.

Was anyone else disappointed with this week's LOST?



I guess we should have seen Nikki & Paulo's deaths coming considering the color of her top. All I can say is that the producers really messed up. They introduce two new characters and give them virtually no screentime so the audience hates them and then just kill them off. Why bother to introduce them at all if you're not committed to them? It's like the show is struggling to find a way to inject something new into it but doesn't know what or how to do so. They should have given the characters something to do and, with scenes of Nikki as above, the audience would have warmed to them.

I did, however, enjoy the murder mystery format of the episode. Plus Sawyer's quip, "There a forensics hatch I don't know about?", was good humor. But some scenes were pretty ridiculous. They find the entrance to the Pearl Hatch and all Nikki can say is "Fuck that – let's find the diamonds"?! And Paulo witnesses Ben & Juliet but he never tells anyone? He's stuck on this island and then finally meets people who were not crash survivors and he keeps that to himself? That brief shot of Nikki opening her eyes as she's being buried alive was fantastically creepy and the fact that that's how they die was great but it couldn't save this episode.

I don't mind that the show answers so few questions but there are times when it seems like the show is treading water by just bombarding us with mysteries until the producers have an end date for the series. Whether you feel season one or two is better than the other or not, at least both of them had a fulcrum for the story arc. The first season was about surviving on the beach, investigating the surroundings, and getting to know the characters. Season two centered around the hatch and how its mystery divided the characters. Here in season three, The Others and their camp is the primary focus but not exclusive. Or perhaps it's a weak focus. It has a strong impact on some characters and none at all on the rest. In the second season, not every character was involved with what was happening in the Swan, but what happened there was felt by pretty much everyone. But now, the events at the Hydra station and Othersville affect a small number of characters directly and the rest not at all.

As the series has gone on, we've gotten to the point where we have gotten to know the Losties pretty well. We know why Kate was under arrest, how Locke lost the use of his legs, what Jack's tattoos mean, et al. There seem to be few mysteries surrounding the pasts of the main characters left to be explained via flashback and perhaps Nikki/Paulo was an effort to alleviate this. And now a new female character is going to be introduced in 3 episodes time. Is this going to be an attempt to "artificially" extend the show or buy more time?

At least next week's episode looks to be fun with Kate and Juliet handcuffed together in some kind of The Defiant Ones setup. Check out the preview:



Next week also promises the return of Cerberus, the smoke monster. Now, it is usually pulled out when the story wants to make some serious commentary on what is, I think, the essential quality of the characters – their potential for redemption. We shall see.
|| Palmer, 7:23 PM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 6:16 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

29 March, 2007

Madison on the Tele

I noticed a couple instances of The Land of Cheese on television recently. The first was in last night's episode of LOST where Ethan was wearing this:



And this morning CNN had some story about the parents of a man with autism who were in deep shite because they used a cattle prod to calm their son down when he went into a fit in which he'd punch himself bloody. These folks were FIBs and the Illinois government was taking or had taken or will be taking measures to make sure autistic folks don't get shocked. So they cut to what should have been stock footage of the Illinois capitol in Springfield but was actually of ours here in Madison. Ours must be the standard capitol for all of newsdom.
|| Palmer, 3:47 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

27 March, 2007

Ann Althouse: Why Don't They Like Me?

Here's local blogger Ann Althouse getting her knickers in a bunch about those evil liberal bloggers. I shudder to think what she'd say to me if I were to be critical of her comments about the The Byrds/Jefferson Airplane song "Triad".



Find more info/links here.

I'd like to point out the following transcription from one of Althouse's podcasts which I found at Lawyers, Guns, and Money in which she discusses the controversy:

No why they brought this woman in the woman with the breasts all over her blog [sic], I don't know....now, obviously, you could come up with a theory that Clinton actually wanted to meet her....I think her blog has a lot less traffic than the other bloggers, and the name of her blog is "Feministing," which I think is pretty clearly a portmanteau word combines the words "feminist" and "fisting," (!) so it's a graphic sexual image. And then there are all these breast images on the blog too [sic]. I don't really know why you would want to bring that in and connect it up with Clinton. I mean, the sort of Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation, is that Clinton actually wanted to meet this woman.

I suspect Althouse's little bout of etymological tomfoolery here is more indicative of her mindset than the creator of the name "Feministing". Am I alone in thinking of the word as a gerund? OK, hand's up - who here sees the title "Feministing" and immediately thinks of fisting?

Is what we witnessed here the full-out punitive mode that victimologists lapse into if they fail to buy into victimology? To be fair, it makes some sense. It's sort of like: Don't believe in victims? I'll show you how it feels to be a victim! So, Althouse can't very well cry "poor me," can she? It would be conceding the (crazy) argument.



EDIT:

Also from the aforementioned Audible Althouse #65:

Getting trashed is leverage into becoming more prominent...But the fact is that, if people decide to slam you and fight back, you shouldn't get too mad. You should accept that as part of a process that makes you more prominent.
|| Palmer, 12:30 PM || link || (5) comments | links to this post

26 March, 2007

Happy Birthday Richard Dawkins

Dawkins is 66 today.
|| Palmer, 2:13 PM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

TV from the UK

The Dulcinea and I watched episode 5 this season of Life on Mars last week. That leaves only 3 more episodes until the end of the series. (Someone across The Pond knows better than to let a good programme jump the shark.) It looks almost certain that the show is all in Sam's imagination as he lay in the hospital. In last week's installment, he felt like absolute crap and received one of those mysterious phone calls from his doctor in which he indicated that Sam had been medicated improperly. It was a good episode with a kidnapper threatening to kill a mother & daughter unless a man is released from prison. Being a very tense, serious story, it stood in contrast to the previous episode which featured Sam and Annie undercover at a key party only to have Gene burst in with a prostitute on his arm to join. A classic moment.

After the show had ended, I began to make fun of The Dulcinea by chanting that she loved this man, Ray:



Ray is Sam's foil, basically, and of course she denied my claim. She called him scum and disgusting on account of his misogyny, his looks, etc. I was then threatened with some slash featuring me with DCI Gene Hunt.

We quickly reached détente.

But my love for him continues unabated. I've even downloaded and installed the Mini-DCI Hunt.



He roams around my desktop smoking and drinking and I occasionally receive a message which features Gene giving lessons on "modern" police methods, circa 1973.

In other TV news, Doctor Who returns on Saturday! The episode is called "Smith and Jones". It debuts at 19:00 is the UK which is 13:00 here. So keep an eye out on Saturday night/Sunday morning at your favorite download source.



Some screencaps, including the one above, can be found here.

Almost forgot - DW has been renewed for a 4th series and David Tennant has signed on for the entirety of it. Hopefully Stephen Fry will find some time to write an episode for next year.
|| Palmer, 1:48 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Chad Vader Bids Farewell to Matt Miszewski

If you've worked in IT at the state within the past few years, you will find this amusing.

|| Palmer, 11:46 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

The Lecture That Wasn't

I was really looking forward to this past weekend. Friends and my brother were to come up from Chicago and we'd attend a lecture at the Historical Society about the history of Dungeons & Dragons and then we'd drink beer and be merry. And then everyone discovered that they had to work or left for Florida or were just too lazy. This left just me and The Dulcinea.

When we got downtown, we had the opportunity to see the new Associated Bank facade.



It's nice to see something new that doesn't look like a sardine can or that it was designed with a bunch of presets and templates from a CAD program.

We arrived at the Historical Society a bit early and we wandered around – I in the book shop and The Dulcinea in the exhibits. When we caught up with each other, she had found James. Settling down at a table, we found the presenter, Lory Aitken, and a handful of more stereotypical gamers. One o'clock came and went and nothing happened. There was a timeline of the game's history taped to a table and some old rule books scattered about; a small game started at another table. I was very disappointed. The event description said: "Lory Aitken of Pegasus Games will discuss how the role-playing gaming genre got its start in Wisconsin in the 1970s with the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, then will lead the audience in a role-playing scenario." And so I expected to see a slideshow featuring a young Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson hammering out the rules and painting their first miniatures back in the late 1960s. I wanted to see photographs from the first GenCon back in 1968. I'd been hoping to hear goofy anecdotes and gaming lore. Surely there's a tale to be had of the first D&D player to ever kiss a girl.

And so, if you want to know about the history of D&D, check out this site. Here's an excerpt:

In a small town in Wisconsin called Lake Geneva, Gygax, Jeff Perren and friends had created a wargame that gave an accurate model of most aspects of medieval warfare. It was called Chainmail, and had been published by Gygax’s own fledgling company, Tactical Studies Rules. It was a later, more widely distributed version that became the first wargame to include rules for giants, trolls, dragons and magic spells. This game is seen to be the immediate predecessor of Dungeons and Dragons, and indeed, there are many similarities in the rules and style.

The seeds of role-playing had actually been laid much earlier, however. At the time Chainmail was written, Gygax was a member of a medieval warfare enthusiasts’ society entitled The Castles and Crusades Society. A fellow member, Arneson, had already began to experiment with some role-playing ideas. As he himself puts it:

"I would have to give a lot of credit [for the idea] to another local gamer, Dave Wesley. He was the first one to input role-playing…the first game that stands out in my mind is little medieval games, a very dull period of war games. He had a dull set of rules and after our second game, we were bored. To spice it up, Dave, who had been doing the set ups and refereeing [the wargames], gave each of us a little personal goal in the battle."

This was in 1968. Although crude, it was the very first step towards role-playing. Arneson continues:

"Well, that kind of got us all thinking about 'wasn’t that neat' and we did a couple of other games with various people. 'Let’s have a big medieval campaign with half a dozen different people playing with little powers with fifty or sixty men, and then you’re the king or the knight, or whatever.' And it developed from there. That got us into role-playing.'

In the early seventies, Arneson’s creativity met Gygax’s fantasy and the two men began to combine their ideas. In 1970 or 1971 (Arneson is unsure of the date), Arneson took the Chainmail system and played what was the first true role-playing game ever.

"All the fellows had come over for a traditional night of Napoleonic battle, and saw the table covered with this huge keep or castle on it. [They] wondered where this had come from in the plains of Poland or wherever we were playing at the time, and they shortly found out that they were going to go down in the deep, dank, dark dungeon."

This game was later to become the Blackmoor dungeon campaign. Gygax rapidly followed suit with an adventure that was to become the Greyhawk campaign. Over the next few years, the two played and play-tested rules that would eventually become the game Dungeons & Dragons, the world’s first commercially-available role-playing game. Like wargames, it was to prove a slow starter, but a entirely new hobby had been born.


The site also has some neat anecdotes such as these:

The first edition of D&D, like so many games that followed, featured hobbits. However, Tolkien's lawyers soon threatened copyright action, leading to the birth of the "halfling".

Arneson gives credit to himself for adding "magic" to wargames - apparently after watching an episode of Star Trek, Dave gave his druid a phaser, and zapped his opponents' forces to kingdom come! This naturally led to the lightning bolt spell.


On the bright side, I did get a chance to thumb through some old D&D manuals.




The illustrations have come a long way since 1975.



One of the manuals even had a punch card with a player's character sheet taped to the other side. The card was from the University of Chicago's Computational Center. D&D was aligned with computer geeks from the start.



And so we left early. The Dulcinea headed to The Overture Center to see The Red Shoes, a production of Playtime Productions, which is a local children's theatre group. Her eldest son, D, has a role in it. I caught the preview at the Monona Library on the 17th and was quite impressed. Not only with D (who can sing much better than I ever knew he could) but with everyone. The show was politically corrected with dances from Africa, Bolivia, India, Ireland, and the Philippines but this didn't distract too much from the path of H.C. Andersen and added another fun element to the performance. I, of course, will say that D steals the show, but Anna Pfefferkorn as Madame Pandora was suitably creepy beyond her years. Plus the Nordic accents were quite humorous. I highly recommend catching one of the performances and supporting some future artists of Madison.

James and I blew some time on State Street. We stopped in at Four Star and I found about 100 foreign films I'd like to watch. From there it was off to Charles' place for a short stint until I had to go meet The Dulcinea again. While I waited for her in the Overture lobby, I checked out some pieces of art. The hallway leading to the Capital Theatre is lined with works relating to Carmina Burana which the Madison Symphony Orchestra will be performing next month. I found this painting, the name of which I cannot recall, to be the most interesting of the bunch:



If I'd gotten there when it first went up and had $2,500 to spend on art, I'd have bought it.

Lastly, I'd like to note that The Dulcinea and I had dinner at Antojitos el Toril over on Cottage Grove Road this weekend. We each had dishes prepared only the weekends. For starters, the chips were garden variety tortilla chips but the salsas (green & red) were good. There was some heat in 'em and I appreciated that they weren't hyper-mild like a lot of joints. For the main course, The D had the lamb barbacoa while I went with the carnitas. The barbacoa came with onion and cilantro as well as a large bowl of soup which was made with lamb stock and had chili peppers and chick peas in it as well. I'm not a big lamb eater but the meat was very tender and flavorful while the soup was rich and full of lamby goodness, for those that like that kinda thing. My carnitas came with beans & rice. Again, the meat was tender and well-seasoned.

Aside from the food being excellent, I want to mention our waitress. When she stopped to take our order, I mentioned that The Dulcinea was taking a Spanish class and so the woman tried some out on The Dulcinea. So, not only was the food excellent, but the waitress was exceptionally friendly helped out with homework. This was our first experience with Antojitos el Toril and we were mightily impressed. Between it and Pelayo's, there's absolutely no reason for me to go to Mexicali Rose. In fact, it'd be nice if it closed and reopened as The Essen Haus II or another location of Arbat. Even better than that would be if Mexicali Rose got replaced and either Antojitos el Toril or Pelayo's moved into the space near my home where Francois and Sunprint both failed.
|| Palmer, 11:27 AM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

21 March, 2007

Dear Madison.com Webmaster

Dear Madison.com Webmaster,

Please find a new program to scale images for your webpage because the Commodore 64 sprite look has gone out of fashion. In the past I've noticed that your current scheme for scaling makes some black people look like they're covered in silver glitter. Today you've managed to make Mayor Dave look like Emperor Palpatine.




While I have issues with the mayor, he is not quite as evil as this comparison suggests.

Thank you for your attention,
A concerned reader
|| Palmer, 2:19 PM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

20 March, 2007

On the Gramophone

This week at my podcast I feature Joanna Newsom.

|| Palmer, 10:34 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Happy Spring

Today is the vernal equinox which means that at 7:07 tonight, the sun will cross over the earth's equator. For the occasion, I've been listening to Jethro Tull's "March the Mad Scientist":

March The Mad Scientist

What would you like for Christmas:
a new polarity?
You're binary, and desperate to deal in high figures
that lick us with their hotter flame
lick each and everyone the same.
And March, the mad scientist,
brings a new change
in ever-dancing colours.

He rings it here and he rings it,
but no one stops to see
the change of fate and the fate of change
that slips into his pocket
so he locks it all away from view
and shares not what he thought you knew.
And April is summer-bound,
And February's blue.
And no one stops to see the colours.


On this date in history was the found of The Dutch East India Company in 1602 and publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
|| Palmer, 10:30 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 March, 2007

Flying Zupan Trivia Challenge

The Flying Zupan Brothers, the trivia team of which I am a member, now has a Trivia Challenge up at madison.com. Head here for the current challenge.
|| Palmer, 1:59 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

13 March, 2007

First Open Non-Theist in Congress Identified

The first Congressman to ever come out and say he is a non-theist is Rep. Pete Stark of California.

here is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America. Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition's research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress. Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.


Hopefully this won't be the death knell of his career.
|| Palmer, 10:44 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Great Lakes Discussion Tonight

From Clean Wisconsin:

This upcoming Tuesday, March 13, veteran investigative reporter and author of The Great Lakes Water Wars, Peter Annin, will discuss the struggle over use of our Great Lakes.

Annin will be at the First Unitarian Society in Madison, Wisconsin, discussing the Great Lakes from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

In his book, Annin analyzes the local, state, federal, and international battled to preserve the world's largest container for surface freshwater on earth - the Great Lakes. The author compares the future battle over freshwater to the current oil crisis. Drawing from real-life situations like Central Asia's Aral Sea, which lost 90 percent of its surface area and 75 percent of its volume since 1960, Annin paints a vivid picture of the impact water diversion can have if not properly monitored.

Annin's book comes at a crucial time for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes states are currently discussing a compact that would establish tighter standards for withdrawing water from the lakes. In February, Minnesota took the first step in making that a reality, when its state senate gave preliminary approval to the compact. In order to be binding, all eight states bordering the lakes would have to adopt the compact and have Congress endorse it.
|| Palmer, 10:13 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

12 March, 2007

On the Gramophone

This week at my podcast, I feature B.B. King's performance at the Madison Blues Festival in 2003.

|| Palmer, 9:07 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

11 March, 2007

Werewolves of Wisconsin

Wisconsinites make the news yet again for completely stupid stuff. This time around, a guy claims to be a werewolf:

A Wisconsin man who is facing drugs and property charges after being arrested while claiming that he was a werewolf and speaking what reportedly sounded like a medieval language.

39-year-old Robert Marsh was arrested after trying to break into a woman's apartment on March 1, breaking the deadbolt on her door and grabbing her arm in the process, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
|| Palmer, 9:29 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Slow News Sunday

Holy shit - it must be a really slow news day when the fourth estate here in town just has to give us this breaking news:

|| Palmer, 8:04 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

10 March, 2007

Female Elf From Future Steals Lingerie

This is just rich:

Robert Boyd, 45, from Broadlands in Carrickfergus, is accused of holding up staff at the Orchid shop in Belfast disguised in a wig, hat and glasses.

He told the court he had been involved in a role-playing game at the time, and his character was an elf named Beho.
|| Palmer, 11:57 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

09 March, 2007

A Night of Garlic and Marmalade Making

As I noted last month, I made a trek to Chicago which included a stop at Serrelli's where I bought some of their garlic Italian sausage. Well, I finally cooked some up last night. Here it is fresh:



And here it is cooking in some marinara sauce:



Oh mama, was it tasty! They weren't messing around when it came to the garlic. I don't care if it doesn't lower cholesterol, the stuff was pungent and prominent and oh so good. I burped garlic for hours.

After dinner I made some quince marmalade ala the recipe in The English Housewife from 1683:

Marmalade of Quinces, red. To make red Marmalade of Quinces, take a pound of Quinces and cut them in half, and take out the cores, and pare them; then take a pound of Sugar, and a quart of fair water, and put them all into a pan, and let them boyl with a soft fire, and sometimes turn and keep them covered with a pewter dish, so that the steam or air may come a little out: the longer they are in boyling, the better colour they will have: and when they be soft take a Knife, and cut them cross upon the top, it will make the syrup go through that they may be all of the like colour: then set a little of your syrup to cool, and when it beginneth to be thick, then break your Quinces with a slice or spoon, so small as you can in the pan, and then strew a little fine Sugar in your boxes bottom, and so put it up.

My past attempts at the stuff resulted in the marmalade having a deep yellow color but, this time around, it turned out red instead.



I found out why by turning to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking. To wit:

Colorless quince slices cooked in a sugar syrup lose their astringency and develop a ruby-like color and translucency. Quinces and certain varieties of pear are especially rich in phenolic chemicals, including aggregates (proanthocyanidins) of from 2 to 20 anthocyanin-like subunits. The aggregates are the right size to cross-link and coagulate proteins, so they feel astringent in our mouth. When these fruits are cooked for a long time, the combination of heat and acidity causes the subunits to break off one by one; and then oxygen from the air reacts with the subunits to form true anthocyanins: so the tannic, pale fruits become more gentle-tasting and anything from pale pink to deep red.

Now you know too. Since these quinces were much riper than ones I've used previously, I suspect that ripeness plays a part as well. Perhaps they contain more of those aggregates. If McGee ever returns to Madison, I'll be sure to ask him.

|| Palmer, 6:05 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 5:28 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Dirk Gently Audio Dramas

Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels are going to be dramatized for the radio for the BBC. They are slated to be broadcast this autumn. I look forward to how they handle the couch.

In the meantime, some intrepid fans have already started their own series. Only 2 episodes up so far but I hear a third is in the works.
|| Palmer, 5:19 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

08 March, 2007

Mass/Volume

Mike Ivey of The Capital Times has been doing his homework on the construction here in town. He's had two articles this week on the subject: "East Wash: How Tall Is Too Tall?" and "Weston Place woes". Reading them, I became slightly depressed because I now realize that sprawl is unstoppable. More and more stretches of open fields and farmland are going to be chewed up and spit out as sets from Edward Scissorhands with street layouts like this:



Urban planners of the 16th century were able to design and build the city of Valletta in a grid pattern but 20th/21st century Madison is seemingly unable to do the same. Instead we get the above mish-mash of curves and cul-de-sacs which render these areas impervious to public transportation. And so sprawl will continue. But why?

No urban planner I but reading Ivey's articles gave me a clue – density. Read the articles and you'll find that towns, villages, and neighborhood groups all bitch about density. From the one on East Washington:

"Just how far east-siders are willing to go is up in the air. Patrick McDonnell, new president of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, has weighed in against greater density."

From the article on Weston Place:

"'Horeb's Corners' was to create a new front door to Mount Horeb from U.S. 18-151. The plan included 200 residential units, retail shops, offices and a commercial business park envisioning a new urbanism style where residents could easily walk to stores and businesses. But the project failed to draw support from the village board, was criticized for being too dense and was eventually abandoned."

"'The idea was to make it more of an urban feel, a small hub for the area, as opposed to a big old box with a parking lot wasteland,' said Frautschi, who has served on the Yahara Lakes Association, Friends of Pheasant Branch and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

While that Kmart site drew early support from Vern Kempfer, president of the Mayfair Park Neighborhood Association, it ran into opposition from neighbors and planners concerned about the density."


I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of these people who cry "too dense!" are also not particularly enthusiastic about sprawl. Yet it would seem that, when these people speak out against and/or help defeat proposals that are too large for their tastes, they are encouraging and perhaps hastening more subdivisions where, if I may paraphrase Chris Hedges, there are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Madison and sit in vast offices and then come home again. Personally, I think the city should tell developers who won't build in a grid pattern and refuse to put in sidewalks to go fuck themselves. This brings to mind the developments north of the American Family business park. I have a friend who had a house there. It wasn’t a bad house excepting that the exterior was exactly the same as those surrounding it. I can did some housesitting for my friend and I can say that the neighborhood was as Hedges described – soulless. I'm sure there were lots of wonderful folks around but I never met any of them. I only ever saw them when they were leaving for or coming home from work. They'd drive by me, pull into their garages, and disappear.

Ivey refers to "no-growth types". With Madison's population increasing each year by 2,500-3,000 people, one has to wonder just how long a no-growth position will be tenable. Are these folks just following the NIMBY principle or are they following some quixotic dream of keeping Madison as it was before 1996 when Money magazine named it the best whatever kind of city? Perhaps there is some middle ground that these people would agree to but upon which the articles don't elaborate. I'd like to see more density in the city along major bus routes as opposed to throwing up sterile subdivisions out in the middle of nowhere where you have to drive if you want to visit your next door neighbor. East Wash needs more development, not only to make the city denser, but also because it is one of the ugliest boulevards in all of Madison. It's appalling right from the start when you get off the interstate. No amount of new pavement, fancy light fixtures, or new bus shelters is going to make the malls, car dealerships, and lumber yard aesthetically appealing. If views of the Capitol have to go, so be it.

In his new book, Stu Levitan outlines how planning decision made decades ago affect us today in 2007. The same is true today. Decisions made now are going to affect residents who aren't even born yet.
|| Palmer, 3:54 PM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

Crazy Norwegians Up Nort

It's nice to know that those crazy Norwegians in Eau Claire are still crazy after all these years since I left the area.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - Attempts to do a movie stunt landed one man in the hospital with burned genitals and another facing criminal charges. The men were trying to do a stunt from one of the "Jackass" movies, in which a character lights his genitals on fire.
|| Palmer, 11:27 AM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

Medieval Tech Support

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07 March, 2007

Yesterday's Panel Discussion

Some intrepid folks live-blogged yesterday's panel on religion, society, and the university.

Opiate of the Masses
Letters in Bottles 1
Letters in Bottles 2
|| Palmer, 8:02 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

06 March, 2007

More on Sundance 608

The Cap Times has more on the opening of Sundance 608. While the theaters will open to the general public on the 11th of May, there will be benefits preceding this occasion.

To kick off the festival, Sundance officials decided to hold three separate fundraising events during opening week, each benefiting a different local nonprofit organization in Madison. The events include a benefit for the Chazen on Sunday, May 6, a benefit for the River Alliance on Monday, May 7, and a benefit for OutReach on Tuesday, May 8.

While I'm really looking forward to the opening, I'm a bit worried about the atmosphere:

In addition to the six-screen theater, the facility will include a restaurant and bar called Bar Bistro 608, a second rooftop bar upstairs, and a coffee shop called Caffe 608 that will serve breakfast items, pastries and coffee from San Francisco-based Peet's Coffees and Teas. There will also be a 608 Gallery selling gift items featuring the Sundance logo, as well as work from local artists.

That just sounds a little too fancy for my blood. Can you imagine Jim Kreul hanging out at that joint with his gray zippered hoodie sipping on a cup of Harvey Milk Blend coffee? (I suppose he doesn’t wear a hoodie anymore.) It sounds more like a place where one would go to hear Tino Balio talk about how indie films from Kenya find completion bond guarantors. Please don't take that as an insult being hurled at Prof. Balio. I had him for a class or two and thought he was a great teacher and got a lot out of his lectures. I thought about him a lot as I read Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. The minute I started reading about the completion guarantee company, Tandem, you can bet your ass I flashed back to my classes with him. Prof. Balio is a big, tall guy with a vague resemblance to James Burke and has a pedantic air about him that is perfectly suited to my vision of what Sundance 608 will be like. Hopefully he won't be ensconced in the film archives at the Historical Society for the opening because I'd like to meet him there and thank him for giving me the habit of not getting up from my seat at a theater until every last credit has rolled. I'm a victim of Pavlovian conditioning. In fact, I've gotten some of my friends into this habit and we cheer together when the name of the completion bond guarantor company scrolls by. Thank you Prof. Balio! Your tutelage serves me well.
|| Palmer, 10:14 AM || link || (5) comments | links to this post

05 March, 2007

Happy Pulaski Day

Having grown up in Chicago a block from Pulaski Road, I became familiar with this man at an early age.



That is Kazimierz (Casimir) Pułaski. Born in 1745, he spent much of his 20s fighting the Russians. But he made his way to the American colonies and offered his assistance to the revolutionaries. In 1777 he began fighting for America's independence from England under the command of George Washington. An experienced cavalryman, he helped train troops and started Pulaski's Legion, "one of the few cavalry regiments in the contemporary US army". He died in October of 1779 from a gunshot wound.

Here in Wisconsin, we have the village of Pulaski which is the northeast part of the state near Green Bay. The city in which I was born & raised, Chicago, has the largest ethnically Polish population of any city outside of Poland itself and so Crawford Avenue was renamed Pulaski Road in 1952. Twenty five years later, the state of Illinois officially recognized the first Monday in March as Casimir Pulaski Day.
|| Palmer, 5:20 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Uppity Heathens

Up at ABC.com, there's a piece on we uppity atheists which includes interviews with Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation whose latest lawsuit is before the Supreme Court. Also interviewed is Sam Harris. The establishing shot of him walking down the street wearing sunglasses looks like an outtake from Goodfellas.
|| Palmer, 10:58 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Sundance 608 to open on 11 May

The Capital Times is reporting that the new Sundance 608 cinemas are set to open on 11 May with 3 days of benefit showings or gigs or however you throw a charity event at a movie theatre.
|| Palmer, 10:49 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

2007 David P. Lyons Lecture @ First United Methodist Church

From the FUMC website:

Again, we have an outstanding speaker for the Lyons Lecture on April 28 and 29 in 2007. The Reverend Doctor James A. Forbes, Jr. Senior Minister of the Riverside Church in New York City. The Church is an interdenominational, interracial, and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. The 2,400 member church is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ. It is well known for it’s senior ministers including Harry Emerson Fosdick and William Sloan Coffin.

Dr. Forbes, who is the fifth senior minister at Riverside is the first African-American to serve as Senior Minister of the multicultural congregation. Before being called to Riverside’s pulpit, Dr. Forbes served Union Theological Seminary from 1976 to 1989 as Professor of Preaching. In national and international circles, Dr. Forbes is known as the preacher’s preacher because of his extensive preaching career and his charismatic style. To many of us in Madison he is remembered from the Bill Moyers interview of him and from hosting The Time is Now on Air America Radio.

Dr. Forbes Saturday lecture will be on “Healing the Spirit of the Nation”.
|| Palmer, 10:45 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Panel on Religion, Society, and the University

Featuring Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president & Tim Cruse, Roman Catholic Foundation

Location: Memorial Union, Trip Commons room
University of Wisconsin-Madison campus
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Time: 7pm

Annie Laurie Gaylor will talk a bit about her impressions of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in addition to other legal developments. The Foundation and Roman Catholic Foundation have tussled over the Catholic group's demands to be funded via student segregated fees for worship purposes.
|| Palmer, 10:42 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Brew Reviews

My reviews of a trio of beers was posted at Dane101 earlier today.
|| Palmer, 10:33 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

04 March, 2007

Whipping POST

I finally got a chance to check out the much-maligned Post, the print version of the blog-driven online magazine offered up by Capital Newspapers. The Dulcinea gave me her copy of the second issue. Since I already frequent the electronic version, there wasn't much I hadn't already read or had the chance to read. I found the layout and typeface to be nice – something that certain folks have complained about.

OK, so the links here aren't hyper. That's a given so get over it. My main gripe is really that photos which are endowed with color online are bleached to black & white here. Take the one of the shanty out on the ice. In color, there's the blue skies and the yellow shanty which sticks out like a sore thumb sitting on the snow. But in black & white it looks like an FSA photo from the mid-1930s.

Just as with coreweekly, the print version of Post isn't aimed at me, though for different reasons. Tampons aren't marketed to me either but I don't go around trashing them. Perhaps the publication will snare folks who don't get online much or those who do but don't read blogs. Post seems a rather egalitarian enterprise so far as anyone can submit themselves as a contributor. It should be interesting to see how the publication eventually pans out with at least some non-journalists writing for it.

Personally I was just happy for the absence of "My Piece of Sh*t Car" or its current equivalent.
|| Palmer, 7:53 PM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

Cook Like It's 1399

Last night I dragged my girlfriend and roommates back in time. Well, their taste buds, anyway. The Dulcinea had wanted to gather 'round the hearth and do some cooking while I was in the mood to recreate another medieval recipe. After doing a spot of shopping, we were in the kitchen preparing to cook like it was 1399. Or, truth be known, some indeterminate time in the 14th century. In Poland. On the menu from days of yore were Kurczak Pieczony z Suszonymi Śliwkami and Kluski z Bryndzą. To bolster it, I also prepared some kielbasa domowa while The Dulcinea fried up some Swiss chard as her body had a hankering for iron.

I began prepping the Kluski z Bryndzą first. These are cheese dumplings with the emphasis on cheese. I misread the recipe and had to take emergency measures as you'll see in a moment. The first thing to do is to combine equal parts bread crumbs and barley flour along with some mace.



I hated to buy the barley flour because I've got about half a dozen kinds of flour in my pantry already – wheat, buckwheat, seminola, white rice, et al. For a while I contemplated making my own bread crumbs but I wanted to use white bread and didn't have any. I have some great Polish rye and didn't want to buy anymore bread. I opted for white because the dumplings were associated with dishes of the aristocracy. Today white bread is cheap but, back in the day, only the wealthy could afford the stuff while everyone else suffered with the brown variety.

Melted butter came next and then the cheese. I had a pound of farmer's cheese but discovered that the recipe called for two pounds. Two bloody pounds! And so I scrounged around the refrigerator and found some mozzarella and cheddar for the cause. Needs must when the devil drives.



The dumplings next required egg yolks and then 20 minutes to dry but I held off in order to start prepping the Kurczak Pieczony z Suszonymi Śliwkami or Chicken Baked with Prunes. I think it was around this time that The Dulcinea and I paused for some kirschwasser which is cherry brandy.



I want to admit the I fudged on the chicken. Back in the 1300s, it would have been prepared in one of two ways: either with a hen cut in half and the parts wrapped in dough or with the hen just split in half. Back in the Middle Ages, baking was partly about cooking your food and partly about not burning a large chunk of it while the rest remained raw. You think that hot spot in your oven makes baking a pain in the ass? Try using an uncontrolled flame featuring you stoking it attempting to keep a relatively steady temperature. Meat was often wrapped in dough in order to keep it from burning. (Pastry was also used as a primitive Tupperware. You'd make yourself some beef y-stywyd – that's beef stew – in dough and you'd be able keep your meat pies for a bit as the doughh would keep the stew from being exposed to the air.) As ashamed as I am to admit it, I went with a chicken cut into pieces. Truth be known, none of my French knives are sharp enough to deal with a chicken right now. I have to pull out my knife sharpener and get me some edges! You know, when I was a kid, there was a tinker or whatever title there is for someone who sharpens knives who would come through our neighborhood and sharpen knives. Whatever happened to such people? This was only (gasp!) about 30 years ago. My last admission of cheating is that I didn't use a large earthenware container and instead used two glass baking dishes.

Here's how you assemble the dish:



Start by laying down some julienned onions followed by shredded white cabbage.



Next scatter a bunch of prunes (retain those pits, please) and juniper berries.



Next use up all that dried parsley that your roommate bought but never uses.



Then put your chicken atop the bed of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Place bay leaves between the chicken pieces and lay down bacon strips.




Next get yourself some Hungarian wine. I found Bull's Blood at Woodman's. Their selection of Hungarian wine consisted of 2 varieties and this was the cheapest. It is in the "Other Imported Wines" aisle next to the shelf with about a million wines from South Africa and beneath all the bottles from Greece. I'm forced to wonder how long it had been there because the cork was so dry that it crumbled as I inserted the corkscrew. The recipe called for 2 cups and into it went some powdered ginger and cinnamon. Pour over the bird'n'bacon.



Lastly throw some more parsley on top along with dill seed. Wrap and put it in the oven.

As the chicken cooked, I put the egg yolks into the dumpling fixins. After mixing by hand, I rolled some out. Here's what they looked like as they sat to dry:



As the chicken neared completion, I got the kielbasa boiling along with the dumplings while The Dulcinea sautéed cherry tomatoes with garlic in some butter & olive oil. Then she threw in the chard. A short while later I pulled the chicken out of the oven.



When all was said and done, our plates looked like this:



The chicken tasted like chicken but the onion/cabbage combo which has been sitting in wine and spices the whole time was just fantastic. The key was to spear a piece of chicken and get some of the vegetables on there too. The ginger & cinnamon complemented the flavor of the wine very well and weren't overpowering. Stewed prunes – who doesn't like those? The dumplings were like cheese curds except the breading was on the inside. They were so dense that I had reason to suspect that they had their own gravitational field of some magnitude. This explains why they were often served with dishes that utilized sharp herbs – they sucked the flavor right in. I mean these were real rib clingers, lemme tell ya. The kielbasa was great. Nice coarse grind, lots of garlic, and heavily smoked. The greens were excellent too. I gave mine a douche of sherry vinegar which was another foodstuff of the wealthy back in medieval times. A tasty meal and plenty hearty for these chilly nights.

I couldn't shake my hankering for chocolate and so I did a spot of night-baking by making a chocolate bundt cake. The recipe called for a glaze but, again, I misread the recipe and didn't buy enough bittersweet chocolate so it was served naked.



Finally, I want to apologize for my photography. It seems like everyone but me can take nice, tempting photos of food. I swear to you, dear readers, that someday I'll learn how to use my camera followed by Photoshop. For now, we'll have to suffer with my lackluster culinary photography.
|| Palmer, 6:48 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Return of Doctor Who Immanent

Series 3 of Doctor Who is set to start on 31 March! Here are the episode titles known so far:

1. Smith and Jones
2. The Shakespeare Code
3. Episode 3
4. Daleks in Manhattan (part one)
5. Episode 5 (part two)
6. The Lazarus Experiment
7. 42
8. Human Nature (part one)
9. The Family of Blood
10. Blink
11. Utopia
12. The Sound of Drums (part one)
13. Episode 13 (part two)

Note that #8 & 9 are based on the Doctor Who novel called Human Nature.

Also in the Doctor Who world, the spin-off series Torchwood has been renewed for a second series set to debut early next year.
|| Palmer, 2:06 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Slainte Mhath

With the arrival of another month comes another round of new beers. It being March, plenty of stouts to celebrate St. Patrick's Day line store shelves. This new month also means that traditional-minded brewers are readying their Oktoberfests.



In addition to the introduction of the Blonde Doppelbock, Capital's seasonal Maibock is on store shelves now.

It has been confirmed that Furthermore's Knot Stock, an ale infused with black pepper, has been reformulated to make the pepper flavor more "distinctive". I haven't had a Knot Stock since the fall so I can't say more.



Construction continues apace on New Glarus Brewing's expansion with an estimated completion date sometime in the autumn. Until then, we can continue to enjoy brewmaster Dan Carey's fine brews. This month sees the introduction of Stone Soup, an abbey ale.




Over in Milwaukee at Lakefront, the beer of the month is their bock. Also note that Snake Chaser, an Irish stout, is also available now for St. Patty's Day.



Also in time for St. Patrick's Day, Sprecher has their Irish Style Stout. But the really interesting new from the folks in Milwaukee are these two brews:



Looking to Africa for inspiration, they've come up with Mbege Ale and Shakparo Ale. These are (very) limited releases and I've not seen them in Madison.

Mbege Ale:

Bananas are the main ingredient in mbege style beers popular in Eastern Africa. In keeping with tradition, this is brewed with real bananas and presented unfiltered. Light hints of banana remain present in the aroma and flavor of this unique offering.

Shakparo Ale:

Shakparo style beers originated West African and are brewed with sorghum. Our Shakparo is light and refreshing with hints of fruit and spice, and is presented unfiltered as is traditional with this style.




Up north in Dallas, WI is the prolific Viking Brewery. In March they roll out the Weathertop Wheat, a dark New Zealand-style wheat beer and Sylvan Springs, a Bohemian-style pilsner. No word yet on their brackets for this year.



A bit south of Dallas in Black River Falls is the Sand Creek Brewing Company. Their spring seasonal is Oderbolz Bock.



From the Falls Brewing Company comes Midnight Porter. The website indicates that it's coming soon but provides nothing further. Not sure if it's available yet or not.



A bit closer to home is Tyranena. Brewmaster Rob Larson reported that his spring seasonal, Fighting Finches Maibock was bottled last Monday and so it should be appearing on store shelves over the next couple weeks. I'm not sure when Rob's next installment of his Brewers Gone Wild! is to be available. It will be The Devil Made Me Do It!, an Imperial Oatmeal Porter brewed with coffee beans from Sumatra and Costa Rica.

Speaking of the folks at Tyranena, this coming Thursday, 8 March is the 2nd Annual Hop-Luck O' the Irish out at the brewery. Bring an Irish dish to pass (made with some Tyranena beer) and get a free pint. There will also be a St. Patty's Day-themed trivia contest. Unfortunately, The Dulcinea has a big exam on Friday so she is unable to attend. Anyone wanna be my date?

A week from today on 11 March will be the 19th Annual Blessing of the Bock in Milwaukee. Tickets are $40 at the door, $30 in advance. In addition to the beer, blues will be provided by Watermelon Slim & The Workers. Here's a list of the breweries and beers confirmed so far:

Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI - Blonde Dopplebock, Island Wheat

Leinenkugel Brewing, Chippewa Falls, WI - Sunset Wheat, Big Butt Dopplebock, Summer Shandy (new summer seasonal), Imperial IPA (test beer only on draft)

Water Street Brewery, Milwaukee, WI - Dopplebock, Belgian Ale, Irish Whiskey Stout, Raspberry Weiss

Stonefly Brewing, Milwaukee, Wi

Note the appearance of Leine's Summer Shandy, scheduled to be available this summer. "Shandy" refers to the mixture of beer and lemonade, traditionally a bitter in England, but lagers are common these days (known as a "Radler" in Germany). Here's a list of other names considered:

Leinenkugel's Barefoot Summer
Leinenkugel's Pontoon Ponder
Leinenkugel's Lakehouse Lemon
Leinenkugel's Lake Breeze
Leinenkugel's Flip Flop Lemon Drop
Leinenkugel's Dancing Sandals

Summer Shandy is, in my opinion, the best of the lot.

In closing, I'd like to mention that I recently saw both Rehorst and Death's Door vodkas at Woodman's. Rehorst is distilled in Milwaukee by the Great Lakes Distillery while Death's Door is made in Iowa, but from Wisconsin wheat grown on Washington Island. The folks at Great Lakes Distillery are soon to introduce a gin. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I'd like to note the loss of a couple folks in the brewing community. First is the passing of "The Indiana Jones of Beer", Alan D. Eames. From Slashfood:

Eames lived up to the Indiana Jones title with such exploits as traversing the Amazon in search of a legendary black brew and entering Egyptian tombs to read hieroglyphics about beer. He liked to refer to himself as a beer anthropologist. Once in South Africa, he sampled a rare dark beer said to be made by a village grandfather. When he asked to speak to the brewer his request drew guffaws. Seems the beer was made from grandfather; his cremated bones were added to the other ingredients.

Lastly, master brewer Karl Strauss died just after Christmas at the ripe old age of 94.

Karl Strauss, a German brew master who worked for Milwaukee beer giant Pabst Brewing Co. for 44 years before helping craft microbrews for his six namesake brew pubs in Southern California, has died. He was 94.

After serving as Pabst's master brewer and vice president of production, Strauss retired in 1983 and became a brew-making consultant when American microbreweries were booming.

"He was a proponent of smaller brewers, craft brewers from their very inception," said Raymond J. Klimovitz, a Wisconsin beer consultant who serves on the executive council of the Master Brewers Assn. of the Americas.
|| Palmer, 1:32 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post