Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Mmm... potatoes! I've come up with a new way of preparing these little critters that is deeeelishus. Start by peeling about seven potatoes. Half them, and then quarter the halves. Boil until well done, then drain. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter (or so). Throw in the potatoes, and start frying. Toss them in the pan every few minutes until they are flaky golden brown. This will take a long time - maybe 20 minutes - because they will not start turning golden until most of the water is evaporated.

If the potatoes were not boiled long enough, they just end up like home fries, but slightly softer, creamier, on the inside. However, if you get it right, they get rounded like river stones while you toss them because they're so soft from boiling, and the golden skins are very flaky and delicate because they are broken and recreated by the tossing action.

I serve them with a parsley sauce that I have not mastered yet. I'm open to suggestions. The best I've done so far was to make a light roux with unsalted butter and flour, then add milk and let thicken, then remove from heat and stir in kosher salt and parsley. I can't remember how I did it the first time, but it was bland both times. I think some good vegetable stock is needed...

Sure would be great if I had a digital camera, I could photograph the golden flakey goodness for y'all. Maybe later this year I'll get one... the good ones have to come down in price some time!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Coach Rod is Staying!

YES!!! Thank you, Rich Rodriguez. You've truly proven that this old world still has some light left in it. You've made the right decision. I could not be more proud that you are our head coach. The Mountaineers will continue to build and impress, and we will lead this conference to a national championship.

Believe it or not, the news only gets better! Greg Schiano also turned down Miami to stay at Rutgers, and Jim Leavitt says he's happy at South Florida. Earlier this year, Bobby Petrino decided to stay at Louisville after the Oakland Raiders made him an offer. I feel like we all got a huge early Christmas present this year! We have some really great coaches comfortably entrenched now. Rodriguez, Petrino, Schiano, Leavitt. Let's face it: we are one lucky conference right now.

What a great time for the Big East. We have the most desired coaches in college football, and they most desire to be right where they are. Thank you to all.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Climatologist: Alps warmest in 1,300 years

That's right, everyone. Better enjoy what little snow we have, because it's getting more and more difficult for ski resorts to produce a viable hill. We're actually doing pretty well in the rockies, but the Alps are not. So far this year, the FIS has had to cancel several races in Europe due to a lack of snow. Val Gardena is getting a weak green for next weekend, presuming they can keep the hill covered.

FIS men's tour director, Guenter Hujara talked about how it sneaks up on you. "... all of a sudden the World Cup starts and you need the white stuff. And to produce it, you need the cold temperature and the water."

How much human migration will take place over the next 20 years? Will people be driven by the heat to move towards the poles? Will old resorts have to close down, and new ones emerge in once-frozen regions?

Here is a striking example of just how much our planet has warmed up over the past 60 years. It's a pair of pictures of Muir glacier, in Alaska. One was taken in 1941, and the other in 2004.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A PB&J for the Holidays

I've been perfecting a Christmas sandwich recipe. It's basically a fancy-schmancy PB&J. Try it, change it, enjoy it, and let me know what you think...

Couple slices of French bread
Some peanut butter
Some raisins
Orange marmalade
Ground nutmeg
Ground cinnamon
Ground coriander
Butter or margarine

Slice some French bread, and very lightly toast it. On one side, apply peanut butter, and sprinkle on some cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander. Pour on a minor amount of honey. Toast in toaster oven until spices are activated, but before the honey melts too much. You may want to put some aluminum foil down to prevent honey from dripping into the oven. Remove from toaster, and then place the raisins on top. On the other side of bread, put on a very light layer of butter or margarine, and a decent portion of orange marmalade. Put it all together, and enjoy!

I used coriander because to me it has a kind of bright, lemon-like smell that adds to the spiced citrus theme. Some lemon zest would be a good substitute, maybe. A very delicate treatment with ground cloves and/or ginger would probobly add to the Christmas-iness of it. Also some toasted almonds would be a welcome addition, if you have them. I used a dark honey from Gibbons Bee Farm here in Missouri. I think the rich flavor works better than a light honey would. I also use light margarine instead of butter, but I'm not really convinced that that part of the recipe is even necessary. You could probobly omit it altogether. I've been using the jumbo raisin mix from Sunmaid. I'm thinking I like the flavor variations in the sandwich, but if you only have the regular dark kind of raisins, I'm sure it would still be pretty good.

This sandwich is great w/a glass of milk!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get Your Grubby Hands Off My Coach!

Seriously. The Big East is making its move to the big time. We have so much potential right now. WVU, Louisville, and Rutgers have all shown a lot of talent and heart this year, and the nation has noticed. When we lost Miami, BC, and Virginia Tech, everyone thought the Big East would quietly slink into obscurity, lose its BCS bid, and eventually dissolve.

Welly welly welly welly well! South Florida is now showing promise, and with a BCS bid stably assured to our conference for the forseeable future, I think they'll start drawing some of that amazing Floridian football talent. Pittsburgh is just having a couple down years. Wannstedt will have that program in the top 25 consistently soon. Hell, even Syracuse may creep back out of the basement some day, back to their former glory as a respectable football program, which produced such greats as Art Monk, Donovan McNabb, and Larry Csonka.

So, of course, everyone wants to strip the Big East of its most prized assets: its coaches. I am literally getting sick of reading articles saying how Rich Rodriguez, Bobby Petrino, and Greg Schiano are all candidates somewhere else. And if Rutgers fails to step up and pay Schiano to stay in New Jersey, I may feel compelled to take matters into my own hands... not sure how I'd do that, but I'd do something... and it probobly wouldn't be pretty. Louisville's already given Petrino a pretty sweet deal, and he's commited to them, according to this post. WVU has also stepped up and given Richie Rod what he asked for. Hopefully they'll keep heaping it on. Investing in these coaches now will pay off big for all these programs in the future, even if the coaches do choose to leave. As long as we can keep them here long enough to build up the conference's reputation as a whole, we'll all benefit from it.

Consider the fact that when the Big East was abandoned by Miami, VT, and BC, we still had WVU and Pitt, but even though those were both good programs, our BCS bid was under serious scrutiny. Without it, a top coach would obviously have doubts about moving to, or staying in, the dying conference. Thankfully, we've come through with some clutch wins, and shown the world that we're not a dying conference, but one with incredible potential for long term growth and improvement. Who knows, maybe we'll even be able to get Penn State to take notice. If we can keep these great coaches here long enough to build the conference up into a powerhouse conference, like the SEC and the Pac-10, we would be able to more easily afford losing them, because other great coaches will be more attracted to the conference.

Miami, Alabama, Florida State, and UNC, I'm talking to you when I say...

Get your stinking hands off my coaches, you damned dirty apes!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Vive St. Louis!

I really do love living in St. Louis. I live in St. Louis City. Shaw, to be precise. St. Louis's neighborhoods are distinct entities with well-defined borders, which is pretty cool. However, I'm not from St. Louis, I was raised in rural West Virginia. Yes, rural West Virginia. I say this because I've found that most of the people I know who live in St. Louis proper are also not from St. Louis, or even the St. Louis area. Like me, they were raised in rural America.

Over the past seven years I've lived here, I've learned that there's some sort of stigma felt by native "St. Louisans" against living in the actual city. It totally caught me by suprise when I first moved here, because I had no idea that when you live in the city, you're not actually supposed to live in the city. Nobody told me.

My neighbors are from places like northern Mississippi, southwest Missouri, northern Pennsylvania, northern Utah, etc. Rural places. I guess nobody told them either. It's an interesting phenomena. As it turns out, the most fervent proponents of City Living in St. Louis that I know of were raised in rural environments (not suburbs). It seems to me that most "St. Louisans" take pride in saying they're from St. Louis, but only about 1% of the people I work with actually live in the city. About 1 in 100. Most people live about 30 minutes from Downtown, or more. Why would you want to live so far from where you work?

The City of St. Louis is a great place to live. It has some of the most unique and beautiful buildings - both commercial and residential - in all of America. The natives generally don't appreciate that. These houses are relatively inexpensive, to boot. Why someone would want to live out in the 'burbs, in a house with hollow doors, vinyl siding, and that cheap 1" wide painted wood trim, when they could be living in a solid brick house with solid core doors, stained glass, hardwood floors, and real oak and pine wood trim, for the same price or less, and be much closer to work, is totally beyond me.

Living in St. Louis has made me firmly believe that supporting the city, any city, is a great way to preserve the environment. Urban sprawl is a sickening waste of green space. Sure, everyone wants to live in their own private Idaho. They stretch infrastructure out into the prairie, or the [insert sensitive ecosystem here], and then complain about the cost of gas, and traffic, and taxes. Man, get a clue. If more people had the notion to make America's urban areas strong, safe, and vibrant places to live, imagine the money - and scenery - we could save.

I'm not saying every city should be like Tokyo. There's definately a point where you can have overcrowding. However, the endless fields of McMansions sprouting up across the plains and valleys is just atrocious.

This coming from a person who loves and respects the American landscape too much to block the view with cheap vinyl siding, and stacks of gables.

Another thing about urban sprawl that irritates the shit out of me is how people who live in suburbs like to consider themselves simple country folk. Ok, just because you own a pickup truck, and you actually do live in the country, does not make you simple country folk. Dude, we all know that truck has never seen more than an inch of mud, and the number of times you actually used it to haul something definately does not justify the cost of owning it. I know you want to be a simple, manly man, in an ever-increasingly complex world, but get real. Owning a pickup truck doesn't make you a man. Independent thought, integrity, and wisdom are what make you a man.

Sorry this turned into a rant about suburbanism, but it did, and I'm not taking it back.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Republicans vs. Democrats

How is it that the U.S. is split perfectly in two by the two reigning political parties? How can it be that voters vote almost exactly 50% vs 50% each presidential vote? It seems preposterous to me that a country of 300 million people would somehow find themselves split directly in twain, opposing each other.

In following with the populus, the rest of our government is likewise split. The Senate, the House of Representatives, the Judiciary. Every branch is split nearly in half, except for the Executive, which can only be controlled by one party.

The only explanation I can speculate is that the tweaking of each party to suit voters' preferences, as well as the time-honored tradition of gerrymandering, over time, has gradually developed this impenetrable parity. I believe a balance this perfect can only serve to perpetuate the two parties currently in power, which is exactly what I do not want.

I would love to see a new party rise to power in America that is based on rationalism and social responsibility. However, I'm afraid that will not happen, because with two parties so perfectly opposed, a voter is always obliged to vote for the lesser of two evils, else deal with the anxiety of feeling the vote was wasted.

How does a third party become a viable alternative? I'm really asking, because I know very little about political theory, which is probably already evident to anyone who does know.

1) There must be a secession of powerful politicians from the two encumbant parties to draw voters to it. Of course they must be motivated to secede, and there must be an entity, or idea, responsible for uniting them.

2) There must an extremely strong grass-roots movement to mobilize unprecedented numbers of voters in favor of the new party. This seems practically impossible.

3) One of the two major parties must become so crippled by dissention among its voters, that it either redefines itself, or is overtaken by a third party.

I just don't understand how I, as a voter, can only have the choice of voting for the bible-thumping Republican party, with its fear mongering, and its disgusting corporate handouts, or the fumbling Democratic party, with its uninspired, syrupy, legislative ineptitude.

No matter who the candidate is, they all become the same person the further up the ladder they go. They're forced to by their obligations to the party. It's a fact of life. We need more idealistic rationalists in government. Seems like the only kind of people in Washington D.C. are extremists. How about some extreme rationalism?

Friday, October 06, 2006


Well, we're back. It was a grueling journey to get back. 27 hours in the world of the living before our flight from Chicago to St. Louis was cancelled. Luckily the people in our travel dept. reacted quickly by rebooking our flights for Tuesday and getting us rooms at a hotel near O'Hare. We did finally make it back to STL, where it was a shocking 95 degrees outside, but nonetheless it was nice to be home.

Friday night we went out to dinner at a German restaurant in the Pudong area called Paulaners. It was really good. I'm not sure what the deal is with all the german influence in Shanghai, but it's clearly there. Everyone is driving VWs and Audis, and there's the Bund, a German word, which is an old business district in Shanghai, and there seem to be a lot of German people around town. Anyway, I got a couple decent night pictures of the Jin Mao tower, which is really an absolute marvel of a building, in my personal opinion.

Golf on Saturday was really cool. It was the first time I've ever played with caddies. They were two girls who were very focused on our game, and really tried to stay in the background. They were just there to give yardages, keep score, and manage the clubs. All I had to do was walk up to my ball, reach out for a club, hit it, give her back the club, and walk on. It was a very nice course, albeit very short. I shot an 85, which sounds great, until you consider that there was only one or two holes over 300 yds. Mostly par 3s and 4s, but we probobly lost about two dozen balls to all the water, between the three of us. We had a great time though.

After golf, we went to a local dim sum joint, and that experience made me a new devotee to dim sum. They were awesome! We got two bamboo steamers filled with steamed dumplings, one kind with pork, and the other with a pork/crabmeat mixture. In the dumplings was also a portion of broth. They were fantastic. Apparently not many dim sum shops have the skill to get the broth in the dumpling. It was something special.

Sunday we got our shopping done. We went to a place called the Yuyuan Garden. Apparently there is actually a garden there, in fact a 400 year old classical garden that some consider the best in China, but unfortunately we never saw it, because we got hung up in the little shops leading up to it.

The Chinese National Holiday had officially started by Sunday, so there were people everywhere. Even more than usual in Shanghai. Let me tell you it was a very intense experience to be descended upon by all those shop keepers. They were hungry to sell, and the bargaining continued until money was exchanged.

I think I actually got some pretty good deals, because I was not really in the mood to spend money. I felt a little guilty after one exchange because I think I actually bargained too low. The lady had hit me in the chest in a friendly way saying "you no money!" It was like a wierd reverse buyer's guilt. Oh well, other deals were good for both sides I think. After about an hour of that shopping we had to step outside to get some air. We did go back in after a little mental preparation. It was a pretty fun, albeit frenetic, experience.

Thanks to everyone who posted comments to the blog while I was in China! Hope to see you all soon.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Three Days Left

Well, there's only three days left in China, and I knew it would go by quickly, but we're about ready to head home. The primary reason for being here is work, and that's really all we've had time for the past few days. It's really cool to be able to walk to work each morning, and the streets of Shanghai are hustling and bustling at all times. Walking to and from work always coincides with a running of the street vendor gauntlet. Watches, bags, DVDs, jewelry, etc. Eric and I seem to have "Please ask me" written on our foreheads everywhere we go. It's become a bit of a sport for us to see how quickly we can dismiss them. Sometimes they walk with us for almost a block.

Friday is here though, and now we go into the extra days fortuned upon us by a lack of business class seats from Shanghai to America this weekend. We've been invited by our good friend Lee Jian for golf tomorrow at the Oriental Paris Golf Country Club, just outside the city. He's acquired some clubs from friends that we can use, and after, he's honored us by inviting us to his home for dinner. I am really looking forward to it.

These pictures show some of the good freinds we've met here in China. They've shown us only the best hospitality. The first one is taken on top of the Wuhan Brewery. From left to right, Lee Jian, who has essentially been our shepherd on this trip, Eric Michaelis, Candor Wang, Zhao "Gump" Gang, Qiao Shengjie, and Jie "Jarod" Li, who was the kind soul who took his day off to show us all around Wuhan last Sunday.

The second photo, taken in front of the brewery, is Zhi Gang's staff, left to right: Zhi Gang, myself, Ding "Kate" Nian, Eric, Zeng Hong, my good man Gump, and Jarod Li. You'll notice that some of the people have taken names that are easy to pronounce for English speakers. That is by their choice, and many young people coming out of school have done that. It really is nice because it helps a blundering fool like me to remember names easier.

On Sunday we will likely do some last minute shopping, because we really haven't done any of that yet, and then we'll be homeward bound.

BTW, here is a link to the exact location in Shanghai that we are currently lodged, in the Jin Jiang Hotel. The strip of green in the very middle of the image is the courtyard in front of the hotel. It's interesting to pan out from there to see that I am clearly on the other side of planet Earth.

This last picture is a view from the office they let us use for the past week in Shanghai. You can actually see the Ritz Carleton off in the distance, behind the Exposition Hall. If you look at the first picture I posted, my view from the room in the Ritz, maybe you can figure out where I took this picture from. The Jin Jiang is well out of frame on the right.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

East Coasting

Back in Shanghai now. We are not staying in the Ritz Carleton this time, because Formula 1 is coming to Shanghai this weekend, and everything is booked up tight for the weekend. We are staying in a very nice hotel though, called the Jin Jiang, and we are actually close enough to walk to work in the morning. The hotel is located on a very ritzy road called Mao Ming rd. It is lined with shops that make your wallet hurt just by looking in the windows. All big time designers I've never even heard of.

Since I haven't taken any great pictures since our tour of Wuhan, I'm going to use pictures of a cool wood cabin we saw in East Lake park in Wuhan. Check out the various types of mortise and tenon joints used in its construction. There's also some interesting splices and end joints that I don't know what to call. Pretty cool! I'm still on a mission to find some really good wooden boxes though. All I can find so far are the traditional lacquered type, with boring mitre joints. Nothing hand crafted. We'll probobly hit Taikang Road, an arts street, this weekend. Hopefully we will find something there.

Jonesy, I took some pictures of lunch today, but actually this meal was kind of westernized Chinese food, so it's not the best example, and the pictures are not great anyway. I wish I had taken some pics of the food in Wuhan. Most meals go like this: one or two plates are brought to the table. Everyone has a piece or two. More dishes come in, every one takes a piece or two... repeat until the table is completely covered with dishes of all kinds. And here, they don't just put on the feedbag and chow down until full, like in America. I have to make a concerted effort to eat a little, then pause to chat, then eat, then pause, etc.

We're going to try to make it out to the Jin Mao Tower before the weekend - 1380 ft., and there is an observation deck at the top. There's also a lot of skyscraper construction going on in Pudong, the new part of Shanghai (where the Jin Mao is), where you can see welders unloading massive streams of sparks and molten steel from at least 60 stories up, and it bounces off the lower levels before disappearing. It's really spectacular and I know I won't be able to do it justice w/this camera, but I'll try.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wuhan Visted

Yesterday we finished our work in Wuhan, and so today we had an off day to go touring this vast city. The city is divided into three towns, Wuchang (phonetically "wu-chahn"), Hankou ("hahn-ko"), and Hanyang ("hahn-yahn"). The different parts are separated by the Yangtze and Hanjiang rivers. The brewery is in the Hanyang section, but we spent most of today in the biggest part, by far, Wuchang. We visited the East Lake, which takes up about 1/4 of Wuchang, and the Yellow Crane Tower. This picture is of the Chu Gate at East Lake park.

Besides seeing sights, we also got to ride the lake in a motor boat, and, after climbing about 20 flights of stairs to the top of a hill to the Chu Tower, no small feat, we got to ride little one-man wheeled sleds down a chute to the bottom. It was pretty fun! The chute was like a bobsled run, and you have a brake handle between your legs to pull in case you get going too fast. I did use it a couple times, but I think you could take the whole thing w/out using the brake. It's probobly not something you could do in America, due to liability concerns.

Yellow Crane Tower is one of China's most famous towers. The story goes that a man had a hotel that got no business until a man with a yellow crane showed up. The crane could do all sorts of tricks, and the hotel became a hit. When the man flew off on the crane a couple years later, the owner decided to build the tower in memorial. It's been rebuilt several times, each time getting bigger and more complex. It started out as only two stories, but has always been considered very tall in its time. It's actually a whole compound of grand, ancient buildings, which has been frequented by famous poets and artists throughout its history, who have been inspired by it.

In China, the official language is Mandarin (Pu-tong-wha), but every city has its own locution. I've learned a little bit of Wuhanese while I've been here. Specifically, "Shin-YAO-shee(uh)" means something like "get out of town!" or "that's crazy!" The people here have all been very friendly to us, and the food is amazing. Wuhan food is very spicy. Today I got to try a local treat which is spicy smoked duck neck. It's actually very tasty. All of the food here has been great, if you can take the heat. I'm becoming pretty handy with chopsticks. Last night I was able to pick out a glazed, hard-boiled egg yolk from a bowl. It took me a few seconds, but I did it without too much trouble. I was commended for the challenge, which is apparently not easy even for natives.

Tomorrow we finish up work in Wuhan, and then head back to Shanghai for a week. Back to the ultra-modern cosmopolis. Wuhan was awesome.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Welcome to Wuhan

Wuhan, in Hubei Province, is quite a bit different from Shanghai. Although we're not located at the city center, what I've read about Wuhan indicates a more developed city than what I'm seeing. From where we're staying, the city looks very much in transition, as you can see from this view from my hotel room.

Here you can see a lot of very nice infrastructure laying fallow in favor of new skyscrapers. Many of the sidewalks on the main roads are made of intricately laid granite, and there's planters in all the medians, but they are already falling to pieces. It seems like there has been a heavy infusion of money for infrastructure, but no local economy to keep it in repair.

It is interesting to see all the new steel and glass office buildings going up right next to what appear to be working class habitats.

While writing this, I've discovered that the Wikipedia website is blocked. I can't even access the cached Google pages. Interesting...

Here is a photo of the sidewalk about a block away from our hotel. You can see the very nice granite stones. The stores on this street range from about 400 sq. ft. to about 100. Some of the clothing shops are only big enough for about two or three people to stand in.

Eric and I are the only westerners in the entire city of Wuhan, from what I can tell, and everywhere we walk the locals are trying their best not to stare. It is an effort that is appreciated by me, because I find it even more difficult act normal, and blend in, when everyone on the street is staring at me. I decided to walk with a pronounced swagger, to convey a deliberately grounded disposition. Actually, it's the same good-ol' boy body language that I learned growing up in West Virginia, to keep people from seeing me as pretentious. It seems to work here as well. If you appear like you're not too good to slouch a little, people seem to relax.

The city is centered at the confluence of two rivers, and there are several small bodies of water throughout the city, which are worked into the cityscape. We're here for five days, so I'm going to make an effort to find a more developed downtown area, to see if it is really anything like what the website says.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stoppa! Stoppa!

Say what you will about Shanghai, they take jaywalking seriously. At every major crosswalk are at least two "Traffic Assistants" who are not afraid to use their referee whistles and booming voices of authority to weed out any would-be law breakers. I saw several people get vigorously dressed down today for trying to cross either outside of the crosswalk, or when there was no walking light. And with good reason, because the drivers here do not regard you as much more than a moving inconvenience that may or may not be driven around.

I was also witness to at least four occasions of drivers on the sidewalk. No, I'm not talking about the scooters, which are everywhere, I'm talking about actual cars... driving on the sidewalk. I was too busy getting out of the way to get any pictures.

Most pedestrians are quite disciplined. They will wait for the walk light even if the coast is clear. It's kind of wierd to see, considering the size and density of this city, but I guess the sidewalk sentinals have established their presence.

We had lunch at a local place where there was not much English spoken. The food was good, albeit difficult to order, since we had to communicate mostly by pointing at pictures, but it got a little embarrassing when I tried to write in a tip on the credit card slip. There was a "Tip" line on the receipt, but you'd think nobody has ever used it. There was quite a stir, and they ended up making a separate credit card charge for my tip. I still don't know exactly what the problem was, but I think some restaurants do tips, and some don't, and some expect 15% and some expect 3% or less. I was trying to leave 20%. Still not really clear on that

I was taking pictures outside the Shanghai Art Museum, and some people there decided that I was also an attraction, and asked if I would take some pictures with them. It was pretty funny. It's not like I am the only westerner in Shanghai, but I guess I just looked approachable. They got a kick out of it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Welcome to Shanghai

Yes, the flight was all it was hyped up to be. First class on an international flight is definately sweet. We were in the air for 14.5 hrs between Chicago and Shanghai. It felt more like being locked in your office, than being on an airplane.

I would include a shot of the poor coach cabin people from our balcony here, but I think there's some kind of Geneva Convention law against that. I'll just let the menu speak for itself...

  • To Start: Marinated cheese antipasto
  • Appetizer: Sliced Cher Siu Chicken & Drunken Shrimp w/seaweed salad
  • Salad: Sliced breast of duck and fresh seasonal greens w/zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, and yellow bell peppers
  • Warm bread basket
  • Entree: Cowboy beef filet [sic] w/red chilis, onions, and a corn been ragout
  • Dessert: Breyers Vanilla (I opted out on the numerous toppings), and assorted chocolates
A few hours later we were served Uno's pizza... then later it was Udon noodle soup w/assorted seafood dumplings.

The seats were spacious and reclined into beds. There are two built-in desks, and a built-in personal LCD screen for watching TV or movies, or the in-flight navigator screen. I was able to work on my laptop, watch the navigator screen, and still have room for my lush dinner spread.

We got out of the airport in Shanghai at around 2:30am US time, 3:30pm Shanghai time. Then a 45-minute close encounter with death in a new Audi A6, en route to the Ritz-Carleton. That driver was fearless. He didn't speak much English, but I distinctly heard him say "shit" at one point. We were like the walking dead after the ride, but had enough energy to cheese out and eat at the California Pizza kitchen in the hotel here. Yes, we're wusses. We did walk around town a little. We walked for several blocks on a sidewalk that was temporarily covered with thick wooden planks, that kept bouncing as people moved across them. I felt like I was getting my sea legs. It was slightly nauseating, but fun too. Here's the view from my room.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Hate All Extremists

Fundamentalists are fundamentally wrong.

And they're no fun, because they're totally mental.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On Ascetics and Pacifists

God bless ascetics and pacifists. They can see only through their ideals. If they could only face our problems instead of naively dismissing them as not their own, this world may yet survive. Technology is an inevitable consequence of thought, and those who seek to stall its progress are serving only decadence.

I too would love to live as a hermit. Let the world go about its business protecting property and erecting structures. I want no part in their war. Let expand their vast acreage of factories and refineries. I have no use for their systems at all. I have no use for their landfills or expressways. I don't want my name in the credits, or my words in the books. It is all a waste of time to me. Time that could be better spent seeking an honest man.

Let go their fossil fuels, and their sooty pillars. Let their devices of revenge and suffering be gone! I have no use for their protection. I have no use for man's meat or corn. I will eat from the forest floor, and the kelp from the sea. And when there is not enough to go around, let me starve. And when I am overrun by wolves, let the wolves take me.

I have no use for industry of any sort. I will wrap leaves around my waist and build a hut to stay dry. I'm done! Let go all my possessions! If I need something, God will provide it.

But hasn't God already provided what you now possess?

Bah! Let go my notions of success and morality. I have no need of formal education. I have no need of preconceptions.

But isn't it your mind which has invented those preconceptions after being trained by experience?

Bah! A man's mind plays tricks on him.

But your mind is what makes you a human being. If you can't trust your own experience, then you must believe mankind itself is an abomination.

Bah! It is.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Discrimination in American Elections

Elections remain the one true legalized form of discrimination in America. They have always been a means of exclusion for those who control the rules. Voting laws, including those contained in the U.S. Constitution, have historically been rife with exclusionary measures, and measures meant to give certain populations of voters advantages.

The most obvious problem with American elections today is that Election Day is not a federal holiday. This is a simple means of discriminating against many working-class Americans who cannot find time to either get to the polls, or wait in line for the opportunity to vote. In St. Louis, and other U.S. municipalities, many voters who managed to make it to the polls in the 2000 elections were turned away when the voting hours ended. In some cases, hours were extended so that people who made it to the lines were able to vote, but then lawsuits were filed by other persons to dismiss those ballots. St. Louis City has since made special efforts to make sure every registered voter lucky enough to make it to their polling place gets to vote, but it will always be an issue as long as voters have to negotiate their own time for the effort.

Making Election Day a national holiday fixes most of the discriminatory problems with America's electoral system, so why hasn't it happened yet?

Other problems with our electoral system:
  • No need for ID to vote
    • Many municipalities do not require identification to vote. This is an opportunity for corruption. There's really very little excuse for a citizen not to be able to acquire some form of government-approved ID. This could be viewed as a complication of the voter registration process.
  • Registration can be difficult, and most often must take place in advance of the election
  • Voting boards are frequently unprepared for major voter turnouts, resulting in lawsuits and discouragement for legitimate voters.
  • Elections often take place with little or no notice.
  • Gerrymandering
    • Redefining electoral districts is a double-edged sword. It's been a problem since our nation's birth.
  • Direct vs. Indirect voting
    • Did you know the Senate used to be an indirect vote, like the Presidency? Is it time to abolish the electoral college? Do you really trust the average citizen's ability to choose a good leader? If not, you share the same mentality as our nation's founders, as well as those officials who keep stonewalling any effort to make Election Day a federal holiday.
  • Moving polls to locations inconvenient for some population
  • No federal standards for ballots or voting machines
  • Electronic voting machine vulnerabilities
    • Did you know that many municipalities allow clerks to take home voting machines at night? Did you know that Diebold makes most of the voting machines that governments purchase, and that they are constantly found to have vulnerabilities that make it easy for a person with some level of compentency in electronics to rig elections without detection!?
  • Campaign financing
    • Serious candidates should probobly be given equal opportunity to express their views, and mobilizing large groups of voters can be an extremely costly endeavor. Some sort of media coverage should be available to candidates, and parity should be sought wherever possible in campaign spending, while still allowing for competitive advantages to those candidates who are willing to work harder for attention.
  • Lack of media coverage
    • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch does a good job of providing their Voter's Guide for every election, and political television does poorly with the average viewer. It is a challenge to educate voters on the issues at hand, and the various aspects of each candidate's views and personality.
  • Two-party dominance
    • I and most of my friends have either registered independent or don't vote at all, because we don't want to align ourselves with these self-serving, corporate-sponsored, uninspiring imbiciles that call themselves Democrats and Republicans. It's time for a new party...
    • Fusion voting is a strategy for creating third parties.
Election laws are interesting because they allow for institutionalized discrimination. In this modern world we live in, it's difficult to understand why there are so many major hurdles for some citizens to overcome in order to make an informed vote. It's always been this way, and it's always been wrong.

The American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund is a promising start to remedying many of these issues.
Theres a bill currently in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives to make Election Day a federal holiday. The Democracy Day Act of 2005. Let's hope it passes:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Meaning of the Name

Digitizdat - Числоиздат

I learned the word samizdat by reading Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. It is a Soviet-era term for the underground publishing of uncensored material. I liked the word so much, I started using it as a handle, but other people were using it too, so I needed something new. I followed the meaning of the word samizdat back by reading the Wikipedia entry for it. I discovered that other versions of -izdat words exist, including magnitizdat, which is for publishing audio tapes. I thought a more modern -izdat would be in order for this new blogosphere, thus digit-izdat - digitally published. It preserves the rebellious spirit of samizdat, while moving the term into modern usage.

First post!

Wow, my very own 'blog. I feel so bloggy.

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