1. souse, n.5: 3. A drunkard. slang (chiefly U.S.). (OED)
  2. white souse, n.1: A blog for literature, politics, science, and the occasional cocktail.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mad Man

Everyone might want to look like Don Draper, but I just did the Madmen Yourself makeover and this is what came back:

Spitting image.

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Thank you, Weight Watchers

The Talented Videographer and I often talk about our health--she's trying to drop a few pounds for the wedding, and I'm just trying to stay in shape. One point of contention is the set of criterion for obesity and being overweight. I'm 6', but weigh from 205-215 pounds, with a BMI around 26. At the same time, I lift weights and get in around four hours of strenuous cardiovascular exercise a week. I don't think I'm fat, but I'm at least 20 lbs. overweight by almost any chart-based standard (even for those with "big frames." Which made this nugget (in an article by Ben Domenich critiquing the illustrious McArdle) big "f" Fascinating:

As a side note: If you want to understand why in 1998 the medical community suddenly decided that you were overweight at a body mass index of 25 instead of 27.8, taking the WHO view (based on the BMIs of Africa and other developing nations as opposed to the long-held U.S. definition) and suddenly making 30 million Americans “fat,” just look at the makeup of the advisory panel — Pharma pushed this decision through, which had the effect of instantly adding millions of customers. But again, it’s nothing personal, just business.

Oh, I don't know. Seems pretty personal to me.

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Call me McLovin

Another gem from McArdle (at the top of a lengthy, fact-unfilled post about obesity):

But of course, as I pointed out elsewhere, while being rural is correlated with being fatter, it's also correlated with being healthier (though that advantage may be eroding). It's impossible to tease out the countervailing effects, so which should we do?

Ooga booga, so do nothing? If only someone could develop a mathematical study of such issues, (let's call it, statistics), and then develop a form of this study that works to discriminate between various contributing factors (let's call it, multiple regression analysis), and then apply this technique to producing an actual study (e.g., "Dietary intake, exercise, obesity, and noncommunicable disease in rural and urban populations of three Pacific Island communities," or "Obesity and Health Status in Rural, Urban, and Suburban Southern Women"). I'm such a dreamer.

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McArdle vs. Klein: Who will remain standing?

Megan McArdle, over at The Atlantic, has a long, rambling post arguing against national healthcare. (Notice I didn't say healthcare reform, or a new healthcare package, or the expansion of coverage.) I'd summarize it, but why?, given the thorough drubbing bestowed by Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post:

In 1,600 words, she doesn't muster a single link to a study or argument, nor a single number that she didn't make up (what numbers do exist come in the form of thought experiments and assumptions). Megan's argument against national health insurance boils down to a visceral hatred of the government. Which is fine. Megan is a libertarian. That's, like, her journey, man.

The entire article is worth reading in full, in that it systematically dismantles some of the breezy free market logic that is central to conservative criticism of national healthcare. But what I *really* loved was the response of one of Ezra's McArdle McLoving commenters:

You're basically just a control freak with really stupid ideas about how to help people.

You should actually read The Fountainhead. If nothing else it could help you out with making logical arguments. You could always try to model yourself off of Elsworth Toohey. There could be some profit in that for you.

A second topic of conversation last night allowed me to shoehorn in my pet theory about Ayn Rand: her works are like the chicken pox; it's important to succumb and recover early enough in life that you can go on to lead a healthy and productive adulthood. If you're exposed too late, however, there's a nasty tendency for the disease to stick, ravage the mental faculties, and return in chronic waves. Sometimes, The Talented Videographer chides me for this quasi-elitist dismissiveness of a writer who remains so well-liked by so many. To which I respond: READ THE ABOVE.

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The Beer Summit

Like nearly everyone else at the bar last night, a pitcher of Shiner Smokehouse led our table into a long discussion of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the officer who arrested him. The Talented Videographer had the most charitable take toward the cop -- she sees what they have to deal with everyday and recognizes how very dangerous and stressful that job is.

My 1 1/2 cents, for what it's worth, is that this was definitely about racism, but did not involve racists. Racism is what Gates was worried about when he exploded up front, and it's what the cop was angry about being accused of. Both decided to wear their heart on their sleeve exclusively because of racism, if for different reasons, and that is true even if neither, in my opinion, were doing anything worse than overreacting and showing bad judgment.

More importantly, the things that brought this event to our attention are the things that make it a shame it was brought to our attention. Gates is a very well known, and powerful, black intellectual, and he has an enormous network of the most-connected of the black community behind him. It was for this reason that Obama knew him, and probably felt enormous pressure, both externally and internally, to say something. At the same time, Gates' position makes this whole thing kind of a farce. Much worse happens to black men on a daily basis, but because they're not Skip Gates, the president does not comment.

Moreover, it was, INMHO, Gates' acute sensitivity to his position that made him so angry. It strikes me that he feels he's transcended the plight of the average black man, and was just plain furious to be pulled down into it, even if glancingly and with some complicity. (Hence the color-transcending odiousness of his tirade: "Do you know who I AM!?!") I do not know Gates personally, but I know a some folks who do, and the consensus is that he's a bit pompous. Sure, he's earned it (no one could top Harold Bloom, of course), but at the same time, it was this personality trait that launched him into this situation, as well as making him such a poor spokesperson for a cause he has had (cough) little to do with as participant or advocate over the last couple of decades.

To emphasize, I respect Gates as a scholar (I have great admiration for the work he did to bring Gwendolyn Brooks into the scholarly canon, for instance), but as a spokesman for civil rights, he's a wiffle ball. It's too bad the President felt compelled to take a swing.

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Chapelle on Gates

Timely as always (via sullivan):

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It has recently come to my attention...

In as much as Rep. Bill Posney has found scattered support for HR 1503, a bill to require presidential candidates to submit their birth certificate before running, and I have held presidential ambitions myself, I thought I'd dig through my files and double-check the old B.C. from Albuquerque Presbyterian.

As I blew the dust from the parchment, I noticed something odd -- a slight bit of off-white discoloration around my name. A rasp with my penknife easily chipped away the artfully-applied White Out. It turns out the true holder of my SS# is one Ephraim Schmelman, son of Lazarus and Sandy Schmelman, of the four-points region.

Of course, I immediately confronted my parents, who explained that I was not, as I've been told, conceived on a honeymoon trip to Mexico, but in fact, purchased from a Mexican orphanage for abandoned black Irish babies (a connection, I'm told, cultivated during the Troubles, when Irish Catholic fear of the Protestant conversion of orphan children ran high). When my folks returned to Albuquerque, their good friends the Schmelmans, who had recently lost their young Ephraim (a freak Etch-A-Sketch accident), suggested the DIY naturalization.

It goes without saying that I am stunned by this news -- it raises a whole battery of questions and concerns. Who were my real parents? How can I find them? And most importantly, what can I do to prevent HR 1503 from passing and dashing my hopes of Oval Office employment?

(And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for Bill Posney and his meddling Birthers...)

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Any chance Palin could write for National Lampoon?

Via Yglesias, here's William Shatner reading an excerpt from Sarah Palin's farewell speech:

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brewing Update: The Lineup and True Blue

I asked The Talented Videographer to take a photo of the lineup as it currently stands (I'm setting these bottles aside for posterity's sake). Here they are in all of their homebrewed glory:

They're not in order of production. The second from the left is True Blue, a classic American pilsner (CAP) brewed with blue corn and the New Ulm yeast strain. I just bottled it a couple of weeks ago and it's already proving to be a rich, friendly example of an historic and unique American style that has few honest mainstream practitioners.

I also submitted Megaberry, Yellow Rose, and Slacker to a local GABF-sanctioned competition, the Lunar Rendezbrew. Can't wait to see what happens.

Here's a better shot of the True Blue label. I'm rather proud.

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Emotional IQ

Yesterday, over dinner and some awesome wine at Max's Wine Dive (thank you, Seth!), The Talented Videographer (TTV) described part of her interview yesterday with former NASA flight director Glynn Lunney, who directed part of the Apollo 11 and 13 missions. Lunney was talking about the achievement of the Apollo program, and how remarkable was.

He pointed out that it took a huge monetary investment by the United States in something that many thought was impossible. When Kennedy proposed they make the moon by the end of the decade, it was so far beyond current technology that it was a staggering, and seemingly impossible goal. And investment in the project reached 5.5% of the federal budget. By contrast, all of NASA's budget is around 0.5% today. And because virtually all of the expertise still had to be developed, what you had was huge number of young men and women (including Kennedy) trying to do something most thought impossible, and which did not promise to provide a substantial return on investment. But they decided to roll up their sleeves and give it a shot.

Lunney compared this to the exploration of the New World -- Europe spent a huge amount of money equipping expeditions and charting the new continents. But within a century, sometimes, far less, most of those countries lost their holdings in the New World to revolutions. Many never recouped those initial costs. At the same time, from the perspective of hindsight, it was an endeavor whose value could not be measured by the amount of gold or sugar which they New Continent could provide.

Lunney's point: sometimes huge investments are necessary without the promise of gain. Cost-benefit analyses cannot capture the non-monetary value of an investment.

What I loved was that TTV re-framed this in terms of relationships -- there's lots of work and sacrifice that has to go into a relationship, especially a marriage, upfront. And when you're talking about things like career tracks, there are some sacrifices which don't promise equivalent rewards. But the real value, the long-term reward, can't be measured in that way. It's the kind of connection between public and private, historical and personal, that I wouldn't have been able to make. It was beautiful.

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Just when I think I've had it with R&B...

Autotune The News has a new video out that features the R&B stylings of Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner. Praise!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Buvez Montreal: Le Cheval Blanc

Took a conference trip to Montreal last week and people keep asking, how'd it go? Well, I'm not sure about the paper I gave (at least two folks were dozing off), but I had one hell of a time after two visits to Le Cheval Blanc -- a Montreal pub on Rue Ontario that's been around for half a century and makes damn fine beer. In addition to a selection of eight housebrews (described in terms of degrees Plato of gravity, beer style, and finish), they also have an eclectic selection of bottled beer, much of which I didn't recognize. I was too busy sampling their house offerings, from a hazy, intentionally unfiltered pilsner (soft-bodied AND crisp), to the Piment -- a blond beer smacked up with jalapeno.

In addition, Wednesday nights are pickled vodka night, with 2 dollar (cdn) shots of their house cornichon-infused vodka. The first night I went in, a Sunday, they had a woman DJing and playing a mix ranging from sets of James Brown to The Shins. And the staff was very, very friendly, despite my only roughly serviceable French. The second night, I hung out with a competitive bagpiper who'd flown in from Beijing for a checkup(!).

All in all, it was the best brewpub I've visited, hitting the right mix of ambiance, fun, and quality beer. Can't wait to go back. Je serai retourné!

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Jade Gimlet

I'm sure this is a recipe somewhere else on the internets, but over the weekend (alongside sailing, shopping for wedding bands, and barbecuing a brood of chickens), The Talented Videographer and I came up with a refreshing summer drink. Make a vodka or gin gimlet per usual (1.5 oz. liquor, .5 oz. lime juice, .5 oz. simple syrup) and add some crushed fresh basil to the shaker with ice. Shake it all up; use a spoon to fish out some of the basil and add it to the glass, then strain the mix on top. VY yummy.

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Friday, July 3, 2009


Amazing. Two things hit me in her speech, pasted below. What disclosure is coming? And it's pretty clear that she wrote this speech herself. Rambling, incoherent, alternatively folksy and padded with Roget's -- just the dish we've come to expect. E.g.: "Only dead fish go with the flow."

Alaska -- one of the few states whose public education system lags behind Texas.

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