Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 December, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

Jakarta is sinking.

Some suburbs in the capital already go underwater when there is a big tide but the problem is expected to get even worse.

Jakarta is sinking by up to 10 centimetres a year and Indonesia's national disaster centre says with oceans rising, large parts of the city, including the airport, will be inundated by 2030.

As developers suck up the watertable it dries out and the city slumps into the empty cavity.

"From our observations, since the 1960s the ground water has declined around 30 metres," the head of water resources at Indonesia's energy and mineral resources ministry, Dodid Murdohardono, said.

"The decline of ground water causes pressure in the groundwater lining and that's why Jakarta is sinking."

Meanwhile here in America the fight is on for water. In the wake of last year's drought, the Mississippi River is very shallow.

“We estimate that $7 billion in cargo will stop moving on the Mississippi River if a nine-foot channel cannot be maintained through the winter months,” says Craig Philip, CEO of Ingram Barge Company.

Cutting the flow from dams in South Dakota will reduce water levels in St. Louis by 3 to 4 feet. Realizing that this might effectively kill shipping on the Mississippi over the near term, a group of Midwest politicians including Illinois Senator Dick Durbin are asking President Obama to declare an economic emergency and authorize the Army Corps to reopen the dams.

But upstream states are saying, “not so fast.” South Dakota, for example, is calling dibs on millions of gallons of water for use in the states oil-fracking boom.

Even Senator Durbin admits that asking the President to settle what amounts to a water-war between states is a dicey prospect.

Presumably, if South Dakota doesn't get enough water, then the demand for Wisconsin's fracking-grade sand will decline. If the Mississippi isn't deep enough to allow barge traffic, then goods will have to be moved via train and truck and this will likely increase prices. Uff da!
|| Palmer, 8:38 AM || link || (0) comments |

Karben4 Makes 3

Madison's city limits now contain three breweries (plus Capital being within spitting distance) and several brewpubs. The latest is Karben4 Brewing which moved into Ale Asylum's old digs and had its "soft" opening on Friday. The Dulcinea and I arrived around 6:15 and the place was stuffed to the gills with revelers.

Three beers were on tap: NightCall, a smoked porter; SamuRyePA, a rye APA; and Block Party, an amber ale. We tried the porter and the APA. Would my hesitation stemming from brewmaster Ryan Koga's lacklustre effort at Yellowstone Valley Brewing be proven misplaced? Indeed it would.

The imperial pint glasses were a nice touch.

SamuRyePA was very similar to one of my favorite beers, Founders Red's Rye PA, with an intense citrus/grapefruit hop flavor. An excellent brew and probably a good way to find a niche in the local pale ale scene.

NightCall was tasty as well. The smoke flavor didn't dominate like a Schlenkerla but rather accented the roasted malt flavor. The brew also had a moderate spicy bitterness.

Wisconsin Beer Geek chatted with Koga who revealed that, in addition, to these three beers, an Irish red and a session ale will join the fray as annuals. There will also be four seasonal IPA's, the first of which will be a black IPA/American dark ale. Karben4 seems to be doing its level best to give Ale Asylum a run for its money.

While a bevy of IPAs doesn't particularly interest me, that promised session ale does. Something to look forward to in 2013.
|| Palmer, 8:14 AM || link || (0) comments |

28 December, 2012

It's Not Just Downtown Film Culture That Ails

Last month James Kreul asked in the pages of Isthmus "Why is downtown Madison film culture disappearing?". I didn't know that Kreul had returned to Madison (has he eschewed the scholarly casual look of blazer & tie for his grey hoodies once again?) so I was delightfully surprised to see the article.

With the Orpheum, Majestic, and University Square 4 out of the cinematic picture, Kreul ponders "Outside of the [Wisconsin Film] festival, does a downtown film culture exist without commercial theaters? And do downtown audiences value alternative film programming like they value the Capitol area's music and arts scenes?" He lauds the UW Cinematheque, the UW's WUD Film, and the Spotlight Cinema series at MMoCA but laments the fact that most of the films they show are here in town for but a single night, with the much-ballyhooed Holy Motors and David Cronenberg's latest Cosmopolis being the highest profile examples.

Before concluding he notes:

I point out the successes and shortcomings of nontheatrical venues to emphasize the vital role they play in Madison's film culture, for the most part against the odds. Another way to read the tea leaves is to conclude that Madison needs subsidized nontheatrical venues to bring in films like Holy Motors because it's not as good of a film town as it thinks it is.

Considering the relative affluence and level of education of Madison's population, you wouldn't think that Kreul's tasseomantic conclusion would hold water but it's the one I subscribe to. If Madison were a good film town, so to speak, we'd have a commercial art house. Instead we have Sundance Cinemas.

Sundance is apparently the fulcrum upon which much of Madison's alternative film programming balances. As the article points out, the Spotlight Cinema programmers get to show films that Sundance doesn't. "Distributors are reluctant to do a one-off screening because they're waiting for a full run at Sundance, which doesn't always happen," says one of them. "It pains me sometimes when a film doesn't get a Sundance run but our calendar is already set, so we can't jump in and get it. I was shocked that we got Take This Waltz [starring Hollywood heavy hitters Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen] because Sundance didn't end up running it." It pains me to hear that so much rides on whether Sundance, a theatre that somehow failed to book Lincoln, shows a film or not.

77 Square's Rob Thomas threw in his two cents about Kreul's piece last week. Thomas seems to have missed much of what he was saying. Kreul talks about a film culture involving challenging cinema, 35mm prints, having filmmakers visit Madison, events such as Yid Vicious doing a live soundtrack for a screening of The Golem, and community. Thomas, on the other hand, ignores most of that and sticks to the idea of whether and individual will be able to see a given movie or not. He's "upbeat" about "non-traditional" trends such as movies never reaching the cinemas and going directly to DVD and watching them via Hulu Plus or iTunes. He and Kreul are ultimately writing about different things.

Another instance which differentiates their views.

Kreul: "Not having weeklong runs can also diminish local press coverage and word-of-mouth promotion."

Thomas: "And, if one of those [smaller, independent] films do [sic] make it to a theater, they don't have the marketing budget to compete with the big boys."

What disappointed me most about Thomas' article was this:

Would it be better for the films to get a weeklong run at Sundance or Point? Maybe better for the distributor.

But for the audience? If only 200 people are going to come out to see “Holy Motors” anyway, isn’t it a better moviegoing experience for all 200 to see it in the same theater on the same night, rather than in audiences of a dozen at a time over the course of a week?

How incredibly asinine. If a movie gets a single screening, not everyone who wants to see it can be there. People have other commitments in life. Things come up. As Kreul wrote, "Technically speaking, Take This Waltz played in Madison, but there are several reasons you probably didn't see it. It was only shown once, and it played the evening of President Obama's first visit to Madison this fall. And that's just one of many misfortunes one-off screenings can have. (I missed Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse at Cinematheque due to a blizzard.)" On what basis does he conclude that Holy Motors has a terminal Madison audience of only a mere 200 people? Going back to Kreul's comment, a week-long run would have generated word of mouth. More tweets, more Facebook posts – surely more than 200 people would have gone to see it.

I think it's fair to ask why Madison is a pretty lousy film town that needs the UW and MMoCA to subsidize alternative fare. Is it the audiences or the programmers? Probably both.

Madison is a small metro area and has an even smaller foreign-born population which means that movies that don't get a certain stamp of approval at a film festival probably won't make it here nor will most foreign pictures who find a base audience in larger cities with populations whose native tongue isn't English.

As I said above, Madison has no commercial art house cinema. Sundance dabbles in that area but it's really just a multiplex for the well-heeled. The promise of a theatre connected to Robert Redford, a major film festival, and a mission statement about bringing "the finest selection of art, independent, foreign and documentary film programming" to Madison was all for naught. It ghettoizes smaller, independent, and foreign films by consigning them to the Screening Room which comes and goes. (As of now the SR has been absent for about two months and, if memory serves, was absent the first quarter of this year.) Instead the majority of movies on offer can be had at any of the other multiplexes in town. Madison has been excluded two years running for the Sundance Film Festival U.S.A. Screens are often given over to broadcasts of opera instead of movies.

Perhaps worst of all, Sundance Madison, given its pedigree, just doesn't seem to be interested in film culture that much. The theatre seems to be more excited about patrons drinking on their rooftop than getting people excited about cinema. I am hoping to see one of my favorite movies of all-time there next week - 2001: A Space Odyssey. While I am glad that it's going to be shown, it's sort of a letdown to know that Sundance didn't do much in the way of curating for Madison audiences - Cinemark did all the work here. Contrast Sundance Madison's Twitter feed with that of Sundance Kabuki. Here in Madison, someone logs in once a week and notes what movies are opening on Friday. In San Francisco, however, there is much more. Sure, there are plenty retweets of gushing praise, but also things like links to trailers and behind the scenes looks at movies that are playing there.

They can tell you months in advance when they will be showing an opera from New York but can't tell you when the Screening Room is to return. Where's 3D and HFR? And how could they not have gotten Lincoln? Sundance specializes in Oscar bait yet couldn't even land a Steven Spielberg movie. Very odd.

As I was pondering all of this, I wondered why Tai Chi Zero, a Chinese martial arts steampunk extravaganza, was never shown in Madison. There was a time when wuxia films were shown here – think Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What happened? Are commercial theatres now more reluctant to show foreign language films? Madison is home to TeslaCon, a steampunk convention that is growing by leaps and bounds. While not huge by numbers alone, we have 1,600 or so Chinese students at the UW making them the largest group of international students. Why did no one take a chance on Tai Chi Zero? Did Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame fare poorly here?

At the end of the day, I can't say why a particular movie doesn't make it to Madison (where were Branded - it played in Eau Claire for fuck's sake!, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?). The Wisconsin Film Festival does well but I have no idea if audiences stay away from more challenging films and foreign movies the rest of the year. Kreul implies this but I don't know the numbers.

As my rant about Sundance indicates, I think that Madison has a film culture problem, not just downtown. Remember when we got an IMAX and the owner of Star Cinemas said, "Our goal is to try to have a Hollywood picture on the screen as much as possible and also have available one of the traditional Imax films"? Where are the traditional IMAX films? While there are some bright spots, Madison's commercial cinemascape is, sadly, very homogenous with its Oscar bait and blockbusters. Documentaries and shorts virtually unknown. Madison screens are also lilywhite with films about and made by people of color being as rare as a nun in a bikini. The UW and Spotlight Cinema don't just subsidize the downtown film culture, they do it for the whole city.

Hopefully at some point Madison cinemas will offer more challenging films and viewers will pick up the gauntlet.
|| Palmer, 10:32 AM || link || (2) comments |

27 December, 2012

Wisconsin CIO Has a Long Row to Hoe

The state of Wisconsin got a new CIO last month when Gov. Walker appointed David Cagigal as CIO. (He was apparently known as "Diamond Dave" during his tenure at Alliant Energy.) Cagigal has eight "action items". Here's #8:

8. Recruit, Develop and Retain Talent

As the baby boomer generation eventually retires from the workforce, a younger generation will enter, and in turn, will need to understand what the state has learned over the years. Cagigal said that as this happens, it will be crucial to encourage younger workers to enter into government.

I'd love to know how the brain trust at 101 East Wilson plan on recruiting younger (and, hopefully, competent) workers to enter state government when their potential boss at the governor's mansion thinks so poorly of them. "Uncle Scott wants you! Come get paid less than your private sector counterpart and have a boss who thinks you're a 'have' that needs to be taken down a notch or four!"
|| Palmer, 12:30 PM || link || (0) comments |

No Good Will Towards Yemenis for Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be about gluttony and buying lots of stuff but we also like to make overtures about peace on earth and good will towards men. So much for that. Two drone strikes in Yemen killed at least five people on Christmas Eve. They were carried out by forces led by a Christian and Nobel Peace Prize winner named Barack Obama. The dead were "suspected militants".

Whether these people had links to al-Qaeda remains to be seen. But, as Sudarsan Raghavan noted in the Washington Post the same day as these strikes, "When U.S. drones kill civilians, Yemen’s government tries to conceal it".

A rickety Toyota truck packed with 14 people rumbled down a desert road from the town of Radda, which al-Qaeda militants once controlled. Suddenly a missile hurtled from the sky and flipped the vehicle over.

Chaos. Flames. Corpses. Then, a second missile struck.

Within seconds, 11 of the passengers were dead, including a woman and her 7-year-old daughter. A 12-year-old boy also perished that day, and another man later died from his wounds.

The Yemeni government initially said that those killed were al-Qaeda militants and that its Soviet-era jets had carried out the Sept. 2 attack. But tribal leaders and Yemeni officials would later say that it was an American assault and that all the victims were civilians who lived in a village near Radda, in central Yemen. U.S. officials last week acknowledged for the first time that it was an American strike.

“Their bodies were burning,” recalled Sultan Ahmed Mohammed, 27, who was riding on the hood of the truck and flew headfirst into a sandy expanse. “How could this happen? None of us were al-Qaeda.”

More than three months later, the incident offers a window into the Yemeni government’s efforts to conceal Washington’s mistakes and the unintended consequences of civilian deaths in American air assaults. In this case, the deaths have bolstered the popularity of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s Yemen affiliate, which has tried to stage attacks on U.S. soil several times.

Read that again: "the deaths have bolstered the popularity of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula".

Here's a picture from the scene of the crime.

Fortunately I can't discern the four severed heads that rescuers found when they arrived at that hellish scene.

It comes from an article by Letta Tayler at Foreign Policy called "Anatomy of an Air Attack Gone Wrong". In it she describes the devastation wrought by the murders.

The deaths from the September attack have devastated Sabool, a cluster of 120 brick-and-mud homes that residents say has no electricity, no paved roads, no schools, no hospitals, and no jobs apart from khat farming.

"Seven of the victims were breadwinners. Now we have 50 people in our village with no one to care for them," said Awadh, the local sheikh. "Who will raise them? Who will educate them? Who will take care of their needs?"

Sabooli, the farmer whose parents and only sister were killed, said six of his 10 remaining siblings are still too young to fend for themselves. "When I enter our house, my younger brothers still ask, 'Where are my mother, my father, and my sister?'" he said.

About 100 years ago during World War I there was the Christmas truce where soldiers stopped fighting and instead sang carols and exchanged food. Today soldiers go into the office on Christmas Eve, kill some people using a joystick while watching video displays, and then head home to celebrate the holidays. Things have certainly changed.
|| Palmer, 11:32 AM || link || (0) comments |

New Beers, New Brewery, and a Letter to the Woodman Brewery

Some new labels:

First is the next entry in Capital's new bomber series, Jacked Maibock. I presume this is just going to be a doppelbock of some sort. Good to see a goat return to the label, although mega-maxi-hyper-masculine-testosterone-fueled beer labels are getting old.

Sprecher is moving into the flavored malt beverage arena. Their root beer is well-known so a hard root beer is probably a good way to capitalize on its popularity.

Leine's is going to milk the Kool-Aid beer cow for all it's worth. I had their Lemon Berry Shandy last year at the Potosi Brew Fest and it was disgusting. Stick with Stiegl's radlers. The grapefruit version is fantastic.

I hear that Green Flash Brewing is now distributing here in Wisconsin. I haven't seen it but, then again, I haven't been looking. Can anyone confirm if it's on store shelves here in Madison?

Karben4's soft opening is tomorrow. According to a Facebook post, they will have three brews on tap:

NightCall (smoked porter)
SamuRyePA (rye based american pale ale)
Block Party (amber ale)

I am keeping an open mind despite Ryan Koga's Huckle-Weizen being a pretty lousy brew.

I tried Sam Adams' Norse Legend sahti last weekend and it was really tasty. Get it while you can. And don't forget that Scott Manning's take on the style is now on tap at the Vintage.

And there's this King Crimson-inspired label. Progressive rock and beer – two of the best things in life.

Lastly, I want to ask the folks at the Woodman Brewery to investigate quality control. Last week I poured four of your beers down the drain - four different brews. They all smelled wonderful. I loved the aroma of the Popcorn Lager, for instance, but it was terrible. The Halloween Ale tasted like clove water while the Red Oak Ale was little more than tap water with a dash of oak flavoring. I prefer not to drink rafters, thank you. Your Octoberfest was watery as was the bock I had. I really liked your Red Porter when I had it but that's been one of the few beers of yours that wasn't watery or didn't have off flavors making it taste like sheet metal or plastic. Your ales are hit or miss but I haven't had a lager of yours that didn't get a sip and then discreetly deposited into the drain.

If your beer tastes like Minhas brewed it, then it's your fault. However, if it tastes like a building material, then perhaps it's not being refrigerated properly in the time it leaves your brewery and before it ends up in a cooler at the retail end. Either way, you have a brace of serious quality control issues.

A Concerned Drinker
|| Palmer, 10:40 AM || link || (2) comments |

26 December, 2012

Some Awe-Inspiring Astronomy Images

The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, posted his favorite astronomy images of 2012 and they are awesome. They're like a mini-Total Perspective Vortex that show just how puny we humans really are. Take, for instance, this burst of plasma which is big, really big.

On Aug. 31, 2012, the Sun had a major hissy fit: A vast arch of material was lifted up off the surface by the Sun’s powerful magnetic field. Sometimes these arches collapse back down, but this one erupted, blasting literally hundreds of millions of tons of superheated plasma into space at a speed of 1,400 kilometers per second (900 miles per second)—over a thousand times faster than a rifle bullet. The scale of this is crushing—the arch was 300,000 kilometers (200,000) miles) across, 25 times larger than the Earth. As we near the peak of the Sun’s magnetic cycle, we’ll be seeing even more activity like this in the coming months.
|| Palmer, 3:24 PM || link || (0) comments |

Cargo Trailer

I borrowed this DVD. Looks like some good Teutonic sci-fi.

|| Palmer, 3:12 PM || link || (0) comments |

Geese With Bombs in Their Butts?

Terry McDermott, co-author of The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed recently had a piece in the LA Times about the whole controversy surrounding the use of torture in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (I always heard the antelucan hours referred to as "zero dark early".) called "'Zero Dark Thirty': Why the fabrication?".

The argument about the role of torture in the film aside, I found the following to be well, horrifying. After we tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

The result? KSM, as he is known within the intelligence community, revealed nothing about the most valuable thing he knew — Bin Laden's whereabouts. He did not, for example, divulge the name of the Kuwaiti courier who served Bin Laden.

This is not coincidentally the piece of information that sets "Zero Dark Thirty" in motion. Mohammed had trained the courier and knew of his connection to Bin Laden. Instead, he sent agents on hundreds of futile chases, hindering the hunt for Bin Laden rather than aiding it.

The simple fact is you can't reliably separate the gold from the dross that torture yields. "He had us chasing the goddamn geese in Central Park because he said some of them had explosives stuffed up their ass," one FBI counter-terrorism agent said in frustration.

Is this serious? It's bad enough that my tax money was used to torture someone and it's even worse to think that we paid people to examine geese assholes because someone thought that such a claim borne out of torture was legitimate.

But wait - it gets worse. The article ends on a disturbingly Kafka-esque note.

We have so contorted ourselves that earlier this month a military judge ruled that the man whose real-life torture is described in the movie, Mohammed's nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, will not be allowed to describe his torture at trial. The methods used to extract information from captives is a state secret, the judge said, as are the victim's recollections of it.

Apparently, those methods can be celebrated in a movie but not acknowledged in a court of law.

If this kind of stuff keeps up, it won't be long before these things start happening to Americans generally.
|| Palmer, 3:08 PM || link || (0) comments |

Preview of Remembering Chicago: The '70s & '80s

I have no recollection of the day Richard Daley died but I do remember Disco Demolition Night. This would make a nice New Year's gift for me.

|| Palmer, 2:41 PM || link || (0) comments |

Bahrain Activist Has Some Harsh Words for the U.S.

Zainab al-Khawaha is an activist for democracy in Bahrain. Yesterday the NYT published an op-ed from her pen in which she pointed out American hypocrisy - democracy is good for some people, just not for where we park the Fifth Fleet.

Bahrain, a small island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia, has been ruled by the Khalifa family for more than 200 years. It is also home to the headquarters of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols regional shipping lanes, assists with missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitors Iran as tensions in the region mount.

The oppressed people of Bahrain joined the Arab Spring soon after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. With newfound hope, Bahrainis took to the streets on Feb. 14, 2011. Rich and poor, Shiite and Sunni, liberal and religious, they felt what it was like to speak freely for the first time in the capital, Manama, at a traffic circle with a pearl monument at its center. The Pearl Roundabout came to symbolize the Bahraini revolution.

But this newfound freedom didn’t last long. The government’s security forces attacked the peaceful protesters, then tore down the Pearl monument. And in March 2011, troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened to suppress our pro-democracy protests.


The United States speaks about supporting human rights and democracy, but while the Saudis send troops to aid the Khalifa government, America is sending arms. The United States is doing itself a huge disservice by displaying such an obvious double standard toward human rights violations in the Middle East. Washington condemns the violence of the Syrian government but turns a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses committed by its ally Bahrain.

This double standard is costing America its credibility across the region; and the message being understood is that if you are an ally of America, then you can get away with abusing human rights.
|| Palmer, 2:37 PM || link || (0) comments |

21 December, 2012

Limbaugh Makes a Good Point

Over the years Rush Limbaugh has proven himself to be a grade A douchebag. However, he did make a good point recently concerning calls for gun control in the wake of the Newtown massacre:

On his syndicated radio show this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh went after the “anti-gun media” for, in his belief, not caring about gun violence when it affects urban neighborhoods like Chicago and Oakland.

“You guys ever been to Chicago? Do you know what happens in Chicago every night?” Limbaugh rhetorically asked the pro-gun politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who’ve now become pro-gun control in the wake of last week’s massacre. “What happens in Chicago in a week dwarfs what happened in Connecticut. Just nobody’s reporting it. There’s no cameras up there. You don’t see it. All you see is the mayor warning the gangbangers to kill each other instead of other people. That’s all you ever see.”

Limbaugh continued: “Have you ever heard any politician go on an anti-gun rant when you’ve heard about urban violence? Does it ever happen? I’m asking. Those stories out of Chicago were happening daily. Drudge was highlighting them. But take your pick. The Rodney King incident, whatever, the Watts riots, pick one. Post-Katrina looting in New Orleans, was the anti-gun control out in force there? They never are, are they? I wonder why that is? Why is it the anti-gun people never use violence in urban neighborhoods as an example of why we have to get rid of guns?” he asked.

Chicago has had 450+ deaths from gun violence this year and, while Chicagoans know all too well about the shootings in their city, seemingly very little is said about the epidemic outside of it. It doesn't generate national headlines and CNN doesn't report 24/7 on it like the Newtown massacre. The NRA doesn't fall silent when black youth are cut down on Chicago's south and west sides. "Pro-gun" politicians don't suddenly find themselves willing to enact gun control legislation.

Why is this?

Does skin color matter? Do people extend empathy for children in relatively well-off communities easier than those in poor communities? Perhaps it's simply the magnitude of the Newtown massacre and the rarity of such events in contrast to the frequency of shootings in Chicago where one or two children are killed at a time. Still, those numbers in the Windy city add up.
|| Palmer, 2:27 PM || link || (0) comments |

Obama Is and Has Been Intent on Cutting Social Security

Firedoglake makes the case.

Everywhere you look, the media narrative is that President Obama is “capitulating” to Republicans by agreeing to cuts in Social Security benefits.

And I have to ask, where is this collective political amnesia coming from?

Obama has made a deliberate and concerted effort to cut Social Security benefits since the time he took office. FDL reported on February 12, 2009 that the White House was meeting behind closed doors to consider ways to cut Social Security benefits, and that the framework they were using was the Diamond-Orszag plan, which was co-authored by OMB Director Peter Orszag when he was at the Brookings Institute.


The President has been very forthcoming about the fact that cutting Social Security benefits is something he wants to do. When he said during the debate that he didn’t differ from Mitt Romney on entitlement reform, he meant it. It’s time for people to remove the rose-colored glasses and stop projecting their own feelings on to the man. It’s time to take him at his word.

People who collect Social Security can at least take heart that Obama is better than Romney, right?
|| Palmer, 8:10 AM || link || (1) comments |

17 December, 2012

Pakistani Kids Express Sympathy for Newtown Tragedy

(Found here.)

Sorry kids. While we appreciate your sympathy, most of us are indifferent to your plight. Sadly, when you're killed by a missile, few Americans bat an eye.
|| Palmer, 10:40 AM || link || (0) comments |

14 December, 2012

Pope Blesses Disgusting, Homophobic Ugandan Politico

That's Pope Fritzy bestowing his blessings upon Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Uganda's parliament. Kadaga is infamous for her push to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which, among other things, allows the death penalty for those who commit "aggravated homosexuality", whatever the hell that means.

Passage of the bill would be "a Christmas gift" for some Christians:

Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as "a Christmas gift."

"Kill the fags" - quite a stocking stuffer. So much for goodwill towards men.
|| Palmer, 4:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

"so where was your god today?"

|| Palmer, 4:17 PM || link || (0) comments |

13 December, 2012

Becher vs. Stange

What's the plural of becher? Becheren? I don't know but I do know that I now have couple of them.

Last month local beer scribe Robin Shepard reviewed Port Huron's altbier and wrote that the style is traditionally served in a stange. I noted that altbier traditionally comes in a becher. (Though that appears to be changing.) The becher is similar to a stange in that it's cylindrical but the venerable serving vessel from Düsseldorf is shorter and stouter than its cousin from Köln. To wit:

That's a becher on the left and a stange next to it. Yes, I know they both need a good wash.

Your Kölsch goes in a stange:

While your altbier goes in a becher:

Now I need to celebrate my new glassware with an altbier tasting. Who makes alts around here? Port Huron, Tyranena, Rush River (a sticke in the summer?!), and BluCreek. Scott at Vintage brews Rhine Heights Alt but I don't think it's on tap currently. Any others?
|| Palmer, 6:42 PM || link || (0) comments |

11 December, 2012

Need beer? There's an app for that.

Finally, an iPad put to good use.

|| Palmer, 3:01 PM || link || (1) comments |

Sundance Film Festival U.S.A. Bypasses Madison Again

Bummer. The Sundance Film Festival U.S.A. will once again avoid Madison. The festival is a Sundance Institute event in which various filmmakers ship their films fresh from the Sundance Festival in Utah to a theatre and then jump on a plane for a special screening.

At least we are not alone as Sundance Cinemas in Seattle was also left out of the loop.

This disappointment follows the theatre putting their Screening Room - a selection of smaller, often foreign, films - on hiatus.

With all these well educated and well heeled Epic employees moving to downtown Madison, perhaps the time is right for a commercial art house cinema.
|| Palmer, 6:36 AM || link || (0) comments |

09 December, 2012

Special Delivery from St. Louis

My friend Charles was recently in St. Louis and so he made a stop at what he considers to be the best BBQ in the known universe - Pappy's Smokehouse. Luckily he thought of your humble narrator and braved the snow to bring some pork goodness for me.

|| Palmer, 3:50 PM || link || (0) comments |

06 December, 2012

"We have socialism for the rich and the incompetent"

A video from Econ4, a group of reform-minded economists.

|| Palmer, 12:59 PM || link || (2) comments |

05 December, 2012

Buddhist Scholar Calls Grover Norquist Tax Pledge A "seditious oath, a treasonous oath"

Professor Robert Thurman has posted a video on YouTube in which he explicitly says that he's trying to start a meme. He wants to get people to reject the Grover Norquist pledge to not raise taxes and the politicians who take it. He says that politicos who sign the pledge are essentially pledging to pursue a goal that runs contrary to their oath of office.

His argument is that pledging to not raise taxes in a bid to shrink the government so it can be drowned in a bathtub contradicts the oath of office.

|| Palmer, 2:07 PM || link || (0) comments |

New Beer Labels & Capital Tries to Play Catch Up

The Wee on the Lam Sour Brown has an interesting tale. It was a bad batch of wee heavy that was redeemed with some brett. It'll be interesting to taste how this came out.

And from a bit further afield:

While Sam Adams is not a Wisconsin brewer, this beer just sounds blatantly interesting. I bet it would go well with a movie. I shall have to bust out my Rashomon DVD with a bottle in hand.

This curious and cunning brew, named for the eight-headed dragon of Japanese lore, use two unusual ingredients from the same origin for its distinctive and bold flavor. Yuzu juice creates a bright citrusy character with notes of grapefruit & mandarin orange while Japanese Sugi wood balances the sweetness with a fresh earthiness. The result is a bright & ethereal yet with lots of earthy power.

In Business Madison has a new beer blog.

Barry Adams of the Wisconsin State Journal recently interviewed Brian Destree from Capital.

In March, an imperial IPA will be released in 22-ounce bomber bottles and on draft, followed by a toned-down IPA in April available in bottles, cans and on tap.

"...we're trying to get back to the younger demographic and give them something that's hot right now. IPAs are just flying off the shelf right now."

Yay. Bandwagon jumping. This is disappointing although understandable from a business point of view - Capital wants to catch the IPA wave. But I have to wonder if jumping on the bandwagon is going to pay off. Why not differentiate yourself instead of following the pack? Hopheads have Moon Man, Ale Asylum, Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada, and, well, pretty much every craft brewery out there. Even Michelob brewed an IPA.

I don't doubt that Destree will brew a tasty IPA and IIPA; instead I simply have a natural knee-jerk aversion to following the pack. I'd much rather Capital did something different than try to play catch up. At the very least, brew an IPL. Coney Island does some interesting lagers. How about a Kölsch? A good Kölsch is hard to beat and it needn't be dull. Capital could differentiate theirs from most American Kölsch-style ales out there by simply lagering it as is proper. Or they could go further. Finch's brewed one with toasted hops and applewood while Flat 12 brewed a version with cucumber which I had at The Great Taste and enjoyed. A normal Kölsch as an annual and then a funky one for the Capital Square series.

Alternatively, why not play around with a weizen? Try adding fruit to one or get hopheads jizzing in their pants by using some kind of C-hop.

We'll just have to wait and see but I worry that all of this talk of IPAs, catering to young people, and bandwagon jumping means that the brewery will forget to dance with the one that brung ya.

MadTable has an article about Capital's bomber series which reveals more bandwagon jumper oning:

“We wanted to take advantage of a trend,” says Capital’s vice president of sales, Corey Wheling. “22-ounce bottles are the number one package for consumer beer trials for beers people have never had before.”

This makes a nice segue to a bit of confirmation bias. This is an episode of the Seacoast Beverage Lab Podcast featuring Chris Lohring of Notch Brewing, a brewery that brews only session beers, i.e. - brew of 4.5% ABV or less. He covers his love of sessions beers, his dislike of seasonal beers being released a full season before the one they're brewed for, he questions the need for another IPA, and notes how bombers are a rip-off for consumers. Good stuff.

|| Palmer, 1:53 PM || link || (0) comments |

Trailer for Breaking the Taboo, a Documentary About the Disaster That Is Our War on Drugs

I found this at Boing Boing. It's a trailer for a movie called Breaking the Taboo which looks at our War on Drugs. The poster at BB pointed out the line, "If you can’t control drug use in a maximum security prison how could you control drugs in a free society?" I'd also throw in that Bill Clinton chimes in against the war, at least a part of it. What gets in my craw is, what was he doing when he was president? I guess he changed his mind. We need someone who will stop the war when he or she is president, not after they leave office and have nothing to lose by speaking out.

|| Palmer, 12:11 PM || link || (0) comments |

04 December, 2012

NSA Whistleblower: Privacy is Dead

A disturbing interview with NSA whistleblower William Binney. He is the former head of the NSA's global digital data gathering program and tells a harrowing story of how the U.S. government monitors and copies vast amounts of electronic data. If you get on their enemies list, you're fucked. For anyone who had placed hope in Obama, Binney says that this kind of spying has gotten worse under our Dear Leader than it was under Bush II. You may think that you're safe because you're not doing anything wrong, but, as Binney notes, "The problem is, if they think they’re not doing anything that’s wrong, they don’t get to define that. The central government does."

When I was a kid, we Americans prided ourselves on not doing this kind of thing. This was what the Soviets did. Yet now no one really cares and we accept it that the government can and does make copies of all of our chats, e-mails, &c. Even a four star general and the Director of the CIA had their e-mail infiltrated.

|| Palmer, 1:08 PM || link || (0) comments |

First Use of OMG TLA?

It is being claimed that the first use of "OMG" has been discovered in a letter from one Lord Fisher to Winston Churchill that was written in 1917. The decline of English has been going on much longer than had previously been suspected.

|| Palmer, 12:48 PM || link || (0) comments |

Movember Yields to Decembeaver

A cause that I can get behind.

|| Palmer, 12:21 PM || link || (0) comments |

03 December, 2012

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell To Be Adapted for Television

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is being adapted for TV.

BBC One has announced it's to make a six-part adaptation of the magnificent Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, directed by Doctor Who & Sherlock alumni Toby Haynes.

Rumoured as a film adaptation for years, the sheer scale of the novel and number of effects needed may be somewhat daunting, but Toby Haynes has a strong track record at succeeding with ambitious material, having been responsible for Doctor Who's The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang two-parter, and the Sherlock series two finale The Reichenbach Fall. Adapting Clarke's book will be writer Peter Harness, who penned the third series of Wallander.

I shall have to read the book next year.

Now, where is that TV adaptation of The Man in the High Castle?
|| Palmer, 1:50 PM || link || (0) comments |

Wisconsin Manufacturing and Ag Open for Business*

* (If you mean that they are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.)

The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reports that $100 million in business tax credits will be realized soon thanks to the Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature.

Wisconsin manufacturers and farmers are poised to cash in on the biggest state tax break they’ve received in decades, a move hailed by business groups but questioned by others worried about the annual tax revenue loss of more than $100 million.

The Republican-controlled Legislature included the “domestic production tax credit” in the 2011-13 state budget. It applies to production in Wisconsin and on Wisconsin property that’s assessed for manufacturing or agricultural use. Over the next four years, income taxes on these sectors will be reduced to nearly nothing.

Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a nonpartisan research group, said Wisconsin is one of the top manufacturing states in the country and it makes sense to assist the sector economically, given its importance and the stress it has been under.

“The harder question is whether it makes sense for state government to essentially play favorites,” Berry said. “Is there some reason we should favor a widget manufacturer over a software developer?”

Berry also faulted the Legislature for failing to specify how the tax cut would be funded, either with more revenue or less spending.

Berry's comment about it making sense to assist the manufacturing sector in Wisconsin made me chuckle because, over the weekend, the NYT published an article about tax "incentives", i.e. – bribes, that local government dole out to businesses called "As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price". It is well worth reading but it was the article's interactive sidebar that really caught my attention. If you look at the Wisconsin data, you'll see that we spend "at least $1.53 billion per year on incentive programs". That's $0.10 per dollar of our entire state budget. When that figure is broken down by industry, the top recipients of bribes that involve taxpayer money are, you guessed it, agriculture with $302 million and manufacturing with $572 million worth of "incentives". And now these top 2 recipients of tax breaks are poised for another $100 million or so over the course of a few years.

Both articles note that it's not clear if these tax breaks have the desired effect that legislators intend when passing the laws.

Still, Jon Peacock, director of the Wisconsin Budget Project, a Madison-based tax and budget policy research organization, said one of the problems with the tax cut is it’s not directly tied to job creation.

“We have no assurance that any of the businesses that get this tax break aren’t just going to pocket the money or use it for higher dividends for their stockholders,” Peacock said.

And from the NYT's piece:

The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.

“How can you even talk about rationalizing what you’re doing when you don’t even know what you’re doing?” said Timothy J. Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich.

All of this makes me shudder to think what these industries would be like in this state if they actually had to compete in a "free market".
|| Palmer, 12:12 PM || link || (0) comments |