Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
We the people. This is a phrase we all know. Perhaps it’s because we were forced to memorize the preamble to the Constitution of the United States when we were in eighth grade or because we truly grasp the meaning, “We the People” has come to represent something every American holds dear: Freedom and Democracy. These things go hand in hand as our forefathers intended, freedom, democracy, and "We the People".
But have you thought about it? “We the People”. It’s just three words. But who are these people? You and me? Our parents? Maybe it includes everyone in California, or maybe just those who are old enough to vote. Is it everyone in the United States, or do we limit it to citizens? Are these people the ones who work 9-5 at minimum wage or make millions on Wall Street? Does our democracy represent us, if we truly are the people referenced in so simple a phrase?
I think in order to call ourselves a democracy, which we as US citizen do, it had better represent us. We ARE “THE PEOPLE”. And as the longest standing and largest democracy in an ever-shrinking world, we have a lot at stake. So in my interest, and your interest, and in the interest of all citizens of the world and “our posterity”, lets take a look at what exactly is going on here.
Democracy, as established by the Athenians centuries ago, is based on public participation. You have to care. I know with school and work and hangovers and exams and girlfriends and boyfriends and best friends and LIFE sometimes it’s hard to actually do something. But sometimes you have to step back and realize that just because your life is comfortable and you are provided for, not everyone in this world has that luxury. And good for you, you got lucky enough to be born into it. The revolutionaries who wrote “We the People” intended it to be so. But they also intended for you know something about politics, to know who’s running for what position in government and what their opinions are on key issues; they expect you to vote and not do it “because I always vote Democrat” but because you think Mr. Obama will fulfill his promises and bring the troops home and create universal healthcare. They expect you to make sure that who won actually won, and then hold them accountable for their actions as they represent you. Our founding fathers never intended for us to be so lazy.
Accountability. It’s a big word, but it’s meaning is even bigger. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. What our politicians do, whether it’s our town mayor or president of the United States, their actions directly represent us and we need to watch them and hold them accountable. To be honest, I don’t think that their decisions reflect our best interests anymore. Decisions are made with aims of military conquest and power and money for few. Look at the trends. The middle class is shrinking, and it’s the classic case of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. So who’s benefiting? “We the People”? Our policies, internationally, domestically, economically, and militarily are no longer in our interest. Why is that? Where did we go wrong? Was it September 11th? That day, my dad had a meeting at 9:00 on the 53rd floor of the tower that fell at 9:03. Last minute his boss told him to stay at his office a block away for another meeting. It was the worst day of my life, but that doesn’t mean I want my phones tapped as allowed in the Patriot Act. That doesn’t mean that I think every Muslim entering the country should be searched, and I don’t think that the tragedy that took place justifies any of our monumental failures in the Middle East or our outrageous military budget derived from our taxes and my generation’s inherited debt. Nor does it justify the secrecy of where our money is going or where the prisoners of war we take end up. And in the end, the dwindling supply of oil we gain will choke us in our waste rather than raise us to the bar set by real democracy. Because the oil companies and multinational corporations will be the benefactors while the rest of us will pay for being so forgetful of our duties as citizens.
So then, back to our little phrase. “We the People”. Does this phrase then encompass those in other countries, since the United States is dictating more and more on the global scale? The United States has, after all, unilaterally started wars, trained foreign armies, supported rebellions, and contributed more than any other nation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, all in the name of democracy. So are the people of Iraq and Afghanistan included in “We the People”? If they are to be included, then are the Sudanese, the Rwandans, the Koreans, and the Mexicans? Is there room for them in this three-word statement?
Before we can enlighten the world on the finer points of democracy and freedom, I think we need to get a few things straight ourselves. It’s a fine mess we’ve found ourselves in, but there’s a light at the end of every tunnel. We have the finest documents in the world, The Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence to back us up. So get involved. Read a newspaper or watch the news, but afterwards think critically, “is this bullshit or is this true? Whose opinion is it, and why would they hold that opinion? Is maybe some of this true, and some a bit embellished?” Think for yourselves and know what’s going on. We are the People, and if democracy and freedom are to exist then we need to act like we deserve it.
To register to vote here in California, click here and fill that shit out: https://www.sos.ca.gov/nvrc/fedform/
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
- KNOW THE RULES. You have to understand the scoring settings of your league. Do throwing TD's count as 6 or 4? Do you get points per reception? Do you have individual defensive players, and if so, do you get points per tackle? Come on, you gotta know this stuff.
- Default pre-rankings are typically solid. Don't be afraid to use the default draft order as a template for your draft rankings. After all, Yahoo! and ESPN's rationale for ranking Ochocinco 45th is probably more reasonable than mine - which is: he has cool shoes, drives a chromed out black semi (pictured right), and he says funny things. Child please.
- Check the injury report. Easy. You just don't want to be that guy that drafts LenDale White too early.
- TE's matter now. Back in the day, one team would get Tony Gonzalez, and everybody else would be stuck with some buster that catches 3 passes for 18 yards every week at the tight end position. A complete waste. Those days are gone and there are a handful of solid scoring options at TE, as the position evolves from eligible-downfield-lineman to additional-receiver. You want these guys on your team.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Before The Expendables last night a preview came on for RED, a comic-adaption in which a handful of Academy Award winners, as retired CIA operatives, suddenly appear as a threat to the Agency. Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, seriously, Helen Mirren, decide to pool their resources and, naturally, clear their names by breaking in to CIA headquarters. Bruce Willis is chided by the name "Grandpa," promptly before breaking the hapless youngster's neck. The image of Helen Mirren wielding an automatic rifle is, frankly, more shocking than the movie's plot.
Expendables followed quite aptly. The script is weathered in conjuring up the past: doubts about a misspent career; sighs and scowls over missed opportunities; older guys reaching back in time by way of (much) younger women. The idea of the movie, like RED, mirrors nearly all the action contained within: a decadence of action heroes in an orgy of violence; bulky bodies with the thickest of necks spurting out muscled, veiny, (perhaps unnaturally enhanced) dialogue. There are moments of genuine oddness, and funny back-and-forth, but that's not really the point.
It is just as much a movie about action movies as it is a movie in its own right. Not that it is that heady, or even thoughtful, but it is overwhelmingly self conscious just as flaunting self consciousness, particularly ones place in history, is at the height of its popularity. Expendables, however, unlike other cultural motifs, has a monopoly on hyperbole. Thank God.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Suzie Homemaker confession time: when boyfriend is gone, everything goes to hell.
Take last night for example. Boyfriend is in glamorous St. Louis this week so I was left to my own defenses. Generally on nights I'm alone (which is more often than I'd like) I will eat popcorn for dinner. Sometimes with a side of chocolate bar. Don't judge.
Last night, however, I had a crisper drawer of veggies staring me in the face. Guilt tripping me with their slow decline into rottenness. So I decided to forgo my usual nutritious dinner and make something with a bit more substance. Zucchini Pancakes.
Okay. It's not a 4-course gourmet meal. But the thing is, when Boyfriend is gone, I generally give up the whole idea of "making dinner" with plates and napkins and side dishes. Instead, I have dinner standing in the kitchen dropping crumbs into the sink, constantly opening and closing the fridge as I swig milk direct from the container. It's one of the few bright spots of being left alone in our apartment. I can eat standing around, with my fingers, chugging milk, and no one gives a shit. I hope this doesn't ruin my Domestic Goddess reputation (if I even had one?). At least I didn't order out.
Zucchini pancakes are perfect eat-in-the-kitchen food. They are also insanely easy to make. The great thing about veggie-pancakes is that you can really put whatever you want in there. You just need to make sure 1. the veggies are shredded well (thank you, 20 yr old food processor) and 2. the mixture isn't too thick with flour and egg. The star here is the veg. Consider this recipe a template for whatever vegetable combination you can dream up. I just used what I had. You know, the staring vegetables.
- 1 ear of corn
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 small handful of basil, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 1/3 cup of Feta Cheese
- 1/3 cup of Flour (or more if mixture seems too wet after combining all ingredients)
- 1 tablespoon of Baking Powder
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 pinch of Dill
- 1 pinch of Garlic Powder
- Salt & Pepper
- Using a food processor or a box grater, shred the Zucchini. Toss in a bowl with a few shakes of salt, set aside for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the corn kernels from the ear and shred the jalapeno. Combine.
- Drain the excess water from the shredded Zucc. Pick up handfuls, squeeze over sink (use your muscles!).
- Add squeezed-out zucchini to the corn and jalapeno, along with the roughly chopped basil
- Crack 1 egg and 1 egg yolk into this mixture, stir to combine
- Add flour and baking powder, stir to combine. Mixture shouldn't be too batter-y. The flour/baking powder is just meant to hold the veggies together.
- Add feta, Dill (or whatever spices you like), salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Heat vegetable oil or olive oil in a saute pan.
- Drop spoonfuls of zucc mixture into pan, 'smooshing' to thin it out and make a pancake-esque shape
- Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper-towel lined plate. Top with Sour Cream before scarfing.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This website. Blog posts. Magic shows. Cats. eBay. The iPad. Your body. My body. The Boston Red Sox. What do all of these things have in common? Believe it or not, these are not all completely random; they can all be categorized together when defined as a system. Systems surround us. We interact with them, create them, destroy them, and rebuild them every single day. What is a system? A system is a set of interacting or interdependent entities that form an integrated whole. In plain English, a system is made up of parts that individually perform distinct functions but together create a new, different function. For instance, your body has a liver, a heart, a stomach, veins, arteries, etc. Each of these individually can filter, pump, digest, direct, restrict, and so forth. Combine the parts and we have MacGyver, Natalie Portman, Keanu Reeves, Einstein, human beings!
So, now that you have an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s focus on designing systems. It is truly incredible to think about designing systems when you consider all the possible pieces that can exist in a system. In fact, it can be overwhelming, which is why it is vitally important to define the boundaries of your system and the purpose you want it to achieve. The longer you spend at the outset of your design the better off you will be when putting all the pieces together. Clear boundaries and purpose will allow the designer to decide what is critical to the system and what can be left out, which will save time and effort. Take a look at how quickly we can get lost if we don’t clearly define our system.
Imagine that the purpose of our system is to get a result of 4. Easy, right? 2 + 2 will give us 4, but look at some other possibilities:
100 – 96 = 4
16/4 = 4
4 + 0 = 4
(((0*3,000) + 34)/2) + 3 – 16 = 4
You can see that the possibilities to obtain 4 are practically endless (and we haven’t even left basic arithmetic). Now, let’s see what happens if we define the boundaries and our purpose a little more precisely. We do this by adding constraints to the design. Why not say that our purpose is to obtain 4 using only addition of two integers greater than 0 and less than 4? Now our possibilities are much more limited.
1 + 3 = 4
2 + 2 = 4
3 + 1 = 4
Three possibilities. We went from endless possibilities to 3 by adding two constraints – only adding two integers and integers greater than 0 and less than 4.
I can write about all the formal steps of creating and manipulating systems forever. I will leave you, for now, with just this basic introduction to this multi-faceted discipline. Look around you over the next few days and think about the design of the things that you see and interact with. Did the designer do a good job? Did they consider all the variables? Did the system meet its intended purpose? What are some systems that could use improvement? I guarantee you’ll run across a few that will leave you scratching your head, but maybe you’ll think again. Maybe the initial design didn’t intend for the system to be used the way you wish it did. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, purpose is in the design of the engineer, and function is in the mind of the user.