grump grump grump grump

by dichroic in daily updates

1. My arm hurts. It’s for a good cause – I went to the doctor for an annual physical yesterday, asked her about what innoculations are needed for our trip ti the Galapagos this summer, and she offered to give me the tetanus shot right there and then (I don’t technically need one, since I got one in 2007 and they’re good for ten years, but it’s been nine already and I’m not sure where my records are anyway). So it’s to allow me to do something I’m looking forward to. But it huuuurts. Also, my bra strap keeps sliding off my shoulder and crossing over the sore spot, which is not helping! (It’s not one with straps that can be hooked together or crossed.)

2. We won’t be able to make our usual biweekly trip to the lake next weekend because I have a work trip and I have to fly in on Saturday,

3. Said work trip is a mixed bag. I’m going to where I used to live in AZ. This is the perfect time of year to go there, I’ll get to see some old friends, and I’ll get to see one of our offices I haven’t been to before. Also, I’ll probably enjoy the work. So far all to the good – but on the down side I will lose a weekend to this trip and probably won’t get compensatory time off. The biggest issue is that grandboss, who is running this project, is being weird, restrictive, and weirdly restrictive about it. It’s something smack in my area of expertise but all suggestions are being smacked down hard. Not only that, she keeps saying stuff that’s just wrong – not only the work stuff, which is at least a matter of opinion, but also basic facts. She tried telling me that AZ is on Central timezone part of the year which is factually incorrect – but she wouldn’t brook even a polite demurral despite knowing I lived there for TEN FUCKING YEARS, so I had to let it drop in self defense. (AZ does not do Daylight Savings Time. They stay on Mountain Standard Time all year, so effectively they’re with the rest of us on Pacific Daylight Time in summer and with the rest of the Mountain timezone in winter. They never ever match summer time.) This is not auguring well for my time on the project.

On the plus side, I have a massage scheduled for today (and will tell them to avoid that arm!), can sleep late in my own bed this weekend, and will get to go blend wines tomorrow, an event we enjoyed a lot last year.

And also my smartphone was indeed smart just now and went straight to voicemail for someone I didn’t particularly want to speak to. Just because you can find my resume on line from last time I was looking for a job (a few years ago) does not mean I want to be an insurance agent! Especially when that has nothing to with any of my experience or stated goals. Smart girl, Siri.

Correction to yesterday’s post

by dichroic in daily updates

Because apparently I was thinking very fuzzily. Yesterday I wrote, among a list of things that have annoyed me:

The US Electoral College system. Did you know that Clinton won New Hampshire? According to the CNN article I linked there, it’s true – in the only way that really matters. She got more delegates than he did, even though he won about 50% more of the popular vote. But it depends how you count – other articles say he had 13 delegates and she has 9. The discrepancy appears to be because she’s got a bunch of “superdelegates”, who can support whoever they want. (ETA: Here’s a clear explanation.) This is an evil system, for a few reasons. First, if you tell people they have a representative democracy and get their vote counted proportionally when in actuality there are a bunch of unelected party officials (and former officials) steering from the backseat, that is what we technically call a “lie”. Second, I actually kind of understand how those superdelegates hark back to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, only it doesn’t work. Jefferson wrote about this very clearly. The original point of the Electoral College (in a time without computerized counting of ballots) was that citizens would each elect the wisest local person they knew, and then those wise men in each state (of course they were men) would gather together and choose their candidate for President. He (Jefferson) opined that this two stage system tended to choose better than a direct election would. Maybe he was right, but you can’t tell that from our current ridiculous system of pledged and unpledged candidates. The problem here is, citizens don’t get to choose those unpledged delegates. They are a shadow electorate, forged in the bowels of party machines.

Except the superdelegates aren’t part of the Electoral College, because they’re part of the primary elections, not the general. And the primaries are basically the internal workings of the two major US political parties – how each one chooses the candidate they’ll put forth for the general election. We’ve institutionalized the two parties to where we think of them as official governmental groups, but they are really not – as far as I know, they are still private organizations who can organize themselves as they see fit.

So:
1. I still don’t like the Electoral College, because while I think it was needed logistically once upon a time and had a laudable goal, I do not think either of those things are still true, and it takes us a step away from true representive democracy.

2. I do not like the superdelegate system (though I don’t blame candidates for using it, because they have to work within the system they have) because I think that a system where some people’s votes count more than others is unfair.

But they are two separate things – and since superdelegates are essentially a private matter within each party, I don’t think electoral reform can clean out those stables.

Things that have pissed me off in this election cycle so far

by dichroic in daily updates

(I mean, other than almost everything Cruz and Trump say and the fact that people still want to vote for them.)

  • The person who inveighed against Bernie Sanders “because he’s not a real Democrat”, meaning, he isn’t staunchly loyal to the party. As far as I’m concerned that’s an asset; I want a candidate whose loyalty to the party is far outweighed by their loyalty to the country. Then it’s up to the party to decide if that person’s values are close enough to their own to throw their weight behind the candidate. (My opinion on party politics are fairly similar to John Adams, which is to say I think in general they’re a bad thing.)
  • Anyone on either side but especially on the liberal side who has lied about Hilary Clinton. The woman has been in public life for just about my entire life; her record is out there, and it’s not a simple one. If you want to dislike her on the basis of it, fine and good, but try to understand that record first, and don’t just make shit up. (I thought this article illustrated the point very well, but it’s by no means exhaustive – and doesn’t even address the emails issue, which still troubles me a bit.)
  • The US Electoral College system. Did you know that Clinton won New Hampshire? According to the CNN article I linked there, it’s true – in the only way that really matters. She got more delegates than he did, even though he won about 50% more of the popular vote. But it depends how you count – other articles say he had 13 delegates and she has 9. The discrepancy appears to be because she’s got a bunch of “superdelegates”, who can support whoever they want. (ETA: Here’s a clear explanation.) This is an evil system, for a few reasons. First, if you tell people they have a representative democracy and get their vote counted proportionally when in actuality there are a bunch of unelected party officials (and former officials) steering from the backseat, that is what we technically call a “lie”. Second, I actually kind of understand how those superdelegates hark back to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, only it doesn’t work. Jefferson wrote about this very clearly. The original point of the Electoral College (in a time without computerized counting of ballots) was that citizens would each elect the wisest local person they knew, and then those wise men in each state (of course they were men) would gather together and choose their candidate for President. He (Jefferson) opined that this two stage system tended to choose better than a direct election would. Maybe he was right, but you can’t tell that from our current ridiculous system of pledged and unpledged candidates. The problem here is, citizens don’t get to choose those unpledged delegates. They are a shadow electorate, forged in the bowels of party machines.
  • Anyone who believes the next President will make a huge and immediate difference in our country. The US President has an enormous amount of influence on domestic matters, but only a limited emount of direct power. (They do have more power in international matters.) Aside from Executive Orders, making anything happen requires getting the buy-in of Congress. This actually hurt Obama, when people who expected immediate and sweeping changes that failed to materialize became discouraged and disillusioned with him. It would hurt Sanders or Trump similarly (though I think it would have less effect on someone like Clinton, who people expect to work within the system). Obama’s actually gotten quite a lot done, but it took time and a lot of arguing.
  • Speaking of whom, I’m going to miss Obama. We haven’t had a President I’d describe as a genuinely good man since Jimmy Carter, or one with as much dignity since I don’t know when. I hope he can become as successful an ex-President as Carter has been, whether that’s in the Supreme Court or in another arena.

(Apologies to anyone who read an earlier version of this – it was a formatting mess.)

Fic rec, and four more random things

by dichroic in daily updates

This one is really wonderful – a crossover featuring Hilary Thorpe and Jerry Wimsey at Hogwarts in 1931. Plus a Triwizard Tournament, Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey as supporting characters, and cameos by a young Fileus Flitwick and a host of others.

Superbowl thoughts: Granted, I’m not enough of a football fan to appreciate the subtleties of a good defense, but really, you know it’s a boring game when even the announcers don’t sound excited. Commercial-wise, I was very pleased that the PSAs from the NFL(?) about domestic abuse and from Budweiser about drunk driving were as well-thought-out and engaging (though notably lower-budget) as any of the regular commercials.

Friday I telecommuted from the lake house. It was wonderful – I took advantage of the quiet there to write three intranet articles and expand one for outside publication, got another batch of apple fruit leather made (I did the peeling and chopping on my lunch break; the rest takes only occasional oversight), and went kayaking afterward.

My steel water bottle (Kleen Kanteen) has been demoted from Favorite to Still Pretty Good, after it fell off the dock and promptly sank. To be Favorite, it has to be good for travel, erging, sitting around the house and rowing – you just can’t be a good rowing accessory if you don’t float! I haven’t gotten it back yet, because the water was too deep – might be able to get it sometime when the water level is lower, but of course it’s easily replaceable. I might get an insulated one next time – not only will that be nice for when it sits in the car in summer, it’s possible those float.

I just realized I have been on Ravelry (knitting site) for nearly a decade now – 8.5 years. I was member number #7551. (For those Ravelers who don’t know how to find this and want to, go to your profile and enter the Konami code–up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.)

If you ever want something depressing to think about…

by dichroic in daily updates

In the history of humanity, only 12 people have walked on the Moon. Only 7 of those are still alive, and the youngest of them is now 80. If we don’t get a move on, it’s likely that within the he next 20 years or so, there will be no one alive who has set foot on any astronomical body other than Earth.

If you still need more to depress you, all 12 of those were straight (as far as I know) white Christian men, even though none of those characteristics has any relevance to anyone’s ability to be a good astronaut. I’d have been out on two counts, myself. You can make a pretty good case that astronauts are our best and brightest (if you ever doubt it, don’t look at the minimum requirements, look at the bios of those who are actually selected). If we’ve made no other progress in the last 50 years, at least we don’t use those unimportant characteristics in determining who is the best among us any more.

(RIP Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 14.)

trip planning

by dichroic in daily updates

I realized something last night: our 25th anniversary is in 2018. That makes now an excellent time to plan for it. Clearly we need to plan something exciting to do. THe obvious choices are a big party (followed by hurt feelings toward whichever of my family don’t manage to show up if we don’t hold it in their city rather than ours – not because they don’t like us, but because they don’t travel) or a trip somewhere. The hard part about planning a trip is that we’ve been to all the places I most wanted to visit. There are still plenty of wonderful places in the world we haven’t been to, of course; it’s just that nothing really jumps out of the list, so it will be harder to choose.

Iceland? India? China? (I really want to visit Iceland, especially if we can go enough toward the winter season to have a chance to see Northern Lights. Ted really wants to visit India, but I have some reservations, having heard a bunch of stories from seasoned travelers.) Israel? (That feels like one I really ought to go to, but I’m never fond of “oughts” in things I do for fun.) Or we could see some of the less famous parts of Europe that are supposed to be spectacular, like Croatia or Macedonia.

Note 1: Did I mention that we’re going to the Galapagos this summer? We are going with Ted’s parents, to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Note 2: Thinking about this kind of stuff always makes me miss my uncle. Trip planning was his greatest delight. (Well, maybe second greatest – after eating.)

of assorted fruit products

by dichroic in cooking, wine

While writing about the pot roast I forgot to mention my other adventures for the weekend: On Saturday I made apple/pear fruit leather, and we visited a couple of local wineries.

The fruit leather was basically the Best Thing Ever: easy to make, uses up a lot of those apples and pears we keep getting from the CSA, and very tasty. First I made applesauce (well, apple & pear sauce), which is ridiculously simple by itself: peel and cut up 4-5 pieces of fruit, boil with with some water, sugar and cinnamon for half an hour or so, and mash it up. To make the leather, spread it out on a silicone baking mat and bake at 170F for six hours or so. I basically screwed everything up; I cooked the sauce for an hour and a half, after managing *not* to turn off the stove before starting a workout, so there was no extra liquid left and the fruit had a few blackened bits. This made it harder to spread out in a thin layer; it remains to be seen if being less liquidy made for better fruit leather texture. Then the oven decided it doesn’t like staying on for a long time at low temperature – it had the same problem Sunday while trying to cook the pot roast at 225F for 3 hours. Seems like the gas doesn’t always relight when it tries to – fortunately the gas does NOT keep flowing when this happens – and then the oven doesn’t realize it needs to be warmer so it doesn’t try again. But neither of those issues spoiled the taste any. We went out to the wineries, the oven was barely warm when we came back, so I turned it back on and gave it another hour.

The wineries were interesting too.
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comparative pot roasts

by dichroic in cooking

Ted did something this weekend that he rarely does: requested a specific dinner (pot roast) because he wanted something that would go well with some of the Abacela wines we wanted to taste head to head. You can see the wine discussion over at Avontuur but I wanted to talk some more about the pot roast here.

The All-American pot roast recipe from The Food Lab (TFL) is astonishingly good, but it’s also kind f a pain in the ass to cook. Before I tried that, though, I thought I had my pot roast dialed in with the one from The Pioneer Woman (TPW), which is very good and is considerably less trouble. So today I tried to heterodyne the two; I browned the meat before the vegetables (TFL), and got the carrots well browned (TFL), which allowed me to add in a slurry of tomato paste, soy sauce and grated garlic (TFL, but they also call for marmite and anchovies) and some flour (TFL). On the other hand I used only a cup or two of wine rather than a whole bottle (TPW) plus chicken stock rather than beef (TFL), did not add gelatin to my stock (as TFL calls for), and most of all, ate it when it was done instead of keeping it for a day or more as TFL prescribes. I tried cooking it in the oven (TFL) but gave up and put it on top of the stove (TPW) when my oven didn’t seem to be maintaining temperature.

TFL calls for the addition of carrots, chopped onions and potatoes; TPW for carrots and halved onions with mashed potatoes on the side. I added carrots, chopped onions, parsnips and turnips.

Verdict: I am not convinced that the addition of the tomato/garlic slurry made much difference; mostly it came out tasting like a TPW pot roast – good, but not stellar. We have enough left over to have for another dinner; after it’s been int he fridge for a day or two I’ll discard the fats that rise to the top, which I think will improve it, but I’m not sure if it will make that much difference flavorwise. I think it’s useful to have both recipes handy: one simpler and good, the other more work intensive and great.

The parsnips and turnips were definitely a good addition, though: more subtle flavors and textural differences added to the pot roast base.

Please vote!

by dichroic in clothing and style

No, not for President (yet). For my new jacket design. If enough people vote for it, Betabrand will manufacture it and then I can get myself one.

Voting Link.

Betabrand is a clothing company that seems to specialize in unusual products. The one that seems to be their flagship is the Dress Pant Yoga Pant, which you might have seen advertised if you use Facebook much. The idea is that it is a pair of comfortable stretchy pants, like yoga pants, but that look nice enough to wear to work. (I have a pair. They really are comfortable and well-made, and they come in Petite, Regular and Tall. They’re also washable; only downside is that they do not have real pockets.) Anyway, Betabrand’s business model is as unusual as their clothes. Anyone can submit a design idea; if enough people vote for it, they make and sell prototypes, like a Kickstarter project. If enough people buy (and thus fund) the prototype, it gets manufactured and sold thereafter.

You can see more information and also vote on other design ideas at the Betabrand Think Tank page. There’s no charge to vote, and as far as I know there’s no limit to how many you can vote for. There are a lot of very cool designs there, as well as some outstandingly goofy ones.

cool book sighting

by dichroic in books

In case anyone is looking for the book to give a kid after you give her Swallows and Amazons, I just stumbled across it: The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon and 101 Other Things for Young Mariners to Build, Try, and Do on the Water. Given that last time I encountered someone with a potato gun they were using starter fluid as the propellant and that pretty much any potato gun I’ve ever seen involves some kind of explosive propellant, I was startled (and impressed) to see it in a kids’ book. Apparently it also includes instructions on not only harmless crafts (make an underwater viewing bucket) but useful skills (navigate by the stars, build a raft) and some other riskier stuff (waterski on bare feet, do an Eskimo roll). I cannot help but think that the crews of both the Swallow and the Amazon would approve – except that Susan would insist on supervising the younger ones with the potato gun.