wanted: head coach that can differentiate between "success" and "not failure"

This was the headline I was hoping to read when I got up this morning.

I had to wait until lunchtime, but still, it's pretty good.

Tech is halfway to becoming a southern football school...they've shown that they're willing to fire a winning coach who can't beat a main rival.

The other half...getting, adequately compensating, and most importantly--retaining--a coach that can take the program to the next level will be much, much more difficult. Perhaps even highly unlikely.

But still, mediocrity at $1 million a year should not be tolerated. They did the right thing. I just doubt whether they're going to do any better the next time around.


black friday beer fest

I mentioned this the other day, but it deserves a post of its own.

Pop the Cap's Black Friday Beer Fest is (duh) this Friday. Go shopping first if you must, though why on earth you would subject yourself to that when you can buy anything and everything online on December 23 (not that that's what I do....honest) is completely beyond me.


ghandi on ron paul

"First they ignore you..."

"...then they ridicule you..."

"...then they fight you..."

"...then you win."

All I'm saying is that for an "unserious", "kooky" candidate of the lunatic fringe (who remember: has absolutely no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination!), Ron Paul is attracting an awful lot of invective from the GOP establishment.

But don't take my word for it. Consult the almighty Google:

"Mike Huckabee is crazy": 1 hit

"Tom Tancredo is crazy": 7 hits

"Duncan Hunter is crazy": 0 hits

"Ron Paul is crazy": 740 hits

Naturally, another explanation of these data is that Ron Paul really is crazy. And that's fine, but do keep in mind that Huckabee (probably) thinks the world is 6000 years old** and Tancredo thinks that Mexicans want to bomb our shopping malls. Google stats don't track reality--they track what people are saying. (To be fair, "John McCain is crazy" turns up a staggering 4190 hits...but he is a much higher-profile candidate. Who might, in fact, be crazy.)

*Radley Balko gives Mona Charon's insipid column a much more thorough refutation than it really deserves.

**To be fair, when asked directly Huckabee has stated that he "doesn't know" whether the Biblical account is literally true or not. Maybe it's just my own brand of fundamentalism talking, but saying that the Bible might be literally true is only a scant hair away from saying that it is, in terms of absurdity. Try substituting "Alice in Wonderland" or "Beowulf" for "the Bible" in that train of thought.

durham's night out

[m] made it back to town safely yesterday, and despite teetering on the brink of exhaustion, managed to rally in time for us to attend the 9:45 showing of Durham: a Self Portrait.

We arrived at the Carolina at about 9:20...downtown was as busy as I've ever seen it (Durham Rising excepted), a real treat to see on a such a brisk autumn night. We parked on Foster across from the Y, and only so close because someone (presumably from the sold-out first showing) was leaving just as we pulled up. The sidewalks were crowded with small groups discussing the film. The Hollywood-premier-style spotlights were running in front of the Carolina's restored facade, which was pretty cool.

A healthy crowd was already assembled in the lobby. We saw several neighbors, recognized bartenders from some favorite haunts, and I ran into one of the guys I know from the Choral Society. As we were seated, I was telling [m] the story of how my friend Dave and I went to the Duke/Tech game last weekend, he ran into someone he knew from Tech at the game, and then when we went to dinner later that night sat at a table next to the very same guy (this was not planned). As we reflected on the smallness of Durham, I struck up a conversation with the guy seated on the other side of me, only to find out that he was Sean Wilson of Pop the Cap North Carolina fame, with whom I had corresponded several times over email but never met in person.

(PTCNC, by the way, is throwing a very cool event next Friday that I fully intend to take advantage of.)

The film itself was a treat...I guess I have read, heard, and absorbed various bits of Durham's history over the last year, but having them presented in such a coherent narrative really does drive home what a unique and wonderful place this is. (I had never heard about the secret game of 1944, for example.) If you didn't make it out last night, you should definitely try catch the screening on Sunday.

Afterwards, we strolled over to Bull McCabe's for a pint and a snack. I was greeted by name and a "Guinness, right?" which was just music to my ears.

It's been a year of adjustments, but I've got to say this place has really grown on me. It feels like home now.

Of course, having my wife home helps, too.


i got new specs

I do hope the wife likes 'em. Because I do.

Considering that they cost less than 1/4 of my last pair (and I got basically every upgrade available...super high index, scratch coated, etc...I am blind as a bat and beat the shit out of everything I own), I consider taking the risk and ordering them online to have been entirely worthwhile. Check out Zenni if you are in the market.


a recomendation

If you are fortunate enough to be living in one of the cities where it is/will be playing, you should go see War Dance. M and I caught it at Full Frame earlier this year, and it is really, really good. I imagine it will be available on DVD in a few months, but if you can see it on the big screen, it will be worth the effort.

health care

Gino tried to get a conversation started about health care reform a few weeks back right before he went on sabbatical. I tried to comment, then quickly realized I had written far too much for any comments section. So I started working on this and never got around to editing it into something I liked. I still haven't but would like to try and at least get the conversation going again.

So...here are some of my random and disorganized thoughts about it all:

1) Yeah, socialism doesn't generally produce optimum outcomes of the most good for the most people, mainly due to fixing of prices at sub-market levels; and in a perfect world, an unfettered market ought to be much better at this. However, we have neither a perfect world nor an unfettered market in health care in this country, and by any reasonable metric (i.e., health outcomes) it is difficult for me to conclude that our system is objectively better than any of the well-run socialist systems in the world (esp., France, and yes, Canada)--particularly in terms of delivering the most good to the most people.

2) The biggest economic losers in the nationalization of US health care would be the managed care companies, who have increased the cost of care with excessive layers of administration and management. It's hard for me to get upset about middle managers losing their jobs. Doctors will still get paid plenty--no one is seriously talking about forcing them to work for peanuts at gunpoint. Even in a nationalized system, there is still a market in labor...and if doctors don't get paid enough, there simply won't be enough doctors.

3. I know it sounds like I'm advocating for socialized medicine here--I'm not really, but I do think it is worth pointing out that our current system is not vastly superior to it, and in truth, I think a nationalized/socialized/single-payer /whatever you want to call it system is probably preferable to any of the cumbersome half-measures we are likely to see in the next few years. (I'm mostly thinking of Ms. Clinton's byzantine plan here, but the same could probably be said about any of the major candidates plans.)

4) I think probably the best plan that could actually work in the US would need to include: a) an uncoupling of insurance from employment; b) meaningful deregulation of health insurance, enabling a greater diversity of coverage and the ability of individuals to negotiate a level of coverage that makes sense for them and that they can actually afford (think more like auto insurance); c) a safety net of some sort.

I realize that (c) might cost me my libertarian decoder ring, but there is simply no reason why anyone in the richest society in the history of the species should have to forgo basic and/or lifesaving medical care. I just don't see this as libertarian vs. socialist issue (anymore); it's a humanitarian issue.

5) A couple of less well-thought-out bits:

--I'm not ready to tell drug companies how they can and cannot market their products, but the proportion of pharmaceutical revenues spent on marketing is simply ridiculous. (It's been a while since I've looked into this, but when I was applying for a job at a certain biotech firm one of their big selling points was that they spent nearly 20% of their revenue on R&D, and this more than almost anyone else. This isn't a startup either...we're talking about a $10 billion a year company here. You do the math.) Figuring out a way to incentivize drug companies to invest more in R&D would be very worthwhile. I have no idea how to do this. Tax breaks? Better patent protections? I'm still chewing on this...

--More research into the marginal benefits (more precisely, into the marginal non-benefits) of newer, more technology-driven diagnostics and therapeutics needs to performed and disseminated. This is a prime example of research that simply will not get done in the private sector, because companies thrive on the new (and patentable.) If test A that's been around since 1955 is only 10% less accurate than test B that's brand new and sexy, is it really worth paying 10 times more for test B? If aspirin works almost as well as third generation COX-2 inhibitor, maybe you should just take aspirin. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence like this out there, but solid, population-level studies need to be performed and common-sense practices based on their results need to be implemented.

Is this sexy research that everybody at NIH is chomping at the bit to do? Hell no. But is it a damn worthwhile investment that will "enhance the Nation's economic well-being and ensure a continued high return on the public investment in research"? Hell yes.


butternut squash risotto

It is cold.

I have a freezer full of chicken stock.

It is time for risotto.

People geek out about and/or are intimidated by risotto. I do not know why. If you can stir, you can make risotto.

This was inspired by a dish I had at The Federal last fall. As always, all measurements are approximate, and this goes a lot better while imbibing the beverage of your choice (though I really do recommend a tall, cold beer for this, because you will be standing over the stove more or less continuously for about 40 minutes.)

1 butternut squash
1 med-large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio
6 cups chicken stock (bring to a simmer and keep hot)
1 cup white wine
5 Tbs parmesean and/or romano (I used about half and half...the sharpness of the romano balances the sweetness of the squash rather nicely)
2 Tbs butter
4 oz baby spinach
salt, pepper, cayenne, sage, saffron, and nutmeg (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Peel, seed, and cube the squash into ~1/2-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil to coat, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast until they start to caramelize (start checking after 20 minutes...you'll probably smell it when they are done.) Set aside or just keep warm in the oven.
3. In the meantime, saute the onion, garlic, bacon, with some olive oil in a large pan until the onions are translucent and the bacon is just starting to crisp. Add the rice, and continue cooking for another minute.
4. Add the liquid (wine first, then the stock) about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring more or less constantly as the liquid is absorbed. You're going for a creamy consistency and just on the soft side of al dente. (You may not need all of the stock). This will take 15-20 minutes.
5. Reduce heat; add the squash, cheese, butter, and spinach. Cook until the melty things melt and the spinach just wilts. Season to taste.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

--Wilfred Owen

I am fortunate to have recently joined a local choral group that will be performing Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, which incorporates several settings of Owen's poetry. One of our members has been reading and discussing the poems in our rehearsals, which has really been a treat (think the best part of the best English class you ever took, distilled into tasty 5-minute bits. Awesome.)

Anyway, I had never heard this poem until all of this. It simply haunts me. And it seems appropriate for today.

Owen fought (and was killed) in WWI. They say his poetry changed the way people thought about war. This may be true, but...I can't help but think not enough...


best. inbound. link. ever.

Sadly, I am not talking about the embarrassingly kind shout-out that RW gave me today. (Welcome, RW readers! I promise this place isn't all politics, all the time.)

No, I am talking about visitor 11,553, who came here after googling "chunky cervial (sic) mucous". (As it happens, I am hit #3 on that search...#8 if you spell it right.)

Whoever you are, I am sorry that you probably didn't find the information that you were looking for. I hope you come back anyway. And you should probably see a doctor.

my script

As the screen writers are out on strike, this would seem an opportune time to work on my script.

Actually, it was going to be a novel, and I really did do some work on it (about 3000 words) but I realized that the only parts that were any good were the dialog. Narrative isn't really my strong suit, but when I get on a roll I can churn out some killer dialog. Also, a script is only about 120 pages. This is what they call in "the biz" a "no-brainer".

The original idea I had was the story of a young academic who led a dual life as a secret agent/assassin. Basically, I wanted to juxtapose a brutal world of treachery, lies, and betrayal with that of espionage.

At one point I thought it might be fun to have the hero's two worlds collide: his mission becomes someone he knows through his "day job", who he eventually ends up killing. And from that, we actually find out that he has never been a secret agent, but that this was just an elaborate fantasy he constructed for himself to deal with the crushing inanity of academic research, and that his secret agent persona has actually taken over and caused him to kill lots of innocent people.

But then I realized that this was basically "Alias" meets "A Beautiful Mind" meets "Fight Club".

So here I am with a premise and some random bits of dialog, but no story that isn't hopelessly derivative. I think the fantasy/delusion angle is a no-go...but I do think that the black comic potential here is still pretty rich. I just need somewhere for it to go...

You know, maybe writers should get paid more...


sport the war/war support

You know, the one Good Thing I could see (realistically) emerging from the 2008 presidential election was the possibility of the ideological center of the Republican party moving away from the religious right (which is to say, not necessarily towards anything particularly good, just not THAT). Specifically, that the GOP would nominate Rudy Giuliani and the Dobsonites would be seriously pissed off about it and openly marginalized to boot.

Then Pat Robertson has to go and spoil my fun. Say what you will about the Theocons, they know enough realpolitik to stay relevant, even in a year when there really is no reason for them to be.

For all the evil done to the republic in the last seven years by GWB and company, I cannot bring myself to get on board with Team Blue. I'm not a Democrat, I never have been, and I don't think that I ever will be. I can recall only two times in my voting life that I have actually voted for a Democrat in a general election...once for Janet Napolitano when she was up for re-election in AZ (she's done a hell of a job there--and me voting for an incumbent is nearly as rare as me voting for a Democrat), and I held my nose and voted for Kerry in 2004, convincing myself that it was a close race in AZ (it wasn't) and that I was voting to fire GWB.

Usually I have voted LP or abstained. But I have cast a few ballots for various Republicans over the years (more than Democrats, anyway) and in a few cases been fairly happy to do so.

But what really bothers me here is the nagging problem I have with today's GOP--and the embrace of the thrice-married, abortion-tolerant and gay-roommate-having Giuliani by Pat Freaking Robertson illustrates it better than any other single event could. The only issue holding together the coalition of Neocons, Theocons, and Paleocons (are there any Paleocons left in the GOP?) is a blind, fevered, devotion to the war.

That, and opposition to Hillary Clinton being president of the United States. Which is especially odd, since she is easily the most hawkish Democrat in the field.

How the hell did we get here? Did 19 boxcutter-wielding sociopaths really scare us so badly that we are only capable of electing leaders that will perpetuate a permanent state of war?

(Title source below. Play it with the volume up...way up.)


remember, remember the fifth of november...

I've been really busy today...have any of the major news outlets bothered to report that Ron Paul has raised approximately $4.8 million in the last 24 hours?

All those bots that keep jamming discussion boards and post-debate polls must be loaded...



Query 1: Generally speaking, is it better to have a Muslim country run by a liberal-minded military dictator, or by a democratically elected government that might more accurately reflect the Islamicist values of (a significant portion, if not the majority of) the populace?

Query 2: Does your answer change when the country is armed with nuclear weapons?

The history of US foreign policy suggests that public expressions of concern notwithstanding, we will continue to support Musharraf regardless of how many political prisoners he rounds up. (And I'm not necessarily saying that we shouldn't...per my own answers to the questions above.)

But can we at least start being honest about this whole "spreading democracy" nonsense?

Of course we can't. And now we can add Pakistan to the list of countries in the Muslim world with a population oppressed by a regime propped up by the United States in the name of our short-term strategic interests.

Some pissed-off Saudis attacked us with box cutters. I don't even want to think about what some pissed-off Pakistanis might decide to bring over.



Brian Doherty:

Bush comes out with a blood-curdling threat to Congress: if they don't confirm Michael Mukasey for attorney general, why then the U.S. will just have to go to bed without any attorney general at all for the remainder of his term. Can justice survive? Will chaos reign? Why don't we find out?


The biggest problem with Mukasey, of course, is that George Bush wants him to be AG. Given the prez's track record with the rule of law in general and with appointments to this office in particular, this is more than enough reason to oppose Mukasey's confirmation.