9/30/2007

09-30-07 - 1

Some things I've learned about rehabbing shoulders :

One crucial thing at all times is to fight kyphosis and keep "military" posture (shoulders back and down, chest puffed out), and retract the scapula during exercises. Scapular retraction may be weak so strengthening that is crucial.

The big muscle that lifts the arm up and down is the deltoid, but there are also all these stabilizers that hold the humerous in place. The idea of a "ball and socket" joint is not accurate; really the humeral head just sort of rests against the gleno-humeral socket, and muscles and tendons hold it there, it isn't in any socket. If the stabilizers are too weak, the humeral head is not held in the right place, which can cause pinches and tears and general badness. These stabilizers need to be strengthened to do anything - throw a ball, non-shoulder exercises, etc.

The shoulder is very mobile, but a lot of the angles it can be in are actually very hard on the joint. If your stabilizers or tissues are too weak, you should not put it in difficult positions under load. The safe range of motion is with your arm at 20-50 degrees in front of your body, and from down at your side up to parallel with your shoulders. That means not raising your elbow above your shoulders and not putting your elbow parallel to the plane of your body or behind. You should stretch your range of motion without load, but don't go into those positions under load.

In particular, that means some of the standard weight lifting moves are forbidden. Standard barbell bench presses are very bad. The safest substitute is the dumbell incline bench press with the hands in "neutral" position (turned at a 45 degree angle so your palms face your crotch). Another big standard press that's forbidden is the back squat, because of how you hold the bar behind your back. Possibile substitutes are the front squat, hack squat, or the sled squat machines.

Upright rows are very bad for the shoulder and should never ever be done even when the shoulder is fully healthy. The same goes for military presses behind the head or lat pulldowns behind the head. There's no reason to do these, don't do them.

Throwing a ball is something I continue to do which is very dangerous for shoulder health. It's really crucial to warm up and stretch before throwing as it's a very hard motion on the shoulder. The crucial thing with throwing is to think of it a full body "jerk" motion like an olympic lift with a big weight. To throw properly you need to generate the force from your legs and hips. All your shoulder strength should be focused on stabilizing the shoulder joint as your trunk power jerks your body and whips your arm to release the ball. The way you can easily get injured is if you stand still and try to launch the ball just by jerking your shoulder.

To work the stabilizers, you probably only need zero weight or a tiny bit of weight. Most physical therapists would recommend rubber bands. You need to strengthen scapular retraction and protraction. If you use computers you are probably in a state of constant weak protraction and your retractors are atrophied.

Most of the stabilizers can be hit with humeral rotations. Imagine your arm rotating around the humerous. All you do is bend your elbow 90 degrees in some comfortable position (eg. at your side, or straight out from your shoulder, lying on your side, lying on your stomach), then rotate your arm around the axis of the humerous in each direction with as much resistance as needed. This can be done as a high-rep low-weight move.

The other simple lift is a lateral raise. This actually is just a deltoid move but it's a safe direct way to target it. The arm should move in the safe plane, that's 20-30 degrees in from of the body, with elbow straight and thumb pointing up. Don't raise the elbow above the shoulder. Next time you see someone at the gym doing lateral raises with their arms straight out at their sides and raising their elbows way above the shoulder, have a good laugh.

The trickiest thing is that you need to work these stabilizers, but working them makes them fatigued, and when they are fatigued it's dangerous to do any other exercise that uses the shoulder. When you're not specifically working the stabilizers, you need to hold the shoulders in a strict position of scapular retraction, back and down. If your shoulders are too tired or weak to keep this posture when you do your other exercises - don't do them.

9/28/2007

09-28-07 - 1

I hate people who think how drunk they got or how much they puked or how dumb they are is something to brag about.

I hate people who don't confront you about an issue but then will drop hints about it in casual conversation.

I hate people who put themselves in bad situations and then complain about it, or who constantly bitch about something they could change but don't do anything to change it.

I hate people who act like your friend but would stab you in the back for their own good.

I hate people who will fight to the death to protect their children or family but aren't bothered by the slaughter of other humans, and generally anyone who ridiculously favors their own family or race over humans as a whole.

I hate people who get emotional revenge on you when they think you're slighting them, by giving you the silent treatment or befriending your enemy or excluding you from things you'd like to do.

I hate people who think that sexual partners are like prey to be hunted and bagged, and that more notches on your bedpost is "winning".

I hate people who show off or brag about their success.

I hate people who constantly only think of ambition or money, and use every social event to "network".

I hate people who think they earned their place in the world when they obviously didn't.

I hate people who have to interject their opinion and relate it to something in their life when it's something they know little about.

I hate people who use counterculture and bohemianism as a way to sell products or advance their career.

I hate people who tell you horrible things and cast it as a positive.

I hate people that are bothered by something that others voluntarily do that doesn't affect them or hurt anyone.

I hate people that smile too much and give too much eye contact and laugh when it's not funny.

I hate people who act confident and commanding all the time, even when they are totally lost or out of their element.

9/27/2007

09-27-07 - 3

We got a whole roast duck from Chinatown the other day. I've seen them so many times, curiosity got me. They're quite cheap so far as a whole duck goes, about $9. It was cooked very nicely, crispy skin, fat melting all over the meat, and the cavity was stuffed full of anise and other spices which infused the whole bird. On the negative side, they're very small ducks that they sell, and there's hardly any accessible meat on them. I think we maybe got 6 oz of actual meat off it, and it's a pain to work with because they are so fatty and bony you have to dig around. For just eating duck meat, I would probably never get one again, but if I had some recipe where I needed a whole chopped up cooked duck (like for a Duck Pho or something) it would be a good way to go. I also imagine that the reason the ducks are so cheap is they come frozen from China which is a little scary.

It's weird how Chinatown is totally like another country. Grant Ave is overloaded with tourist traps now, but one block off it on Stockton it's like another world. The population density is like 10X higher than anywhere else in San Francisco, everyone is speaking some type of Chinese, there are tons and tons of grocers and their prices are way lower than anywhere else, of course the crazy dried goods shops - and weirdest of all, people actually stop and wait at red lights! It's the only place in San Francisco where the locals don't just ignore the reds and jaywalk! I don't know if it's a habit left over from China, or perhaps left over from early Chinese immigrants that were treated so badly here and surely learned that they had best not give the law any excuse to harrass them.

09-27-07 - 2

I cashed out this life insurance policy that my grandparents bought for me. Wow, what a good move that was. I would've cashed it out for almost any amount, cuz what good does life insurance do me? Hell I'm pretty close to just cashing out all my IRAs and eating the penalty because money that's no good until I'm old is worth ZERO, while money I can have now is actually worth something. Anyway, the life insurance policy was for like $30k which is not much, but it paid out cash value of like $8k. It took like 3 weeks to get it cashed out and they kept trying to talk me out of it, which is one of the clear signs that it's a scam. Anyway, if you assume I'll live to around 70, that $8k at 5% a year would appreciate to $56k, and they only pay $30k, so they make a profit of $26k on my policy. Pretty sick, and of course the longer I live the more they make, with life expectancy going up all the time the life insurers are rolling in the free mobnies. The only time I can see life insurance being a good move is if you are the big wage earner and you have a wife and kids that can't make any money, AND you also have no savings, because if you have decent savings that they could live off of then the life insurance is still -EV. In almost any case you're better off taking the money you would've paid to your life insurance premiums and just putting it in an emergency savings account instead, but there are a few rare cases where it would be prudent (in those rare cases you can usually get your employer to buy you a policy).

Anyway, lesson is : if you have some dumb life insurance policy, cash it out !! Also, if you have a creaking bottom bracket, just remove it, clean it, grease it and put it back in! (don't grease the crank arm axles though, and don't try to grease inside a sealed cartridge bottom bracket which you surely have, just grease the threads).

09-27-07 - 1

I still think the US economy is headed for a recession. I've been thinking about how to play it; I don't really know finance very well and have had zero success trying to get help on message boards. The best I've come up with is to just try to pick some companies that I think are really bad business or overvalued and short them. Ideally if I make good picks the shorts are +EV even if the economy doesn't crap out, but if there is a big dive then the shorts like automatically become a huge win. The key is to find a company that's reliant on the current over-inflated consumer boom in the US which will soon collapse. Maybe an auto-maker that focuses on luxury gas-guzzlers. I really think Amazon and Apple are both way over-valued right now, but people are so high on those mistakes I dunno if they'll ever have stock prices that are based in reality.

I'm trying to imagine the middle class guy who's way over-reached in his home purchase. He's been subsidizing all kinds of companies, what is he going to cut back on? Hmm.. I think "Whole Foods" is a horrible company, but the stock is already plummeting so dunno if I want to chase that down, but that is the type of company that will burn bad in a recession as people switch the cheaper alternatives. Harley Davidson would've been another good one, but they've already announced cuts and the stock is falling. I need to find the one that hasn't announced bad news yet, cuz the market is so retarded it doesn't anticipate at all, it's so obvious that this kind of company is going to bite it.

The other way I could try to play it is to pull all my money out into cash and then try to snap up a house in a foreclosure auction. I don't really know much about that and I hear you have to be able to buy places sight-unseen with cash and no refunds. Obviously you can make a lot of profit at those auctions but it's a huge risk and it's one of those things in capitalism that works far better when you have a huge bankroll and can buy lots of those houses and resell them, it's not a great way to buy a residence.

9/26/2007

09-26-07 - 1

Meh, this whole holocaust denying nonsense should not be given any attention. Just cuz some nutter says something silly doesn't mean it's worth paying any attention to. Governments all over the world are *DOING* horrific things and nobody seems to give a rat's ass, someone just saying something about the past is so far down on the importance scale, it's irrelevant.

In video game coding we would keep all these todo lists of problems. For me there were 4 categories - 1. critical must do, 2. really really need to do, 3. would like / pretty important, 4. wish list. Everybody knew the #4's weren't gonna happen, but as the lead coder I also knew that the #3's were pretty much not gonna happen either. There are just way too many #1 and #2 tasks and more will keep popping up so that you won't get to many of the #3's, even though you think you would and management hoped you would. In meetings designers/producers would want to get into big discussions about #3 level tasks, and I'd try to say "look, we'll put it on the #3 list and we'll come back and discuss it more when we get to it, let's talk about these #1 and #2 level issues right now".

In world politics you have the same situation, but the prioritizing is totally retarded. People get all riled up about #3's and #4's , while the #1's are still being largely ignored. In world politics, #1's are basically "people being killed" or "people dying from malnutrition/disease that is easy and cheap to prevent". After that you have #2's like "severe human rights violations" , "people being imprisoned long term without trials" stuff like that. A #3 is something like "incomplete freedom of speech". It would be nice to deal with that around the world, but it's so far down the list of todos and that it should never even come up.

9/24/2007

09-24-07 - 2

Most of you are probably aware of the Republican schemes to disenfranchise poor voters across America. The one that's strongly going forward these days is the requirement of picture ID; roughly 20-30 million people who are eligible to vote are estimated to not have a valid photo ID (the claim of "fraud" is a preposterous insult, sort of like claiming that the Bush tax cuts are for economic stimulus). Another one that's passed in some states is requiring people to fill out their voter registration themselves, making illegal a long-standing Democrat procedure of having volunteers fill them out on people's behalves who were either not very good with the language or writing or just not motivated enough to do it themselves. Yet another one that's passed in many places which is a bit more subtle is making absentee ballots available over the internet. This doesn't technically disenfranchise anyone, but it makes it far far easier for the lazy rich to vote than the lazy poor, and ease of voting is a major issue in this society where nobody gives a fuck. The other one that's happened a few times lately is the cleansing of voter rolls of people who shouldn't be allowed to vote and "accidentally" cleansing lots of people who have the right to vote.

The latest crafty play is underway in California. A Republican group is pushing a proposition which would make California a proportional electoral college state in Presidential elections, rather than winner takes all. It's unlikely that this prop will pass in CA because we do have a reasonably politically aware population, but it could pass somewhere else. Oddly, it's up to each state whether it is winner take all or proportional electoral college. The only states that aren't winner-take-all at the moment are Maine and Nebraska. There's nothing wrong with proportional votes in general (in fact it would be a much better system), but selectively switching democratic states to proportional is a nasty scam. Say you have two states, both with 20 electoral votes, and they are 51-49 democratic in one state and 49-51 republican in the other state. Both winner-take-all or both proportional is okay, but if you make the democractic one proportional, suddenly you have a 30-10 republican win. Propositions like this can also easily pass at the state level if not enough people understand or care how nasty it is.

In fact, these sort of crooked local voting laws bubble all the way up. Throughout the country you have really twisted crooked systems for electing state representatives. Nobody gives a rat's ass about the laws controlling how an incumbent state rep can campaign, they figure it's irrelevent. Well, the state reps get elected, then they get to make the state laws that control the election of the congressional reps and the government, draw the voting districts, etc., and rig the shit out of their stat's voting as much as they possibly can. This might get a little more attention, but it still doesn't really raise people's hackles enough to do anything. Before you know it the entire system is distorted. It's not that people are "stealing" votes - it only takes small distortions to skew things enough one way or the other.

It's interesting to think of the electoral college historically. It was really part of the general system in early America which was designed by the founding fathers to be a plutocracy. In most states only landowners were allowed to vote, which of course was just rich, educated, white males. The poor and uneducated were essentially serfs and certainly not considered fit to make decisions about the country. The electors were of course from the educated class, and gathered in the "electoral college" (a term coined later) to choose the president and vice president. In many states the electors weren't even voted for, but chosen by the state legislature. I don't mean that as a diss on the founding fathers, it's just important to remember where our system came from, and how these weird structures from darker days hang around and screw things up.

BTW it reminds me of another odd thing I always think of. America has toppled countless governments and set up new governments all over the world. To my knowledge, we have never once set up a government that's at all similar to our own. If they're democracies, they're always more European style, with a single parliament and various ministers led by a relatively weak prime minister (relative to our president).

09-24-07 - 1

We went to the Bike Film Fest on Sat; meh it was fun because the crowd was nuts rowdy, but the films were pretty poor. The best films were already available on Youtube, such as the awesome stuff by the SF track bike trick squad MACAFRAMA crew . There was nothing by good directors getting interviews with interesting people like there had been in the past. The movie "Pedal" which is from 2000 is still miles ahead of anything else.

The one really exceptional film was "Ski Boys" by the Zenga brothers. It's so cool and perfect that I thought it might be faked, but apparently it is real home movie footage that the boys shot themselves in the 70's. I guess the Zengas have a web site and do various fun things. The film really captures the feeling of youthfulness, the open country, experimenting and just the joy of movement.

I just got some secret information - the film isn't really from the 70's, it's recent, and that whole story is part of the playful disruptive philosophy of the Winking Circle . Wow, these guys are so inspiring, it's the way I wish I was. I love their manifesto on Eccentrification . The problem for me is that this stuff really isn't fun without a partner in crime. I mean yeah it's fun in the abstract, but really you're doing it for your mates.

9/22/2007

09-22-07 - 1

I, like 99% of guys who lift weights, have an overdeveloped chest. It's pretty useless. If you only worked functional strength, you would have a strong core, very strong butt, strong shoulders, and much smaller chest and biceps. The chest is crucial for birds, it's important for quadrapeds; the chest is sort of like the "butt" of the arms, just like the butt provides the real big muscle power for the back legs, the chest does the same for quadrapeds front legs, but we don't really use the arms much in that way; it's even important for gorillas, who do a lot of knuckle walking and such. Anyway, I realized part of the reason it's fun to exercise is specifically *because* we hardly use it in ordinary life. You can pound the hell out of in the gym, and it will be sore, but it's not like you're using it a lot while it's sort. On the other hand, the legs/butt are much stronger, and it's fun to really beat them up in the gym, but then the next day you can hardly walk, and that's really not fun, and it prevents you from biking or whatever you might want to do on your off days. Having a destroyed sore chest doesn't really stop you from doing many leisure activities, unless you're a break dancer.

BTW this is related to a general problem that many people have, not just weightlifters. The modern fad for abs and pecs causes people to overdevelop their anterior (front side) muscles, which causes a contraction of the front of the body and no balancing pull on the back. This leads to "kyphosis" , which is basically a hunched posture mainly due to anterior curvature of the upper spine. Kyphosis is very bad for you, not only causing spine injury and nerve impingement, but also leading to neck problems, and improper shoulder function which can lead to rotator cuff injury and other shoulder problems due to lack of scapular retraction (shoulder blades not held together).

9/21/2007

09-21-07 - 3

I got a Trader Joe's employee to spill the beans on the new "German" eponymous beers (the Hofbrau Bock and Bohemian Lager) - they are in fact Gordon Biersh. It's pretty obvious if you look at the clues, and I had seen that guess at beeradvocate. The clues are : they're brewed in San Jose, and they have the exact same barley graphic design on the bottle cap. The bock in particular is superb, and perhaps the best beer value in America in terms of taste/price.

They also have a new unfiltered olive oil which I'll be sampling this week, the "First Lady" ; results : hmm, it's pretty nasty but I prefer the California unfiltered in the tall skiny bottle. The California unfiltered has a really strong grassy taste which I just love in a raw olive oil. BTW never ever never cook with this stuff, it's just for drizzling on canteloupe and figs.

09-21-07 - 2

I'm still riding the same bike I had in high school, I think I got it when I was 13, and I'm 30, so it's 17 years old. I've done lots of tiny fixes on it, stuff like brake pads, bar tape, tubes and tires, a cable, but I've never once replaced any of the major components. I guess the biggest thing I ever did on it was overhaul the headset, but I only put new bearings in, which cost like $5. Anyway, my point is 1. that bikes will last for EVER if you just treat them half decently (eg. don't leave in the rain to rust), and 2. all that stuff you're supposed to do yearly as preventive maintenance is a load of hooey. If I haven't had one problem in 17 years, the amount of problem-reduction from a big yearly overhaul must be microscopic. It's clearly not worth the work, better to save the energy for when you have a problem and then make a repair. (supposedly you're supposed to overhaul or check the bearings yearly, grease all kinds of bits that I never dig into, even out the spoke tensions, etc. etc.) Actually for an average shlub I imagine they're more likely to screw something up in a yearly overhaul than they are to help anything.

I wonder if the same goes for cars, and that whole 30k mile "tune up" is a similar load of hooey.

09-21-07 - 1

It's PARKing day today in SF. On the one hand it's kind of lame but on the other hand, what a fucking rad city this is. Most of the parks are retarded, but there's a nice big patch of sod out in front of Ritual Coffee which is some of the best coffee ever and lots of people just chilling on the lawn. Nice.

In sad news, the Red Bull Air Race isn't going to be at fleet week this year !? WTF, that's the best thing about fleet week by far. The Blue Angels are kind of boring, they just fly too fast.

LoveFest is next week and it seems pretty cool. I need to buy some E.

9/20/2007

09-20-07 - 3

Two additional great things about left-hand-mousing :

1. It's so fucking hard and uncomfortable that it makes me just not want to sit at the computer and browse the web, so I get up from the damn idiot box more. That's a nice bonus. Of course it doesn't stop me from wasting time typing this nonsense.

2. When you are browsing around or playing poker or whatever, it leaves your right hand totally free to drink coffee, dip biscotti, shuffle poker chips, or do other things with your free hand (wink wink).

09-20-07 - 2

Jon Stewart's kind of a thick-headed idiot, I'm getting pretty tired of him. He does a good job in his interviews some times, but he's just not super smart (in the sense that he often doesn't seem to grasp what the interviewee is trying to say, and he makes replies that don't really reply to the point the guy was making) and his politics and understanding of the world is not deep. More and more it seems like he uses the interviews to just say his favorite little points, and doesn't really listen to what the other person has to say and doesn't draw out the useful information from them. He's the kind of guy you can't actually have a political discussion with because he will just keep going back to his same points over and over.

Wesley Clark on the show was very impressive. Obviously he's been out of the military and government for a long time now so he has some freedom to be honest that people closer to the shit don't have, but he came out and said the things that are basically true : the counter-insurgency strategy is basically right; the "surge" is just a band-aid that's not gonna do shite long term; to really create peace we would need to send in a ton of troops which we don't have and can't get; even if we could, the American people are now against it; and even then it may be too late in Iraq, or it's way harder anyway, because we've allowed the political situation to get screwed up there.

Of course he didn't get into what he would do now, dunno if that's in the book. His article from late 2005 was a pretty good (and obvious) action list for the time, but it's too late now. The only thing I can see that's workable is partition. Partition sucks for a few reasons, one of which is that Baghdad is not easy to partition, but of course in the last few years it has become much easier to partition. Kurdistan is already nearly independent, and basically the success in Anbar that the administration loves to talk about is really just the Sunnis taking a step towards an independent security force.

We have just enough political will to support a troop presence for a bit longer, and that could be used to help establish the partition and support & train the seperate security forces in each region, and also to enforce peace between the regions. We could help set up a weak federal government with some kind of parliament from the regions and an oil-revenue sharing plan that's built into the constitution. Perhaps the biggest problem with partition is that apparently the Iraqis really don't want it (except for the Kurds).

09-20-07 - 1

Everyone who said "Casino Royale" was cool because it's a superhero genesis story is fucking retarded. Superhero transformation stories may have been cool back in the 80's, but they're so fucking played out and all the same and not interesting. And now we get to see all these heros that already have fucking genesis stories get ANOTHER FUCKING GENESIS STORY. I mean fucking Batman is nothing but fucking remakes of genesis stories over and over. Fucking Superman has whole fucking TV shows about his transformation to superhero. Also making Bond more "edgy" is not cool. It's fucking copying every other action movie which is getting more "gritty", which basically means that the hero is becoming more of emotionless and brutally violent and uninteresting. The thing that made Bond so unique and cool was his charm, his sort of amusement with himself and the whole situation, how light-heartedly he took danger, women, and killing. You've turned him into a clone of the current fucking trend. Okay, that's what I expect from stupid fucking Hollywood but the dumb ass critics don't have to all jump on and say how great it is. Other than that aspect, the story is retarded and the pacing is awful, we get overly long action sequences that don't build intensity, followed by really long boring talkies, and bits where we think the movie is over and then it just goes on. The villains are as uninteresting as Bond and his love interest. Eva Green's only redeeming quality is her rack and we don't even get to see it. I'm all for breaking the Bond "rules" and updating some of the quite silly out of date Bondisms for the modern world, but you don't have to ruin everything that makes you unique. You also don't have to just make a badly written & directed movie.

Just as an example, let's think about the two big action sequences in the movie. The second one with the house in Venice, I'm not even sure what to say about, at that point we already know exactly what is going to happen, this new villain who's the boss guy we know nothing about which makes him totally boring, and it's not exciting. Okay, the first one chasing the African terrorist guy. Now, hiring a Parkour expert to do some city running is a good idea, but they completely fuck it up. First of all, the whole thing is completely retarded, the guy who knows the area flees up a skyscraper under construction, WTF, then he goes up a crane. Eye roll. Even that would be okay, but the camera work is so ridiculous and showy that it doesnt even get the adrenaline running, we get cut after cut of panning shots and fly-bys trying to show us the amazing spots they're in. Ugh, hello, action directing 101, that totally destroys the immersion which ruins the adrenaline. We need 1st person or behind-the-head shots where suddenly their foot slips on the crane and they look down and we see how high they are. Of course they shouldn't be on a fucking crane anyway, but if you're gonna be retarded at least make it fun!

How/why is it so fucking hard to make a decent movie with hot women, smart spies, fast car chases, glamorous locations, cool gadgets, etc. We just want a decent FUN movie. Oh, and you don't need to make the "hero" a despicable cold-hearted brutal immoral killer either, it would be nice if it was someone we could actually respect/idolize.

On a related note, we really liked the latest Bourne movie, so much so that we decided to rent the first two to watch again. Bad idea. After seeing the later ones, the first one is really bad. The 2nd one is okay I guess, but it is SO similar to the 3rd, the whole pacing and structure and everything is identical, if you sort of zoned out you wouldn't know which one you were watching. BTW yes I know the Bourne movies are completely intellectually retarded, they try to make Bourne the "smart" super-spy, but everything everyone does is just so absurd and illogical, whatever it doesn't matter, it's a stupid action movie and the action is good. It does make me roll my eyes when people try to discuss the meaning of this or that; lol, people it's RETARDED, if you spot an inconsitency it's not because it means something, it's because the director/writer is making an action movie and doesn't care. I'm so sick of reviewers like A.O. Scott calling it a brainy CIA cloak and dagger movie. It isn't! It's a HORRIBLE brainy CIA movie, it has absolutely nothing in common with what spy agencies actually do. The CIA character in James Bond movies is more realistic. It's a straight-up violent action movie and a very good one.

9/19/2007

09-19-07 - 2

Made some lamb last night and kind of fucked up. For one thing, I did the old quick sear. That works fine, but I should know that the sear and finish low and slow is so much better, I should've done that. Secondly, I did the old deglaze and make a wine reduction pan sauce thing. That was fine, but lamb really has enough of its own great flavor you don't need to be adding any other sauce. Also the lamb fat is so tasty that it's a shame to waste it (you pour most of it off to deglaze). Next time I'll do the low-slow-finish thing, and I'll also just use the pan full of lamb fat to cook some spinach or chard or something and make a bed under the chops. The low slow finish method also makes timing a lot easier cuz you can just do the meat sear first and then worry about your sides while it finishes, it's not all going nuts at the same time, which stresses me out and makes me realize I'm definitely not cut out for pro cooking.

09-19-07 - 1

Noe St. between Duboce and Market is one of the secret gems of SF, it's a gorgeous walk, locally maintained. Right nearby you have two of the best sit-outside cafes in the city, Duboce Park Cafe and Cafe Flore. You can also walk up to the hill by the Randall Museum which is a relatively easy climb for San Francisco and has an amazing view. For some fun you can cross right over to the Castro and hit the Seward St. Slide (or the Moby Dick if you prefer).

There's a huge amount of great budget dining in the Tenderloin now. Of course you have very strong Vietnamese, the standouts being Saigon Sandwich, Pagolac, and Bodega Bistro. But you also have two of the best Thai places in the city - Thai House Express and Sai Jai. You also have fantastic Indian (Sultan) and Pakistani (Lahore Karahi).

9/18/2007

09-18-07 - 7

The main advantage of privatization is that it wipes the slate of regulation. It's not because the private enterprise is "more efficient" - a privatized public operation works in a subsidized cocoon free of market pressure, it's not part of the magic capitalist efficiency machine. Rather, it gets to severely cut quality, and thus cut costs. The sneaky thing is this quality cut is not always obvious, because it's often a cut in disaster preparedness or safety or environmental cleanliness, etc. Over the years of a public institutions' existance, the regulations build up as different people spot problems and pass laws to handle them. Certainly you often wind up with too much regulation, but most of the time that is still better than none at all. Politically, you can't strip away those regulations because people can easily see them and object, "we need the safety, we need the quality", so just privatizing the whole thing sounds great and people don't realize that they are all losing all the quality and operations protections.

In general, preventing rare problems is incredibly inefficient and private enterprise doesn't want to do it. One of the interesting things to me about the Minnesota bridge collapse is that there was this little subtext that nobody wanted to say publicly : our infrastructure maintenance program is specifically designed so that we have an occasional bridge collapse. That is, we have a very limited budget for new bridges and repairs, so things are evaluated for safety and the ones that are obviously critical are repaired, but it's all about percentages. One bridge might be evaluated as a 0.1% chance of failing next year, then they have to decide whether that's worth repairing. In private enterprise you would evaluate the cost of preventing the accident to the cost if it happens, in terms of all the suits you'd have to pay and the negative publicity. Usually what you find is a sort of exponential decay of failure rates to constant expenditure. That is, say you're running an oil refinery. There's a pretty high chance of some kind of industrial accident injuring someone. Maybe you estimate the current chance is around 1% and the cost to halve that chance is about $1 Million. Okay, you pay that. Now the chance is 0.5% and the chance to have that is $1 M again. Okay, go ahead and pay that. But pretty soon you get to a point of diminishing returns and you just want to accept the small chance of failure.

Of course those higher standards can also really screw up public enterprise. Say you're running a bussing company on a limited budget. The private company might decide to just run a fleet of busses along the main commuter routes, stopping every 5 blocks only on major roads. Not everyone can use them, but they get a lot of traffic and the users are quite happy. The public company is forced by voters to run busses all over the city, stopping every 2 blocks; they're now accessible to all but everyone thinks the service sucks.

There are of course also other tricks that the government can use to wipe regulation. One is making a brand new institution or agency, then having it gradually usurp responsibilities from old agencies, but under new names.

09-18-07 - 6

I've written about this before, but there's a huge retardation in having cities and states with these hard boundaries and drastically different laws. Part of the problem is the local tax situation. For a long time in America there's been this pattern that you have some city with lots of people in it. The city has to have pretty high taxes to support all the infrastructure, health care, education, etc. All around the city are sparsely populated suburbs with very little tax burden. Big company X moves in, and the suburb offers them tax breaks, of course they locate there. But what do they get? Workers from the city who come out using the city's public transit, educated by the city's schools, healed by the city's clinics, and yet company X pays taxes to shitty little suburb. This is a seriously broken ass fucked up situation in which company X is basically getting a huge government subsidy in the form of reduced taxes in the suburb, and free services for all its employees from the city, and of course the roads & highways to support all those commuters.

09-18-07 - 5

Healthy San Francisco is a pretty rad program. Of course the descipicable business people make a lot of noise about how it will "put them out of business" , which is so completely retarded and untrue. If we actually had low-wage manufacturing which was trying to compete with other exporters, it might hurt them, but it doesn't hurt restaurants at all because they are only competing with each other, so if all their prices rise they don't suddenly get undercut by cheap external competition. It's also one of those programs that's almost free, in the sense that the spending for preventative care will be matched by savings in emergency care.

09-18-07 - 4

When you type "finance" in Google it gives you Yahoo finance, not Google finance. WTF Goog, favor yourself please!!

09-18-07 - 3

Some food network show said "hard cheeses generally have more calories than soft cheeses, because the soft cheese has more water in it". Okay, that's sort of true, but also retarded. For example :

1 Oz parmesan = 111 calories from 7.3 g fat and 10.2 g protein

1 Oz brie = 95 calories from 7.9 g fat and 5.9 g protein

And obviously "cream cheese" is like the worst thing by far. What's really at issue here is whether it's made from milk or cream.

I've been trying to sort of "diet". My diet is I can eat absolutely as much as I want, I'm just not allowed to eat anything that's horribly bad for you (eg. no chocolate, no pie, nothing that's pure fat or sugar basically). It's surprisingly hard. When I have that craving for dessert no amount of balsamic-fig-crostini with prosciutto or whatever I come up with is going to satisfy it.

09-18-07 - 2

So, I'm reading some book of Nader's and it's actually pretty good stuff. I can never forgive him for getting Bush elected, though. Running as an "issue candidate" does absolutely nothing. Perot is probably the most successful issue candidate ever, and are we doing anything about reducing the defecit? No. The American people are totally retarded and have very short memories, and the media goes right along with that. An issue can be a big stink one day and then it's gone and nothing happens. That's why whenever the government is caught doing something awful, the population gets all upset, so they create some kind of committee to formulate reforms, they go away for a few months, and then everyone forgets about it and nothing ever happens. Issue candidates : save your money, or better yet, use it to lobby, buying votes is more effective than buying awareness.

09-18-07 - 1

I wrote back on 8-13-06 about how shitty most heirloom tomatoes are. One thing that has caught on here which I can totally get behind is "dry farmed" tomatoes. Dry farming just means using either no artificial irrigation or just minimal watering, which makes the tomatoes firm and very flavorful, as opposed to your average grocery store tomato which they water as much as possible to make it swell up because they sell it by weight, of course that just waters down the already bland flavor. The dry-farmed Early Girls at the local farmers markets are almost as good as a real home grown tomato.

I dry farmed tomatoes at Alrita Street one year, but actually overdid it a bit; the flavor was intense and delicious, but they were too dense and the skin was very tough. Anyway it's awesome to see that things are sorting of straightening out and growers are actually producing what's best, instead of what's most profitable (big watery tomatoes) or what's trendy (organic heirlooms or some such nonsense). I remember checker telling me that Fuji apples were the sign that people were okay after all; I wasn't convinced, but dry farmed early girls do give me some hope for civilization.

9/17/2007

09-17-07 - 6

(I'm stealing this from Nader and others but : ) there's zero reason why corporations should be allowed to contribute to political campaigns or political advertising. It currently is justified because in the US, corporations legally have the rights of people (and thus 1st amendment rights), but that's absolutely absurd and every humanist rails against it. Now, certainly corporations do often act in the best interests of the population - but when that is the case the population can support that cause themselves, there's no benefit to the population in having the corporation lobby directly.

Removing corporate money from politics is almost 100% a win, but I'm under no illusion that it would magically make things better. Obviously there would still be huge corporate influences - news people are paid by corporate advertising, owned by conglomerates with many arms, and don't want to say anything that would stir the established order or anger their money sources. Furthermore, even if the population is presented with the truth and allowed to make a judgement, I have zero faith in them to be reasonable, not just because they're retarded, but mainly because they just don't care, they don't pay attention, they don't study and learn about politics and the world, etc. In any case, it would be an improvement.

The idea that you shouldn't do something which is an improvement just because it's not a full solution is one of that retarded fallacies that is often used to sabotage perfectly good proposals. Everyone does it, but it seems the Republicans really like to use it with environmental proposals. Oh, this program that would definitely cut our dependence on foreign oil wouldn't completely solve our energy problems, therefore we shouldn't do it. Great logic mate.

09-17-07 - 5

Basically any time there is an opportunity for someone in power to use a system to their own benefit, they will do so. It's just human nature.

The latest one I've been thinking about is inflation and the fed prime rate. I certainly don't understand money supply well at all, but something occurs to me : 1. Inflation (the CPI) in the US has not been over 5% since 1983, which is a very long controlled span, despite several economic cycles and recessions that might normally be periods of inflation (see US Historical Inflation ) ; 2. If the reported inflation rate (CPI) was lower than the true cost of living inflation rate, that would be a big benefit to corporations.

Why is it a huge benefit for corporations (& hedge funds & large investors in general) to pretend inflation is lower than it really is?

1. They get a low fed funds rate which makes investment capital cheaper than it should be. At the same time this hurts ordinary poor people with savings accounts because it generally correlates directly with savings return rates. In general when the fed rate is low, that's a huge boost to financial institutions, but bad for ordinary savers. Whenever the "economy grows" that means that large corporations and banks grew. Now of course in theory that wealth spreads out as it creates new opportunities and jobs and so on.

2. Benefits like social security, welfare, union salaries, etc. are generally set by the CPI. If the CPI is not increasing to track actual costs of living, these people are all getting shorted. More generally, employers can set wages, and the government can tout the fairness of wages if they generally track with the CPI. The employers' wealth grows proportional to the economy's growth, but employee's wages only grow proportional to the CPI. For example, the minimum wage and poverty line can be set far lower than they should be.

It's an interesting question to me whether wealth and poverty and necessarilly connected. The US seems to be the richest country ever by far, and we have massive income inequality and severe poverty. In the EU, the UK is by far the best of financially, and they are also the country with the most people in poverty and the worst conditions of poverty. Obviously it seems that the country's overall financial success (measured in terms of total wealth or average wealth, anyway) is correlated to income inequality. The question is whether people in poverty are necessary to this, or whether that's just a bad side effect of a laissez-faire system which encourages entrepreneurship. For example, if you just took the poor people away, would that hurt the economy? Would some of the middle class be forced down into poverty by system forces? Is it possible to have a dynamic growing economy without a massive base of poor people doing the low-skill low-wage jobs?

09-17-07 - 4

The "Big Man" myth of history certainly dominates, for various reasons; it's the idea that heroic figures (or villains) like Churchill, Lincoln, or Hitler really shaped the course of history with their individual actions. 1. it's used to create a national heroic myth and identity, 2. it's just easier for historians to report and easier for people to understand, as opposed to the actions of hundreds of beaurocrats and populations, 3. it's more exciting for people to read about, so of course those are the books they will write because they sell, 4. it's really what people want to hear and want to believe, we don't want to think that the world is made by folks just like us, we want these superhero daddy figures to rule us.

Anyway, not only has this myth dominated history, it dominates popular reportage of science, and it's equally wrong in both cases. Especially in the modern world, any time somebody invents or discovers something, it's usually a tiny incremental step based on the work of hundreds of people before them. Furthermore, there are usually scores of people on the same trail who are right behind them, and if they didn't rush to publish first someone else would've gotten there a few months later. In the modern world saying that so-and-so is the inventor of this or that really doesn't mean that much. Often it just means they happened to be in the right field at the right time when the whole field was making exciting advances. For example, if you worked in computer graphics in the early 90's, how could you not invent something?

There are people in physics with Nobel prizes who just happened to be first of hundreds in the field to make the next step. If they hadn't done it someone else would have. Of course there are exceptions where someone really makes a leap or works ina field where no one else is working, but that's very very rare, especially nowadays with so many researchers.

09-17-07 - 3

Here's an interesting physics problem I don't think I ever did : you have a rectangular box resting on a plane, it has some friction, how far up on the box should you push it so that it has no angular motion (eg. it doesn't tip). I dunno if there's some clever easy way to work this out; in practice we know the answer is usually something like 1/3 of the way up, but I'm sure it depends on the geometry and such. I'm also not sure if you have to consider static friction in this phenomenon or if I can pretend I'm in a steady state dynamic friction situation.

09-17-07 - 2

The fridge thing reminds me of another wives' tale which I recently got egg on my face over. There's this old wives' tale that the crust of bread is healthier than the inside. Of course that's nonsense, right? Crust is not some different material that's wrapped around bread - it's the exact same dough, it's just more browned! Saying it's healthier is preposterous, and in fact it might be worse for you because it's browned and anything browned is slightly carcinogenic.

Well, it turns out that the crust might actually be better for you. Supposedly the Maillard reaction which browns the crust also creates this antioxidant pronyl-lysine . This seems to be an isolated study so who knows what the truth is, but the next time somebody says "the crust is the healthiest part" , don't just say "you're retarded" , cuz they might trot out this study to make you look bad.

09-17-07 - 1

So we've been having problems with our fridge and I've been thinking about how they work and such and something occurs to me: There's this voice of my mother in my head that always yells "don't stand there with the fridge door open, you're letting out all the cold air". This, I suspect, is nonsense. The air in the fridge is an insignificant amount of its cold store. You could flush out the air and replace it with hot air and it would not affect the temperature of the large objects in the fridge much at all. A much larger effect, for example, comes from putting a hot or room temperature object into the fridge, which our silly moms surely often did.

The funny thing is, I do believe that standing there with the fridge door open is significant, it's just not because of the air. It's because of the light. Fridge light bulbs are typically just something like a 75W bulb, especially on older fridges, and if you stand there with it open a while, the light gets blazing hot (and also heats up everything around it with radiant heat). Then when you shut the door you're sealing the hot bulb inside. I'm pretty sure this is a bigger factor than the air getting in or out.

9/16/2007

09-16-07 - 2

I'm in intense pain, my shoulder, my neck, my upper back, my lower back. There's no position I'm comfortable in, not sitting, not standing, not lying down. I can't sleep; I toss and turn all night every night trying to find a position without pain, but it doesn't exist. All my younger life I slept on my stomache and I still try to do that subconsciously but it's too painful now, I have to try to sleep on my back which I hate. Stretching and good posture really do nothing at all to help the pain in the short term, I guess over time they help. The only thing that really helps is cracking my joints, because that triggers the body's natural adrenaline pain-killing response, and it feels okay for a while, but of course that's actually bad for you long term. I don't mean to whine, I'm just trying to chronicle what life in pain is like for those that don't understand it. There are really no medical solutions; the main options I've been offered are fusing vertebrae, which is of questionable benefit and has very definite disadvantages, and epidural painkillers, which would help the pain of course but has to be repeated periodically, is ridiculously expensive, and of course doesn't fix anything and can lead to further injury because it totally numbs the area.

09-16-07 - 1

Jacques Pepin was always trying to push the idea of shaving garlic with a vegetable peeler. I'm not too hot on that idea, I can do nice shavings faster with a knife. It is, however, and awesome way to make parmesan shavings. I used to always just do the standard paring knife technique, which is fun and old-school and makes you feel a Spanish rancher shaving his dry ham, but man the vegetable peeler works way better for producing uniform big thin flakes of parmesan.

9/15/2007

09-15-07 - 2

I've always had some kind of allergy/exercise induced asthma. I don't get the attacks where I can't breathe, it just feels really hard to take a breathe. I've often described it as though I need to "loosen up" my lungs before I can breathe - when I first start cycling I feel like I'm breathing with 10% of my lungs, and as I warm up they open, and then there's a point where they "pop" and suddenly I can breathe. I've been doing some reading, and apprently my recent severe "bonk" followed by a massive mucus expectoration attack is actually a classic symptom of a severe EIA (exercise induced asthma) attack.

Anyway I found a confirmation for something I've always empirically known - Cycling is better than running . I've always been able to work myself up to decent cycling shape, but running has just been brutally difficult for me. I've tried to make myself run, but I've never been able to jog more than a mile without just going into wicked horrible breathing difficulty. At the same time I can cycle 50 miles at high intensity, so something weird is happening. (BTW this finding confirmation nonsense is sort of a red herring of the internet these days; there are so many pages out there you're likely to find confirmation of almost any thought you have, regardless of whether it's true or not).

I'm also more able to work out in a rugby/soccer type running mode, which is spurts of jogging and sprinting followed by time to recover. Apparently there is a so-called "refractory" effect which I haven't found good information about which makes this type of exercise easier for EIA sufferers.

So, a long time ago I tried using OTC asthma inhalers to help my condition. They didn't really help a lot, and now that I've actually done some research I'm not surprised. OTC inhalers are freaking epinephrine. That's pretty useless as a preventative, and in fact is only really useful as an absolute emergency aid when you're suffering a wheezing attack. The FDA has several times considered banning these, and the Association of Allergists recommends banning it, but the drug is popular and profitable so the FDA does nothing unless a lot of people die from it. What I should be on is something like Albuterol or various similar drugs. These require a prescription, but you can easily get them cheaply via the internet. (I've had trouble with Canadian pharmacies, they seem to want a prescription or something; I like the Indian pharmacies a lot better, they will generally do an online diagonosis and you can get whatever you want).

As usual, by far the best web site is American Family Physician which is one of the few places you can find actual medical articles online (without a password), not the garbage stuff that's written for the lay person that just says "talk to your physician".

09-15-07 - 1

Runnymede Sculpture Farm is this huge private modern outdoor sculpture collection on someone's huge estate in Woodside. It's right off Canyada where I bike. It's one of those cool totally under the radar secret spots that you might never hear about. I guess you can get in once in a while for fundraiser events. Seems like a fun place to sneak into and go exploring.

9/14/2007

09-14-07 - 1

Of all the science/math disciplines that I've encountered, finance/economics guys are generally the biggest assholes by far. Whenever you try to talk to them and you don't know the right terminology, they put you down and won't explain things in lay language. Of course there are exceptions, and the real academic guys are generally way way better, I've mainly encountered the pricks in the working field. I guess the obvious reason would be that they're really not very bright and trying to hide it in lingo. It's frustrating.

9/13/2007

09-13-07 - 3

How American could get ahead and also fix a lot of IT monopolies :

The government should run super-fat broadband pipes to every home. This could be started by using emininent domain to seize the existing broadband networks (and rent them back to their previous owners), but the goal would be to rapidly replace with with super-fat pipes. These pipes would then be open to all - there would be no more monopolies controlling internet or TV or phone or any other IT service since nobody owns the pipes. You would still need to sign up with a provider, but it would be a wide open truly competitive market. This is where capitalism actually works well, when you have a truly liquid open market with a standardized structure for everyone to operate on interchangeably. It would also blow the cable TV broadcast market wide open since cable just comes over the same pipe and anybody can put a channel out there.

Of course you'd like to have the same thing for cell networks; there should be a nationwide fast wireless network, and providers just lease access to it from the government.

A standardized pipe for power companies would be a massive benefit. The whole country is already on a grid, so you just have the government own the grid and the lines to people's houses. Private power companies supply power to the grid. People pay based on their usage and that goes out to the power companies in a sort of automated eBay-like bidding system. Each provider picks how much power they will provide at various fees, and the system automatically contracts out to the lowest bidder and then keeps moving up until all the demand is met. We finally get true competition for power providers, anybody can build a plant and stick it on the grid and start providing power to the system. Furthermore, customers could have real choice, they could choose to favor producers from green or renewable sources or whatever. Again, this is where capitalism actually works, when you have a standardized fluid framework, consumers can make instantaneous choices between interchangeable providers.

09-13-07 - 2

Collisions are a really annoying thing in physics. It's one of those cans of worms where if you dig into it you have to keep going and going into insane complexity. You start out with this basic point-mass theory where the collision is instantaneous and you're just doing momentum transfers. Okay, that's nice and simple and elegant, but it's bogus for real objects. Say we want to get into slightly more realism, we want to know something about the force and energy of the collision to measure how "hard" it was. Well, the first thing we can do is just pretend that we know the duration of the collision force being applied, and then we can just measure F = momentum change / duration. Okay, but where did we get that duration? And of course in reality the force isn't constant, it's actually more like a really really tight spring that starts off at zero and gets stronger as the objects push together, and then eases off again as they seperate. Of course the geometry of the objects matters too and how they contact, but we'll keep ignoring that and pretend they're spheres. To get the duration of collision and the way the forces vary with depth we have to model the objects as a bunch of finite cells which are compressible with some type of spring constant (or a gas pressure if you prefer). To actually put that model on a solid first-principles basis we should model the atomic structure of our material and figure out the material properties from that. Yuck!

Anyway, I was thinking about why Rugby tackles are so much safer than American Football (NFL) tackles. For background, in rugby tackles you are required to wrap up and stick to your target; it's a penalty if you just come smashing in and bounce off a guy - the reason it's a penatly is specifically for safety purposes. In the NFL, the really hard hits are generally those types of hits where a defender flies in and bounces off his target. There are several factors at play. I'll try to go through them.

1. Inelastic collisions have lower forces. In rugby tackles you have to wrap and stick so you become a single mass after the tackle, in NFL hits you bounce away like billiard balls. Assume you have two momentums, each P, going straight at each other. In the rugby tackle, the two objects collide and stick together and now have zero velocity. Momentum is conserved, but all the kinetic energy is gone from the system. In terms of the force applies, 2P became 0 in some amount of time T, so we'll say F = 2P/T. Now consider the same situation, but instead the two objects collide totally elastically and bounce away in the opposite directions. In this case kinetic energy is totally conserved, but in terms of forces, 2P became -2P , and the force is F = 4P/T - the collision is twice as "hard".

How big of a factor is this in real games? I believe it's not a huge factor. The thing is, in NFL hits the guys don't bounce away totally elastically; they bounce away with a much lower velocity than they came in with. The hit is "harder" proportional to how fast the players are moving away after a hit, which is generally 10% or less of the incoming speeds. So, this is a small contributor, but not a huge difference.

2. Helmets and pads actually make hits harder. When rugby players collide, it's flesh and cloth against flesh and cloth. Those materials deform and absorb a lot of the energy of the collision, so it's not transfered to the skeletal system. The collision is "soft" in the sense that the objects can sink into each other and the full force doesn't happen all at once, the mysterious "duration of collision" is longer. Helmets and pads are designed to protect, but they're actually very hard rigid objects, so they collide and don't deform and take the full force of the momentum change over a very very short time frame. It's hard to estimate exactly how singificant this duration difference is to the forces being applied, but it seems like a helmet to helmet NFL collision could have a contact duration in the milliseconds, while a flesh on flesh tackle is going to be closer to a full second, which is something like a 100X difference in intensity. They do have padding inside which is designed to deform and not transfer the full load to the body, but the actual force transferred is much much greater. The role of the internal padding is to take the force and transfer it on to your head gradually over time. Designing padding with the ideal characteristics is very difficult and may be part of the problem. This is also why bicycle helmets are designed to be destroyed in collisions - much of the energy of the collision goes into the material destruction of the helmet, and the crumpling spreads out the impact duration over time so there isn't an instantaneous huge force to the head. But helmets and pads are not actually the question - the rugby rule is specifically about not making bouncing tackles, so something else must be at play.

A related factor is the area of contact. We've just been talking about forces, but we could also talk about pressures. The force of contact is spread over some area, and the smaller the area, the higher the pressure. When two helmets hit, they are nearly spherical, and the area of contact is very very small, which means the pressure on that point is immense. The same is true for shoulders bouncing off eachother, or helmet-to-chest, etc. In contrast, in a wrapping tackle, your body is spread out to make the wrap, and while the initial touch maybe just over a point, as you tackle the area of contact grows and the force is spread out over a larger area. Think of two globs of silly putty thrown at each other. The initial contact will be at a point, but that won't carry much force; over time the two putties deform and sink into each other until the area of contact is very large, and that's when they stop moving.

3. Psychology. Obviously aside from the physical factors there are some large behavioral factors. When you're wearing helmet and pads you feel more invincible and will go in harder with more risks. To make a rugby tackle you generally have to lead with your face up into your target which is subconsciously very scary and will keep you from going full force. The other big factor is that in a rugby tackle you have to be worried about technique and penalties and making a good wrap, so you have to go in slower simply to concentrate on form and be in position to make a proper tackle; if you just fly in at full speed you can't control yourself to make a clean hit. This may actually be the biggest factor of all.

09-13-07 - 1

Quaffability is a nice site with cheap wine reviews.

We had the TJ "Captain's Reserve" Syrah tonight. I'm very curious what winery it comes from, but some net searching didn't reveal it. It doesn't have a lot of fruit, and the nose is rather thin in general, but it has a nice strong tannin and spice. Not a great wine just for sipping, but it did pair perfectly with the rib eye we had for dinner.

Which brings me to another point : I HAVE A NEW WAY FOR COOKING STEAK ! ZOMG.

Ok, it's basically the "Good Eats" method (sear in a pan then pop in the oven). The little wrinkle is that instead of a quick finish in a 400 degree oven, instead you do a low slow finish in a 300 degree oven. Here's the whole procedure for the record :

Take steak out of the fridge well in advance to get it up to room temperature. As you get close to time, dry it thoroughly, then salt and pepper. Let it sit out a while longer.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a roasting pan with a wire rack. You don't want the steak sitting on a metal surface. Heat a hot metal searing pan or grill pan on the stove (empty and dry). Rub a bit of oil on the steak and sear thoroughly on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove from the pan to a plate and let rest.

At this point you can add more spicing to the steak; don't spice before searing as the high heat will burn it. Cracked pepper is nice, as is a tiny tiny tiny bit of cumin. You now also insert your probe thermometer into the steak and set the alarm for 135 degrees. Put the steak on the roasting rack - don't put it in the oven yet, wait for it to relax from the searing and come back to room temperature. Okay, now put it in the oven.

The thermometer will tell you when it's done, it'll take roughly 20 minutes. Remove steak and let rest. A long rest is actually not crucial because it's a pretty low even temperature already, but a 5-10 minute rest certainly won't hurt.

The result is medium rare all the way through, seared on the outside, and very juicy and tender. I just tried it with a rib eye but I imagine it would work with almost any (thick) cut. BTW yes I know this a semi-standard way of cooking the very large rib eyes "for two". It's significantly better than the standard "Good Eats" steak method, so I think it's worth the extra time. Yeah I also guess this is the same thing I do for double cut pork chops so it's not even new to me, but it's still surprising because I assumed that the standard quick high heat steak was a good way to do it, but this is just so much better.

9/12/2007

09-12-07 - 2

I want to buy some better underwear (I love the feel of just really good quality cotton down there), so I'm browsing around trying to find something, and I check out the Calvin Klein Underwear page. ACK! Ok, I'm a hetero man, just ignore the huge muscley guy with a giant cock trying to pop out of the underwear. Ok, let's check out another style of briefs, WATTA!! YARP! No, I can't look at this. Close close close. Who are they selling to? Not normal guys, maybe girlfriends buying presents, gays, and closet gays. Among other things I can't really get any idea how it's going to fit on me based on how it fits these guys. I mean yeah I get it you want to use fit guys and all but this is ridiculous. I guess I'll buy some American Apparel cuz I can browse without getting confroused.

09-12-07 - 1

It was really a pleasure watching the Colts offense last Thursday. When they're operating well there's nothing like it. Nobody else even tries to run the Colts offense, it's entirely unique in the NFL. Everyone else has lots of fancy motion schemes, weird bunch patterns, trick plays, substitutions, formations, etc. to try to confuse the defense and get an edge. The Colts almost never do any of that. They just line up with their 3 wides and a running back and say to the defense "look, we're either going to run with our RB, or we're going to pass to one of the wideouts, now you just try and stop us". The thing that makes it work against even the best defenses is the adjustment. If you overload against the pass, Peyton will call for a run, if you double cover Marvin, Peyton will throw to Reggie. You show your hand, and he just makes the totally basic level 1 adjustment and beats you.

Of course this reminds me of poker because it's exactly how you should play poker. All the other NFL teams are like bad poker players, trying to come up with all these fancy moves and tricks in order to win. Yeah, that stuff can kind of work, but it can also backfire because you can wind up tricking yourself. Because the Colts are always running basically the same formation and the same plays they are incredibly familiar with those plays and they know how to respond to every kind of defensive reaction against those plays. If you're running some weird trick play, you probably haven't run it very often and certainly haven't seen 20 different defenses respond against it.

The best way to play poker is the same way, totally simple, but with the right adjustments. You just come out firing a totally basic "solid" style. I'm gonna raise & bet my good hands and also some semibluff hands. If you don't do anything to make me change that style then I just stay in that style. Now if you show me some weird defensive move, I'll call an audible. Like if you start check-raising my cbets all the time, okay that's like some crazy defense so I make an adjustment, I cbet a little less so I have the good more often, I felt slightly weaker hands, and I'll 3bet bluff some big draws. It's a totally basic "level 1" adjustment. I'm not trying to trick you or get inside your head. I see what you're doing and I make the adjustment, and I challenge you to beat me now. I'm going to execute the basic plays better because I've studied more, and since I'm always in basic solid mode I'm very familiar with these situations.

9/09/2007

09-09-07 - 3

What if you could borrow a bunch of money, invest it in various more or less risky ways, and then only pay back the loan if you make a profit? If your investments fail you just wipe the slate and start again. This is a fantasy pathway to huge easy money, but this is also exactly what banks and other financial institutions in the US do. They take in money from investors/depositors, they are allowed to invest it with very little oversight (the quality of their management is evaluated, but the rating is kept secret), if they fail they are bailed out either by the FDIC or the government. (in some cases they are bailed out by their peers, but this is usually accompanied by fed rate cuts or other measures to prevent it from really costing anyone money).

Of course this gigantic subsidy is not designed to help or protect consumers, it's designed to pump huge amounts of money into the financial institutions that created the system and write the checks for lawmakers. In an actual semi-fair pro-consumer system there would be two big changes :

1. The FDIC should be funded by the banks themselves, not backed by the government, and there should never be a government bailout - the banks should make up a consortium which is required to bail each other out.

2. The SEC/FDIC ratings of the liquidity and risk and management quality of banks should be made public so consumers can actually choose quality investment vehicles without this false illusion that they are all the same or that they are all safe.

Insurance companies are in a similar spot, where they are allowed to insure more than they can actually cover, and if something bad happens they get a bailout. They should also be required to reinsure each other.

09-09-07 - 2

Throughout our recent history, every single time there's been a major liberalization of business regulation, there has quickly followed a huge scandal where the criminals rush in to rip off the consumer and markets in exactly the way that regulation was designed to protect. Back in the 80's, the S&L regulations were liberalized, allowing S&L's to invest a larger percent of their assets and to invest in a wider class of vehicles, and we got the S&L scandal. Just before the dot-com scandal (and let us stop talking about the dot com scandal as if it was a natural economic cycle of boom and bust; that's a myth which is drilled into people by the free-marketeers) the banking/investment industry was liberalized, allowing the investment banks, analysts and brokerages to merge as they weren't previsiously allowed; the result was a massive pump-and-dump scandal where the banks created a huge artificial bubble and collected billions and billions in fees for themselves. The energy trading markets were liberalized, and of course we got Enron. Recently the mortgage/lending laws were liberalized, and we see what we get.

It's no surprise that the politicans continue to cry for "less regulation" - they are paid to do so, and rewarded handsomely with industry jobs when they retire. What is sad is how many regular people believe that "competition" will somehow keep companies honest and working in their interest.

09-09-07 - 1

US Governments, roughly since LBJ, have been letting this country completely go to shit. The only major capitol outlays have been tax cuts for businesses and the super rich, and military spending. In the mean time we are letting our social institutions completely rot, while the rest of the world is leaping past us. We still have zero telecom infrastructure; we have no fast network, no national shared open network that could foster competition and innovation; our public transit is woeful compared to other 1st world countries; we have no significant investment in renewable power; our health care or the poor keeps getting relatively worse and worse. Recently Katrina and the Minnesota bridge collapse have brought some attention to the sorry state of our national infrastructure and civil engineering. In fact back in 2003 the national association of civil engineers published a report on the decrepit state of our systems and outlined a planned for $600 billion in "critical" projects, a total of $2 trillion of "urgent" projects. Those are only the visible failures, countless others are simply risks we aren't prepared for that might never actually happen. Less visible are the budget cuts to libraries, parks, after-school programs, and just about every single facet of what government is supposed to do for people.

9/08/2007

09-08-07 - 1

I am so in love with Marge Simpson. God she is so hot. Of course Lois Griffin would be the better affair or hookup; I bet we'd go 3 or 4 times and wind up bloody. Marge is for marrying.

I just noticed Netflix has this thing when reporting a damaged or lost DVD you can choose to pay for it. LOL ? I'm a pretty severely overly-moralistic retard who generally screws myself out of lots of free money because I believe in being honest, but that is just completely retarded.

9/07/2007

09-07-07 - 3

Coming out of Burning Man in the ridiculous traffic jam, I was thinking about how traffic is sort of like capitalist markets. There were 8 lanes of traffic. Each lane is sort of like an equity or something - you "select" a lane, that's where you choose to put your investment. You have some information about each lane - you can see it moving - but your information is very far from perfect, you can't tell how they merge in the future, which ones might be blocked or have real slowpokes in them. So you have to make an educated guess and pick one.

Now the interesting part comes in. In theory, if the players are all smart and fluidly move between lanes at reasonable times, then all the lanes should equalize. That is, if one is much faster, people will move into it, and it will slow down. Similarly if one lane is much slower people will leave it and it will speed up. In that ideal world, when you come into the 8 lanes it shouldn't matter which one you chose.

In reality, that's very very far from the truth, and the reason is basically that people are retarded. They do retarded things like try to box people out, or leave way too big of gaps, both of which screw up the fluid flow. They also retardedly think that it's for some reason morally superior to just stay in one lane. In reality it is far better for the health of the whole system to make a reasonable amount of calculated lane changes when the flow is better in one lane than an another.

I find that when navigating traffic, if I give people any credit for brains I tend to make sub-optimal moves. I tend to make the best moves when I just assume everyone is totally retarded and make "1st order" moves. That is, if there's a gap where I can just ahead or a much faster lane, just go for it and don't assume it's bad for some reason. Some times you see a gap that no one is taking and you think "there must be a reason why no one is taking it". Yeah, that reason is that they're retarded and if you try to go to the "2nd level" you just out-think the problem and pass up a good gap.

Of course the analogies to poker are obvious, but this also reminds me of a lesson I keep relearning over and over about the stock market. In theory markets are just like these traffic lanes - the easy obvious moves have already been done so you shouldn't gain anything by making them, but in practice that's just not the case. One recent example of course is this subprime nonsense. Anyone with half a brain knew those things were/are garbage and huge risks, and if the markets are functioning properly that risk should be built into the pricing and it shouldn't be a surprise at all when defaults start happening. Of course they weren't. You can see the exact same thing happen when a company gets a big government contract - obviously they're going to benefit from it, you would think it's too late to jump on that news, but it's almost never too late to jump on total obvious news. The only exception to all this these days is anything that can be modelled with some kind of short term automatic system; those kinds of easy moves are indeed being sucked out of markets because so many people use computer models and do automated trading that purely numeric correlation type of "easy moves" are not so obvious any more. It still remains true that if you try to go "2nd level" and think "they must have already compensated for this" - you are usually wrong, no they probably haven't compensated for the totally obvious thing that they should have compensated for.

09-07-07 - 2

A few days ago I learned one of those little nuggets that surprise me; little things I somehow didn't know and just randomly pick up late in life; I always wonder if everybody else knows these things and somehow I just missed it. Anyway, it's this :

Bicycle pumps are GREAT for car tires! They work perfectly fine, for some reason I thought it would be really hard to pump, but of course it's not, it's very easy because car tires are super low pressure compared to bikes. You do have to pump many times to make a big difference in PSI simply because car tires have a lot more air in them, but it's really not that bad, you just pump it pump it. Anyway, the thing that's really great about them is the pressure gauges on bike pumps are very accurate, and they respond in real time, so it's way way better for making corrections to your pressure. In fact it's better just as a way to measure your pressure since those little stick things you put on the car tire to measure pressure are so rotten. The next time you are leaving for a trip and want to make sure your car tires are in good shape - do it at home with your bike pump, don't go to the gas station and do it with the compressor (this also has the big advantage of giving you a true cold pressure; even a short drive to the gas station can give you a very bad hot reading).

09-07-07 - 1

The new bin Laden tape is obviously full of distortions and juvenile philosophy and partial histories. The sad thing is that it's more coherent and truthful than your average Bush or Cheney speech, and I can get behind bin Laden's latest tape than their message. I'm not trying to say there's anything appealing about bin Laden, just that our leaders and policies are so completely bankrupt of morals and truth that even the most despicable alternative is better.

9/06/2007

09-06-07 - 2

There's this guy who lives on my street; he's obviously some kind of dot-com bum sort of like me, he doesn't seem to work. For the last year I've seen him walk past my window to get coffee or whatever alone. Suddenly in the last month he's become a huge player, every single day I see him walk past with a different hot girl. So far as I can tell he doesn't have any friends really or do anything, so my guess is all these girls come from the internet. We've never said a word other than "hi" when we pass outside, but I'm really curious what he's doing, if it's Yelp, or Craigslist or where all these hot one-day stands are coming from.

I've always been scared of casual sex. There's this problem that the more likely a girl is to hook up with you, the more likely she is to have hooked up with everyone before, and thus be a biohazard. My fear is rather unfounded, however, since the dirty little truth is that sex is very safe for guys. It's far far worse to be a girl; guys can have sex with infected girls and have less than a 1% chance of catching something even from someone who is definitely infectuous. The government and the Christian groups really don't want this getting out so semi-false statistics are trotted out instead which greatly exaggerate the risk to a man in normal heterosexual intercourse.

09-06-07 - 1

The fuckers at Safeway wouldn't scan a card for me (I left mine at home and they fucked up my application so my phone number doesn't work), fucking fuck the fuckers. Anyway, it made me think of a new way to sabotage the whole club card system. Just ask for a new card every time you go. They instantly give you a new one and scan it for your current purchase. You take it, and when you get outside you throw it away, or hand it to someone going in. If a lot of people do it, it costs them money and sends a message. Let's go saboteurs!

9/05/2007

09-05-07 - 1

Girls don't seem to understand the huge value of staying thin 100% of the time. If you ever EVER allow yourself to get fat even briefly, you can ruin your skin for the rest of your life, with folds that make you look fat even when you're not, or stretch marks, cellulite, and other nasty leftovers from that brief fat period that no amount of exercise can get rid of. Yes yes, it's no fair and so on, but you know the way it is, so is eating that one more piece of chocolate really worth wrecking your body for the rest of your life?

DJ's in general are so retarded. I would say 90%+ of the time it would be better just to have WinAmp playing a song sequence and doing automated beat-matched cross fades between the songs. All you really want is decent songs on beat that transition and keep the flow going. Human DJ's almost always try to do too much and wind up just totally fucking up the flow by injecting huge interludes with no beat, or interludes of awful noise, or trying to crossfade things that don't work, etc. etc. Perhaps 9% of the human DJ's actually do as well as just an automated crossfader, and only like 1% actually are an improvement over the trivial auto-dj.

A few random funnies from burning man : we found one DJ who was like just the epitome of the stereotype of the bad douche DJ. He was waving around in the booth, point at the crowd, making silly faces, doing "raise the roof moves", then he'd put on the head phones and do some horrible time changes and abrupt stops, it was so funny. We ran into a couple who were obviously competition ballroom dancers; that was actually really cool to see; they were in stereotypical burner outfits and trying to sort of hip hop dance but obviously had the ballroom moves, and every so often would move together perfectly, she was tall and lanky and like a marionette in his hands. We ran into another couple of asian dancers that were like on different time lines; the girl was doing these very slow sexy moves, and the guy was all over her wrapped around her but moving at like 100 miles an hour shaking this way and that, jumping over here and there jerking his body around, she was almost like a pole for him to dance on.

9/03/2007

09-03-07 - 1

The instant we got back from BM I fell deathly ill. I guess staying up for 20 hours for several days in a row, doing drugs, eating very little, and sharing water bottles with strangers might be a bad combination. It's funny how your body can hold off the sickness as long as you're pushing it, and then as soon as you get to a point where you can relax it just gives in. That used to happen all the time at work - we'd do some big crunch, then crunch some more, then as soon as you get a break your body finally gives in and lets the germs win.

BM was pretty crazy fun. It was the worst dust storms ever in the history of the event, which was sort of not fun, but also kind of exciting. I got all the fun of doing lots of rope rigging to try to secure our tent. Lots of people's tents got completely destroyed, those metal collapsing poles were getting snapped right in half. People who had rigged up tarps and parachutes were having them ripped off.

It's my third time, so there's definitely no longer quite that same "wow" novelty factor for me, but it's still just a hell of a party, with some of the coolest art in the world. I fucking hate art you just sit quietly and look at. I love this shit because so much of it is interactive, the artists do performances integrated with their pieces, you can climb around on them, bike around them, and just the setting of having this great metal sculpture set out on the huge playa under a huge open sky is just like the best setting ever. I love just biking out into the dead side of the playa in the middle of the night where there's noone around and it's this crazy huge empty flat open space with the shadows of the hulking mountains all around, and the clear star filled sky above. And even if you're not into anything else, it's just the best dance party in the world. I've never been to Ibiza, I guess that's the only thing that comes even close, but the sound systems at BM are unreal, with awesome graphics shows, all the world's best DJ's, and the amazing warm nights and sand to dance in outdoors, it's just a billion times better than any club in every way. Not only that but the crowd is totally cool and fun.

My biggest problem is that I feel like I'm getting old and I just can't party hard a bunch of days in a row. I hate the RV people, I feel like it's cheating, that part of the true experience is the discomfort, but I might have to consider RV'ing next time. I might have to pace myself a bit more too, take it a little easier.

old rants