Friday, May 29, 2009

This rocks

Basil Wolverton's Bible: putting the grotesque into the Old Testament

Favorite video games.... ever

My gaming partner Geo and I composed this list of video games that have given us untold hours of enjoyment over the course of our 16-year friendship.
These are not mere games - they are a revered canon. If you love video games, you know exactly what this means. You have played until your hands were numb, your eyes twitched and your breathing was labored and wheezy. The sun will set and rise, but the game remains, undefeated, until you kill that final boss and pass the hell out, mostly happy with your labors. You find some occasional faults with both the game and your skill at playing it, and you salute your inhuman endurance. Then you don't mention it for about four years. Or till the sequel.

Oblivion (above)
Metal Gear Solid
Resident Evil 2
Betrayal at Krondor
Wizardry 7
Wizardry 8
Civilization 2
Age of Empires
Soviet Strike
Nuclear Strike (at left)
Final Fantasy 3
Street Fighter II
Might and Magic V
Project Overkill
Scorched Earth (original PC version)

Incomprehensible government benefits

Government jobs appear to be very comfortable. They give you excellent health care, the option to telework, nice vacation packages, and the like.
But then the logic veers into the unknowable, because you have to pay for all sorts of strange things. That is to say - it's OK to charge taxpayers for our salaries, but the American citizen believes that government workers should have to pay for the following out of pocket:

1. Water cooler use ("Use it? Pay quarterly")
2. Office picnics ("This brisket ain't free..".)
3. Pizza lunches from fellow contract employees who work in your office ("Pay for that slice or it's a conflict of interest!")
4. Parties in general (must be potluck - almost nothing is catered)
5. Birthday cards for office workers!!!
6. Coffee!!!! Really.... no free office coffee. We have a list of who pays to drink!

I'm not really complaining, it just seems very strange.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

People I know getting published

Props to:

Nicole Kallmeyer, who published a relevant "woe is me" story in the Financial Post,


My former prof, Marcel Pacette, about how Chicago political folks stink


my GF Dianna at Politico (and again)

Vote for me for blah blah blah

I found this by accident, and was impressed. I remember I became Vice President in the 7th grade by splitting the vote between all the 8th grade big-wigs. Oh, and I offered cookies.
I love this girl's approach, although what a burn - 4 people dropped out of her group, probably due to lobbying pressure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fox news: Burying the lead on Sotomayor

Observe the difference between these these writing styles on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

This CNN bio gives her a chronological life story, and starts with the fairly moving story about how her father, a factory worker, died when she was only nine years old. That get her grit points, and is certainly an attractive and interesting piece of info.
Slate's bio has this bit of information on the top half of the page.
But leave it to Fox News bio to wait to paragraph 12 (of 13) to mention she has law degrees from Princeton and Yale, and to wait to the very last paragraph to mention, almost as an afterthought:

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, N.Y., to Puerto Rican parents and was raised in a housing project. Her father, a factory worker, died when she was nine-years-old. Her mother, a nurse, raised Sotomayor, who was diagnosed with diabetes at age eight.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mad respect for my fallen post office homies

Hey. HEY!
While you sit there in your cozy home / office, members of the United States Postal Inspection Service are risking their butts every damn day to make sure your Netflix movies arrive safe and sound, jerkface.
Sometimes, though... mail can be a dangerous biz. And our boys don't always make it back in one piece.
So show some respek.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Really smart idea... simple yet cool. Make your own!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Twitter violation

I got this message when I clicked on someone who was following my Twitter Feed.
I felt like I just got sent to the teacher's office.

Lazy meal

I should be able to do better than this.... even though it was weeks ago.

This lunch involved:
(on plate)
Lay's BBQ Chips
Refried Beans
Two Chicken Dogs, cut lengthwise
(in Northwestern mug)
Leafy green salad

It tasted great, though. And I used the excess salt to build a scale miniature of the Sistine Chapel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Jersey mocks itself

These guys don't pump gas, they pump fists.

This vid is actually a push - these guys appear to be incredible doofuses, yet they seem to be partaking in some sophisticated self-mockery. The two elements cancel each other out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sympathy / no sympathy?

Sometimes, I don't have sympathy, even when, perhaps, I should:

1. R.I. Mayor: Let's Tax College Students

The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers....

"We want to support the city as best we can, but financially is not really what we can afford to give," said Heather Lee, president of the Brown Graduate Student Council. "We're more able to provide labor, we're more able to apply the things that we're learning in the classroom, than we are to write a $300 check."

My take: Ummm.... no. Brown kids are, overwhelmingly, loaded. They can afford a hell of a lot more, and, plus, the taxes will probably just get rolled into the tuition, which loans / parents will take care of. If they wanted to argue it from philosophical grounds, fine, but not this "empty wallet" pantomime by Ivy Leaguers.

2. This is from a journalist I know and respect, but I have trouble seeing her side of the issue:

In the fall quarter of my last year at XXXXX, I wrote what turned out to be a pretty miserable weekly column for the Daily XXXXX.... The problem now is that, thanks to the Daily’s unbelievable Google mojo, some of those admittedly bad columns appear high up on the first page of my own Google search results... My professional work – work I’m actually proud of – for much larger, national publications is buried down below.

I now find myself in a bit of a battle with the Students Publishing Company Board. They’ve (understandably) refused to take the stories down, but I was told that if I assemble a group of alums who share my frustrations, our opinions may be considered and “darkening” the stories -- a.k.a. keeping them on the site as is, but making them invisible to major search engines -- could be a possibility....

OK. So the issues are:

1. The author is not proud of these articles, which were written a long time ago and are now resurfacing.
2. These articles are ranking higher than her previous work
3. At the time of her writing, she was unaware of Search Engine Optimization and that this would happen
4. She feels the articles are hers and, therefore, she should be able to determine what ranking they receive on another hosts

More when I have a sec...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Noodling: Catching a catfish by letting it bite your arm

Wow. Catfish noodling and girls - together at... last?

And in case you need another video, here's one.

The strangest thing? I'd like to try it.


The pain of it all

Injuries bring us all closer together. Especially silly ones, like kickball injuries.
The game yesterday started as normal, but after being tagged out at third one of our players plopped herself on the ground with a look of concern in her eye. I heard her tell her husband, "I'm not sure I can play anymore today."
I took the experience with the appropriate gravity.
"MEDIC!" I hollered jokingly.
"Do you want us to dedicate the game to you? Is your name Rudy?"
We had a good laugh, and she sat out the game with a leg injury of some sort.
And, wouldn't you know it, despite some stretches, I soon found myself in blinding pain in my right leg (the kicking one). At my next at bat I hobbled around the bases, and avoided getting tagged.
When we were finished losing 7-3, I started to drag myself towards the metro stop. I couldn't make it - it felt like my muscles were being pulled apart by tractor trailers. I couldn't even put my wallet in my shorts - anything that touched my leg burnt like Hellfire. I took a cab home. I did stretches in the backseat. The cabbie was kind not to notice.
Later, at Target, I used the cart to push myself around like a kid.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The White House will now take your questions

I wrote before how reading people's nice little comments on why they give $$$ to Wikipedia brings a smile to my face.
Here's another thing from the same vein - people who ask Obama questions on Open for Questions.
It may be a PR stunt, or simply the next way that social media (i.e. the internets) can create unprecedented levels of access.
To me, it's basically like writing Obama an old-fashioned letter, except that you get to see everyone else's letter as well. You can see the concerns that your fellow citizens have - here it mostly seems like crushing student loan debt and awful schools are amongst the biggest issues, although the fact that most of the posters are young is certainly a factor.

Insurance: A good reason to never start a small business

I'm reading up on Small Business Insurance for one of our clients. And it's terrifying. The insurance industry seems like one of those carnival games where you have to toss rings onto rows of thin glass bottles.... except that each of the bottles is for a different type of insurance, and you need to have the right type of insurance for the right type of catastrophe.
I'm sure it's less dire than this - that's why I'm reading up, after all.
At first, I could digest the info - there are three types of insurance - property (including car and house), life and health. Ok, still with you.
But then i get curveballed:

1. There is something called Terrorism Insurance. That's enough to make me hide under the bed.
2. If you fear getting sued for giving bad advice and getting sued for it, you get Errors and Omissions Insurance.
3. If you are afraid you might violate an employee's civil or other legal rights, you get Employment Practices Liability Insurance
4. If you are afraid of something happening to your super-great "I never take sick days" 24-7 employee, you get Key Person Insurance.
5. Afraid of getting your ID stolen? Get Business Identity Insurance.

Afraid of anything? There's an app for that. I know that insurance provides a valuable service, but it still scares the hell out of me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A history of me... through e-mail accounts

Just like SEEING SOMEONE TYPING IN ALL CAPS MEANS THEY ARE EITHER OLD OR IMBALANCED, so too can "e-mail archeology" (patent pending), or the study of a person based on their email accounts, reveal things about them. Observe:

1992 - AOL email account. Get nothing but spam. Barely use email at all in high school.
1995 - No email account in use. Go to Israel with youth program and only 50% of the kids have email addresses to put down in the yearbook.
1996 - Get a University of Rhode Island email account. It languishes.
1998 - Pegasus account in England. It was like Outlook only much, much worse.
2000 - Get Yahoo account. Think it would be funny to name it after the comic strip "Funky Winkerbean." No one gets the reference.
2001 - Get Yahoo address at RI Jewish Herald.
2002 - Get Jewish Federation in RI email account, which I use almost exclusively for next four years because I don't have internet at home
2005 - Attempt to get Gmail account but can't because only a "friend of a friend" can give you one. Create Yahoo account for myself - include my name and RI in it. Am surprised how quickly I regret this. Delete Funky Winkerbean address.
2006 - Get Gmail account for myself.
2007 - Get Northwestern grad school email account despite protest. Use Yahoo address mostly for spam / site registration. Briefly have address and a Gmail address for my work at Huffington Post.
2008 - Get Cascades email address (as contractor for U.S. government)
2009 - Get U.S. government email account

Hmm... I give myself partial credit for this exercise - almost interesting.

Holocaust Deniers on Facebook (and other fun topics)

1. A Facebook group you've never heard of

CNN had an article today about efforts to pull Holocaust-denying groups from Facebook. Like the cheerily named Holocaust is a Holohoax. Mixing Holocaust denial and Facebook is like mixing orange juice with vinegar - it's an eye-opening combination that you never thought you'd ever see. I give props to people who will publicly connect their FB profile with a hate site - that takes guts, and they must either really, really believe this junk or they must be stupid.
In either case, I don't believe Facebook should bow to this pressure. I believe it's better to leave these groups out in the open where then can be ridiculed. Check out the comments - this is exactly what's happening now. I think this is a far better idea than banning all sorts of Nazism in Germany, where it will undoubtedly fester and group stronger as "repressed minorities" often do.

2. Kickballers destroy a urinal
Remember when it used to be about the kickball?

DCKickball-Penn Quarter

Scott (our league coordinator) was informed by the owner of Penn
Quarter Sports Tavern that last night someone in the mens room thought
it would be funny to try and remove the urinal from the wall and then
headbutt the wall. Due to this childish behavior the mens room now
only has one working toilet.

There is a possibility that is was not a kickballer, however, we make
up a large portion of their business on the nights that we play so
it’s very likely it was in fact one of us.

If anyone is caught vandalizing the bar they will be held personally
responsible for all damages and will be kicked out of DCKickball, for
good, not just for the season. We are guests in this bar and need to
act as such. If you wouldn’t do something to your own home don’t do it
at the bar, and if you don’t have enough common sense to figure out
what you should and shouldn’t be doing then ask someone who is more
sober than you are. If this type of behavior continues we run the risk
of losing our sponsor bar and this affects not only you all but two
other divisions that consist of 43 teams combined.

Please don’t make me send out any more messages where I sound like a
mom. I’d much rather be flipping cups and drinking with you all
instead of sending out nasty grams.

3. Swine Flu already is passe
Someday we will see a "charticle" explaining different pandemic scares throughout history, and there will be a little one for "The Swine Flu Panic of 2008." We will have to tell our kids we refused to shake hands with people, avoided eating pork, watched in puzzlement as Egypt slaughtered their hogs, and that we basically had a good laugh while people predicted the death of all human life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

5 Gum... blows

5 Gum is the most dazzlingly packaged gum ever. The flip-open box, the "Cobalt Blue" sparkling metallic paper, the ebony box - you almost feel like you're opening up a top-shelf brand of smokes.
Too bad the gum leaves a plasticy film on your teeth. How can this be, given that this is a sugarfree gum? Are the sugar alcohols and other substances there to remove glucose from our bodies leaving something gross in their place?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A real sport

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at a world-class kickball league? The intrigue, the infighting, the glory and the despair?
Well, it looks like this:

DCKickball-Penn Quarter

Hello kickballers,
Just a few notes about the bar:

1) We had a some alcohol related incidents with another division recently at our sponsor bar. PQST has banned liquor pitchers from that division however you all will still be allowed to purchase them with the understanding that if there are any problems they will pull them from Tuesday night as well. Please try to control your alcohol. If you weigh 100 pounds soaking wet and are tipsy after two beers then a margarita pitcher probably is not your smartest drink choice….. We are certainly all about having fun and unwinding but we also want everyone to be safe. Please please please drink responsibly, sorry to sound like a beer ad.

2) Please keep the noise down after 10 pm if you are outside. There have been some complaints about noise by the neighbors and we don’t want to cause any problems for our sponsor and potentially have to find a new bar for next season/year. Feel free to chant, cheer, scream, or sing your lungs out inside the bar however if you’re outside and it’s after 10 please try to keep it down.


You gotta believe

What if it was real?
What if the most fantastic things that mankind has ever dreamt were real? Gods, dragons, monsters... what if they existed... but only as long as people believed in them?
Neil Gaiman talks about this in American Gods, which I'm reading for the second time.
I think his angle gets boiled down to this: stories have power. When enough stories, enough passion, enough belief grows about something, it becomes mythic. It has a power of its own. It becomes real in a way. He takes it a little further and says that all the totems, idols and statues of deities, well, the people who worshipped them weren't primitive or crazy. Their belief created the gods. But the gods, supernatural powers that they were, were still dependent on the lowly mortals who worshipped them.
So what happens when a god goes out of vogue? When's the last time you met a worshiper of Anubis, Egyptian God of the dead, or Queztacoatl, Aztec god of the skies? That's sort of what the book is about - what happens to the washed up ones, and the new ones that take their place? I'm not even talking about religious figures any more. What's a more modern thing that we sacrifice our time, our possessions and ourselves to? How about TV? Or fame? Or money?
Love it....

Friday, May 1, 2009 responds... How to Cook a Frozen Kishka

And they even put my question on their website. Oh, and kishka is also apparently the name of a hair salon.

From: Kosher .com
Subject: RE: Kishka Questions
To: "J"
Date: Thursday, April 30, 2009, 2:19 PM

Hi Jon,
Thanks for writing. I'm sorry it took a while to get back to you. Things were pretty busy leading up to Passover. Now that we're back in the swing of things, I am glad to address your question for this week's Q and A. Here's a sneak preview and I hope it answers your question satisfactorily.
Feel free to let your friends know about's new culinary Q and A feature. We are here to help anyone who has questions about cooking in the kosher kitchen.
All the best,

Q. What are some ways I can cook frozen kishka? Also, do you have the nutritional information?

Adding a frozen loaf of kishka to chulent is probably the most popular method of preparing kishka. But it isn’t the only technique.

As a flavor enhancer, kishka adds an old-world feel to practically any baked casserole dish like rice pilaf or tzimis. Kishka is conventionally used as stuffing for chicken, either filling the cavity of a whole bird, or tucked in between the skin and flesh of chicken pieces.

A few years ago, I enjoyed an upscale version of chicken stuffed with kishka. The cook, who is a kishka fanatic, spread a few tablespoons of defrosted kishka on each cutlet, which she rolled up and covered with a square of puff pastry. She brushed an egg wash over the puffy pastry and baked them for about 30 minutes in a 350 oven.

Kishka can also be fried, with the casing on or off, in a lightly oiled frying pan. Or, consider cooking kishka in a pot of salted water or baked in a 350 degree oven until warm throughout, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. No need to defrost it, just throw it in frozen.

When kishka isn’t served with the food in which it’s cooked, you may want to make flour-thickened gravy from the pan juices. Simply transfer the cooking juices to a small skillet placed over a medium flame. Add margarine. Once melted, sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour and quickly whisk until thick. Serve with the kishka.

When it comes to nutritional information, for a 2 ounce serving of a typical loaf of frozen fleishig kishka, there are 190 calories, 12 grams of fat, half of which are saturated.

Catching up on bloggin

1. In honor of the release of Wolverine this weekend, I smoked my nice $8 Georgetown cigar. The photo at right is a photographic achievement: it was taken on my awful camera phone, without a flash, at night, in the rain. I can see why people like stogies - they are a great way to unwind after a tough day. And you feel sort of badass and like a grandfather at the same time. This cigar was an Ashton - medium blend.

2. I wasn't happy when I heard that Skokie Illinois recently opened a Holocaust Museum. Here's why: I spent a little time in Skokie, as it's right next to Northwestern. They chose Skokie for the site because it's has a very high number of Holocaust survivors, and this is why there was a famous Nazi rally there (and a much more famous anti-Nazi rally, and a landmark Supreme Court decision). Oblig: I hate Illinois Nazis.
The reason why I was unhappy is that Skokie is pretty much a pit. The Jewish institutions are all falling by the wayside - all the restaurants and bagel shops and Jewish businesses are shuttering. The main drag reminded me of a faded sign for a World's Fair. I thought it was selfish that Skokie should spent all of it's resources to build a Holocaust museum for a Jewish community that is, by all appearances, on it's way out. And the U.S. already *has* a worldclass Holocaust musem in DC - why compete with that? It just seemed selfish.
My friend Ilan, however, showed me the error of my ways: The Holocaust museum isn't for the Jews, he said - it's for everyone. Ahaaa....

3. Passed my final security clearance here at GSA... Seven months later. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who actually have access to secret stuff.

4. Absolutely and totally obsessed with the Wire. Still on season II, which I hear is the weakest season. But not so weak that I didn't watch it for 3 hours last night. Netflix really lets you catch up in a hurry... It's good to have "my shows" after so many years of TV hating...