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December 31, 2003

Happy 2004

Shelley dreamed it. Now the dream decays.
The props crumble; the familiar ways
Are stale with tears trodden underfoot.
The heart's flower withers at the root.
Bury it then, in history's sterile dust.
The slow years shall tame your tawny lust.

Love deceived him; what is there to say
The mind brought you by a better way
To this despair? Lost in the world's wood
You cannot stanch the bright menstrual blood.
The earth sickens; under naked boughs
The frost comes to barb your broken vows.

Is there blessing? Light's peculiar grace
In cold splendour robes this tortured place
For strange marriage. Voices in the wind
Weave a garland where a mortal sinned.
Winter rots you; who is there to blame?
The new grass shall purge you in its flame.

--Song at the Year's Turning, R. S. Thomas, 1955

Posted by dylan at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

December 30, 2003

Back from B'ham

Got in tonight to an ice-cold house and a fuel oil tank with 6 3/4 inches left.

Never fly with a cold. If you do, take Sudafed about an hour before the plane is supposed to land. Otherwise, you end up like I am -- unable to hear all that well.

Pics will be posted here and to Baby Blog in the coming days.

Posted by dylan at 09:41 PM

December 24, 2003

Happy Christmas to all

Be back to a semi-normal schedule after the holidays.

As a reminder, the Christmas letter is here.

Posted by dylan at 01:15 AM

December 22, 2003

The End of Year Survey

This meme is going around. I got this from Kat, but I did some research and filled in most of the missing questions.

  1. What did you do in 2003 that you'd never done before? Went to San Francisco. Saw REM and Wilco in concert. Buzzed my hair. Knocked a girl up.
  2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't think I had any, though I made my midyear resolution to lose 40 pounds. There will be resolutions for next year, they're just not written yet.
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My cousin. Wayne and Karen.
  4. Did anyone close to you die? With ten days to go in the year, nope.
  5. What countries did you visit? Does California count?
  6. What would you like to have in 2004 that you lacked in 2003? Self-confidence, a clue about my vocation, and a healthy baby. Also, $10M in cash.
  7. What date from 2003 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? February 14, for reasons that will not be discussed here. July 17, again for reasons that we will not go into. August 2, aka "Look dear, there are two lines on the stick."
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Relaunched a university web site almost all by myself.
  9. What was your biggest failure? Not answering the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question.
  10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Sliced two fingers open on separate occasions. Me not like knives. Otherwise, a smattering of colds.
  11. What was the best thing you bought? A Canon A70 digi camera.
  12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My wife, for putting up with me -- and for finishing her first novel.
  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I plead the Fifth.
  14. Where did most of your money go? Great question. Unfortunately, not enough into savings.
  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Baby-making. Having my own digi camera.
  16. What song will always remind you of 2003? Hard question. Let's go with "Hey Ya!"
  17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    1. happier or sadder? About the same.
    2. thinner or fatter? Thinner, and hopefully, thinner still next year.
    3. richer or poorer? A little poorer, but that's mostly inflation.
  18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Cleaning the house. Getting out more. Rebuilding my social life.
  19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Procrastinating. Acting immature. Drinking soda.
  20. How will you be spending Christmas? In Alabama with the in-laws.
  21. {appears to be missing}
  22. Did you fall in love in 2003? Already there.
  23. How many one-night stands? Zero.
  24. What was your favorite TV program? I had a few. Good Eats. Sealab 2021. Arrested Development.
  25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? Nope.
  26. What was the best book you read? Didn't read a lot this year at all. I think I read four books cover to cover, and none of them were fiction. (Update: Oops, forgot that Order of the Phoenix was this year.) I'll say it's a tossup between On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee and Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman.
  27. What was your greatest musical discovery? 70s soul music.
  28. What did you want and get? One last vacation before going for the kidmaking.
  29. What did you want and not get? An iPod.
  30. What was your favorite film of this year? Drama, Master and Commander. Comedy or musical, Lost In Translation. Animation, Finding Nemo.
  31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 31. Felt sorry for myself as usual. Avoided people in light of last year's 30th birthday party debacle.
  32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? The Buffs doing better than 5-7.
  33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003? Same clothes, but new wool coat, much shorter hair, and a size smaller pants.
  34. What kept you sane? Susan. Computers. Music.
  35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? This the British meaning of "fancy?" If so, Miranda Otto was quite easy on the eyes.
  36. What political issue stirred you the most? The idiotic unilateralism of the Iraq war. Also, anti-spam legislation, the RIAA, the DMCA, and the Patriot Act.
  37. Who did you miss? At times, my family.
  38. Who was the best new person you met? I barely met anyone new this year, part of my bunker mentality of the last couple years. Samantha is the bee's knees, and I mean that in an "I'm happily married to someone not Samantha" sense. Sherry is cool, while she's not really new but a high school classmate that lives out here in Seattle and is not at all the same person she was in high school.
  39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2003: Kitchen knives are not to be taken lightly. Also, glass shatters when heated then exposed to a cool liquid.
  40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: And he's not responsible for what he's doin'/'Cause his mother made him what he is. -- Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Posted by dylan at 12:41 AM

December 21, 2003

Christmas/New Years Week

Heading into the two weeks in this country that nothing happens. This, apparently, is enough to raise the terror level to minneola.

I have three work days left in this year, four if you count Jan 2.

I put some snowflakes in the background. Thoughts?

Posted by dylan at 02:59 PM

December 17, 2003

Christmas Letter 2003

The main body of the 2003 Christmas letter is up, although the links, pics, and print stylesheet aren't in place yet. The wreath from our front door, BTW.

Christmas cards went out today.

Posted by dylan at 12:58 AM

December 16, 2003

Mariners 2004 == Exxon Valdez?

Mariners need a bat in the lineup. They sign Raul "1.5 hot seasons in a hitter's park" Ibanez. They need a third baseman. They trade for Scott "Probably better than Cirillo" Spezio. They let Mike "saves a run a game with his glove" Cameron go to the Mets. And now... they're trading the oft-injured but servicable Carlos Guillen to the Indians for the oft-injured and middle-aged Omar Vizquel? Oh, and ticket prices are going up to pay for all the salary the M's aren't adding. Why do I even bother going to the park? Oh, yeah, that's right. There's no methadone for baseball.

The Mariners ownership motto: Why feed the cash cow when you can have STEAK!

Posted by dylan at 12:42 PM

December 14, 2003

Best music of 2003

Usually I compile a list of the "best albums" and the close of the year, but this time I ran into a problem, mainly, I didn't buy anything really new, and for that matter, not much indie (am I getting *gulp* old?). Still, I'll take a stab at it based on what little I've heard. (No particular order)

Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Outkast
Elephant, White Stripes
Electric Version, New Pornographers
Untitled, Robert Randolph and his Family Band
Night On My Side, Gemma Hayes
Rainy Day Music, Jayhawks
Love Is Hell Part 1, Ryan Adams
Failer, Kathleen Edwards

So... how about the best songs of 2003? (Again, no particular order)

And now, the worst songs of 2003.

Posted by dylan at 06:22 PM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2003

Think editors aren't important?

Bad things happen when you don't have a sharp-eyed editor. Someone puts a bad, anti-Semitic joke in a Hanukkah flyer, probably 18 point font, and it slips right past everyone into the paper?

Editors, people, editors! And I mean you, Mr. Stephenson!

Posted by dylan at 04:11 PM | Comments (4)

December 09, 2003

So it wasn't a flu shot

It was really a cold.

Excuse me, I need to find some 72-hour Nyquil.

Posted by dylan at 12:02 AM

December 06, 2003

The curdmugeon returns

1. The Republican party motivates its people using greed. The Democratic party uses avarice. Either way disgusts me.

2. The Religious Right has no problem gainsaying the parts of the Bible talking about caring for the poor because, damn it, they should be working. Never mind that they do work and have to deal with a set of governmental rules that deny them benefits if they aren't working OR if they're making too much money. If you really want to help people off welfare, start by being less Draconian and start focusing on getting them educated, giving them a base level of health care and day care, and START CREATING SOME JOBS THAT ACTUALLY PAY SOMETHING.

3. Is it truly an economic recovery when the new jobs being created are seasonal and pay less than they did before the bubble? Is it truly a recovery when the $60-80K/year tech jobs are being replaced by $6-8K/year tech jobs in Bangalore? Is it truly a recovery when despite the explosion in productivity and GDP growth 2/3rds of all hiring managers are saying they aren't planning on adding jobs in 2004? Is it truly an economic recovery when I've seen exactly one job ad in the last three months analogous to my current position that pays MORE than my supposedly low government salary?

4. I have no problem with privatizing some parts of government, but this Friedmanite mantra about making the whole damn thing private is really starting to annoy me. Whenever someone brings up the fact that there are a few things the government provides that are, by their nature, unprofitable, someone always says, "If they're unprofitable, we shouldn't provide them." Hey Einstein, has it HIT you yet that quality of life provisions are not profitable by their nature, like parks and recreation?

5. While we were home Susan had to see a doctor right away for an issue involving the pregnancy. We ended up at this for-profit assembly line drop-in clinic, supposedly "the future of medicine." It made my experience with the NHS feel like a trip to the Mayo Clinic. Two hour wait to see a doctor for exactly THREE MINUTES, all for $100. They demanded a co-payment... our insurance has no co-payments. They didn't understand what "NO COPAYMENT" meant. And the thing is, these things are so assembly line that they can run twenty people an hour through the clinic, collect the $2000, and crush all other competition. At least with the NHS you got seven minutes with the doctor, and while there were no walk-ins, you could generally see a doctor in the afternoon with a minimum of wait. Also, I don't recall any of these national health plans on the table in this country talking about running private practices out of business.

6. I have no problem with Social Security reform. Hell, I think it's time we actually made these damn things into accounts and stopped making it this "children pay for the parents" crap. I say you give people three options. Option 1 is the same as now, except that the money is turned into a loan the government must pay interest on. Congress can't touch the money, period. Money, in effect, turns into a 30-year T-bill. Option 2 lets a person invest in the government retirement funds just like a 403(b). Person accepts responsibility
for losses and gains. Option 3 lets a person waive Social Security... but they also waive Medicare, Medicaid, and any other government-run or subsidized personal benefits (except Veterans benefits). That person is on their own -- they are playing without a social safety net. Once you choose to forgo paying for the social safety net, you can't get the benefits back, period. You want retirement? Open yer own IRA. You want Medicare? Start saving for long-term medical care insurance right now.

7. The baby-industrial complex sucks. Infant outfits cost $10... but they outgrown them fast. I really need a Costco card and a storage unit to hold the 2000 diapers we'll go through in year one.

Enough ranting for now.

Posted by dylan at 03:21 PM

Sweet Potatoes:Marshmallows::Fish:Bicycle

Why, why, why do people PERSIST in putting marshmallow crud on sweet potatoes? Let me give you three reasons why you shouldn't:

1. Sweet potatoes are sweet. Marshmallow creme is sweet, but not in the same way. It's like serving buttered fatback. Sweet potatoes need contrast, not insulin-spiking similarity.

2. Marshmallow creme burns. This is because it is almost entirely made of sugar. You want to know why pies are baked with meringue on top and not marshmallow creme? Egg white is protein. It can endure the heat a lot better, and it can insulate whatever sugar you mix into it from burning.

3. Most importantly, all that gooey disgusting white stuff means you don't actually taste the subtle flavor of the sweet potato. Marshmallow creme has turned millions off to the nutritional benefits of the American yam. There's enough beta carotene in your average sweet potato to make a first grade class see perfectly in the dark.

So, here, I offer an alternative to the traditional American holiday culinary nightmare. Leave the supersweet foods on the dessert cart; a slice of pecan pie is heaven enough.

BLIND SWEET POTATO JEFFERSON
two (2) sweet potatoes*
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
sprig or two fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dry)
sprig fresh marjoram (or 1/4 tsp dry)
1/4 tsp salt
clove or two garlic (optional)
aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 325F. Wash the sweet potatoes and peel if you desire. Cut potatoes into whatever serving option you wish -- cubed, sliced, etc. -- but make sure the size is pretty consistent. Move cubed potatoes to a bowl; add 1 tbsp olive oil, herbs, salt, and garlic, then toss to coat 'n' combine. Move mixture to the aluminum foil, offset slightly, no more than one layer deep. We're making a packet or billet here, so make sure you have enough of an edge that you can crimp it tightly. Sprinkle over the last teaspoon of olive oil; this is the last defense against the caramelizing sugars sticking to the foil. Place another piece of foil of equal size over the top of the previous piece; roll and crimp the edges until you get a tight seal and the potatoes aren't crowding. Bake for, well, it's hard to say. Ovens are all different. I usually go for an hour, but I have a pizza stone to regulate the temperature. 1 1/4 hours has worked for me in crowded ovens. Don't go over 1 1/2 hours, though, lest you smell the horror that is burning sugar. No matter what, pull the packet out of the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before opening it. The potatoes should have some caramelization and be tender. If they aren't tender, well, there's the microwave to finish them off. If they're burnt, well, check your freezer for frozen vegetables.

I call it "blind" because the packet makes it impossible to see what's going on; I like it doing it this way because the steam can't leak out. If you aren't all that confident in your cooking skills, go with a lidded casserole and check after an hour how things are. Results won't be exactly the same, but hey, better than marshmallow coated insulin bombs.

* - By "sweet potato" I mean the white sweet potato and the orange variety we Americans call the yam. It's not really a yam but a sweet potato. Yeah, confusing, I know.

Posted by dylan at 03:11 PM

Are those weeds in the stylesheet?

OK, so I haven't posted in a couple weeks. Here's a summary of the last few weeks:


So, expect a flood of entries today -- couple of recipes, some ranting, and my annual top music picks.

Posted by dylan at 02:34 PM