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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Going to Peru

So, I'm going to Peru on Saturday morning. In rushing through the end of the term and Christmas, it hasn't really sunk in that I'm about to make my first-ever trip to the southern hemisphere, and I'll be there for two weeks.

There is surprisingly little advance planning at work here. Femi and I have tickets down there, and have booked a side trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu for a few days, but that's it. Because we're staying with Karen, who lives there (in Lima), we have the option of not doing much planning. (We are planning to go to her family's beach house for part of the time, however, probably for New Years.) Hopefully I will recover some of my Spanish, too...

I got a new digital camera, so I should be able to take plenty of pictures. I will post some updates here while I'm gone if I have internet access, or when I get back otherwise.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


If there were any doubt about the pull that Iraq is exerting on national politics:

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Best Videos of the Year

A sort of nasty, rainy drive today, but I'm here in Connecticut now for Christmas.

Anyway, everybody loves year-end lists, right? I thought I'd make one of the Ten Best Videos I Found on YouTube In 2006. They sort of get joint consideration for music and video, with video being the larger part. No particular order.

Daft Punk - Technologic > A very well-executed paranoid-creepy vibe.
RJD2 - Since '76 > This is a great song, and the video is very slick.
Royksopp - Remind Me > A very impressive piece of work.
They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start > This captures the personality of the band very well.
Blur - Good Song > When the guy tries to leaf-blow the dead squirrel, it somehow just hits the nail right on the head...
Talking Heads - Once In a Lifetime > If there were any doubt that David Byrne is totally awesome...
OK GO - Here It Goes Again > Eight treadmills make an instant classic.
The Vines - Ride > Michel Gondry is the master of 1) coming up with really good concepts for music videos, and 2) executing them really well.
Radiohead - No Surprises > This video is a perfect mate for its song.
Wolf Parade - Modern World > A very cool stop-motion video.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More videos

I have added two videos on YouTube, both silent and taken with my old digital camera in 2002. One shows geese running away as I chase them off Mai Fete Island, the other shows a few of us doing a very nice bike wave while on the Cannon Falls Trail.


The "Most Emailed Articles" list on NY Times is just on fire today:

Say Yes To Mess provides some interesting thoughts on the nature of mess and handy justifications for my own pathological messiness.

An op-ed column titled The Devoted Student draws an insightful parallel between political correctness and "religious correctness" and makes an articulate plea for nuance and doubt.

For the Uninitiated: A Pancake Primer gives the rundown I've always wanted on how to tweak pancakes every which ways. I don't agree with him on the bananas, though -- for my money, raspberries picked from behind Doug's house are the addition of choice.

Congressman Criticizes Election of Muslim highlights the ridiculously mean-spirited and xenophobic reaction of Virginia congressman Virgil Goode to Keith Ellison's decision to use a Koran instead of a Bible at a swearing-in ceremony. Ellison was just elected from my old district in MN, and this also happens to provide him a nice opportunity to sound intelligent and reasonable on a national stage.

Anyway, re: my last post, I slept for more than 12 hours last night...I was late for work, but I think it was worth it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Worn out

Man, the last couple weeks sure have been murderous. It suddenly became apparent that my innocuous-seeming thesis research (talking to participants in the policy process about a bill that passed last year) had to go before the Institutional Review Board for human subjects research, meaning that I had to scurry to get together all manner of research plans, data protection plans, informed consent scripts, etc., etc., to get the stamp of approval. They moved quickly, and I got my approval Monday, but it put the brakes on my interviewing process. Rest assured that all my records are now kept under lock and key, be it physical or digital, and interviewees are informed that there are no benefits to them personally from participating in my study...

And of course it's the end of the semester. By my tally, I produced 51 pages* of written products for finals between last Thursday afternoon and this afternoon (two all-nighters in there). Meanwhile, we've been busy at work, so I've been keeping up my schedule there, too. I just came back from my last class at Public Health for the semester, and I now have only one smallish final remaining, for Ethics, and it's due...the day after Christmas. I think I'm going to try and do it tomorrow. Anyway, all that whining adds up to big relief that I'll be heading to Connecticut for Christmas on Friday. It will be a welcome relief and visit. And about a week later, I can hardly believe, I'll be going to Peru!

*Since I seem to be into dividing totals across time lately, that comes out to a bit more than a third of a page every hour for all 6 days in that period.

Monday, December 11, 2006

You've got to be kidding

Tom DeLay has started a blog! No, I'm not kidding.
It is a regrettable fact of the current American political age that too many Republicans have failed to continue an aggressive fight for the principles which bring us together as Republicans and as conservatives.

Really, Tom? Pardon me while my head explodes.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Google ads on the radio

This is pretty amazing, if you ask me. Because of all the practical barriers (poor information, inaccessible markets, etc), most industries operate a long way from how economic theory would like to think they do. This is part of the reason that I frequently see people with a "the market can solve any problem" attitude as being silly and obnoxious. However, Google and technology in general are rapidly bringly lots of things closer to theory...


From the NY Times article about the political landscape regarding Iraq after the Iraq Study Group report [pdf]:
“You know, bipartisanship simply means Republicans cave on their core principles and agree with Democrats,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his program this week. “That’s why everybody is praising the stupid report."

That's as good an indication as anything of how things have changed since the election, isn't it?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Food, glorious food

I've spent more time than usual thinking about food in the past few months. Not sure why, exactly, but I've noticed the trend.

Not that I have a lot of time to make decent food these days. So it's a good thing that this is a big week in takeout food here in Charles Village. For one, today is opening day for the new Chipotle in the condo development on St. Paul Street. Much as I resent its yuppifying influence and McDonalds ties, I have to admit that it's a pretty good, pretty big burrito for $5.50.

More satisfyingly, I stumbled upon this new counter service Trinidadian place only a couple blocks from our house. Susie and I both tried it last night, and it's really good. The co-owner is this very friendly guy who took the time to explain all of the stuff we were ordering, and to pack little containers of their four chutneys/salsas (hot, mild, mango and tamarind) for us to try with our roti (flat bread with stuff on top). I got the veggie one, and it came with an enormous mound of seasoned green beans, pumpkin, squash, chickpeas, potatoes and some greens I didn't recognize. It was delicious, though the hot chutney nearly incapacitated both of us. Anyway, I think I'll be heading there every week or so.

Now I've made myself really hungry, of course...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Saab longevity

The Star Tribune notes a traveling salesman who drove his 1989 Saab 900 SPG for more than a million miles (in snowy Wisconsin, no less). When it says he bought another Saab to replace it, I assume that means he bought another classic, pre-1994 900, since the GM influence hasn't been so good for character or reliability.

Hopefully my 1992 900 will be with me for a while to come (it's got 186,000 miles, but I'm not placing any bets on a million). I confess to wanting a classic 900 SPG, the performance version of the car, but it would not be a sensible move...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Plans made

A couple weeks ago I said that I was offered a job. Well, today I accepted it -- so it's definitely off to DC next year.

I'm thinking of living in Capitol Hill/Eastern Market, where the bike ride to work would only be about a mile and a half. Anyway, the nice part is that I have plenty of time to plan this move...

A music video triumph

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, I found this Lionel Ritchie video. It features the most spectacularly awkward opening and closing transitions from scene-setting to music video ever. It also features a character whose name is "Tony Billy Boy."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

13.5% of my life

Okay, this is pretty cool:

In a fit of extreme procrastination, I discovered this afternoon that you can export the listings from your iTunes library to a text format that can be read by Excel. This includes things like the count that it keeps of how many times you've played a given song.

It also happens that all my iTunes info got transferred from my old computer to my new one, so this doesn't just reflect the last 6 months of listening -- I think the version of iTunes that keeps track of the times played came out in September 2002. I realized that by having Excel multiply each song's length by its play count, I could get the total amount of time spent listening to that song in the last 4+ years. From there, I could add them up to see how much time I've spent with iTunes. Some interesting stats:

Time spent listening to iTunes since September 2002:
17,877,222 seconds
297,954 minutes
4,965.9 hours
206.9 days
13.5% of my life during that period

Whoa. 207 days! And that doesn't even count time spent with my iPod, or listening to CDs on the stereo, which are also substantial. It's not completely accurate, because I've eliminated some songs from my library, and I've occasionally left iTunes playing while I'm away from my computer...but it's only off by a percent or so in either direction, I would guess. So I've spent a lot of time listening to music.

The song I've spent the longest amount of time listening to is "White Lies, Yellow Teeth" by Modest Mouse, at 8.7 hours. This makes sense, because it's an unreleased song by my favorite band (thus one I want to listen to but can't on CD). On average, I've listened to each of my 4,273 songs 69.7 minutes apiece.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

> Love Is All - Ageing Had Never Been His Friend
> Fog - Pneumonia [mp3]
> Weezer - Say It Ain't So [YouTube] (Note: Linked video contains the most-non-sequitur use of hacky sack footage ever.)
> Xiu Xiu - I Love the Valley OH!
> Rage Against the Machine - Sleep Now In the Fire [YouTube]
> The Halo Benders - Foggy Bottom [mp2, no kidding]
> Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City [YouTube]

That Springsteen video is really nice. Too bad the Rage Against the Machine one is so amusingly crappy.

Love Is All is the band that opened for Tilly and the Wall when I saw them in October, they're from Sweden. I bought their CD at the show, and it's really great. The track I list above isn't available for free, but another, Talk Talk Talk Talk, is.

I don't think the mp3 for Pneumonia used to be available for free online, you really ought to grab that.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thanksgiving, MMJ

Thanksgiving was really nice. It was great to see everyone -- especially Dad, since at this time last year he had just been admitted to the hospital (he's doing well, though not yet completely recovered). We had 17 people (some from each side of the family) over for dinner. I also found out that a couple of my young cousins are really quite good at ping pong.

It was nice to get out of the city, too -- I seldom leave Baltimore, so being in the woodsy setting of Guilford is a nice change; we took a hike up to the bluff, and I took a ride on some of the trails.

I bought an Amtrak ticket at the last minute on a "Holiday Special" train to NYC and it turned out to be one of the MARC commuter trains that I rode all summer, but all the way to New York. (I took Metro North to New Haven.) Kind of a drag, but it wasn't very crowded, which certainly wouldn't have been the case with the actual Amtrak trains. When I rode back to Baltimore with Jaclyn on Sunday, getting through all 20 or so miles of Delaware took a couple hours.

Then, on Tuesday night I went to see My Morning Jacket at the 9:30 Club in DC, again with Jaclyn. They were really great -- it was the third time I've seen them, so it's not like that was a surprise, but that didn't make it any less awesome. I was pleased that they played "Phone Went West," which is very impressive live. Here's a clip of them playing Letterman a few months back; they played this song on Tuesday, but they Boston Pops weren't there, and the band weren't in tuxedoes...