I really like the backlit capoeira.



Sometimes, an idea occurs to me, and then I find that I can't account for why I didn't think of it sooner.

And so it is that I sit here nearly literally kicking myself for the fact that tonight is the first time I've ever made ceviche myself. It's stupidly easy. If you can operate a knife and boil water, you can make ceviche. And the only reason I thought to do it is that I realized I had about a dozen limes in the fridge that were on their last legs and I didn't know how to use them up, except by making mojitos, and I don't do cocktails when I'm home alone.

What I did tonight was more or less Mexican in style (I think), and I will consume it on a tostada with some homemade guacamole.

First, I juiced all my limes (ended up with just shy of a cup of juice).

Then, I poached a pound of peeled shrimp in 50/50 beer/water with a couple of tablespoons* of the lime juice and some salt...brought to a boil, tossed in the shrimp, and removed from the heat just as the boil resumed. Drained, and then let shrimp steam in the pot about 10 minutes, then removed to a bowl and put in the freezer for quick chilling (about another 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, I chopped up most of a red onion, a cucumber, a smallish jicama, most of a bunch of cilantro, four radishes, two jalapenos**, and a tin of anchovies. Mixed all that together with the lime juice, a few shakes of Valentina, a few shakes of olive oil (plus the oil from the anchovies), kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste (which means lots of both). Made sure the shrimp were cool, and added them in, mixing thoroughly and them pressing the shrimp down so they were all submerged in the juices. I'm trying to let it sit for an hour before I really dig in, although I've been tasting it all along and it's already pretty good.

*As always, all measurements are very, very approximate. I eyeball almost everything.

**Salmonella can kiss my ass.



I am home this morning watching our vacation fund disappear into a new air conditioning unit. When we bought the place, I figured we'd get a couple more years out of it. As it turns out, we got 22 months. Damn, I hate being right some times.

I hope you'll pardon my French here, but this whole home ownership thing sucks big, sweaty, hairy donkey balls.


gratuitous metal post

I spent all day being verbal. I'm sick of it.

Besides, we haven't done this lately.

Crank it up. You know you want to.

Maybe I'll make this a regular thing. It generally suits my mood about this time of the week.


climate change

This is half-formed, at best, but I want to hit "publish" before I get pulled away to other things.

Many of my (primarily left-leaning) friends like to challenge me to articulate a coherent libertarian view on the environment, and specifically, on climate change. I'm an inadequate spokesperson for the "libertarian view" of anything; for me "libertarian" is an adjective that describes how I generally tend to think, rather than a noun that says what I am.

But I digress. I ought to be able to articulate some ideas about the role of the government in dealing with climate change that are, if not strictly "libertarian", at least my own. So here goes that.

One point where I tend to wander off the libertarian reservation is that I'm willing to credit the government with being effective and occasionally justified at engaging in some Big Projects. Historically, it is actually quite good at addressing difficult, but nonetheless well-defined problems with fairly obvious (if expensive) solutions. Need a large water supply and lots of electric power generating capacity for the exploding population of Southern California? Build Hoover Dam. Need to produce an atomic bomb before the Nazis do? Fund the Manhattan Project. These are clear problems with clearly defined endpoints that tend to require near-limitless funding and manpower in the solving. But the point is that they can be solved.

The prototypical boondoggle occurs when the government tries to marshal these kinds of resources to address a complex, ill-defined problem with lots of variables and no obvious solution. The war on drugs is a pretty clear-cut case of this. I think the "war on terror" is another. In both cases you spend lots and lots (and lots) of money with a professed goal that is essentially impossible to define (how will we know when either "war" is "won"?) In the place of tangible solutions, you create institutions that develop their own inertia, and the inevitable self-interest in their own perpetuation. If we went 100 years without a single hijacking incident on an American airliner, does anyone seriously expect that the TSA will declare victory and disband?

This is what troubles me about the groundswell of support to "do something" about global climate change; I'm fairly convinced that this is a problem that falls in the latter category.


the dark knight

...is good. Really, really good.

If they give posthumous Oscars, Heath Ledger should certainly be considered. If you have a copy of The Killing Joke, read it before you go see the movie, and I think you'll see what I mean. That's the Joker Ledger plays:, nihilistic, terrifying, and brilliant. It's a damn shame we won't see that again.

But seriously...get a sitter for the young ones.


"god exists, and he's american"

I'm as psyched to see The Dark Knight as anyone, but this is the comic book movie I've been waiting for for about 20 years.


yet another idea of mine gets published before I write it

Actually, I generally view that sort thing as meaning I tend to have good ideas at least. Anyway, I won't lose sleep over this one, since it isn't in my discipline at all, but a new study proposes that the best defense against terrorism is, essentially, no defense at all:

The premises:

1. The number of potential terrorist targets is essentially infinite.

2. The probability that any individual target will be attacked is essentially zero.

3. If one potential target happens to enjoy a degree of protection, the agile terrorist usually can readily move on to another one.

4. Most targets are "vulnerable" in that it is not very difficult to damage them, but invulnerable in that they can be rebuilt in fairly short order and at tolerable expense.

5. It is essentially impossible to make a very wide variety of potential terrorist targets invulnerable except by completely closing them down.

The policy implications:

1. Any protective policy should be compared to a "null case": do nothing, and use the money saved to rebuild and to compensate any victims.
[emphasis added]

2. Abandon any effort to imagine a terrorist target list.

3. Consider negative effects of protection measures: not only direct cost, but inconvenience, enhancement of fear, negative economic impacts, reduction of liberties.

4. Consider the opportunity costs, the tradeoffs, of protection measures.

Absurdly attentive readers will remember that I was all over this idea ages ago.

(via Megan McArdle)



My next-door neighbor's back windshield was completely smashed through last night. Apparently, his wasn't the only one:

Durham police officers are investigating at least 30 reports of vandalized vehicles, which they believe happened overnight.

Vandalism was reported in the area of Monmouth Avenue, North Street and Trinity Avenue.

Car windows were shot out with BB guns and tires were slashed, according to investigators.

Police do not have any suspects.

For the record, there's no freakin' way my neighbor's car was done with a BB gun. This took repeated blows with a bat, crowbar, or similarly heavy object. Another neighbor, a few blocks up, reports the same thing on the neighborhood listserve (we are less than a mile from the neighborhood mentioned in the WRAL story.)

Which, in a way, makes the widespread and apparently random nature of the vandalism oddly comforting--this morning he and I were trying to figure out who he might have pissed off so badly. That the answer seems to be "no one in particular" is actually kind of a relief.

Things are pretty fucked up when you actually hope you're merely the victim of random criminal activity.


i'd like retroactive immunity for my primary vote, please

I really hoped Mr. Obama would at least get to the convention before he did something to talk me out of voting for him in November.

Oh well...that was fun while it lasted.

I'm sufficiently pissed off about this that today I think I would retroactively vote for Ms. Clinton, given the option (she voted "no" on the FISA bill)...though I also can't help but wonder how each of them would have voted were she the one making a mad dash to the middle in advance of the general election.

And herein lies the real problem. The political center in this country, if the actions of the political class are any indicator (and is there any reason to think that they aren't?) is still so irrationally afraid of terrorism that there is broad support for shredding the Bill of Rights in the name of the appearance of security.

And no politician is going to fix that. This is a cultural problem. The politics merely reflect that.

small town, small world

So we watched a movie on DVD just last week, and rather enjoyed it.

Last night at the bar, it was pointed out to us that the brother of the movie's director was also at the bar, and that he had played a bit part in the movie. I suppose this sort of thing can happen all the time in LA or New York, but in Durham, I find it fairly extraordinary.

(I'm not mentioning who he is because he's not exactly a public person, I didn't meet him, and I think it would just be weird to blog about the dude's whereabouts. Also, I can't remember his name.)


life in the 21st century

M and I are planning to vacate to SE Asia at the end of the year (Thailand or Vietnam, most likely). We both feel the need to to be somewhere where blending in and having too easy of a time is essentially impossible. And eat, of course.

For my part, I just really, really want need to get to Asia. I've been to Europe a few times now (and barely scratched its surface) but something I can't quite articulate is pulling me east. I think in many ways, it's becoming increasingly clear that Europe is a great place to get in touch with the past, but Asia is where you get to see the future.

Anthony Bourdain (an undeniable influence on our thinking here) observes one of the many ways in which this certainly seems to be the case:

One of the great wonders of the New World Order is how you can find an internet connection, a cell phone signal, just about anywhere. At a tiny bed and breakfast in a far flung 16th century village in Yunnan Province, high speed wireless that beats what I’ve got in my apartment in New York City. At home, my cell phone kicks out every time I cross Central Park. But in the mountains of Szechuan Province - where they still cook over wood - four bars and clear as a bell. Underneath every djellabah, abaya, burka and kente cloth, it seems, lies a cell phone. In a one horse town in the Moroccan desert, dirt floors, fly-blown market, and little else - there’s an internet cafĂ©.

And yet, where I am now - on vacation in Sardinia - connection to the internet is a sometimes kind of a thing. It’s ITALY for God’s sake - in a rather luxurious hotel and spa in a mountain range near some major towns and yet, here I am, bent over my lap top in the lobby, the only place where there may (or more likely may not) be a signal.


fullsteam ahead!

Coming soon to a neighborhood near, um, me...Fullsteam Brewery!


belated ID4 fun

Sorry I didn't post this two days ago. (via)

three cheers for sunshine

A couple of months back I briefly mentioned the idea of double-blind peer review as one I found somewhat intriguing. In the linked discussion I wrote the following comment:

I’m in favor of double-blind review (and editors) for a simple reason: the only people that stand to lose from double-blind review are those that benefit from bias of one sort or another currently.


As an author, I know I’ve had papers triaged from journals that I just wasn’t “in” with, because they’ve published less careful work in the same area by people with connections to the editorial board.

Shorter this: to be anti-DBR is to be objectively pro-bias.

I still stand by that, but today I've had my first encounter with not only a different "alternative" review process, but in fact the exact opposite: open peer review, which is the practice of Biology Direct.

The reviewers are identified (from the start), and their comments and the authors' responses are included as part of the final publication. As a reader, I find this very, very useful. And the quality of reviewer comments is--perhaps unsurprisingly--quite a bit better than the slapdash style of criticism I find far too common in the (anonymous) peer review process.


I am happy to report that shortly after hearing news of the death of Jesse Helms on the radio, I took an early evening stroll in my Durham, NC neighborhood and witnessed peaceful mingling of races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and grill smells. In fact, you could say it was downright festive around here...


Every July 3rd or so, I remember that about a year ago I thought to myself "I really should get my hands on a Gadsden Flag to fly on the 4th," before giving up after realizing I wouldn't get my hands on one before the holiday.


things you don't want to hear your doctor say


--My allergist, upon reading the minefield of welts on my back following a skin test.

I am going to become rather well-acquainted with needles for a while...