Thursday, December 15, 2011

Emerging briefly, in horror... the demolition of a key plank of the Bill of Rights; a thing I truly believed could not come to pass, the assaults on liberty of the past few years notwithstanding.

Well, I was wrong; and Obama's failure to veto and at least make good on that threat mean, I think, that I am done with one of the very few politicians to whom I ever gave actual cash. I'm sad in a small way for that, and in a much bigger way for the erosion of the U.S. constitution, a document with many flaws but several world-changing virtues.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A year behind; and the achievement of the year

Yes, OK, mea culpa.

It's been a year since this was updated anything like sensibly; not dead, just busy, gee surprise.

Still: in an attempt to be timely, one of my favourite political commentators gives the best summary yet of the recent healthcare (apparently synonymous with health insurance in US political life, at least thus far; credit the insurance companies' PR folks) legislation:

So go read that for a month or two while I try to get back in gear here.

[With luck, the 'year of eating fabulously' posts will come soon...]

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Way behind, but proud of Aidan...

Yes, yes, I know: I have a large backlog of posts and every intention of attacking it Real Soon Now.

This evening, though, Aidan was sitting at dinner and made me proud enough that I wanted to post right away :-).

A: "Dad, why are brothers and sisters not allowed to marry one another?"

me: explanation; he gets genes and DNA at least a basic level, so the concept of recessive etc. was no big deal.

A: "OK. But then how come I can raise only one eyebrow when I couldn't have got that gene from either you or [Jenny] because you can't do it?"

We discussed - briefly! - some possible explanations; but I was just really happy to have him thinking about this stuff and asking questions entirely spontaneously. He got icecream and extra kisses :-)).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

UK trip - mass photo post

We had a week in the UK, with a couple of days in Paris inserted in the middle (primarily for Aidan to see the Eiffel tower - see next post); not much tourist stuff this trip, almost entirely visiting family. Those of you - are there any? - not related to me will wish to skip the following photo barrage...

Incidentally, the rather large young man with a naked Keiran on his lap is only 5 (I think!) - my sister has *large* sons!

Food porn: Salmon Wellington

We have a local food/restaurant blogger and reporter, Steve Barnes, whose writing I like and whose taste has generally proven good. In a recent post, he gave a recipe for Salmon Wellington. I'd been meaning to make Beef Wellington - mmm, steak AND pastry! - for a long time, and this was a version that also appealed to Jenny, so I made it for a fancy-guest-dinner. I thought it came out really well, and was not too hard, either; I've made it once since, and it really shows off the excellent salmon Jenny tracked down at Two Cousins fish market (also from a suggestion of Steve's). Yum.

[The second photo is of the caramel-cream sauce just before adding pinot noir and reducing. I am always surprised by how foolproof caramel is to make and manipulate!]

Yono's - another good Albany restaurant

We are slowly finding good places to eat here. Yono's is one of the oddest, in an entirely good way!

The location put Jenny off initially: it's in the downtown Hampton Inn. The front bar area has a casual brasserie, and the chef - Yono - was out there socialising and enjoying his wine list :). But the formal dining room is through a further door, and leads to a cozy, very elegant room that reminds me very much of Victoria&Albert's at Disney: a secluded escape space much more upscale than its surroundings. Service was excellent and very much in line with the space; they didn't blink at our informality (we were not expecting such a place!) or the presence of two small boys. Kudos.

The menu has two halves: one is Indonesian, reflecting I believe Yono's birth and upbringing, with the other being fairly standard US/international. Choosing was *difficult* - there are enough items which have high appeal that I would have had no trouble placing three or four complete orders [kurobuta marinated pork belly, an interesting foie preparation, alligator, ostrich (with mushrooms and more foie)... an that's ignoring the Indonesian side]. We went, though, for the special mini-tasting menu offer of four courses for $44, wine three wines paired for only $10 more. Pretty superb value. [Aidan had Indonesian fried rice and a fish dish that I am blanking on.]

The food didn't quite live up to the high expectations, but was never bad: the venison of my main course was simply a little too bland and overwhelmed by unsubtle fig sauce, the snapper of the appetiser slightly overcooked. But some items were great: the presentation of Jenny's bisque as a cup of tea with a fried wonton as the teabag, the slice of almost-raw tuna as an amuse-bouche, and other touches. Looking at the menu online right now, it's entirely changed for today, suggesting an unusual responsiveness to ingredient availability, and we plan to return several times. The wines also deserve mention: generous pours, well-matched, high-quality, and again not a hint of reservation at replacing a newly-opened but corked bottle.

Overall, remarkably good and a hugely pleasant surprise. Very glad to find Yono's as we continue to explore Albany's dining scene.


The local YMCA has - among many virtues - an extremely enthusiastic hike/bushwhack/outdoors leader, who recently acquired Y accreditation to be allowed to lead groups. The first of these was a gentle snowshoe trip, and seemed like an excellent opportunity to get Aidan and Jenny some new snowshoes and play in the snow.

Oh, and Keiran came, too :-).

We all had a blast; special thanks to Alan (the leader) and to Jeanette (I believe) who acted as 'sweeper' and came back to find us when we were initially slightly late. Aidan got to go break trail, which he loved, but he is so light that it didn't actually break trail much for the rest of us..

Back in the groove. OK, more like jolting over a rut.

...and no, nothing here is an April Fool's post. I seem to have skipped March entirely, and am hence once again catching up.

This will swiftly end as I try to hit the various grant opportunities available from the stimulus funds in the next, um, 2-3 weeks or so... but for now, let's throw up some more pics and so on.

First up: me being somewhat silly and attemptedly arty in self-portrait mode. Otherwise known as one of the very few photos of myself I actually quite like!

Monday, February 23, 2009

BBC book list meme

BBC Book List: Apparently (and as currently infecting the blog world) the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. I fgured this would be a good first step into blog memes!
1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading. I think frankly I can assume that anything on here is likely to be on my 'plan' list, but we'll see.
[My addition:]
4) Italicise those started but not finished

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X+
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X+
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy *
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - OK, so I was wrong; no desire to read this.
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X+
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks *
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X+
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot *
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X+
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens X
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X+
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky X
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X+
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X+
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens X
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X+
34 Emma - Jane Austen X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X+ (How do both this and general Narnia make the list?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini *
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Berniere *
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X+
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X (what is this doing on the list?)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving X
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins X
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy *
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan X
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel *
52 Dune - Frank Herbert X+
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons X+ (and the radio show also)
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (OK, a second I have no interest in),
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X+
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X+
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X+
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck X+
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov X
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas X
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac X
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy X
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie *
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville X
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker X+
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson X+
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath *
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome X
78 Germinal - Emile Zola *
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray *
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker X
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro X+
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - X+
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X+
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton X (poor choice of her works, though)
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks X
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole X
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute X
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas X
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare X (see number 14!)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X+
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo *

Which is 71 completed, I think. Silly list. I would bet on a couple of folks I know being close to 100..

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An actual work post?!

No, really :).

I have been pondering teaching. Class this semester is (as least to me!) going really well: I have a critical mass of students who are unafraid to speak up and who are willing to suggest tangents to which material may be related. The material is largely prepared and those parts which are not, I have the pile of sources assembled (read: have not been up until a.m. the night before class!) And I have not (yet?) lost the high from being 'on stage' in front of the class. On the flip side, the class is not so big as to be unmanageable; I know the names of most of the regular contributors. I'm really enjoying teaching, and the vibes coming back are positive.

Possible negatives:
* class participation is a part of the grade; but there are still a significant number of folks sitting at the back, not taking part. I plan to note the consequences of that quite explicitly next class
* too much diversion. I hope that being able to tie the class content to concrete examples helps it to stick and make sense, but I have to be careful not to get too far off-track. For instance, we've been discussing feeding control pathways; I think it's appropriate for the class to spend a moment thinking about the concept of actual hunger - foreign to them - but not for the whole class to be devoted to global food politics :-). [Which is a danger in part because I would enjoy such a class-long digression!]
* speed. I know from some of the post-class questions that some folks in class are having a hard time keeping up. That's another reason for the frequent question pauses and parenthetical material: allows folks to catch up and consolidate. But teaching to such a large ability curve is always going to be tough here. I'll keep working on the right balance. But I'm still unwilling to give handouts that even come close to substituting for class presence. Any advice?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Keiran photo post

Pretty up-to-date: here's Keiran as he looks (well, as of a day or so ago) perched up on my shoulders. Both photo and video, no less :-).