Thursday, February 28, 2008

How does it manage to function?

I spent most of yesterday afternoon at the capitol in St. Paul. [No, Minneapolis is not the capitol.] I attended a hearing by the senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources regarding a state cap & trade policy for greenhouse gases.

How - in the name of all that's holy - does the government manage to operate? This is what I pay taxes for?

Truly edifying experience. Who was pro and con? Which committees the bill must go through to pass? (Farm & forestry businesses are explicitly left out of the bill. Why ??? Because the Committee on Agriculture is one of the most powerful, and they would simply kill the bill.) The choice of arguments by the 2 sides was equally educational. The Pro side was mostly "it's important and means a lot to many people", except for the prof. of economics. The Con were, with one exception, from the utility industries [the other was from a mining company up north]. Their arguments were all focused on "it will destroy the economy and bring about the end of western civilization" and "it will force me to make changes" and "we don't want a state cap & trade, it is more appropriately regulated by the federal gov't". [Yeah, like that's going to happen in the next 20 years.] Both sides left me cold. Only 1 senator (Rep.) had any explicit objections to the content of the bill. Of course, he wanted 80% of the bill eliminated, too.

The Pro failed to communicate the grounds of their support. The Con cried about things that weren't even in, nor required by, the bill.

Only one member of the committee (Dem.) was obviously prepared for the discussion. It was one of the greater moments in my life of self-control that I didn't stand up in the chamber and scream "what are you doing?"

In clean blue jeans and a nice sweater, I was by far the worst dressed person there. Absolutely every single person in the room was wearing at least a jacket & tie (or female equivalent). Black & white hound's-tooth seems to be in fashion this season.

The one entertaining part of the trip was watching some reporters from Minn. Public Radio and the AP corner some politicians. Definitely not a job for a wall-flower. It was like a choreographed 2-step. The one senator was more adept at the dance, but didn't make it around them. The governor didn't try very hard (probably because he knew the point of the reporter's interest was already a done-deal, and not in his favor).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Food, part 2

well, this isn't really food, per se. food for thought. I needed to make the list somewhere.

Make peanut butter sandwiches.
Bibliography for 'methodology of monitoring fallout from Chernobyl explosion'.
Literature search for hyper- / hypobaric occupational conditions
Read whatever about the occupational hazards to the liver and nervous system
Schedule trip to state legislature for committee hearing on cap & trade greenhouse gasses
Make more peanut butter sandwiches.
Read all that stuff on environmental policy
quiz for environmental policy
research OSHA - NIOSH - ACGIH standards/recommendations for retail grocery deli workers
check to see if the warm spot in the bed is still my husband
summarize trip to Star Tribune Newspaper printing operations
Find something interesting about air pollution in the popular media.
Sleep. Well, maybe not.


What is good food worth to you?

With the advent of my further academic pursuits, the family budget has come under greater scrutiny. There isn't much I can do about the rent, car insurance, mortgages, etc. Cut the cable off. Stopped NetFlix, etc. But food? Can't exactly stop eating. Of course, I am then confronted by what do I change? Expensive meats out, not much of a change there. More expensive vegetables, not much of a problem, and I can always buy frozen broccoli, rather than fresh. But .... what am I not willing to reduce?

Peanut butter: have you seen the list of stuff in Jiffy? I'm a chemist and even I don't know what some of that stuff is. If I need an MSDS to assess my food, I ain't eatin' it. I'll stick with the stuff with the following ingredients: Peanuts, salt.

Eggs: we'll stick with vegetarian fed, free range eggs. A modest strike to eliminate horrid living conditions for animals. Even if they don't actually leave the coop, because they're scared or whatever. Besides, I really, really can't afford organic milk.

Bread: After spending 6 or 7 years eating nice bread [at peter's request upon merging households], I just can't go back to the fluffy stuff.

Bananas: carbon footprint? I ride the bus. I'll eat all the bananas I want.

Wine: yup, I married a European and my wine consumption skyrocketed. Lower price wine, yes; eliminate it, no.

Coffee: ditto with the bread. Besides, we don't drink that much of it. Why buy horrible tasting stuff?

Cafe au Lait Thursday nights @ Stammtisch: I stopped getting anything other than plain coffee, if I buy it on campus or wherever. Spending 2 hours chatting with other intelligent adults (in German) is simply nicer with a cup of tea or coffee.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Go, Team!

I've spent more time in the past 2 week paying attention to my government than ever before. The "Healthy Gophers" team in the Green League are moving up in our points. Not to be confused with the other team with the same name in the same league ...? I've got more points! (186) I took a look at the other team names, after realizing there were two of us. Like, who in the world thought "healthy gophers" was cool, besides me?? Given that this is a 'fantasy legislature', some of the team names were really amusing:

Kill Bills
Know Spin Zone
Whig'n Out
fear and loathing on the campaign trail
House Call
Phil and the Busters

Whig'n Out is my favorite - witty and requiring a modicum of knowledge about the history of our beloved political system.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh, my God

a day late, and a dollar short. Perhaps 7 years too late, and a few billion dollars to short ... none the less, this is delightfully eloquent and articulate

Sunday, February 17, 2008

what were they thinking?

Some women sitting in the student lounge at the university on Saturday were discussing their grades on an exam. They are apparently in one of the medical programs in the School of Public Health. Perhaps I should emphasize the graduate School of Public Health. As in, need to have a bachelor's degree to get in. Comparing notes, they were complaining about having points deducted for poor spelling: "... but, I didn't realize he was going to emphasize spelling. If I'd known that, I would have studied it more". Then one said, "I spelled gynecology wrong." Apparently "emphasize" means "expects you to know better"?

They're over 20, have supposedly successfully completed a degree in something vaguely scientific, and haven't realized that they need to know how to spell things? No one in my program has said "spelling is important" (well, one prof did, to emphasize its importance on a term paper). I know how to spell gynecology. And gynecologist. And gynecological. I'm taking a medical class this semester: occupational medicine. I am quite positive that, on our exam on Wednesday, my professor is going to expect me to be able to pneumoconiosis, phagocytosis, and asphyxiant correctly. Although gynecology won't be required to able to demonstrate my spelling skills.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

[Book Review] Purity of Blood

Hey, I gotta have some source of procrastination from studying, eh?

Purity of Blood, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

As a sequel, it meets the same enjoyment level as the predecessor, Captain Alatriste. Set again in a faltering Spain of 1632, torn between war and a young, careless king, our narrator Iñigo again brings us through a story of intrigue, adventure, and betrayal. Captain Alatriste has taken 13-year old Iñigo on as a dependent, in consideration of the young boy’s father, a fellow - if dead - veteran of the wars in Flanders. The captain is a distant fellow, following some unspecified, rather un-anchored sense of honor. This rather nebulous sense of honor often results in actions we approve, while not being chosen for any reason we would. Alatriste is also a sword-for-hire, giving him a separate professional guideline for honor.

The “purity” of a person’s blood - the absence of any Jewish or Moorish (ie., Muslim) ancestors - is of great interest to the Church during this peak of the Spanish Inquisition. A father and his sons seek to free his daughter from confinement in a corrupt convent, equally seeking to hide the fact that they’re Jewish. Directed to Alatriste, a plan is concocted to rescue the daughter. To Iñigo's delight, he has a role in this. It becomes a role chosen for him by other powers, seeking to make of him a tool for vengeance against his mentor.

Most intriguing is the narration in the first person from the young Iñigo. His audience, “Your Mercies”, are hearing the story from him as an adult. (You know he’s going to survive, even if everyone else dies.) I find utterly fascinating the ability to hold the story balanced between the past and future. The occasional references to the future help paint the reader’s perception of the current story. E.g., his self-admitted unhealthy infatuation with a young girl: he mentions a particular interaction between them in the future, leanding a bit different perspective on their behaviour now. The challenge, as always in such a situation, is keeing the reader on the edge of her seat wondering if he’s going to live, despite knowing that he will. Very, very well done.

This is one of those strange assessments: I find the author’s style, and especially his turn-of-phrase delightful. Except, the story was written in Spanish. How much of my enjoyment is from the author and how much from the translator? Regardless of the source, it is delightful. This ends with a note that there will be another two or three volumes of the story. I bought it in hardback, but that’s ’cause it was for $3.

One of his other novels, The Club Dumas, was equally pleasant to read, perhaps more readily accessible, being set in the modern day.

Elizabeth’s rating: go buy it.

Book rating system:
1 - go buy it in hardback, ’cause you’ll read it repeatedly
2 - sure, go buy it, you'll definitely read it more than once
3 - borrow it from a friend/library
4 - if it's lying around your friend's summer cottage, and you're bored, might as well read it.
5 - they do take books in the recycling bin, don't they?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Voting Math

On "super" Tuesday, there were alot of super-annoyed Minnesotans. Despite record turn-outs for both parties, it was total chaos at several of the Metro-area locations.
DFL(Democrat): 230,000 & GOP(Republican): 70,000. (Think we might be a "blue" state?)

This sounds great, and blows away records. But then, one considers this only represents 8% of the eligible voters.

8% of the people in this state got to 'vote'.

This translates to:
2% of people voted in the Republican primary
6% voted in DFL

Since I was sitting in 1250 Mayo Hall, being disenfranchised both politically and academically. (Lord, but it is loud in the back of that room!) None the less, comparing our new home to our old one ...

population eligible to vote (i.e., 18+, resident, citizen)
Minn. = 3.6 mil
Mich. = 7.1 mil
USA = 197 mil

as a % of the population it's about the same, 96% of residents are eligible (US=91%).

actually registered to vote:
Minn: 82%
Mich: 72%
USA: 66%

actually got off butt & voted (in '04)
Minn: 77%
Mich: 64%
USA: 58%

[ all data from US Census bureau, though MN Sec.State & another dept.@ US census bureau think voter turnout was 79%, but who's counting? ]

Can't wait to see this year's numbers.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What the Fuck are We doing there???

Really, what the fuck are we doing there??

En route home, for the last time. Hidden in the statistics section of the paper; hidden in a C-130 on the way home; hidden from the view of those who would honor them here as they are whisked away across the tarmac in secrecy; only to be hidden in the warm embrace of Mother Earth, since their own mothers' can't comfort them anymore.

Imagine your child here.
Imagine mine.

Nothing, absolutely nothing in my experience with the US Military has so deeply moved me as standing in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery. The wind chill was -45F and the tears froze on my cheeks.

What the fuck are we doing there?

... until then it wasn't real ...

SPIEGEL: Do you still care about politics? Are you following the 2008 election?

Roth: Unfortunately, yeah. I didn't, until about two weeks ago -- until then it wasn't real.

... I rarely vote for anybody who wins. It's going to be the kiss of death if you write in your magazine that I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. Then he's finished! ...

... As for all that other rhetoric about change, change, change -- it's pure semantics, it doesn't mean a thing. They'll respond to particular situations as they arise. ...

... [GW Bush] was too horrendous to be forgotten ...

SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?

Roth: ... political stupidity. ... but [Kerry] couldn't stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren't brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.

... There's virtually no way you can destroy your reputation. You'd have to engage in some bestiality in Bloomingdale's window in order to make a little dent in your reputation. ... (this is actually about his book, not politics, though perhaps it is salient point there, too - e.t.)

Interview with Philip Roth by Der Spiegel - selections are mine

brief update

I haven't lost my mind yet. My homework is still done on time. I haven't frozen while waiting for the bus (though that has been a close call on a few days). At least twice per week I walk down the hallway where the student offices are for the school of public health. There are a bunch of large photos with inspirational scenes of little babies in Africa, health clinics in the US, etc. One of the photos is of graduation ceremony with a woman wearing the graduate cap & gown with the colored tassle (pink? eeewww). Every time I walk by, I keep reminding myself that I want that damned ugly thing. It seems a much more concrete goal than my WVU vaguely "I want to graduate" goal.

Gregor isn't having separation problems (yet). He can wave now. Walking is old hat. Now he's picking up speed. He's also eating. Must be a growth spurt, because for the past 2 nights, consumption of dinner has been down right mechanical: left, right left right stuffing food into his mouth. You'd think we'd been starving the poor boy. He has slept through the night 2 nights in a row!!! Tonight he discovered the little tractor that plays 'Old MacDonald' when you push its exhaust stack. For 5 minutes he sat on the floor pushing the button (on), then bounding along with the music, then pushing the button (off); repeat as necessary.

Michael has found the magic switch: one moment a sweet child who likes his brother and generally non-destructive play - - and then he becomes the most irritating emotionally traumatic destructively violent pain-in-the-ass. He's doing well in daycare, and displays an amazing ability to recall the strangest things. He love the IKEA spoons we have. He likes red milk, not blue milk. (the whole milk has red caps, the 2% has blue). He loves Bob the Builder, and has taken to singing the Bob the Builder song (... can we build it? Yes, we can!). the movie Cars has become pratically an obsession with him.

Peter is doing okay holding down the fort for the 3 nights per week that I have night classes. He's doing ok with work, which is still with Honeywell. He's annoyed that it has been so cold, preventing him from doing any outdoor sports.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Finally out of denial

Well, finally it appears that there is an economist somewhere who thinks the economy sucks today. How many times can the idiots in Washington say "spend spend spend to fix the economy"? More like "spend spend spend, tank the economy by defaulting on your mortgage and credit cards".

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mystery Illness in Minnesota

Where the women are strong; the men are good looking, and all the children are above average ... as long as they don't blow some(thing)'s brains out ...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

[def.] Demagogue

Demagogue: "one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."
-- H. L. Mencken

Saturday, February 2, 2008

god, i love public radio

Tired of Fantasy Football? Fantasy Hockey? ...

Minnesota Public Radio presents: Fantasy Legislature

Political wonks rejoice for a new season of Minnesota Fantasy Legislature is upon us. Minnesota Public Radio is bringing back the Fantasy Legislature for a second year, and we'd like you to join us this session to distinguish yourself in...
session play-by-play, Legislator's Power Ranking, 2008 Teams, setting the agenda...


As soon as I can think of an interesting name, I'm signing up. Like I've got any spare time. Though, since the guest lecturer last week for my policy course was a member of the Legislature, maybe I'll start with her. She already has a good track record for passing bills (at least one, which is more than I'd ever get)

New Sort of Safety Video

Forewarning - this is a 'horror' safety training video. This isn't for kids. Though, the blood is pretty fake. Perhaps a bit too much for my next PIT training session. The voice over is German, but it's got English subtitles. If you want the version without subtitles, let me know.

See, this is what I actually do for a living (try to keep people from doing this, that is).