Thursday, January 31, 2008

Andy Being Andy

I first saw this clip in a video about Andy Warhol my art teacher (the inimitable Mrs. Roselyn Leary) let me borrow in High School. I had forgotten about it until I was looking up Andy Warhol on Youtube... here it is:

Hehe. Uh, no. Uh, yes. One of the best interviews ever.

Also worth pointing out are these little Velvet pearls found...

Live footage of Venus in Furs being played in front of a group of now-famous, but nonetheless hilarious dancers. The guy w/the whip is Gerard Malanga, a regarded artist in his own right. Not sure about the dude w/the cigarette in his mouth doing what looks to be an early precedent of the Elaine Dance.

Nico and Lou performing Femme Fatale live!!! Nico is brunette in this footage, which was kind of a surprise for me. I think it suits her.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adventures in Beef Daube

So I had this 3 lb. bottom round sitting in the refrigerator for two days, and I figured I better do something with it quick. I got online and typed "bottom round" in the search bar at, and got a lot of hits for pot roast, sauerbraten, and beef daube. Ah... beef daube. I remember enjoying it at a French cafe in Kirkwood, MO. The cafe was aptly named Cafe Proven├žal, since it specializes in Proven├žal cuisine. So I figured I'd give it a try...

I settled on this recipe as my main direction, called Daube Bignami. I cut the roast into large pieces, and followed the recipe, substituting garlic powder for chopped garlic because I didn't have any fresh garlic. I used about half a bottle of Red Bicycle merlot I had on hand, and covered w/about two cups of water. I let it simmer for about an hour, filling the house with a nice wine-food smell, and then I started taste testing the broth.

I must say it was pretty bland. I hadn't added any salt yet, so I added about a tablespoon of kosher salt and let it simmer for another 10 minutes then tried it again. Eh, getting better, but not there. I started leaving it uncovered so it would reduce into something more bold, but it was still not getting there. Finally after about 2.5 hrs of reduction, the meat was getting so tender I was afraid to let it go any more, so I took the meat out, into containers, and into the fridge, and then proceeded to reduce the broth more aggressively.

All the while I'm doing this, I was studying my calculus, like a good boy, and sipping on my Vernors ginger ale. Vuuuhnuhs, as I like to call it. Mmmm... it's so good. I'm sipping some now. But at the time I was remarking how well it played with the taste of that broth. So I decided what the hell, that broth is lame, so I'm going to throw a couple pieces of ginger in there. I happened to have some crystallized ginger on hand. In go two pieces, and a little white pepper.

As I'm waiting for that flavor to be incorporated, I'm looking at the spice rack, and I see that tin of lavender that I never get to use. Well, lavender is everywhere in France, from what I understand, and this is a French dish, and lavender is often a flavor in French wines, I think... so... what the hell.

In goes about a teaspoon of lavender... 30 minutes later... mmm! I mean mmm!! Finally managed to turn the corner w/this dish. I think I'm onto something here.

OK, it's been reducing down to almost nothing, and it's gotten very thick, just where I want it. I've cut off the heat, and stirred it well, and now it's just steaming off a little more, and I'm going to pour it over the meat that's already been removed to the plastic containers in the fridge, and let that mellow overnight. I have a feeling tomorrow's lunch is going to rock!

PS: After posting this, I went to Google to find a picture to put up with this post, and quickly learned that lavender is actually one of Provence's primary attractions. Ha! Just type "provence" in Google's image search, and see that about half the pictures that come up are fields of lavender. Imagine that. I also searched for "beef daube lavender", but found only one beef daube recipe that calls for lavender, so maybe it's like a secret ingredient or something... seems like it would be more of a standard for the consummately Provencal dish.

The picture I've posted here is of an actual lavender field in Provence. I wonder if the lavender I have came from there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Concerning the Grasping and Releasing of Things

When I feel particularly ordered, I grasp and release things in a certain way, precisely, and completely, then I roll step from room to room, effecting a gliding motion, and bound up and down the stairs on the balls of my feet.

Drinking a glass of cold water is a special ritual in this mode, where every sip is a carefully measured action, tipping the glass to a locked angle, then back to level with the floor, the meniscus coming to rest perpendicular to my spine, and placing the pitcher back into the refrigerator is swift and mechanical, but the liquid moves only a minimal amount.

Sit, stand, roll step to the kitchen, switch the light on, perform the chore, switch the light off, walk back to the dining room table, place the glass neatly on the table, sit down with correct posture, take the pencil into my hand, and resume calculations.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Alpine Racing: Distilled

With his win in the Super Combined at Chamonix, France, Bode has taken the overall title lead in the FIS World Cup! Go Bode!

Watching Bode take the carousel turn in the downhill portion of the Super Combined, the following thought occurred to me:

There are two necessary criteria for a winning run, and everything else that you do is essentially in support of them: carving each turn cleanly, and taking the tightest line.

These two things are completely dependent on each other as well. You can carve the cleanest turns in the field, but if you're not taking the tightest line, it's pointless. Likewise, if you're taking the tightest line, but spraying out like crazy, you're not going to win.

Carving a clean turn means you carry every bit of energy possible that you put into the turn with you into the next turn. If your edges release in the slightest bit, you are losing energy.

Everything else you do with technique is performed in order to make those two things happen. For instance, balance and rhythm are required to properly manage your center of mass, in order to keep those edges carving. Likewise, you may be physically incapable of holding your edges through the most direct line, so may be forced to round out the turn by initiating it early, in order to carve cleanly.

Note that it never makes sense to sacrifice a clean turn for a longer run between gates. A racer is constantly gambling, trying to determine when waiting any longer before initiating the turn will result in a messy turn. If you're not gambling, pushing yourself, letting those skis run as long as possible between turns, you're not going to win.

The better you can hold your edges through a turn, as your line tightens, the faster your run will be. Given that each racer's weight varies, which means that the momentum produced as the racer slides down the hill varies, and how well the skis are sliding (the tuner's problem), and also how well the racer utilizes the rebound of the skis to generate further speed in the turn... given all those things equal, the winning run comes down to the lowest combination of energy lost in each turn and distance from start to finish.

Yes, I am taking a break from studying my calc III right now, so everything is reduced to an equation in my mind at this point...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Macy's Credit Card Ripoff Revisited

Well, just got off the phone with Corinne at Macy's Credit Services, and she informed me that because I didn't opt out in the first 30 days, it is too late. I explained that I didn't realize I had the account in the first 30 days.

I'm not really sure this fiasco is blog worthy, but I leave it posted as a cautionary tale.

She said there was really nothing she could do. I tried to calmly blurt out that if I could not be given a satisfactory resolution to this situation, I would be filing a complaint with the BBB and the MO Attorney General's office. The words sounded rushed, and I think I took a slight breath in the middle of the sentence. I really don't like threatening people, and for some reason in that moment I had difficulty detaching. I was trying to be both personable with Corinne, and firmly stand up for myself against the Macy's corporation.

I was careful to keep my FM voice, and to let her finish speaking before I spoke. Things like that go a long way with people when dealing with a stressful situation, and people like Corinne have to deal with these situations all day long, but she wasn't mean.

She explained that the two-account system was described in the documentation sent to me, and I responded by asking her if she thought any sensible person would be able to determine that they were given two accounts on a single card by reading that fine print.

After a brief waiting period she came back on the phone and said that it turns out I can still be opted out of the Visa card.

And there was much rejoicing.

The Macy's Credit Card Ripoff

Usually when you think about credit card schemes, you think about some pyramid of greedy dirt bags trying to rip off a credit card company. Well, in this case, the greedy dirt bag was the credit card company, and they have attempted to rip off me.

In December I stopped in at Macy's on the way home from work and bought a new bathrobe, some socks, and a pair of slippers. At the register, the lady offered me a 20% discount off the purchase if I sign up for a Macy's card. Also, I would get an additional 15% off later when the bill came. OK, sure I said, so I filled out the form, and got my instant 20%.

Early in January I received my bill, along with a Macy's branded Visa card. I got online and paid the bill on the 9th, in full. Here's where it gets stupid...

Yesterday I got a phone call from Macy's collection asking me to call them. OK... so I called. Well, it turns out my payment didn't go against the bill they sent me, but instead against the Macy's branded Visa they signed me up for, in addition to the Macy's card, apparently, which I still have not received. What what WHAT!?

I didn't sign up for two credit cards, I signed up for one, so how did I get two, and why haven't I received the real Macy's card, and why did they send my bill with the other card, and now I'm facing collections, even though I totally played by the rules and paid what I thought was my Macy's bill well ahead of schedule?

After speaking with Andrew in collections, it turns out there was a small check box somewhere on the application that I neglected to check. By not checking the box, I confirmed my desire for them to also sign me up for a Visa card, in addition to the store's own credit card. Uh huh.

So now I'm stuck with this credit card I don't want, because to cancel it will actually damage my credit.

To be honest, I remember reading that credit application very carefully. I always check what the little boxes say because they usually allow me to opt out of some mailing list or something, so I am always sure to check or not check them. This is bullshit.

I signed up for LifeLock yesterday, so next time someone tries to sign me up for a credit card, be it a criminal trying to steal my identity, or Macy's trying to skirt the corporate fraud laws, I will be called on my cell phone to see if I really want it.

I'll now attempt to contact someone in Macy's who can rectify this situation, and/or be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Missouri Attorney General's office. I would really like to see a photo copy of my credit card application, because frankly, I don't believe them that I didn't check some box.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Japanese Poaching Humpbacks

No, I'm not exaggerating. I found this article on CNN today. The Japanese have cranked up their whaling rigs and headed off into the south pacific to slaughter about 1000 whales, specifically Humpbacks, Minkes, and Fin whales. Yes, in case you're wondering, they are all nearing extinction, Fins especially.

I don't normally find myself siding with people who invite themselves onto strange boats like the two men in the article, Giles Lane and Benjamin Potts, but in this case I do.

Over the years we've learned that whales are intelligent, prectically to the point of sapience. They have complex and extensive languages in the form of aural patterns. They have complex social structures. They're majestic and beautiful, and humongous, and... and they're almost extinct! What kind of person knows all this, and still thinks it's OK to hunt them for food!? Whales enrich our lives by being the benevolent lords of the oceans, playful with humans, and awe inspiring to behold, not by being some gamey seafood that the older generations apparently have to force on younger generations who don't have a taste for it anyway (warning on that link... the picture's pretty disgusting).

The article notes that the whaling is sponsored in part by Institute of Cetacean Research. I looked up this "institute" on Google to see what kind of scientists would require slaughtering endangered species. Here's what I found... see for yourself.

It's the most ridiculous excuse for a "research" organization I've ever seen. They allege they need to kill wales to better manage the planet's whale stock. Uh huh. Have a look at these photos. As you can see, they need to kill them so they can cut open their stomachs to see what they're eating.

Wow, what a surprise! They found fish and krill in the whale stomachs! Who would've guessed? I would've because it's impossible to live on this planet for 31 years and not know that whales eat fish and krill. In fact, I've seen the whales actually eating fish and krill because I watch TV, and there's specials all the time on Science and Discovery showing whales feeding. No need to kill them and cut their stomachs open! We have divers with cameras!

This is directly from their FAQ:

Q: Why do you need to kill whales to do research? Can't you do the research by non-lethal means?

A: Japan's research programs involve both lethal and non-lethal research techniques such as sighting surveys and biopsy sampling. While certain information can be obtained through non-lethal means, other information requires sampling of internal organs such as ovaries, ear plugs and stomachs. For example, while the population age structure and reproductive rates of land mammals can be determined by observation over a long period of time, such is not the case for whales since they spend most of their time underwater. In this case we need ear plugs for age determination and ovaries to establish reproductive rates. Similarly, to study the interactions of whales and other parts of the marine ecosystem we need to know what they are eating. This is done by examining stomach contents.

Another example is that for pollution studies, tissue samples from various internal organs are required.

Wow, someone needs to tell Japan about tracking devices, underwater photography, and maybe the concept of catch and release. They put on like they're modern and technologically savvy, but I think they are not as advanced as they would like us to believe.

From what I've been reading, Iceland and Norway are just as bad as Japan when it comes to whales. What a bunch of assholes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Box Completed

I have finally finished a jewelry box that I was making as a gift for my sister. I actually finished it in time for Christmas, but am just now getting the pictures up for the record. You can click on either of these pictures to see a full album of pictures I took throughout the building process.

It was made from canary wood and rosewood. For the main box I primarily used a bandsaw, and my planes and chisels. The finger joints were too big to use a router bit. For the drawers' finger joints I used a downcut spiral router bit.

By far the hardest part was fitting the miters for the top and bottom. It took for-ev-er. I eventually had to make two shooting boards that could hold the triangular pieces at a 45 degree angle, and shot them with my block plane. Even then, they were not perfect (although neither were the shooting boards).

All the box parts were made from three boards. Two for the main box, and another piece of canary wood for the drawers. All the initial cuts were made with the bandsaw, and then flattening and thickening were done with my hand planes. It was a lot of work, but the more you use those planes, the more efficient you get with them.

I don't know that there's any real advantage to having an electric thickness planer and jointer, except speed, but again, the more you use the hand planes, the quicker you get. You also have an incredible amount of control over the wood, you learn a great deal about how grain behaves, and they take up a ton less space, and are less expensive to buy, use, and maintain.

I have two new planes and two old planes. The new ones are both Lie-Nielsens, the 4 1/2 smoothing plane and the low-angle block plane. I love them. The old ones are an old Bailey No. 7 jointer plane (circa 1902), and a more recent Bailey No. 5 jack plane (no patent date on it, but I would say it's pre-war by the look of it).

I've also discovered the wonders of a cabinet scraper. I bought a Stanley No. 80 cabinet scraper, and it took me a little while to learn to use it properly, since it doesn't come with directions, but once I got the hang of it, it was producing perfectly smooth, kissable surfaces.

I noticed that the rosewood has a wonderfully musical quality to it, and in fact I learned that it is frequently used to make musical instruments. You can tell why when you handle a piece. When you knock it, it has a pleasant tone. It's very rigid, and hard. I think that gives it the tone. You could make a really nice xylophone or marimba, or wood block, or any other sort of percussion instrument with it.

I made several mistakes, of course. Like I said, this was my first significant woodworking project. Before this I had only made a couple frames, a router table and a bunch of jigs. I am calling this one a success. It is not the most original piece. You might see some Greene & Greene in there (I was going to pin the joints originally), and who knows what else. I didn't design it after anything in particular, although I did take some cues from the houses in my neighborhood. It all came from my head. Altogether I would say the main box took me about... 80 hours? Maybe 120. Yeah, it took a long-ass time. The drawers only took about 10, because they were the last things I made, and my experience was built up by then. I think I could do it all again in at least half that time now.

I started by making a prototype out of MDF. I later used the prototype to create a finger joint jig for the drawers. It came in handy! That jig is shown in the album.

I've learned that layout tools should be the highest quality you can afford. Every penny you put into that expensive mitre, square, straight edge, level, whatever, will be money well spent. Reliable precision tools and gauges will save you hours of time that would otherwise be wasted calibrating, measuring, re-measuring, and nudging things. And will give you more confidence in your cuts, allowing you to focus on the item you're building instead of your tools.

A post will be forthcoming on that No. 7 jointer plane.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kelly Tilghman is being... attacked by many people.

For anyone who doesn't know, there is a story out about an anchor on the Golf Channel, Kelly Tilghman, who apparently uttered a "racially insensitive remark" last week.

According to the story, Nick Faldo said, "To take Tiger on, well yeah, they should just gang up for a while until ..." "Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman interrupted with a chuckle.

I am blogging about this because as I think about this word, lynch, I must admit, I would've never even thought of it being a racist word.

I consider myself fairly well read, and I've come across the word many times in my life, certainly even in stories of racial attacks in the old south. But in my mind the word has never been used exclusively to describe an attack on African-Americans. It has always just been an attack by a gang of people.

See, from my point of view, even if I had been watching the Mercedes-Benz Championship and heard Ms. Tilghman say that, I would've never thought of racism. The remark could've just as easily been applied to any member of the tour who is unstoppable. In fact, the remark was meant to be flattering! She was simply joking that it would take some underhanded tactics by a gang of outlaws in a dark alley to stop Tiger from winning a golf tournament. She's saying he's the best! Good grief.

We all come from different life experiences. We all associate different memories and feelings with the words we hear and use. For the most commonly used words, most people are going to interpret them with the same types of feelings and images, but for the more obscure ones, like "lynch", the feelings and images associated with them can be drastically different from person to person.

I understand Mr. Sharpton's point that the word lynch brings forth horrible feelings for African-Americans. I hadn't considered that before. And now I think Mr. Sharpton needs to be considerate of Ms. Tilghman's, and all other Americans' backgrounds, just as he demands that everyone be of his.

Tilghman's biggest crime here seems to be that she did not think of the old south and burning crosses when she said the word "lynch," although I'm sure she does now. If she was like me, she thought simply of a group of dirty people with rakes and pitchforks chasing someone, like in an old movie. Or maybe it was that post-hair rock band in the early 90s, Lynch Mob... "I've got that wicked sensation." I was a fan of that band when that album was out, and had never considered until now that they might be racist. I don't think they were... the band was actually named after one of the members, George Lynch.

Calling for Tilghman's job over this shows a terrible insensitivity to her life experience, and to me that seems somehow hypocritical.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hehe... Corso.

What the heck is Lee Corso still employed as a football analyst for? His gimmicks are old hat, and boring. He's just this emotional, pathetic man who is always wrong, and then makes excuses for his failures. What is the point of having him there?

The video speaks for itself, but I would just like to know... when he says "nice little fake," what is he talking about? There was no play action fake on that play. He's such an nincompoop, and there's so much desperation in his delivery that it's embarrassing to watch. I don't think any of the other analysts actually take anything he says seriously.

Another thing... in a recent NY Times interview, when Corso was asked if WVU's former head coach was the right man for Michigan to hire as its new coach, he responded "Obviously, because he is the one they got. He had taken West Virginia as far as they were going to go with getting them to two BCS games. So they had to let him go."

Obviously Corso has a serious chip on his shoulder for WVU. It's simply illogical to conclude that we have gone as far as we can go by getting into two BCS games, especially given the fact that we were upset out of the BCS Championship game. By saying that, he is essentially pouting, IMHO. Haha, Corso pouts. What a petty little phony.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

WVU Proves Them Wrong... Again

"Oh, the Big East isn't a real football conference"
"The 2006 Sugar Bowl was a fluke. Georgia should've won."
"West Virginia can't pass the ball"
"West Virginia's defense is suspect"
"WVU plays a cupcake schedule. They can't hang with a real team."
"Oklahoma deserves to play someone better than WVU."

Here's what I have to say to you:

48-28, West Virginia
525 yards of offense
349 rushing yards

Who needs to pass the ball when you can run it like that? Of course, Pat did complete 10 of 19 for 176 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions.

Our defense? Well, I know we had 4 sacks and an interception. I can't find the defensive stats online, but I know we were in their face all night, charging with a relentless pass rush and a suffocating ground defense.

Oklahoma is a great team, but tonight WVU was better, and we'll keep on proving we're worthy of the praise we get, season after season.

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