Saturday, March 31, 2007
The path begins near the east end of 135th Street and winds through the pine and mangrove forest over a couple of foot bridges till it reaches a clearing. To the right (south) lies a submerged mangrove farm and the Arch Creek waterway leading into the Intracoastal. A bit farther east you can take an asphalt path shaded by sea grape trees and follow the water's edge northward to the FIU campus.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The park, together with the park across the tracks from it (Elaine Gordon Enchanted Forest), is great for bike-riding, which I plan to resume in order to lose a few pounds. I'm not buying any fat clothes (except for a pair of jeans I have to buy this weekend before visiting my father next week in Homosassa).
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
The premise of "The Riches" is that a gypsy family from Louisiana has broken away from its band and attempts to live a bourgeois life among the "buffers" (non-gypsies). See here and here. See Gypsy-Traveller website here.
My eyes really began to roll when the husband, who has a seventh-grade education*, lands a job as a lawyer at a real estate development company, and the non-schooled kids get into an expensive private school. Much as I appreciate the irony, I could never see that happening. I doubt that even the cleverest of gypsies could pull off scams like that (unless, of course, they have serious Republican connections).
*He got that far in school only because he's a half-breed gypsy; full-blooded gypsies don't attend school at all.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Made some great short ribs of beef in the crockpot this weekend. I used about 5 lbs. of ribs, 1 1/2 bottles of Open Pit barbecue sauce, a few slices of onion, a pinch of thyme, a smashed clove of garlic, a few juniper berries, and several gratings of black pepper. Easy and delicious.
Slept most of yesterday, though I did get up to prepare dinner, which, in addition to the ribs, included home-made mashed potatoes and frozen mixed vegetables. Cracked open a bottle of excellent Italian wine and finished drinking that after B. left for work. Then I went back to bed and didn't get up till 11:30 this morning. I guess I needed some sleep. I'd stayed up till the crack of dawn the previous night (not uncommon for me) working on the Doris Duke blog post. Was fun.
Recorded Rome tonite to watch later with B., while I did laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. Today I also did a minor home improvement project--seems like nothing but pleases me--affixing a shower rod in the bathroom where we shower. We had removed the grungy glass shower doors awhile back and hung up a nice heavy curtain on one of those spring rods, which gouged the walls and kept slipping and causing even more damage. So I recently found some Closet Maid brackets to hold the rod and installed them today. This will do, at least temporarily. I'd like to eventually remove the original fiberglass tub enclosure and get a porcelain tub and have the walls tiled. I have nothing against the fiberglass but it's old and not in the best of shape. I'm sure the next buyer of this place would appreciate an improvement.
Later, we watched Rome. Great ending to the series.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I thought this was a cool website. I never knew that Doris Duke was into Islamic art and architecture, apparently from the time she visited the Taj Mahal when she was in her 20's. (I really enjoyed the movie about her starring Lauren Bacall.)
[H]e was supremely well endowed: "There is no way around saying it out loud: The man was well-hung, hung, indeed, legendarily, his superhuman endowment a calling card that recommended him to circles into which he might otherwise never have gained admittance. Women heard about it, wondered about it, whispered about it, had to see it . . . and who was he to deny them?" The rest of what Levy has to say about this matter probably shouldn't be quoted in a family newspaper; suffice it to say that Rubirosa knew how to get the job done and had the equipment to do it. [More here]
I read that Doris spoke in a "soft high breathy voice (remember Jackie)"--an "affectation among the wealthy" (??)--at any rate, unlike Lauren Bacall.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Heard about this on the Today Show this morning. This is from a Newsweek article ("Can Exercise Make You Smarter?" by Mary Carmichael) linked to the Today Show site:
The process starts in the muscles. Every time a bicep or quad contracts and releases, it sends out chemicals, including a protein called IGF-1 that travels through the bloodstream, across the blood-brain barrier and into the brain itself. There, IGF-1 takes on the role of foreman in the body's neurotransmitter factory. It issues orders to ramp up production of several chemicals, including one called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. Ratey, author of the upcoming book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," calls this molecule "Miracle-Gro for the brain." It fuels almost all the activities that lead to higher thought.
With regular exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain's nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. . . .
Most people maintain fairly constant levels of BDNF in adulthood. But as they age, their individual neurons slowly start to die off. Until the mid-'90s, scientists thought the loss was permanent—that the brain couldn't make new nerve cells to replace the dead ones. But animal studies over the last decade have overturned that assumption, showing that "neurogenesis" in some parts of the brain can be induced easily with exercise. Last week's study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, extended that principle to humans for the first time. . . .
In Small and Gage's experiment, the new neurons created by exercise cropped up in only one place: the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, an area that controls learning and memory. This region, tucked under the temporal lobes, helps the brain match names to faces—one of the first skills to erode as we age. Fortunately, the hippocampus is especially responsive to BDNF's effects, and exercise seems to restore it to a healthier, "younger" state. "It's not just a matter of slowing down the aging process," says Arthur Kramer, a psychologist at the University of Illinois. "It's a matter of reversing it." Kramer's work also has implications for the frontal lobes, the seat of "executive functioning"—a type of higher thought that entails decision-making, multitasking and planning ahead. With scanning technology, he has found that exercise causes the frontal lobes to increase in size. . . .
Monday, March 19, 2007
From today's NYT, "Don't Cry for Reagan":
Why is there such a strong family resemblance between the Reagan years and recent events? Mr. Reagan’s administration, like Mr. Bush’s, was run by movement conservatives — people who built their careers by serving the alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. And both cronyism and abuse of power are part of the movement conservative package.
In part this is because people whose ideology says that government is always the problem, never the solution, see no point in governing well. So they use political power to reward their friends, rather than find people who will actually do their jobs.
If expertise is irrelevant, who gets the jobs? No problem: the interlocking, lavishly financed institutions of movement conservatism, which range from K Street to Fox News, create a vast class of apparatchiks who can be counted on to be “loyal Bushies.”
The movement’s apparatchik culture, in turn, explains much of its contempt for the rule of law. Someone who has risen through the ranks of a movement that prizes political loyalty above all isn’t likely to balk at, say, using bogus claims of voter fraud to disenfranchise Democrats, or suppressing potentially damaging investigations of Republicans. As Franklin Foer of The New Republic has pointed out, in College Republican elections, dirty tricks and double crosses are considered acceptable, even praiseworthy.
Still, Mr. Reagan’s misgovernment never went as far as Mr. Bush’s. As a result, he managed to leave office with an approval rating about as high as that of Bill Clinton, who, as we now realize with the benefit of hindsight, governed very well. But the key to Reagan’s relative success, I believe, is that he was lucky in his limitations.
Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Reagan never controlled both houses of Congress — and the pre-Gingrich Republican Party still contained moderates who imposed limits on his ability to govern badly. Also, there was no Reagan-era equivalent of the rush, after 9/11, to give the Bush administration whatever it wanted in the name of fighting terrorism.
Mr. Reagan may even have been helped, perversely, by the fact that in the 1980s there were still two superpowers. This helped prevent the hubris, the delusions of grandeur, that led the Bush administration to believe that a splendid little war in Iraq was just the thing to secure its position.
But what this tells us is that Mr. Bush, not Mr. Reagan, is the true representative of what modern conservatism is all about. And it’s the movement, not just one man, that has failed.
Heck of a job, George W.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
From today's NYT column ("The Ides of March 2003") by Frank Rich:
TOMORROW night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush’s prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it’s an eternity. That’s why a revisionist history of the White House’s rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same “bad intelligence” before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion’s aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. “If only I had known then what I know now ...” has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration’s case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look. . . . [emphasis mine]
From another NYT article, "Without a Doubt," by Ron Suskind (October 17, 2004):
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'' . . .
Sounds fantastic, doesn't it, almost insane. The reality is that, when you study what they do, you see they've been lying all along, and the now horrified public has finally caught on.
Friday, March 16, 2007
B. went to Miami Beach with some co-workers to see a band (one of the co-workers plays in the band). I would have gone but I have to get up for work tomorrow. Just finished watching "Queer as Folk" on Logo. Now it's quiet.
I read an interesting article by John McPhee in the 3/12 New Yorker titled "Season on the Chalk," about the chalk deposits that extend from southeast England into France and Holland. I've seen the White Cliffs of Dover but I never knew how extensive the chalk deposits were. The grapes that go into the making of champagne grow on vines rooted in chalk, and tunnels burrowed into the chalk hold more than a billion bottles of champagne. "Europe's chalk deposits started to accumulate some hundred million years ago," the article says. "They grew at the rate of about a millimetre per century until they were more than three hundred metres thick."
Over in England, they have carved enormous figures into the chalk mountains ("downs"). The White Horse of Uffington is 374 feet long. The Cerne Abbas Giant (also called the Rude Man) is 184 feet tall, with an erect penis 30 feet long and testicles 10 feet wide. "English couples ascend the hill, lie down on the giant, and couple. Women who wish to conceive spend a night alone on the penis," the article says. The carvings date back centuries. I guess some Puritans disapprove, however, and propose something more modest.*
*Not really. That's just a gag.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Tonight, for lack of anything better to do, I read another installment of the seemingly endless debate on religious belief between atheist Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan. It made me think of something Ludwig Wittgenstein said. From Wikipedia:
[In Propositions [sic] 6 of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein] begins talking of the will, life after death, and God. In his examination of these issues he argues that all discussion of them is a misuse of logic. Specifically, since logical language can only reflect the world, any discussion of the mystical, that which lies outside of the metaphysical subject's world, is meaningless.
And for the last Proposition, No. 7, Wittgenstein writes: "What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence." * Amen.
*(In German: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.")
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
Gay Neighborhoods Worry Over Identity
By the way, Miami no longer has a gay neighborhood at all. The gays used to live in the Grove, but that became gentrified. The same thing has happened in South Beach (I lived there briefly in the '80s). That's progress, I guess. You have to move up to Wilton Manors in Broward County to live in a gay neighborhood.
As for gay bars, there used to lots of them all over Miami, including several right downtown. The first gay bar I ever went to was El Carol, on LeJeune Rd. just outside Coral Gables. A block north of there was the Second Landing (upstairs). A few blocks east, on 8th St., was the cavernous Warehouse 8. Downtown were the Double R, Roxie's 5 & Dime (also a gay hotel--later Fusions and then Mother's), the Mineshaft, and Uncle Charlie's (which later moved to Bird & Douglas Rds.). There was also 13 Buttons on the River at around 27th Ave. This was before all the clubs opened up on the Beach in the '80s, though there had been a few gay bars there (e.g., El Pub (?) off Lincoln Rd. just east of Alton).
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Made the quesadillas today. They were excellent. (B. loved them.) I'd never made them before. I used some sirloin steak I'd first marinated in Teriyaki and then cooked on the Foreman grill last weekend and frozen (about a pound). I thawed that out and sliced it into thin strips. Then I threw the strips back onto the Foreman grill to heat up for a couple of minutes and let some of the juice run out. I also sliced up half a bell pepper and some onion and threw that onto the grill, separately, for about 9 minutes to cook through and get a little char. I then sprinkled some chili powder on top.
I shredded about a pound of equal parts of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar cheese and made guacamole with one Hass avocado mashed up with a fork with some lime juice, sour cream, salt, and more chili powder.
I brushed 6 8" flour tortillas with a little canola oil and browned them on both sides (on medium low heat) in a large skillet, flattening them out with a spatula.
Then I assembled each quesadilla in the frying pan (off the burner). Atop one tortilla, I put first a layer of cheese, then strips of pepper and onion, the steak, another layer of cheese, and lastly placed a second tortilla on top of that. I then returned the frying pan to the burner. The point at this stage is basically to melt the cheese inside and generally heat everything through. To turn the quesadilla over without it falling apart (I was afraid I'd create a mess and I was a little pressed for time*), I removed it to a paper plate, then put another paper plate on top of that, then turned the whole thing over and removed it back to the frying pan with the spatula. I let it brown for a few minutes on each side with the lid on, gently pressing the quesadilla down with the spatula as I went. Ingredients make 3 quesadillas.
After slicing each quesadilla into quarters with a pizza cutter, I topped each slice with with a dollop each of sour cream, chunky salsa, and the guacamole. As B. said, excelente.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Fun to read about the Latin Americans' reception of George Bush. (Tonite I was driving around and listening to Mike Malloy on Air America. He said the Maya in Guatemala were going to have to purify the place after George Bush's visit, since they consider George Bush some kind of evil force for his war mongering [or words to that effect].) Glad I went to the gym tonight -- it's been a week. Not glad I'll be turning 54 in a week. Dad will be turning 85 next week; bought him a card. Pissed that we're going back to Daylight Savings Time -- it takes me a week for my body to re-adjust to that. Glad I did my shopping to make quesadillas for lunch tomorrow -- never made them before but don't seem difficult. What else? Getting tired.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
I was thinking tonight about this article I read in Salon a while back, so I went and re-read it. From the article:
From a biological point of view, there are lots of different theories about why we have this extraordinary predisposition to believe in supernatural things. One suggestion is that the child mind is, for very good Darwinian reasons, susceptible to infection the same way a computer is. In order to be useful, a computer has to be programmable, to obey whatever it's told to do. That automatically makes it vulnerable to computer viruses, which are programs that say, "Spread me, copy me, pass me on." Once a viral program gets started, there is nothing to stop it.
Similarly, the child brain is preprogrammed by natural selection to obey and believe what parents and other adults tell it. In general, it's a good thing that child brains should be susceptible to being taught what to do and what to believe by adults. But this necessarily carries the down side that bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas like rain dances and other religious customs, will also be passed down the generations. The child brain is very susceptible to this kind of infection. And it also spreads sideways by cross infection when a charismatic preacher goes around infecting new minds that were previously uninfected.
What got me to thinking about that again was Andrew Sullivan's ongoing debate with atheist Sam Harris. I've read a few installments, and that's enough for me. I personally don't find it all that interesting or useful.
Andrew Sullivan, who was born in England (in 1963) and is gay, professes to be a good Catholic and a true conservative. He also has a lot of valuable education. (Wikipedia bio here.) While I think he's been bad for our country (and for gays) and at times wish he would return to England, I still find it interesting to watch him, to observe his "child brain"--infected with "bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas" emanating from his religion--in constant struggle with his homosexuality and intellect.