February 28, 2008
There has been little in the local press regarding Democrat Darrel Aubertine’s Tuesday night upset win over Will Barclay for New York’s 48th Senate district, and its potential ramifications on the balance of power in the State Senate. Aubertine’s win cuts the Senate’s Republican majority to a rather slim 32-30. The Democratic minority is now pushing hard to find a Republican Senator willing to defect. At 31-31, Democratic Lieutenant Governor David Paterson gets to cast any tie-breaking vote.
For the first time in 75 years there is a chance that Democrats could control the Assembly, Senate and Governor’s offices after November’s elections. I can’t think of anything that will energize both parties more than attaining – or stopping – this. I wonder what Senate majority leader Joe Bruno will be strategizing about this spring and summer.
I am not an advocate of same-party dominance in all branches of government, but in New York, a change from the current status quo is perhaps the only way to shake up the state’s abysmal political machinery.
Get ready for a lot of campaign spending, and a tremendous number of political advertisements in a year guaranteed to be full of political advertisements.
February 27, 2008
“My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants.”
Just in case you needed a mnemonic to remember all the planets (including the three dwarf planets): Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Eris.
Some fourth-grader in Montana came up with it.
Now if only I could come up with a way to remember the spelling of my wife’s middle name: Is it Ann or Anne?
February 26, 2008
I wouldn’t normally blog about meal recipes, but this meal is so delicious that I had to write something about it, if for no other reason than perhaps to help guarantee that it will not be lost to history.
The following recipe is from Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook, by Ellen Schrecker (1976). It is one of the very best meals – perhaps the very best – I have ever had. If you enjoy spicy Chinese food, then this recipe is well worth the effort required to prepare it.
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February 25, 2008
I am not overweight.
I am, however, paying significant health insurance premiums subsidizing many less-healthy people who are so grossly overweight that they are experiencing chronic medical problems. The obesifying of America is only going to make it worse as deaths from weight-related illnesses like diabetes are increasing at alarming rates. As an employer I grow tired of paying out $4K+ for employee health insurance premiums and then, as an employee, another $4K+ for the remainder of my health insurance premiums.
Getting health insurance companies to recognize me as a healthy, low-risk individual and putting me into a low-risk pool (as good drivers are able to do with auto insurance) is not likely to become an option in the near future, while I am still healthy enough to take advantage of it.
So here’s my idea. Add a surcharge to every restaurant and fast-food meal that is based on the average “health rating” for that restaurant. The health rating is simply the total number of calories of food purchased by the restaurant, divided by the number of meals served – giving an average caloric count per meal. The surcharge is to be collected as a direct reimbursement to lower overall insurance costs. If we can’t get insurance companies to lower their premiums or health care providers to reduce their costs, then we can at least come up with a more creative way to pay those costs than simply increasing premiums by 20% year after year. Think of it as a cigarette tax on gluttony.
This is not to penalize restaurants but rather to force people who are habitual gluttons (or simply bad eaters) to pay more for the health costs that we will all eventually incur for their bad habits. I imagine that McDonalds will need to add hefty surcharges, as well any place that sells chicken wings, pizza or Chinese food.
The hefty taxes added to cigarettes were certainly one reason that cigarette use has decreased in America. Maybe charging us for choosing unhealthy eating will have the same effect on our consumption of stuff that is not good for us.
February 24, 2008
I have stated this before: Exluding science in the name of God isn’t salvation, it’s laziness. The Museum of Earth History, a rather extraordinary place in Arkansas based on Creation Science and the belief that the world began about 4,000 years ago, is one such place where the ownership group profits from that laziness. Worse, the distortion of good science (Mary Schweitzer’s discoveries is just one example) is simply regrettable.
There is no need for this.
The hard line camps that preach either science exclusively, or religion exclusively, are both in need of an examination of what each other has to offer. Important as the Good Book might be, I think the fundamentalist extreme, in particular, needs to read a little more than just the Bible.
I believe that my God wants me to learn as much as possible the truth about this world in which he put us.
February 24, 2008
I have taken roughly 10,000 photographs since my interest in photography dawned at age 14.
My early photographs are catalogued, and I am ever thankful I did that as my brain would never have been able to remember all those faces or places.
None of my post-marriage photographs are catalogued and virtually all of the prints are still in the same envelopes the film processor mailed to us. We look at them only rarely.
Today I am in the process of taking that huge photographic archive plus my parents’ collection and digitizing them all, using a Nikon Coolscan V ED negative scanner. The resulting 6000×4000 pixel images (in JPEG format) take up on average about 25 megabytes apiece on my hard drive. Eventually, the resulting 250 gigabytes of digitized photographs will become the archive of my family and me. Losing that archive to a hard disk crash is not something I want to consider, so everything will get backed up to one or two different media, hopefully a media that will not be too obsolete in ten years.
And that’s a problem. Each new digital format means that some old format will no longer be supported. Floppy disks are essentially gone. Non-SATA hard disks are obsolete. CD ROMs, with their 720 MB limitations, are destined for perhaps the Smithsonian, but not the average person’s home. Even DVDs, which were introduced in late 1996, are bound to go the way of the Dodo as Blu-ray discs replace them as the recording medium of choice.
Each new generation of ever-denser but not necessarily longer-lasting media means that my archive will have to be converted again and again. Unless my children see merit in what I am doing, my last conversion will take place shortly before I die, and roughly ten years after that my photographic collection will be gone. In a sense I miss the days of silver halide and B&W prints which, when stored carefully, have a shelf life of a hundred years.
My life will have been defined by about 2.5 trillion bits. In the not so distant future, some genealogical member of my family may whittle it down to this:
February 16, 2008
This article really bothers me.
Some people are idiots.