Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Hillary Stumbles At Debate"??

I didn't watch the debate last night but I read this recap on The Left Coaster. I highly recommend it. After seeing how the media treated Al Gore during the 2000 elections, I no longer trust them. The minute I walked into the house after work today and turned on the CBS News, I was rather surprised to see this. Please do read the Left Coaster piece.

Continuation from Previous Post (see "Monday Night" Below)

I hope we've all learned, by having this essentially illegitimate presidency, that the media is not doing its Constitutionally-mandated job (for whatever reason) and we have to be especially vigilant as a democracy, on account of our media's dereliction of its duty, and get out and vote in big numbers. The media, I seriously think (and I'm not the only one), is solely responsible for this administration being and continuing to be in power. What a disaster when the media doesn't live up to its Constitutional duty. That's truly un-American.

Family Values Crowd in Australia Has Its Problems, Too

Heard this morning on The Stephanie Miller Show: "Candidate drops out of election over nude photos on gay sites". Priceless.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Downtown Miami Pix

The Metromover passes through a new condo building. Unless I have time to walk (and it's not raining), I take the "Mover" from the bus stop at Miami Community College to my office.

Tents are set up and ready to be moved into place for the Book Fair at Miami Community College (across the street at right).

The balloon from the Metromover.

I always liked the multifaceted top of this building (now the Wachovia Financial Center). This is the tallest building in Florida.

At this time of year, you'll usually see giant buzzards circling the top of the building. (They fly down every year from Ohio.) Today was apparently too windy for them to be out (Hurricane Noel is in the area).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Night

Had a good weekend (wasn't on call--always good). I did make a load of goulash, plus the meatloaf. The goulash turned out great. It's very similar to that shown in the video (below), but I made a much larger batch, with 3 1/2 lbs. bottom round (I carved up a whole roast into cubes).

As for politics, I'm so glad George Bush's administration is winding down and the Democrats are on the ascendant. I heave a huge sigh of relief. I'm just worried about what this administration plans to do in Iran--go out with a bang? (It would be just another mistake by this bungling administration that's so out of touch with the American people. Ideological (vs. realistic) thinking doesn't serve this or any other country well. You'd think we'd have learned that.) I hope we've all learned, by having this essentially illegitimate presidency, that [TO BE CONTINUED--my brain is crashing. I'm tired.].

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"The Perfect Meatloaf"

Trying (and failing) to make it has been the bane of my existence (!), but I think tonight I hit upon it. I've been trying to recreate my aunt's crusty meatloaf for years. Here's my recipe. (Yes, this blog is turning into a cooking show--I'm so tired of politics). The recipe is pretty simple, too.

2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1/2 - 2/3 large onion, finely chopped (I use red onions)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic power

Mix thoroughly by hand in a large bowl (take your jewelry off first) and bake at 400 degrees for one hour or so (till it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees) on top of bread slices in a shallow roasting pan. Then remove the bread and broil the meatloaf till crusty. (The measurements are approximate. I just threw it all together--in somewhat of a Bacchic frenzy--without really measuring anything.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sexy Goulash Recipe

Video here. He says he made the goulash while he was naked (see the end).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Pix

It was rainy today. Fortunately I didn't get wet.

Slide Mantra with balloon in the background.

Challenger Memorial. Hotel Intercontinental at left, new apartment buildings, Miami Center office building.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Foggy Day In...

One of the bad photos from this afternoon. Camera lens clouded over from the humidity after leaving the air-conditioned office. The balloon is there, but you can't see it. In the foreground is a spiraling white marble slide designed by Isamu Noguchi, who designed the park in its present incarnation. I'll try to get a better shot of that, too. Believe it or not, the slide was blown apart a couple of years ago during one of the hurricanes and eventually restored. Below is a similar slide in Sapporo, Japan ("Black Slide Mantra").

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Miami Balloon To Be Safe

Again, from the same Herald article:

"They should not have flown," Funnen said of the incidents. "If a pilot in a jumbo jet receives a severe weather warning, he's not going to take off."

To avoid similar problems, SkyLift hired an operator with eight years['] experience running another Lindstrand balloon. Three engineers from the British company are conducting safety inspections.

At the Bayfront site, a ground operator will monitor computerized weather data, including reports from the control tower at Miami International Airport, Funnen said. With a generator, back-up winches and even a manual crank for the steel tether, Funnen said workers can get the balloon down even if equipment fails. . . .

Balloon Horror Stories

From the same Herald article (please see post below):

The stakes are high: When 50 mph wind gusts caught operators of a similar balloon ride by surprise three years ago in Baltimore, 17 people on board were trapped for nearly two hours as the gondola thrashed in the air and hit a nearby building. The ride -- made by Lindstrand, the same British manufacturer that sold SkyLift its balloon -- never reopened, according to media reports.

Less than seven days later, a tourist fell to her death out of the gondola on a similar Lindstrand tethered balloon in Lucerne, Switzerland, when it was caught in an unexpected wind gust, according to a Swiss government report. . . .

Balloon Over Miami

I work in downtown Miami, and I'd been wondering what this thing was, sitting on the fountain in Bayfront Park. So I dug up an article in the Miami Herald archives:

New York has the Empire State Building, Seattle the Space Needle. Now investors are weeks away from bringing Miami its own spot for a bird's-eye view of the city: a helium balloon floating 50 stories in the sky.

Workers inflated the 73-foot-tall Miami SkyLift Balloon last week at its permanent home atop the Bayfront Park fountain, where a steel cable will bring it up and down four times an hour.

About 30 people can ride the gondola as it climbs 500 feet into the air, an altitude near the top of the downtown skyline.

Already the SkyLift balloon looks like a giant Ping-Pong ball come to rest in Bayfront Park. But once the 15-minute rides begin in the next several weeks, the owners predict the spectacle of a white orb above the city will make SkyLift a must-do for vacationers. . . .

(Article by DOUGLAS HANKS, 9/14/07)

Apparently this has been in the works for years. (I also found a Miami Today article from 2005.) I just don't read the local papers anymore, much less subscribe to the Herald, as I used to. I was tired of getting my hands dirty, plus I get all the information I need these days over the Internet (including archived Herald articles).

Needless to say, I won't be going up in the balloon. That would be torture. [Note to George Bush: Threaten to put me in a balloon and I'll say anything you want.] I assume they've figured out how to secure it when a hurricane comes.

Tomorrow I'll take my own shot of the balloon sitting in the fountain. I think it looks cool. [Update: My picture inserted above. I took it this morning before getting to the office. I tried to take some shots when I got off work, but the lens was clouded over from the camera's sitting inside the dry A/C all day and then hitting the humidity outside. I would have waited around for the lens to clear up but my bus came along right away. I'll try again another day.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dancing Cockatoo

Check it out! (Sent to me by Sophia.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday Was Cooking

Even though I was on-call today (always a bummer), I managed to get back into my element (i.e., cooking in my great kitchen). Last night and today I made some killer barbecued pork out of a Boston Butt roast (on sale), which I all but cremated in the crock pot overnight and today picked apart, excising all visible fat, and mixed with barbecue sauce and served for lunch. B. loved it (with a side dish of Publix Southern-Style potato salad doctored up with some lime juice and dill relish).

I also made a load of guacamole today. One of B's customers had given us some large avocados (not the small California kind, though they're OK). (I grew up in Florida with avocado "pears," as they were called--enormous, smooth-skinned, green [on the outside, vs. black] avocados.) I used one of those, along with two rather small "ugly tomatoes" (more expensive than the pretty ones but a helluva tastier and bright red on the inside), half a red onion, a clove of garlic, a lot of fresh lime juice, a lot of chili powder, some hot sauce, black pepper, and salt. Put it all in the food processor and made it into a smooth cream. It came out fantastic. I ate half of it for dinner, with white corn chips. [We also used it on tacos the next day. We prefer the Old El Paso taco kit.]

I also made a load of vegetable beef soup. (For some reason, B. hates soup, so it's his loss.) I used three pounds of stew beef, cut up into smaller, bite-sized pieces; a large can of crushed tomatoes; two cans of double-rich beef bouillon plus two cans of water; a bag of broccoli slaw; one leek, white and green part (cleaned of dirt [seriously]) sliced; one parsnip sliced; one turnip diced; one carrot sliced; one stalk of celery sliced; 3/4 tsp. marjoram; 3/4 tsp. thyme; a bay leaf; about 4 tbsp. chopped fresh dill; 1/4 cup dried beans; lots of salt; some ground pepper; and water to cover. I added about 1/2 cup pasta at the end and let that get tender, along with more fresh dill. (I used to add Locatelli Peccorino Romano cheese to this but it tastes just as good without the added fat, calories, and cholesterol [still I suggest it].) Came out great.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Guacamole Recipe

The video. As long as I've been googling recipes, I never came across a video before. I was impressed!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Brouhaha Over Hillary's Laugh (Pun Intended)


The sound of Hillary’s laughter, accompanied by urgent analyses thereof, has since been echoing from the tar pits of the Internet to the lofty peaks of the major mainstream media. It began with surprising amiability, on none other than “Fox News Sunday,” just after that program’s contribution to the Ginsburg. Chatting with the interviewer, Chris Wallace, about the way Clinton had burst out laughing at the opening question (which was about why she has “a hyper-partisan view of politics”), Wallace’s colleague Brit Hume remarked that her laugh “is always disarming, always engaging, and always attractive.”

By midafternoon, the Republican National Committee had rushed out a corrective to Hume’s lapse into graciousness: an electronic “research briefing” titled “Hillary: No Laughing Matter.” It was studded with subheads like “When Asked Whether Her Plan Is a Step Toward Socialized Medicine, Hillary Giggles Uncontrollably” and festooned with video clips of the former First Lady engaged in giggle-related activities. From then on, the commentary alternated between judgments of the quality of the candidate’s laughter and assessments of its hidden meaning. . . .

(As Jon Stewart, the well-known humor expert, noted in the course of his own riff on the Clinton laugh situation, being called hyper-partisan by Fox News is, to borrow his word, “funny.”) Hillary’s laugh is unusually uninhibited for a politician—especially, perhaps, for a female politician. It is indeed a belly laugh, if not a “big belly” laugh, and it compares favorably with the incumbent Presidential laugh, a series of rapid “heh-hehs,” at once threatening and insipid, accompanied by an exaggerated, arrhythmic bouncing of head and shoulders in opposite directions. . . .

(From The New Yorker.)

'GOP Leader Faces Charges for Sexual Encounters With Minor'

That would be a male GOP leader and a male minor. Story here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

'How much is a life worth?'

Excellent story on expensive cancer drugs. It's long but highly informative, touching on the ethics in the pricing of life-saving drugs in the U.S.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vatican Bigwig in the Closet?

"Vatican Official Insists He's Not Gay". How much higher-up can these scandals go?

Kitchen Ceiling Project--Final Remarks

The guy got it 95% right, but failed in the finishing touches. I really don't want him back here. After the good job he'd done framing it all out and installing the recessed lighting, he left dings in the drywall and then painted the ceiling with regular ceiling paint, as opposed to kitchen and bath paint. Grease spatters are now appearing on the ceiling and soaking in. Unfortunately I wasn't supervising the final stages of the project, and B. didn't know any better.

Now I'll have to go back and spackle, sand, then prime it all over and repaint with the right paint. Not a big deal, but this job was expensive (and for the price, I think it should have been done right).

Bad Movie Night

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This Is Very Disturbing

Via Chris at Americablog.

Friday Night Late

We enjoyed the Lisa Williams psychic program tonight (actually, she describes herself foremost as a "medium," since all she does is communicate with dead people (and always has), rather than make predictions about the future). We also watched the new psychic challenge program (kind of like "Designers Challenge") afterwards. By then we were a little psychicked-out and watched something totally different--"What Not to Wear." (Quite a good make-over, for a New Yorican teacher who had been exposing her boobs too much.) B. went to bed afterwards. I then watched an excellent program on Marco Polo on A&E, without ads (!).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Krugman on the Frosts

October 12, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Sliming Graeme Frost
Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured.
What followed should serve as a teaching moment.
First, some background. The Frosts and their four children are exactly the kind of people S-chip was intended to help: working Americans who can’t afford private health insurance.
The parents have a combined income of about $45,000, and don’t receive health insurance from employers. When they looked into buying insurance on their own before the accident, they found that it would cost $1,200 a month — a prohibitive sum given their income. After the accident, when their children needed expensive care, they couldn’t get insurance at any price.
Fortunately, they received help from Maryland’s S-chip program. The state has relatively restrictive rules for eligibility: children must come from a family with an income under 200 percent of the poverty line. For families with four children that’s $55,220, so the Frosts clearly qualified.
Graeme Frost, then, is exactly the kind of child the program is intended to help. But that didn’t stop the right from mounting an all-out smear campaign against him and his family.
Soon after the radio address, right-wing bloggers began insisting that the Frosts must be affluent because Graeme and his sister attend private schools (they’re on scholarship), because they have a house in a neighborhood where some houses are now expensive (the Frosts bought their house for $55,000 in 1990 when the neighborhood was rundown and considered dangerous) and because Mr. Frost owns a business (it was dissolved in 1999).
You might be tempted to say that bloggers make unfounded accusations all the time. But we’re not talking about some obscure fringe. The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News.
The attack on Graeme’s family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney.
And G.O.P. politicians were eager to join in the smear. The New York Times reported that Republicans in Congress “were gearing up to use Graeme as evidence that Democrats have overexpanded the health program to include families wealthy enough to afford private insurance” but had “backed off” as the case fell apart.
In fact, however, Republicans had already made their first move: an e-mail message from the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, sent to reporters and obtained by the Web site Think Progress, repeated the smears against the Frosts and asked: “Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?”
And the attempt to spin the media worked, to some extent: despite reporting that has thoroughly debunked the smears, a CNN report yesterday suggested that the Democrats had made “a tactical error in holding up Graeme as their poster child,” and closely echoed the language of the e-mail from Mr. McConnell’s office.
All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they’re “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he’s faking his Parkinson’s symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he’s a fraud.
Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.
Politics aside, the Graeme Frost case demonstrates the true depth of the health care crisis: every other advanced country has universal health insurance, but in America, insurance is now out of reach for many hard-working families, even if they have incomes some might call middle-class.
And there’s one more point that should not be forgotten: ultimately, this isn’t about the Frost parents. It’s about Graeme Frost and his sister.
I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children.

Lisa Williams, Psychic

We're looking forward to the new season of this show. It starts here tomorrow (while I'm at the gym, so I'll tape it). While I can't stand religion, with all its hocus-pocus, I find this interesting. (She's good.)

Lisa has a website here.

Digby Lets 'Em Have It Re: The Frost Family

The Republicans believe that people should be completely destitute, living in a one room shack and working two jobs before they "deserve" subsidized health insurance. The middle class who are one car accident or one cancer diagnosis away from losing their jobs, being unable to afford either the cadillac COBRA plans from their employers (my last one here in California was $1700.00 a month and I'm healthy) must not be allowed to keep ANY assets.They must be, as Steyn's pal wrote, "dying on the streets with sores on their bodies" before they qualify for aid.

But, of course, neither will they necessarily even be able to buy private health insurance at any price even if they do live in a one room apartment with their four kids and work two jobs. (I was turned down recently because I had had gum surgery in 1996.)

This is the world in which we live. Insurance companies only want to cover young, healthy or rich people. And even if you manage to pay the expensive premiums with huge deductibles, they will try to find a way to avoid paying for your care anyway. That's the way it works. If you are lucky enough to have health insurance at your employer you'd better hope you never lose that job. More importantly, you'd better hope you never get sick.

One of the things these snotty critics fail to acknowledge is that even if the Frosts had had private health insurance, after their kids got sick they would very likely have had to go bankrupt. Those kids spent five months in the hospital. The bills came to the millions of dollars and no middle class person, no matter what good "choices" they make, can afford to pick up the 20% or so they'd have to pay under an "affordable" health care policy when something like that happens. Medical bankruptcy happens every day, although our fabulous new bankruptcy laws make it far more difficult to get a fresh start than it used to be, even if you have a special needs kid and can't work full time.

If the free-wheeling capitalists of the right wing believe that you can keep an economy dynamic, growing and flexible in a twisted system like this, they are even more blindly ideological than I thought. This is not just a moral crisis, it's an economic crisis and if these people are determined to continue down this path then I suggest the rest of us start buying land in Costa Rica because this country is going to fail. Hugely. The numbers do not add up. . . .

Full post here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

'9 things insurers don't want you to know'

'How to protect your health and family from loopholes and lapses'

Story here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Former 'Workers' Paradise' Has Come a Long Way

"Utopia with no poor people: Moscow's new billionaire's row"

Check out this article from The Guardian.

The idea is for Russia's new billionaire elite to live here happily together. Mr Agalarov describes his project as a kind of utopian social experiment - but without poor people.

(From one extreme social experiment to the next, it seems. Only in the last century did they murder the Romanovs.)

Evangelical Alabama Minister Suffocates While Having Kinky Sex with Self

Check this out from The Smoking Gun (autopsy report included!).

Tristero at Hullabaloo puts in his two cents here.

Whenever anyone tells me Manhattan is decadent, I'm telling them they ain't seen nothing 'til they've mingled amongst some of the religious in Montgomery, Alabama. Hoo, boy...

The guy was a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and used to work for Falwell.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

'Medicare Audits Show Problems in Private Plans'

Who'd a thunk it?!

Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.

The problems, described in 91 audit reports reviewed by The New York Times, include the improper termination of coverage for people with H.I.V. and AIDS, huge backlogs of claims and complaints, and a failure to answer telephone calls from consumers, doctors and drugstores. . . .

In March, Sierra Health Services ended drug coverage for more than 2,300 Medicare beneficiaries with H.I.V./AIDS, saying they had not paid their premiums. In many cases, the premiums had been paid, and beneficiaries had canceled checks to prove it. Sierra initially refused to reinstate them, but eventually agreed to do so after repeated requests from federal officials. Peter O’Neill, a vice president of Sierra, said this particular drug plan, which attracted people with very high drug costs, would not be offered in 2008. . . .

Story by ROBERT PEAR at The New York Times here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Kitchen Remodeling

Getting ready to add some value here by replacing the old laminated cabinets and countertops with something special. The cabinets will be all wood (though still white). The countertops will be a very light Silestone (quartz). I've done a lot of research on Silestone vs. granite and have decided Silestone is the way to go for this space.

The kitchen is well designed though not that large, and I'm trying to maintain a light, uniform appearance (and there is no light granite). Plus, granite has to be sealed regularly to keep it from turning milky (sounds like I'm being a bit contradictory, I know--I could let it go milky). Plus it stains and is not that strong. If you want to make a cantilevered bar top, for example, the granite slab has to be reinforced with steel rods. This entails cutting channels into the underside of the slab to accommodate the rods. Silestone has more strength for this kind of use. Here's a snippet from Consumer Reports (Aug. 2007):

While granite is still what you'll see in magazines and real-estate ads, fancier faux materials are giving it serious competition for best kitchen countertop. Quartz, also known as engineered stone, is the fastest-growing countertop surface and is also at the top of our Ratings because of its better stain resistance. Plus, this non-porous blend of stone, pigment, and resin needn't be sealed like the real stuff.

Quartz has become so popular that its look is being copied. Staron and DuPont now offer solid-surface countertops that look like quartz and are essentially an imitation of an imitation. Still other countertop materials are moving up in the world as their makers vie for a place in your kitchen.

Silestone is actually 94% quartz and the rest is a tough resin (and I guess some color if you choose to have it colored, which I won't). It's made in Spain, by the way--who knew? Quartz is also "greener" than granite since there's a lot more of it occurring in nature. And it's very sparkly. It costs the same as granite, however. And since that's the case, I'll opt for the material that requires less maintenance, since I'm the one who really uses the kitchen to the max and makes the most messes, and is ultimately in charge of maintaining it.

We already bought all brand-new appliances a couple of years ago and this year we re-did the kitchen ceiling, adding soffits with recessed lighting. With new cabinets and countertops, the kitchen should be top-notch.

"Russian Patriarch Calls Homosexuality an 'Illness'"

See here.

"Carter Can"

Can't wait till this program starts. He's also got a new show on DIY Network. Bio here. IMDB profile here.

Bad Movie Night

"Vacancy." Horrible. And they hyped it so well. B. rented it, not me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunday Night

Today I ate the Bœuf Bourguignon, all day long. It tasted better and better (no surprise, as these dishes usually do the longer they sit in the fridge--up to a point, of course). All it needed was little more salt and pepper. I also transferred it into containers for me to take to work tomorrow (to which B. wholeheartedly agreed). I can save a lot of money on lunches that way. Normally I order food from the restaurants downtown that deliver, and am a fairly generous tipper to the delivery people.

The Fall season's first episode of Desperate Housewives was a treat. I'd missed watching that show. I taped tonight's episode while I was doing laundry and other chores. B. and I watched it when he got home from work. I "Cackled" [i.e., with a capital C] most of the way through it. (I wonder if Hillary did.)