Thursday, May 28, 2009


The fireflies have arrived. Walking by the tall grass near the boat ramp feels like strolling in front of a crowd of miniature paparazzi with flashbulbs.

There was fog at the oceanfront this afternoon. Right now, off in the northwest, there's heat lightning.


Those of you who've been thinking "He must have some kind of genetic anomaly or something"--you now have more evidence to support this theory. However, this has to do with my sense of taste rather than my sense of humor.
The company bought us lunch from a Mexican place today, including rice had fresh cilantro. Turns out that fresh cilantro tastes like dish soap to some people, and I am one of those people.

Monday, May 25, 2009

First fruits

The first harvest from our garden was lettuce for Diana's salad, basil which I added to the spaghetti sauce, an onion and some Swiss chard. I've never had chard before, but the recipes I found weren't particularly intimidating*. I sauteed the chard stems and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper, then a few minutes later added the chard leaves, a bit of cream and some fresh Parmesan. Judging by Diana's repeated exclamations, it was a success--although that may be more due to the cream and Parmesan.

*An intimidating recipe is starts something like "Lightly merble the stalks, then add .673 ounce grated plantain and gently fleep them until thraisted."
A really intimidating recipe starts "First clean the thrippet, as usual discarding the poisonous parts."
A ridiculously intimidating recipe starts, "First, verify your life insurance coverage and order your ammo--a few bins of .50 caliber is the standard, but some survivors have expressed a preference for 20mm."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Catching fish

I went kayaking yesterday and caught a large fish, which is interesting because I don't fish and didn't have any fishing gear with me.
I paddled south, upstream, passing under Virgina Beach Boulevard, I-264 and Potters Road, seeing the usual collection of herons, red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese, and such, plus a muskrat at the water's edge. There's a small bridge on Arrowfield, and I went under that, following a small stream about as far as the northwest corner of North Adventure Drive. On the way back out to the main stream, there's a small island, and as I was going past that, I saw a yellow-orange triangle, a few inches on a side, rise out of the water. A couple of seconds later it dipped back under and I realized it was a dorsal fin. As I paddled over to take a closer look I saw something dark moving through the water--which is pretty murky--and thought "That's got to be an eel or something, it's too big to be a fish." I got to within a few feet of it, though, and it was a fish; I couldn't see the head or tail but the body was about 9 inches from dorsal to ventral and a bit more than two feet long. I leaned over and poked him with my paddle; he zoomed off about twenty feet and then stopped and turned around--clearly he thought he was big enough that he didn't need to be afraid of anything, I'd just caught him by surprise.

Friday, May 22, 2009


There are a number of good lines from Ulysses. Here's a lesser-known section:
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Axel Oxenstierna

"Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" 

Written in 1648 by Axel Oxenstierna, Lord High Chancellor of Sweden, to his son, who was involved in the negotiations which eventually led to the Peace of Westphalia and ended the Thirty Years War. 

Questions to ask

With a nod to a post of Zoe Brain's--what would you ask? Specifically, if you were deciding whether or not to propose to someone, what three questions would you ask before deciding? 

We will assume this is someone you've already met, reasonably attractive, not obviously a incompatible as far as socio-economic status, religious preference, ability to speak the local language, etc. I'm not looking for "I should have asked what species he was; I never dreamed I'd be engaged to a dolphin"--unless, of course, that actually happened to you.

If you have already been married, you could make it "I wish I'd asked...." or "I'm glad I asked....".

Sunday, May 17, 2009


On the way to church this morning, Josh and I were talking about the Transformers 2 preview we'd seen while waiting for Star Trek. Josh wanted more battles between the Transformers and Decepticons; he said his roommate wanted more human interaction, i.e. more Megan Fox. We concluded that filmmakers could appeal to both audiences and in fact there's almost certainly an anime that has giant fighting robots piloted by babes in bikinis. We discussed why the Transformers are all civilian vehicles while the Decepticons are all military vehicles. And then I said "So a proper nerd would want more seven-sided dice?"
Josh said "What?"
He punched me in the arm, decided that wasn't sufficient and punched me a couple more times, and added, "How could you say a thing like that when we're going to church? You're a terrible person."

Friday, May 15, 2009


At PF Chang's last night, Diana was trying to encourage Josh to take some vegetables. Josh raised an eyebrow and replied: "That's what food eats."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

I saw the original Trek movie and I'm thankful not to remember it. Wrath of Khan was pretty good, and from everything I hear is considered by far the best of the Trek movies until this one. The next film or two went downhill so precipitously that I stopped seeing them; but I'd heard enough good about the new one that, when Josh said he was going, I figured I might as well go along. And I'm glad I did.
The film isn't perfect. There are not a lot of quotable lines, the way there are in The Princess Bride or Holy Grail. There were some serious lapses of logic: How can a mining ship defeat dozens of Klingon ships? Why is a human (Spock's mother) is one of the conservators of Vulcan culture? Why doesn't Nero just say "Hey, there's going to be a supernova, deal with it now" rather than doing what he does? However, this is Trek, so I wasn't expecting it to make perfect sense, and these lapses didn't really bother me. One thing which was distracting is that the writers felt compelled to give each of the regular characters some time in the spotlight. I understand why, but Chekov running down to the transporter was a bit much.  
It's not going into my All Time Top Five....but it was fun, and worth going to, and I'd be willing to go see the next one.
Without giving anything away, here were some particularly enjoyable points:
  • The actor playing Kirk did it well enough that at some point I thought, "Yes, that's Kirk." The same thing for McCoy. The other actors weren't bad, but Kirk and McCoy nailed it.
  • Enterprise uses point defense fire, and it work!
  • As they're preparing for the last fight, Kirk gives Sulu an order. Sulu doesn't argue with him or ignore him--he obeys the order! 
  • When Enterprise hailed Nero for the last time, Kirk did exactly what he should have done.

"If I had ten thousand dollars"

The original question was "If I had a million dollars", but that's a bit of a stretch for most people. Sounds to me like Tom has a good plan for what to do with $10k. If you had $10,000 and no pressing needs, what would you do?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Trivia so good you'll wish it were true. I'm pretty sure this and one of Steve Jackson's games are Dan Brown's research sources.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bald eagle

I saw a juvenile bald eagle over the river behind our house, around 7pm. I've seen an adult here before, a couple of years ago, so it's not unprecedented, but it's rare enough to be special.

Sapin sapin

A Filipino girl at work brought in sapin sapin, which she said meant "sticky sticky". Wikipedia describes it as
a layered glutinous rice and coconut dessert in Filipino cuisine. It is made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, water, and coloring with coconut flakes sprinkled on top. Sapin-sapin means "layers" and the dessert is recognizable for its layers, each colored separately. It has been referred to as "a blancmange of several colored layers, sweetened and flavored with coconut milk".
The taste is about as bland as tapioca; the coconut sprinkled on top was toasted, nearly burnt, and that was most of what I could taste. The texture is a fairly thick goo, about like rubber cement, although not really sticky.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Josh Portrait

Josh has gotten A's in his painting and drawing classes this semester, and his art prof suggested that Josh forget economics and declare an Art major. Here's his final project for one class. a self-portrait. His usual expression is a bit more amused than this, though.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Garden progress

We planted the garden on April 20 and it has made remarkable progress--remarkable for this city dweller, at least. Pretty much everything has come up, the first tomatoes are showing, and I'm already wondering what we're going to do with all that parsley.

Letter from Zambia

Mom just emailed us from Macha Mission in Choma, Zambia:
   We have arrived- what can I say?  The ride out was similar to a white water rafting adventure just without the water. However, the airplane rides went smoothly.  When we arrived there was no one there to meet us,  ( "Welcome to Zambia")  but after about 45 minutes they arrived and were very jolly and it was an "all is well that ends well situation."  Time is not of the essence here.  
   We went shopping and it was totally a shock.  The supermarket last time was about 1/4 the size of this one.  Actually, it is a nice shopping center!
    On the road here we saw stray cows just wandering around like they owned the road but the goats had them out numbered by a long shot. Boys were transporting everything imaginable on bikes.  Huge loads.  One even had about eight logs standing upright in a basket on the  back of his bike.  I do not know how in the world he peddled it on a sandy dirt road with that heavy of a load.
    Our home for the next 10 months will be in a small duplex.  It is brick but old, in bad need of a fresh paint job, and "rustic" would  be a more than gracious term for it.  This is Africa, after all.  The water was not on when we arrived, but there was water in a pitcher to wash hands, etc. There is a family of geckos in the house, but I was told to let them be as they eat mosquitoes
  This is not the Homestead but it is way better than camping.
  I hope you are well. This is going to take an adjustment but we can do this. We are thankful for your prayers and for safe travel.  

Quotes on Government

Forwarded to me by Brother Jon:

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress. -- John Adams

2. If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. -- Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. -- Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. -- Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. -- G. Gordon Liddy

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. -- James Bovard

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. -- Douglas Casey

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. -- P.J. O'Rourke

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. -- Frederic Bastiat

11. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. -- Ronald Reagan

12. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. -- Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free. -- P.J. O'Rourke

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. -- Voltaire

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. -- Pericles

16. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. -- Mark Twain

17. Talk is cheap... except when Congress does it. -- Anonymous

18. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. -- Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -- Winston Churchill

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. -- Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. -- Herbert Spencer

22. There is no distinctly native American criminal Congress. -- Mark Twain

23. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. -- Gerald Ford

Friday, May 1, 2009


I saw Serenity again on DVD. It's a fun film, and if you're a science fiction fan who somehow missed the movie, it's worth watching. However, there's one scene which makes me want to reach back through time and smack the writer. That scene is the one where Book says to Mal, "I don't care what you believe, but you need to believe in something." 
That's about the most idiotic thing that it's possible to say. "I don't care what you believe." Okay, how about the Operative's belief that murder in the service of the state is acceptable? Or how about a belief that some ethnic group is subhuman and can should be enslaved or exterminated? How about if I believe it would be a good idea to choke you right now?
I can see Jayne saying it--and everyone else turning and giving him a "you idiot" look--but I can't see Book saying it.