Monday, November 27, 2006

I Need Another Vacation

I'm awake at 1am on a Sunday (which is admittedly pretty early for me) and I'm not quite able to go to sleep yet, so I thought I'd write a bit on here whie I wait for water to boil so that I can have some rice. I've not posted on here in a while, but rather than try to catch this up to what's been going on, I'm just going to kind of wing this return.

1) Thanksgiving: We actually did it. Jenna and I actually, successfully, cooked and ate Thanksgiving dinner. I'd like to start by noting that I had no idea how much food is required to cook a proper Thanksgiving dinner, or how much spices cost. Admittedly, we bought these things at the Big Apple Supermarket twenty feet from the back door of my building which tends to be more "small-market"-ish and thus a bit more expensive than, say, Dominick's, but we offset this by buying the cheapest spices available (I'm sure the fine people at McCormick would argue that theirs is just as good, and I'd be inclined to agree because disagreeing costs me double). Still, I ended up paying, evidently, $3.99 for bay leaves (3g), which I'm not even sure what they do, $4.99 for ground ginger which I think may have gone into the pie, but in any case I've still got like ninety percent of the 22g bottle, $5.79 for sage (14g), which was just sort of sprinkled on the squash we cooked anyway and I think we probably could have gotten by without, and cloves (17g) which were supposed to be ground but evidently no one in Chicago sells ground cloves so they're whole and Jenna ground them in a food processor. Suddenly, I feel like I should probably have ground ginger on everything I eat. Especially, say, fish sticks.

Still, the whole thing worked out well, there were no "family movie/sitcom" situations in which we burned the turkey and were forced to eat at the diner (which, incidentally, was offering a pretty good deal at $10.49 for whatever the hell the "complete dinner" consisted of), and I even took some pictures, though because my digital camera is somewhere at home at the moment, I'll only be able to get up once I have them developed and scan them. We've got a good amount of food left over, though did have to eat out over the weekend because turkey's really boring and Jenna went all super-cook today and made soup from turkey bits and celery or something. I don't know. I was playing Katamari Damacy and sacking Ben Roethlisberger.

2) Things I've been reading lately: I just finished World War Z, which is Max Brooks followup to the Zombie Survival Guide which was occasionally humorous and pretty interesting. World War Z is his crack at, I guess, historical fiction, though that term makes me think that Washington and Lincoln should be involved somehow. It's essentially, in the first half or so, an amalgam of the last two bits of the Survival Guide, being the description of a world in which zombies not only exist but have taken over and little "personal accounts". It was a fun and interesting read, and as I've got a 40 minute commute as penance for living in a neighborhood that accepts "Pocket Puppies" as a valid store, it helped stave off long hours of staring out the window and being talked to by, well, anyone. From there, it appears I'll be proceeding with a book I picked up while buying presents, Bertrand Russell's Sceptical Essays. I'll let you know more about that as I actually get into it.

3) Music: Tower Records, if you haven't heard, is being liquidated. As it happens, I live about 200 yards (some ridiculous standard measurement) from one, and so have really cheap music and videos really closeby. Today's purchases: In the Mood for Ska: The Moonska Years- The Skatalites and Ace of Spades- Motörhead. It's odd. I actually like Motörhead quite a lot apparently based on the first few listens, and Ace of Spades seems like a good album to start with when it's $8, their first album isn't actually still in stock and I know the song Ace of Spades from a video game (which is the lamest reason to buy a CD). The Skatalites are, as I expected, fantastic on the two disc set that has them playing with Doreen Shaffer, Laurel Aitken and some stuff from Tommy McCook apart from the general output.

4) The Steelers' O-line makes me weep.

5) Al Jazeera has begun broadcasting in English though no cable companies have agreed to air it actually in the US and if you want to see it in the States you have to pay $6 a month to stream it from their website. It's being carried in the UK on Sky Digital, which, as a bit of trivia, is owned by NewsCorporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. From reviews I've read, Al Jazeera is actually pretty good at providing an alternate perspective, which is really the only reason that any cable company should agree to carry it, as it's not as though we need another 24-hour news channel. It's a channel broadcasting from and centered on the Middle East, and should, I think, if well done, provide an interesting view from inside that allows us to get an alternate viewpoint, which is good. There are, of course, those that claim that we shouldn't be allowed to elect to watch it, as it would be a mouthpiece for anti-Americanism, something that I have no clue about. It might be, but I haven't actually seen it to make a judgement, and I suspect that most people that already have very strong opinions about it probably haven't either. Then again, none of that really effects me as I don't subscribe to cable and get my news from listing to NPR all day with wicked huge wireless headphones because I don't have to pay for it and it tends to be somewhat neutral, but it's an interesting topic, I think.

6) In addition to my weekly subscription to the New Yorker, I've been occasionally picking up the libertarian magazine Reason now and again. The experience of violently switching between either agreeing completely with what it's saying and denouncing it as unreasonable is kind of fun (I tend to agree heavily on social issues but am a bit of a centrist with regards to the economy, which is actually a change from a few years ago). The issue I picked up most recently does have a moderately interesting interview with the creators of South Park and a bit of a long article in which different individuals are interviewed to try to discern whether someone who is in complete agreement with the magazine on every issue (which is how I presume they define "libertarian") should vote for in the elections that happened a few weeks ago. It's an older issue. Not surpringly, Grover Norquist wants you to vote for Republicans on the "less taxes" issue (which is juxtaposed wiht an article immediately after this one which tries to discern why the Republican party, which campaigns on being fiscally responsible, isn't even close), the guy that runs Daily Kos and Terry Michael, former spokesman for the DNC say the libertarians should vote D on social grounds, and Markos Moulitsas throws in a bit about perhaps the solution to neither party going wacky lies in perpetually divided government, and a guy who was running for representative in Arizona as a Republican says, essentially "please don't vote me out of power, we're still better than those damned Democrats." He won his seat... over the Libertarian candidate, who the last person interviewed in the article, the President of the Libertarian Party, would have preferred. More updates as I continue reading.

7) I think I might be the only person who's disappointed that O.J. isn't releasing his book, tentatively titled "If I Did It", in which he posits that if he puts things in the subjunctive, everyone will be so stupid that they don't realize that the book is basically a confession. Slate had a bit of stuff a while ago about potential legal troubles for O.J. as they related to the book/TV deal. Conclusion: Not really all that much. I don't think I'd read it, but in a world where they're doing things about the Jon-Benet Ramsey case as recently as this year, I can't believe that there's actually no interest in what this particular scumbag has to say. In that, I agree with Timothy Noah. It's news.

I'm going to bed.


Hal said...

As far as "fiscally responsible" parties go, I'm not sure either one qualifies. At least with the Republicans, some of them still pretend. The Democrats have no such pretenses. Sometimes I wonder how close some of them would be to full-blown socialism or even communism if they had half a chance to do it.

Rory said...

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 or 4?


Jenna said...

Dude, I understand that you find it blogworthy to talk about our cooking dinner successfully, but eating it successfully wasn't really all that hard. I guess I did get that drumstick stuck in my nose last year.

Jenna said...

and I was wondering what all the spices were doing out...

Hal said...

I demand December posting!

-Murphy said...

As far as "fiscally responsible" parties go, I'm not sure either one qualifies. At least with the Republicans, some of them still pretend. The Democrats have no such pretenses. Sometimes I wonder how close some of them would be to full-blown socialism or even communism if they had half a chance to do it.

Neither of the major parties appears to have it right in its entirety, but it's fallacious to point out that "some Republicans still have some kind of fiscal sense" and then try to lump Democrats all into a singular entity that has a single fiscal mindset.

Not that I even claimed that Democrats are fiscally responsible. It's slightly odd that your response to "the Republicans aren't fiscally responsible", (which they aren't, considering that the "lower spending" has all but been abandoned and the principle difference between the two major parties has become whether you're borrowing and spending or taxing and spending) is to attack the Democrats.

Hal said...

Well, hey, small government is the "supposed" platform of the Republican party. Theoretically, I suppose. Not that they've lived up to that, and you can be sure that their constituency is reminding them about how discretionary spending has risen dramatically since 1994.

However, I'm just being realistic. When Republicans increase the size of government, it's going against their purported philosophy and probably at least some of what they campaigned on. Democrats are not the party of small government. They don't campaign on it and they don't pretend to do so. If you want to call that weird, then okay, it's weird. I'm just calling it as I see it.

-Murphy said...

However, I'm just being realistic. When Republicans increase the size of government, it's going against their purported philosophy and probably at least some of what they campaigned on. Democrats are not the party of small government. They don't campaign on it and they don't pretend to do so.

I agree with most of this, but I think it greatly depends on whether you're talking about a social or economic context. I'd say that Democrats are less interfering socially at the moment, but then they've also been out of power in the legislature since 1994. So we don't really have a basis for what they'll do with Congress, as the whole thing may have been an opposition to the Republicans.

So I agree for the most part, but the reason I called it odd is that it doesn't need to be viewed on a "Republican to Democrat" single axis spectrum. That was the strategy for the Democratic campaign in 2004 (We're not Republicans!) and the Republican campaign in 2006 (Sure, things aren't ideal, but wait till you see what the Democrats are going to do! At least we're not them!), and it hasn't been working well for either of them.

I'm trying to avoid the natural tendency to think of the major parties as teams of which one is a fan, which is what the black/white spectrum seems like to me, and I think that's somewhat disruptive to the process of deciding what's actually useful for policy.

Because, you know, of all the influence we bloggers have in the national legislature.

Hal said...

On the one hand, you're right: Cheerleading for the "team" doesn't really help good policy. The Republicans aren't exactly fielding what I would classify as the "A team" right now.

On the other hand, we have a two party system. It's kind of a binary choice. Eventually, I'd like to get more involved in the party system so that I can actually have an effect on how things go. I get tired of hearing how every election is a choice between "the lesser of two evils." Well . . . let's get into the primaries to make sure that the non-evil candidate ends up on the ballot.

And really, I end up siding with the Republicans (when they're not being total morons) because their platforms (when they're actually following them) are closer to what I want to see. The Democrats are too far in with NARAL, universal healthcare, socialism/communism, etc. for me to ever think that my policy goals would be satisfied. That's why I'd rather fix the team I root for than switch to the other side.

Hm . . . this comment had a point somewhere. I'm sure you can find it.

-Murphy said...

On the other hand, we have a two party system. It's kind of a binary choice.

Yes, but the tendency among most people is to ignore things their own party does, view their party in a softer light and, sometimes unfairly, demonize the party that is in direct opposition to theirs not because of policy disagreements, but because members of the other party are "the opposing team." Many Democrats wouldn't vote for liberal Republicans (say, Lincoln Chafee) and many Republicans wouldn't vote for a conservative Democratic candidate (say, Bob Casey in PA, who is anti-abortion, or Jim Webb in VA) simply because of the letter next to their name. While some argument could be made for party allegiance in close elections (such as the last midterms, in which both houses swapped control, and so it was in the Democrats interest to vote out Lincoln Chafee for a guy who would vote like Lincoln Chafee but would allow a party that's closer to their ideals to set agenda), but if that's not the case (as with, say, most House seats, as the Dems won by a wider margin), it doesn't make sense to me to hate and attack Republicans because they're Republicans or Democrats because they're Democrats.

Do Republicans stand for smaller government and less intrusion than Democrats? Traditionally, probably, but it's way up for debate now, especially on social issues/privacy compounded by the spending issue, on which the two parties differ less than they have before. But when there's a candidate that a specific group of people would agree with on most issues (for Libertarians, that might be the guy that got the nod from the LP), I don't see why they should vote for either a guy that represents the lesser evil or why in a comparison of Libertarians and Republicans, Democrats need to come up at all. What I said in my post was that the article immediately after the one about who the best choice is highlighted Republican fiscal irresponsibility. It doesn't make any claims about Democratic fiscal responsibility, and whether or not they're fiscally responsible would seem to be irrelevant to the claim that Republicans aren't. Are the Democrats? Well, they haven't set policy in twelve years and historically, probably wouldn't be. That doesn't mean that the Republicans are, though, or even that they are still moreso.