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October 31, 2008
Happy Halloween
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:58 PM *

Q. Why did the ghost go to the bar?
A. For the boos.

Q. Why couldn’t Dracula’s wife get any sleep?
A. Because of his coffin.

Q. Why did the mummy go on vacation?
A. He wanted to unwind.

Q. Why don’t skeletons go skydiving?
A. No guts!

Q. Who did the ghoul invite to his party?
A. Anyone he could dig up.

Q. What’s the ratio of a pumpkin’s circumference to its diameter?
A. Pumpkin Pi.

Q. What supernatural being is the best dancer?
A. The boogieman.

Q. Why didn’t the skeleton go to the dance?
A. He had no body to go with.

Photo: Creative commons attribution share alike from

October 29, 2008
Reconsidering New York State’s Working Families Party
Posted by Patrick at 09:35 AM *

Attention Conservation Notice: Of interest only to electoral-process geeks and progressively-inclined voters in New York State. Time-sensitive materials. Contents may settle in shipping. Phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine.

Unusually among the states, New York allows “electoral fusion,” defined by Wikipedia as “an arrangement where two or more political parties support a common candidate, pooling the votes for all those parties. By offering to endorse a major party’s candidate, minor parties can influence the candidate’s platform.” As a result, New York has several minor parties that exist primarily not to field their own candidates, but rather to broker their endorsements to Democratic or Republican candidates.

Currently, one of the most prominent such parties is the Working Families Party, an organization I supported (and, modestly but regularly, donated to) for some years in the early part of this decade, voting for Democratic candidates on their ballot line rather than on the Democratic one. I stopped in 2006, because I was unhappy with their support, in exchange for help on minimum-wage issues, of an incumbent Republican state senator notorious for efforts to suppress minority voter turnout. I didn’t (and don’t) deny that this kind of horse-trading is the whole point of organizations like the WFP; I simply found that I didn’t agree with their priorities and judgment. If you read my November 6, 2006 post on the subject, you’ll even find, toward the bottom of the comment thread, a spirited defense by a WFP official.

My question for 2008 is: should I reconsider? Is the WFP a worthwhile vessel for progress in New York, or just an unaccountable vehicle for a few power-brokers? I’d like to hear from readers who actually know something about the often-arcane byways of local progressive politics. (Julia, Lindsay, Talking Dog: your cue…)

Princeton’s Running a Survey
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:52 AM * 49 comments

To try to predict the election. You can take part here. There’s a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate (if you leave your email address (optional)).

October 28, 2008
The Huntress
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:40 PM * 49 comments

Allow me to present Manchester New Hampshire’s professional ghost hunter, CC The Huntress (Warning: Seriously broken HTML—only works in MSIE, and then badly).

CC, AKA CC Carole, “gives you 100% REAL 100% RAW 100% of the TIME.” That is, on her Paranormal Talk Show where CC goes around healing ghosts and similar such things. This is another strain of American Folk Magic (see “The religious right, gone barking mad,” below.)

The best thing about CC is that she sells stuff. For example, her Spirit Pack.

The Spirit Pack includes.

1 Black unisex fanny pack.
2oz of Black salt spray. (to eliminate negative energy / spirits)
2oz of White sage spray. (to calm the area…making it easier for a spirit to come forward)
2oz of blessed Holy Water. (if you feel you need extra protection)
1 Disposable camera with flash.
Pad and pencil (for notes during your investigation)
And lots of room for all your ghost equipment.
Also step by step instructions for use of each item.
The Spirit Pack is a must have for the amateur and serious paranormal hunter.
It is filled with the exact applications “CC The Huntress” uses on her show and her investigation to communicate with the spirit world.
Cost $25

Were this Boing Boing, and therefore a directory of wonderful things, I’d call this a wonderful thing. But this Making Light, not Boing Boing, and so … well, it’s wonderful anyway.

October 27, 2008
The religious right, gone barking mad
Posted by Teresa at 11:44 PM *

This was my contribution to the link swappage going on in the the southern end of the Election Day unrest thread. It’s a piece of religious right lunacy that made my jaw drop: Blood libel! Spectral evidence! Cannibalism! The stupidity that passeth all understanding! Not to mention hearsay taken as fact; viz.:

Block African witchcraft curses against McCain and Palin NOW!
Jim Bramlett
Sep 28 2008 04:12PM

Dear friends:


Yes; but when John Hodgman does it, it’s meant to be funny.
Minutes ago I spoke with friend Dr. Norman G. Marvin, M.D. and he is so concerned at what he has learned about Barack Obama’s family in Kenya that he is calling a special prayer meeting in his home to pray against the witchcraft curses attempted by them against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Dr. Marvin sent me the below e-mail from Flo Ellers. Flo is credentialed with the International Fellowship of Ministries which is based in Washington State. She is also a member of EndTime Handmaidens and Servants of Jasper, Arkansas.



“Spiritual warfare” is a sort of folk thaumaturgy with ambitions to theurgy. If it worked, it would be a branch of black magic. There are “spiritual warfare” adherents out there who publicly take credit for the death of Mother Teresa.
From Flo Ellers. Excerpt. (Emphasis supplied in bold and underlines.)

Two days ago, I listened to a 9-6-08 message by Bree Keyton, a young woman evangelist who had just traveled to Kenya and visited Obama’s home village and what she found out about his relations with his tribal people was chilling. And his “cousin” Odinga was dreadful. She said the witches, warlocks and those involved in satanism and the occult get up daily at 3 a.m. to release curses against McCain and Palin so B. Hussein Obama is elected.

Why three in the morning? I have no idea. They never say. It’s a nice use of a single arbitrary detail to nail down an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Unfortunately for Ms. Keyton’s credibility, and for Jim Bramlett and Flo Ellers’s credulity, the story about Odinga being related to Barack Obama is known to be false. You could read all about it in the St. Petersburg Times clear back in April. At that time, the story was being enthusiastically spread by Celeste and Loren Davis, who claim to be Christian missionaries in Africa, but sound far too petty, spiteful, worldly, and obsessed with right-wing politics to be any kind of effective advertisement for Christianity.

Bree Keyton told the tribal “Christians” you are NOT Christian if you practice “tribalism” where they do voodoo to conjure up a goddess spirit or a “genie” and then come to church on Sunday to worship Jesus! What she discovered there is apparent in most churches around the world; namely, mixture in the church. Some renounced their devilish practices of blood covenant by killing sheep, goats, humans to be inducted into the tribe or to get a wife or to get revenge.
Bree Keyton features heroically in her own stories. More about her in a bit.
She said the current president of Kenya is a Christian. However, Obama’s cousin Odinga ran aganist him and said he rigged the election and stirred up the masses to rape woman and boys, kill and burn and torture Christians, etc. until Obama contacted Condeleeza Rice
Which makes no sense whatsoever. I suspect Rice was nominated for this role solely because she’s black.
and she granted Obama the right to contact Odinga and other ruling elders and he “convinced” them to stop terrorizing the Christians. Bree Keyton said the current Christian President was forced by our government (!) to “create” an office for Odinga (to make “peace”) so he was made the Prime Minister (!) to make peace between the Christians and Odinga’s Muslim religion!
Bree Keyton is way big on special revelations. She says she receives ‘em from God. But she has to be mistaken about that source—God wouldn’t have omitted to let her know what Muslims actually believe.
Bree Keyton went and visited Obama’s tribal people and she found out Obama is 75% Arab
I wonder which one of his Kansas grandparents is secretly an Arab?
and his family are Muslims. Odinga is strill trying to become the President of Kenya. If he does, he will make a law forbidding all public preaching and institute Sharia Law. Bree K. said Odinga has made a pact with satan.
I know, I know. Many of those words don’t belong in the same sentence with each other. Bree Keyton is a stunningly ignorant and brazen piece of work.
Bree K. also said when Obama visited his tribe in ‘06 and as late as Jan. ‘08 he went to every elder’s home which has a “shrine” inside to worship the genie and asked for their blessing. She was told Obama and Odinga were both “destined” before they were born to be president/leader of their nation. They say “he is the chosen one”. She said Obama’s grandmother sacrificed a black and a white chicken to the “goddess of the river” so both whites and blacks will vote for Obama. All Islam loves and worships Obama.
I can’t believe this chit went anywhere near Kenya, or has spoken to any Muslims. (Sara_k says that Ms. Keyton did make a short trip to Kenya in July and August. This presumably will have been when everyone there told her all those secrets they’ve been keeping from everyone else.)
The world is mesmerized by him. Oprah’s 200 million followers are out to elect Obama. Also, Dick Morris of Fox News was sent to Kenya to help Odinga run his campaign! I find that unbelievable.
I find it unbelievable too.
The occultists are “weaving lazy 8’s around McCain’s mind to make him look confused and like an idiot”. Bree K. said we need to break these curses off of him that are being sent from Kenya.
So that’s what’s doing it. Now we know.

Mind, you, the foregoing is just a sample of this document. It’s much longer and stranger.

So: Bree Keyton, who’s cited throughout as the source of this story, is a washed-up chantoosie who by her own account got shot in the head one night while opening for a rock band, and thereafter went into the god biz. Her traveling act appears to be a sort of musical (only now it’s for God, so you have to listen) post-Buffy “hot chick with long blonde hair and sword” routine. Seriously, she sells specially blessed wooden stakes—which, again, appear to be some sort of folk magic.

Keyton’s theology is a complete mess of spiritual titillation, conspiracy theory, special revelation, and “spiritual warfare” practices which, again, appear to owe more to folk magic than to mainstream Christianity. Add to that mixture a dollop each of right-wing fruitbattery, anti-Masonic sentiments, and Alexander Hislop, and you’ve got it.

I can’t imagine anyone believing her stories who didn’t start out wanting to believe them.

October 26, 2008
Open thread 115
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:39 PM * 680 comments

Sometimes genius begets genius, calls it out of the unwilling observer.

Johannes Brahms had decided to end his career as a composer in 1890, after his Viola Quintet in G Major (op 111). But his friendship with the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, whom he met in a year later, led him to reconsider.

We are lucky indeed that he did. His Clarinet Quintet, op 115, is probably his greatest piece of chamber music. His example, in turn, led to a flowering of compositions for the clarinet in the early to mid 20th century.

As a former clarinetist (though not, alas, a genius), I am grateful.

October 25, 2008
McCain Gives Up on New Hampshire
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:54 PM *

McCain Headquarters, Lancaster

Saturday afternoon, with less than two weeks to go before the election, the McCain headquarters in Lancaster, Coös county seat, was oddly — quiet.

Watch the election results with Bruce Schneier—at Making Light
Posted by Patrick at 02:28 PM *

[UPDATE: November 4th, 5:00 pm — JDM] This isn’t the thread you’re looking for. The thread you’re looking for is: Discuss the election results…with special guest poster Bruce Schneier

On Election Day, Bruce Schneier will host an election-results-watching thread here on Making Light. As Bruce says, “Watching the results come in is fun, but it’s more fun in the right group.”

Bruce continues:

Even if we know the next president by 7:00 EST when Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida close, there’s a lot out West to stay awake for, like Darcy Burner in WA-8, CA’s Proposition 8, and Mark Begich in AK.

I’ll get the party started at 5:00 EST, although—depending on what kind of GOTV work I’m doing—I don’t promise to be around for another couple of hours. But we’ll get going fast and furious by 7:00, and stay around until every vote is counted or we all fall asleep—possibly into the next day.

Dissect the exit polls, debate statistics, ridicule pundits, advance theories, and—hopefully—repeatedly celebrate. So wherever you are, alone in front of the computer, at a party in front of a television, or at one of the zillions of parties around the country, spend the night here as well.

Prizes will be awarded to the people who best predict the presidential winner in each state and the popular vote margin, the winner of every Senate race, the winner of the 11 governor’s races, and the winner of the close House races. Predictions must be posted by 6:00 PM EST to be eligible.

Bruce Schneier is, of course, one of the smartest people on the planet, a tireless voice of well-informed common sense on security issues and their broader implications, and probably the single person I’d most want to be listening to as meaningful numerical and statistical data flows in. Particularly if there’s any chance that there’s anything squirrelly about those numbers.

Remember, Bruce Schneier doesn’t need a keylogger; he’s standing right behind you.

Teresa and I will be around too, until the last dog is dead and the big picture filled in. We’ll keep a link to the Schneier election thread on top of the front page all night long. If and when discussions of particular subtopics seem to require their own space, we’ll start new threads to accommodate them.

Join us for what we suspect will be a memorable evening on Making Light.

Greetings from Toronto
Posted by Patrick at 01:56 PM * 51 comments

The whole world is holding its breath.

Attention, NYC friends of Scraps
Posted by Patrick at 12:45 PM * 0 comments

Volunteers badly needed this weekend. More information here.

Electoral history, pattern-making, and meaning
Posted by Patrick at 08:04 AM * 64 comments

Is the United States fundamentally “liberal” or “conservative”? Kind of a simple-minded question, but endlessly catnip to a certain kind of pundit. Earlier this week, Newsweek editor-in-chief Jon Meacham ran a cover story under his own byline, asserting that America is in its essence a “center-right” country—“a fact that President Obama would forget at his peril.”

I don’t want to tangle with such a silly argument—“center-right” compared to what? Canada? The Netherlands? Mongolia? Japan?—but I was struck by Meacham’s observation that “Republicans have dominated presidential politics—in many ways the most personal, visceral vote we cast—for 40 years. Since 1968, Democrats have won only three of 10 general elections (1976, 1992 and 1996).” As Ezra Klein observed, “Why 40 years? Presumably because that’s the time period that makes Republicans look best. In the last 48 years, Democrats have elected four presidents and Republicans have elected four presidents (Gerald Ford never won a national election).”

Right. But Meacham’s handwaving got me to thinking anyway. As he observed, of the last ten national elections, Republicans have won (or, at least, “took power following”) seven of them, and Democrats have won three:

1968 to 2004:
1968 - Nixon, R
1972 - Nixon, R
1976 - Carter, D
1980 - Reagan, R
1984 - Reagan, R
1988 - Bush, R
1992 - Clinton, D
1996 - Clinton, D
2000 - Bush, R
2004 - Bush, R

What intrigued me was what I noticed when I looked at the ten national elections before that:

1928 to 1964:
1928 - Hoover, R
1932 - Roosevelt, D
1936 - Roosevelt, D
1940 - Roosevelt, D
1944 - Roosevelt, D
1948 - Truman, D
1952 - Eisenhower, R
1956 - Eisenhower, R
1960 - Kennedy, D
1964 - Johnson, D

In other words, the exact opposite of 1968-2004: this time, we see seven Democratic victories and only three Republican ones. Okay, let’s back up ten more elections:

1888 to 1924:
1888 - Harrison, R
1892 - Cleveland, D
1896 - McKinley, R
1900 - McKinley, R
1904 - Roosevelt, R
1908 - Taft, R
1912 - Wilson, D
1916 - Wilson, D
1920 - Harding, R
1924 - Coolidge, R

Holy statistical improbability, Batman, it’s seven Republican victories and three Democratic ones. Okay, ten more:

1848 to 1884:
1848 - Taylor, W
1852 - Pierce, D
1856 - Buchanan, D
1860 - Lincoln, R
1864 - Lincoln, R
1868 - Grant, R
1872 - Grant, R
1876 - Hayes, R
1880 - Garfield, R
1884 - Cleveland, D

The seven-to-three pattern persists: seven Whig/Republican victories and three Democratic ones. Yes, to be a really strong pattern, you’d want this one to be seven-to-three in the other direction. On the other hand, once you’re back this far, it’s arguable that (in presidential politics at any rate) that Democrats are the “conservative” party and the Republicans are the sort-of, vaguely, if-you-squint-while-peering-at-them “liberal” party.

Beyond this, if you push back yet another ten elections to 1808, you get no further discernable pattern, largely because the very concept of “political parties” gets vague as you get closer to the dawn of the republic. (On what “tickets” did Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams run against one another in 1824? You could argue entertainingly about that for a while.)

Is there a point to this? Not much of one, only that you can adduce all kinds of windy generalizations about national character and ideological direction if you choose your data set carefully enough. Also, that sitting around a waiting room while Teresa undergoes lengthy cardiac tests is a circumstance conducive to long exercises in patternmaking.

When I finished with that one, for some reason, I then started thinking about Roman Catholics as national party nominees. The first one nominated to national office was, of course, Al Smith in 1928, who was crushed by Herbert Hoover; Smith carried only Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, an electoral map that now looks like something out of the Bizarro World. The second national nominee, and (strikingly) the only successful one to this day, was John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Since then, in the twelve national elections since Kennedy, there’s been a Catholic on a major party ticket exactly half the time:

William Miller - Republican vice-presidential candidate, 1964
Edmund Muskie - Democratic vice-presidential candidate, 1968
Sargent Shriver - Democratic vice-presidential candidate, 1972
Geraldine Ferraro - Democratic vice-presidential candidate, 1984
John Kerry - Democratic presidential candidate, 2004
Joseph Biden - Democratic vice-presidential candidate, 2008

It’s interesting to note that, although conservatives frequently talk as if the Catholic vote is theirs by right, the Republican Party has put a Catholic on the ticket only once in its entire history—Barry Goldwater’s running mate Bill Miller. The Democrats have done so seven times, six of them in the last fifty years. Three of those seven were Presidential nominees.

If Obama and Biden win, Joe Biden will be only the second Roman Catholic elected to national office in the 220 years of our constitutional republic. Given that Catholics have been the largest single denomination in the country since roughly forever, this is a striking fact, and probably a more meaningful one than my (or Jon Meacham’s) ledgerdemain with electoral numbers. Catholics were WASP America’s scary Other for a very long time. “Rum, Romanism, and rebellion!”

Scents and sensibilities
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:21 AM * 136 comments

Our sense of smell hooks into our brains in a way that no other sense does: our reactions are immediate, associative, vivid. A scent can call back a memory long buried and forgotten, and we seek and favor those fragrances that please us, for themselves or what they evoke.

Three smells that speak to me:

Lavender has been one of my favorite scents since university, when I lived in a co-op with a lavender bush by the door. I used to sit on the doorstep in the sun and tuck stems into my Latin grammar, which still smells of the stuff to this day.

This week, my daughter stored up what I hope will be a powerful and delightful association with the fragrance. The house we’ve been staying in on vacation (in the south of France) has an enormous quantity of lavender bushes. My mother in law, my daughter and I harvested a bucketload of the flowers, all dried on the bush, which will be going into sachets for Christmas presents. Our hands, our clothing, and the entire house smelled of the stuff by the time we were finished. Our luggage will as well, though I plan to triple-bag our gleanings.

Leather is also, for me, a fond memory. When I lived in Edinburgh, I used to go to the specialist bookbinding tannery that lies in an outlying part of the city. It doesn’t tan the hides from raw (a process with its own distinctive smell), but imports them, treats them, dyes them, and sells them from great multicolored rolls in their warehouse. Few people go there in person; most order online, and are missing a treat. It is beautiful and vivid in there, and the staff are a delight to know.

What I discovered, patronizing Hewit’s, was that there are many distinct smells that all identify as “leather”. Each of the hides I have bought from them has its own fragrance, and the many scents blend to make that building one of the most pleasant-smelling ones I have ever been inside.

My children’s wet diapers held strong memories. Each of us, you know, has his or her own distinctive odor, and as a mother, I’m powerfully attuned to that of my children.

For me, though, wet diapers are about babyhood. Both of my kids are long since toilet trained, and I’ll never smell that particular fragrance again. But it reminds me of tender times with them at the changing mat, playing with their toes and singing Cheryl Crow (“A change will do you good”) or David Bowie (“Changes”).

I miss it.

What smells do you find vivid and powerful? Why?

Non-political thread, naturally.

October 24, 2008
Vlad and his friend Boris make a video
Posted by Teresa at 11:21 AM * 73 comments

I’ve been collecting vernacular music videos all through this campaign, most collectedly in All come singing, and in bits and pieces elsewhere, like Hey Sarah Palin in Particles.

Elise forwarded me a new one: ‘Song for Sarah’ for mrs. Palin by Vlad and Boris, who by unreliable report live at 45454 Russia Ave., Moscow. I love it. Their written English may be sketchy, but their hearts are true, and they do a great deadpan delivery.


words 2 song

soon as i wayk up in the morning
i go to my window
i made this teliscop myself out of duck tape and the thing that holds the rapping paper

so i can see if ur there
i fix it on ur howse in Alaska
my next door neybor here in moscow

what r u doing rite now lets see
r u and todd ok?
u say u can see me and my country from ur state well im looking at u evry day!!!

misses palin!
i want to fly into ur Airspase!
misses palin!
i want to reer my little Head!
misses palin!
why wont You reply to my Emails?!!
I made a teliscop for YOU and i luv u so

we share a small merry-time border but the borders of r harts is thick
u dont like news-papers well neether of us can say or reed english

we are madw for eachuther!!!
so fly ur playn my way
i live at 45454 RUSSIA AVE

repeet misses palin chorus

I say dog gone it you betcha you betcha dog gone it you betcha dog gone it say it aint so joe you betcha dog on it etc

i luv u

Elections were so much less fun before YouTube.

October 23, 2008
Uh, yeah, well, about that
Posted by Patrick at 12:54 PM *

Greenspan went on to admit that adjustable-rate mortgages were “maybe not such a hot idea,” that exploratory surgery is “not actually as much fun as they say,” and that John Galt’s speech at the end of Atlas Shrugged is “probably too long.”

Following his appearance before the House Oversight Committee, Mr. Greenspan is expected to donate his worldly possessions to the Socialist International. He plans to devote the remainder of his life to study and contemplation.

The Myth of the Likely Voter
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:02 AM * 56 comments

Tons of polls are announced every day telling us about how the Likely Voters are going to vote. These are probably less useful than you’d think.

Do you all recall New Hampshire’s primary election? The pollsters were predicting an Obama victory. Yet the state went for Clinton. What happened?

After I went to the Balsams to observe the Dixville Notch polling (and Making Light scooped everyone with the news, since I knew where to stand in the room to get a cell phone signal and the CNN guy didn’t), I dropped back by the hospital to share some donuts with the Night Duty Nurses.

They were all talking about the election, of course. And in the course of chatting with them I discovered many things. For example, while I had been getting as many as three pollsters calling me per day, none of them had been polled even once. The reason for that: They weren’t “likely voters.” I have voted in every primary and general election since I turned 21 (those were the days when the voting age was 21). A goodly number of the nurses had never voted before; they had either just registered or were planning to register at the polling place (allowed in our state). Another big bunch only voted in the general elections every four years, not in the mid-term elections and never in the primaries.

Yet all the talk among ‘em (including among the Republicans in their midst) was “How do you think Hillary is going to do?” If I were smart I would have called it for Hillary right then.

So for this election, don’t look at the polls that count “likely voters.” Look at the polls that count possible voters (that is, people who are, or could be, registered to vote).

(For those of you who are interested, Obama is running three to four points higher in the polls of all voters than he is in polls of “likely voters.”)

October 22, 2008
Republican Weirdness
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:26 PM * 38 comments

I just go the weirdest robo-call push-poll of my life.

This was presented as a five-question political survey. First, if the election were held tomorrow would I be more likely to vote for Democrat Barack Obama or for Republican John McCain? Press 1 for Obama, press 2 for McCain.

Second, if the election were held tomorrow would I be more likely to vote for Democrat Mike Huckleberry or Republican Thomas Ginster for the 70th District State House seat?

Mike Huckleberry? Thomas Ginster? Who??? WTF 70th District?!

Third, two men charged with the murder of a Greenville man are prisoners on work-release. Do you approve of allowing dangerous murderers to get out of prison on work-release?

Fourth, If someone were to tell you that Mike Huckleberry voted for work release for prisoners who subsequently murdered citizens would it change your opinion of Mike Huckleberry?

Fifth, Knowing as you now do that Mike Huckleberry supports releasing dangerous murderers from prison, who would you vote for if the election were held tomorrow? Press one for Democrat Mike Huckeberry….

Dumbos. Losers. I only live seven hundred miles from the 70th district in Michigan. I couldn’t vote there if I wanted to. Did they think to check the area codes on the phone list they gave to their robot?

A quick Google shows that the 70th District was supposed to be a safe Republican seat. If the Republicans are so worried that they’re using heavy-handed robocalls … well, best of luck, Mike Huckleberry.

[Corrected phone number.]

This call originated from 1-(234) 567-8900

Where is area code 234?
[deleted speculation about wrong number]
Promoted from the comment thread, and thanks Julie:

Mr. McCain’s State of the Union
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:54 PM * 25 comments

Through the miracle of modern advance-research, we have obtained a copy of Mr. McCain’s State of the Union Address for the year 2010:

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Palin, members of Congress, distinguished citizens and fellow citizens: Every year, by law and by ACORN, we meet here to consider the Hamas of the Iran. This Rezko, we gather in this Ayers deeply aware of Rev. Wright that lies ahead.

ACORN and Ayers serve Wright in a time of great socialism. During this Arab of Muslim, we have the Rezko to reform domestic real-America vital to our socialist; we have the Odinga to save millions of birth certificates from a terrible ACORN. We will work for a Wright that is broadly shared, and we will answer every ACORN and every Rashid Khalidi that threatens the Kenya Ayers. (Applause.)

In all these days of ACORN and days of Bill Ayers, we can be Rezko. In a whirlwind of Kenya and socialist and vote-fraud, our sex-ed for kindergarten is sure, our Ayers is firm, and our Wright is flag-pin. (Applause.)

Here Mr. McCain clutched his chest and fell to the floor. After a brief whispered oath-taking with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ms. Palin took the podium.
President Palin: Gosh-darnit, real America, you betcha. Into the boxcars, all of you!
At this point the cameras went dark.

October 21, 2008
What kind of “Election Day unrest” are we talking about?
Posted by Teresa at 09:12 PM * 354 comments

I’ve been wondering whether stuff like this would happen.

From an article, Police prepare for unrest, published today in The Hill, which is the leading newspaper of Congress and Capitol Hill:

by Alexander Bolton

Police departments in cities across the country are beefing up their ranks for Election Day, preparing for possible civil unrest and riots after the historic presidential contest.

Public safety officials said in interviews with The Hill that the election, which will end with either the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president, demanded a stronger police presence.

Bolton is confecting one of those disingenuous “balanced presentations” that falsify the real story. No one would riot over the election of a female Vice President, if that was all there was to it.
Some worry that if Barack Obama loses and there is suspicion of foul play in the election, —
There’ll be more than “suspicion of foul play” going on if McCain’s declared the winner.

Semi-digression: Have you been following FiveThirtyEight: Electoral Projections Done Right? You should. Honest. It’s a blog about election polling statistics, and far more interesting than that description makes it sound.

It’s written by Nate Silver, who started out as a Sabermetrician (as in the Bill James Baseball Abstracts) and Managing Partner of Baseball Prospectus. If you aren’t familiar with the sub-universe of baseball statistics, the takeaway is that Nate Silver has wizard-level statistical chops. For instance, runs 10,000 election-simulation computer models every day, “in order to provide a continually up-to-date assessment of probability for electoral outcomes.”

For some time now, the analyses at have been showing Obama with a double-digit lead on McCain. Of the 10,000 election-simulation models ran today, 93.4% showed Obama winning, as opposed to 6.6% for McCain.

Furthermore, indications are that the tide of support for Obama is still coming in, and that McCain’s tide, low though it is, is still going out. A couple of pertinent news stories today: (1.) The very respectable Pew Research Poll has reported Growing Doubts About McCain’s Judgment, Age and Campaign Conduct; Obama’s Lead Widens: 52%-38%. From Taegan Goddard’s concise version:

Pew Research: McCain Collapses in Latest National Poll

A new Pew Research poll shows Sen. Barack Obama holds his widest national margin yet over Sen. John McCain, 53% to 39%, among likely voters.

Key findings: “Obama’s gains notwithstanding, a widespread loss of confidence in McCain appears to be the most significant factor in the race at this point. Many more voters express doubts about McCain’s judgment than about Obama’s: 41% see McCain as ‘having poor judgment,’ while just 29% say that this trait describes Obama. Fewer voters also view McCain as inspiring than did so in mid-September (37% now, 43% then). By contrast, 71% of voters continue to think of Obama as inspiring.”

“In addition, Sarah Palin appears to be a continuing—if not an increasing—drag on the GOP ticket. Currently, 49% of voters express an unfavorable opinion of Palin, while 44% have a favorable view.”

(2.) The New York Times reports that the McCain campaign appears to be giving up on Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado. In all five states, McCain’s people are stretching out the ad buys they’ve already made. Basically, the advertising time in those states that they’d originally bought for use during the upcoming week is being spread out over the next two weeks, which are the final weeks of the campaign.

(Aside: Does this mean we get to relax? IT DOES NOT. We still have to turn out every last legitimate vote we can. The larger the margin, the harder it will be for malfeasants to magically transform everything we know about voter intentions in this race into an inexplicable victory for McCain.)

Going back now to that story in The Hill:

Some worry that if Barack Obama loses and there is suspicion of foul play in the election, violence could ensue in cities with large black populations. Others based the need for enhanced patrols on past riots in urban areas (following professional sports events) and also on Internet rumors.
This is setting up a fraudulent racist narrative: that any unrest on Election Day will consist of inner-city blacks rioting because the black candidate didn’t win. Some of the things that narrative fails to take into account:

—The most notable recent instance of rioting while an election was in progress did not involve a local urban black population. It was in Florida in 2000, and the rioters were known Republican campaign operatives brought into the state on the national Republican Party’s nickel.

—The most recent instances of campaign-related violence or threats of violence were last week’s break-in and trashing of the Boston and Seattle offices of ACORN, and phoned-in death threats made to ACORN volunteers elsewhere. These happened in the wake of McCain, Palin, and the McCain organization making false and inflammatory statements about ACORN voter registration drives. The actual perpetrators of the break-ins and death threats are not yet know, but you’d have to be a drooling idiot to think they were Democrats.

—If Obama supporters take to the streets following declaration of a McCain victory, they’re not all going to be urban blacks, and they won’t just be protesting that the black candidate lost. What they’re going to be protesting is blatant election fraud.

—You cannot assume that all instances of protest are going to be illegal.

—You cannot assume that everyone who appears to be upset is a rioter or protester. They might well be campaign workers who are pursuing legitimate tasks and acting within their rights.

—If you assume that blacks who are out on the street during a time of unrest should not be allowed to continue going about their business, you’re going to keep a lot of citizens from voting for Obama.

—Trying to start Election Day riots, in the hope that riot suppression measures will disproportionately affect potential Obama voters, is probably one of the more effective tactics available to McCain’s campaign operatives. It’s clear at this point that normal methods of persuasion don’t work, if what you’re trying to do is persuade people that voting for McCain is a good idea.

Democratic strategists and advocates for black voters say they understand officers wanting to keep the peace, but caution that excessive police presence could intimidate voters.
“Democratic strategists and advocates for black voters” is a mealymouthed way to suggest that this is only an issue for Democratic ward heelers and black community leaders; i.e., it’s just a partisan brangle. It’s not. It’s an issue for all the citizens of the republic.
Sen. Obama (Ill.), the Democratic nominee for president, has seen his lead over rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) grow in recent weeks, prompting speculation that there could be a violent backlash if he loses unexpectedly.
“Loses unexpectedly” is a euphemism for “loses under circumstances that make it impossible to believe the election was honest.”
Cities that have suffered unrest before, such as Detroit, Chicago, Oakland and Philadelphia, will have extra police deployed.
Is that code for “cities with large black populations”?
In Oakland, the police will deploy extra units trained in riot control, as well as extra traffic police, and even put SWAT teams on standby.

“Are we anticipating it will be a riot situation? No. But will we be prepared if it goes awry? Yes,” said Jeff Thomason, spokesman for the Oakland Police Department.

“I think it is a big deal — you got an African-American running and [a] woman running,” he added, in reference to Obama and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. “Whoever wins it, it will be a national event. We will have more officers on the street in anticipation that things may go south.”

As I said at the start, no one would riot just because a female Vice President got elected. If the ticket that has a female candidate for Vice President is declared to have won, and there are riots, it will be because the rioters believe the election was stolen. Again.
The Oakland police last faced big riots in 2003 when the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. Officials are bracing themselves in case residents of Oakland take Obama’s loss badly.
I find it offensive that Alexander Bolton is equating potential voter protests with fans being upset over a lost football game. I likewise find it offensive that he dismisses that potential reaction “taking the loss badly.” We’re talking about people protesting the abrogation of their most basic political rights.
Political observers such as Hilary Shelton and James Carville fear that record voter turnout could overload polling places on Election Day and could raise tension levels.

Shelton, the director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said inadequate voting facilities is a bigger problem in poor communities with large numbers of minorities.

“What are local election officials doing to prepare for what people think will be record turnout at the polls?” said Shelton, who added that during the 2004 election in Ohio voters in predominantly black communities had to wait in line six to eight hours to vote.

“On Election Day, if this continues, you may have some tempers flare; we should be prepared to deal with that but do it without intimidation,” said Shelton, who added that police have to be able to maintain order at polling stations without scaring voters, especially immigrants from “police states.”

Shelton’s right. The important point is that police need to be prepared to suppress disorder without suppressing voters. If they haven’t made plans already, they need to start figuring out now how they’re going to tell the difference.


Jim Henley predicted this a month ago:

Here’s what I think is the ultimate potential ratfuck if the GOP thinks they need it: The weekend before the election, Homeland Security or some pliable Republican governor in a swing state, someone official or semi-official, announces that, with the polls indicating a possible Obama defeat, law enforcement has been directed to prepare for possible riots in major cities on election night. The slightly subtler version of the same maneuver is to leak word that such an alert is under consideration - possibly even that authority was denied because of “political correctness.” Such a maneuver could help swing anxious white voters against Obama at the last minute.
Suddenly, I see why the Obama campaign is exhorting every voter in states that allow early voting to get out there and do it now. When Obama says “things could happen on that day,” his examples are things like your car breaking down. Which is a good argument for voting early. But you know, things really could happen on that day.


Larry Brennan points out an article from the Wall Street Journal opinion section which downplays the accuracy of polling. I can’t believe it’s in good faith. All polls are inaccurate. The trick is to know how inaccurate they are, and in what ways.

The last time I saw something like this was during the run-up to the 2000 election, when the accuracy of exit polls was suddenly being dismissed in exactly the same way that the accuracy of polling is now being dismissed by the WSJ.

Princeton, West Virginia: McCain Supporters Heckle Early Voters, Call Them ‘Cheaters’.

Journalists covering a McCain rally in Virginia get harassed by whipped-up McCain supporters.

Operatives hired by the Republican Party have been suppressing Latino voter registrations in Nevada.

The GOP is trying other vote suppression tactics in Nevada as well.

A new campaign pamphlet sent out to voters in Pennsylvania presents Palin as a centrist, and the figurehead of the ticket.

RFK Jr. and Greg Palast have a major new article in Rolling Stone: Block the Vote: Will the GOP’s campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president? To accompany it, they’ve also put out a comic book: Steal Back Your Vote.

McCain’s smear robocalls, which he’s deployed in multiple states, are so disreputable and inflammatory that Republican candidates and officials, including senators and other notable lifelong Republicans, are calling for a stop to them. McCain blew them off.

October 20, 2008
Keymasters of the Universe, a novel
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 07:20 PM * 133 comments

I often think we’re living in an alternate history novel. Honesty, the events of the world are too strange to be real. In different times and different circumstances, my guess as to the author may change1, 2, but the overwhelming impression remains.

The complex net of economic forces that is influencing our lives right now makes me think of Kim Stanley Robinson or Neal Stephenson: writers who capture the sweep of history, and yet document the effects of its small eddies on specific human beings. I am not, at present, in the main plotline (thank goodness); I’m almost certainly not even a minor character. The protagonist is likely to be in Iceland right now, or perhaps an Icelandic expat, living in a world gone suddenly strange and restrictive. I hope it all comes out well by the end.

Then there’s the Darien Scheme. That’s always struck me as a piece of an alternate history, leaking across into this one. Know the story?

At the end of the seventeenth century, Scotland was in an economic trap. It hadn’t the resources or the might to compete with the great European trading powers: the Spanish, the Portuguese and their near neighbors, the English. Scotland, already bound to England by the Union of the Crowns under James Stuart, found its political and economic independence increasingly threatened by its wealthy neighbor to the south.

The solution, thought some, was to join the game: get a colony in the New World. The specific objective was Panama, with its temptingly narrow isthmus. The Scots thought to build a colony on the Darién river, where the landmass is just over 50 miles wide, and offer portage services for freight (at, of course, a fee). It was to be, according William Paterson, its chief promoter, “The door of the Seas and the Key of the Universe.”

The venture raised £400,000 by subscription, accounting for somewhere between a third and a half of all of the nation’s capital. In 1698, a fleet of five ships set out from Leith Harbor to stake Scotland’s place in the New World. More followed in 1699.

Somewhere, I think, an author must have sat with his agent over a dram of Panama highland single malt (18 year old Yaviza3) and discussed his latest novel idea.

“I was thinking of doing an alternate history this time. What if the second Darien expedition had failed as badly as the first? What if the Scots never had their own colony in the New World?”

“You mean if they’d done a Jamestown and died out?”

“Something like that. Scotland pretty much bet its existence as an independent nation on the scheme. What if, say, the English colony at Jamaica had received the royal edict in time and refused to supply the Scots? The nation would have gone bankrupt, and only England would have been in a position to bail them out.”

“Interesting idea. England were after a union of parliaments right about then, weren’t they?”

“Yep. And the Scots wouldn’t have been able to refuse if they’d lost half their capital in Panama. I suspect that England might have held onto the Empire all the way through the 1800’s if they’d been able to get the Scots to serve as their administrators and soldiers. Imagine what that would have done to India, for instance.”

“Or Canada. Would they have broken with England if there hadn’t been a Scottish Empire to join? And hey—would we still have the canal? The Scots needed the 180 years of engineering innovation that the Darien revenues funded before they were ready to dig it in 1887.”

“I’m sure that someone would have managed it eventually. Maybe the Americans, a few years later.”

“I’d have to be convinced of that. Anyway, send me the outline and we’ll talk.”

Wait…what? You say the Darien scheme failed? The settlers died in their pestilential swamp, and only 300 of the 2,800 colonists made it back to Scotland? Scotland signed an Act of Union in 1707, including compensation to the Darien subscribers4?

Well, nuts. Wrong timeline again. You guys didn’t have Prez either, did you?

  1. This is not unlike my favorite meeting game, which is to identify which artists created the faces of the people around me. Some people are perfect Roman busts, others Dutch Old Masters, and still others come straight out of a Lucien Freud painting.
  2. For instance, Joshua Norton is such a perfect Neil Gaiman character that, had he not existed, Gaiman would have had to invent him.
  3. Aged in rum barrels. It’s an acquired taste, but worth the effort.
  4. Irony: the company in charge of the distribution would later become the Royal Bank of Scotland, the biggest recipient of British government investment in the current crisis.
October 17, 2008
Red Mike Goes to the Movies +Spoilers+
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:17 PM * 119 comments

Today I went to the video rental store (First Run Video, in the Walker House on Main Street, Colebrook). I walked to the Horror section, closed my eyes, spun around, reached out and touched … UNEARTHED. (“The wrath of 900 years is about to awake.”)

This is apparently part of the After Dark HorrorFest 8 Films to Die For series.

So settle back, kiddies. I haven’t seen this film, or heard of it. Instead, watch along with me as a Making Light reader who is prepared to handle the worst that life can hand you. You have your go bag. Let’s go!


Continued below the cut.


October 16, 2008
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:17 PM * 236 comments

With apologies:

The morning dawned clear and bright, and Gandalf rose early to walk along the terraces and slopes above the loud-flowing Bruinen. The rising sun shone pale and wan through the silver mist, and the webs of the spiders glistened among the trees. On a small bench beside the path he came upon Elrond, who rose to greet him.

“Fine is the morning and fortunate the meeting, O Mithrandir! Long have I sat here contemplating the paths that lie before us, and now find myself in need of sustenance. I have in my cool-rooms a hoard of stone-fruits from Gondolin, which I would gladly share with you.”

“Many years has it been,” replied Gandalf, “since I have tasted the stone-fruits of Gondolin. They grow now but sparsely among the fallen stones of that once fair city.”

Elrond rose and led the way to his cool-rooms, which stood in a shadowed corner of the Last Homely House, sheltered from the sunlight by the high walls of the building around them. There he kept many foods from all over Middle-Earth, cooled by great blocks of ice carried down from the Misty mountains.

The thick stone door of the cool-rooms stood ajar. Elrond and Gandalf entered to find Pippin seated on a wooden chest, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief. Beside him lay a small pile of fruit-stones, the last traces of golden flesh still clinging to them.

“Hullo, Gandalf! Hullo, Elrond! I just popped in here for a little something to eat. It’s a long time yet to breakfast, and waiting is hungry work, as my gaffer always says.”

Elrond stood still within the doorway, but Gandalf strode forward. “Gluttonous fool of a Took! You have eaten the stone-fruits of Gondolin, which we had preserved in the cool-room for our breakfast!”

“Forgive me,” cried the hobbit, cringing before the wizard’s wrath. “They were so sweet and so cold that I could hardly resist them!”

Anyone else?

1 kword
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:37 AM * 179 comments

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2008 presidential race, summed up in a single photograph:

The end of the 3rd debate

(I almost went with this one instead. Both ganked from this Reddit thread.)

Update: Here’s that moment in video.

October 15, 2008
Links for 15 Oct 2008
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:55 PM * 36 comments

October 14, 2008
The Blue Benn
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:14 PM * 45 comments

A diner.

We went to Albacon last weekend, accompanied by our elder son, Brendan. Our route took us through scenic Bennington, Vermont, site of the Battle of Bennington (16th August, 1777, MGEN John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne v. BGEN John “Live Free or Die” Stark), and home to Bennington College.

Bennington is about forty miles east of Albany, New York.

Anyway, when we travel we (thanks to Brendan) have a neat book called Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More by Jane & Michael Stern. It was our desire to stop at a diner (because eating at diners will help save America). So when supper time came, and we were near Bennington, we pulled off at The Blue Benn.

Here’s how the book describes it:

Blue Benn Diner
314 North St. 802-442-5140
Bennington, VT BLD | $

The Blue Benn, an original Silk City dining car, was planted on this site along Route 7 in 1949. To this day, it remains a true-blue hash house with a menu that includes such square meals as pot roast, turkey dinner, and meat loaf and mashed potatoes. In addition to the expected, there are international dishes including Syrian-bread roll-ups and vegetarian enchiladas, and such modern fare as a grilled salmon Caesar salad. In fact, the interior is plastered everywhere with literally hundreds of kitchen specials, plain to fancy. Breakfast delights include corn bread French toast and stacks of Crunchberry pancakes with turkey hash on the side, as well as eminently dunkable locally-made donuts.

“BLD” means Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. “$” means one full meal under $10. (Ratings go up to “$$$”.)

The little naviguesser got us there no problem. The place is within sight of the Battle of Bennington Memorial (an obelisk). It’s a little silver railcar on the right side of the road (as you drive south on North Street) with blue awnings in front and a cinderblock kitchen built on the back. It’s small on the inside, but cosy. Little two-songs-for-a-quarter jukeboxes at each booth. Counter service. Y’know.

Doyle had the California Benedict (from an ad-hoc sign on the wall), which was two poached eggs on English muffins, guacamole, tomato, and sprouts. Brendan had the Country Benedict (also off a sign on the wall) which was two poached eggs on biscuits with “country gravy.” I went for a classic Reuben and onion rings off the menu. Really good Stuff, folks.

Let’s see … also on this trip we stopped off to see the grave of the town atheist in Lemington, VT; we followed the instructions from Curious New England: The Unconventional Traveler’s Guide to Eccentric Destinations to find it. (See also: Glowing Tomb.)

It is with sorrow that I report that on the way back we didn’t stop to see the grave of Uncle Sam in Troy, New York. I wanted to, but the other convention-weary travelers who accompanied me were not so keen on a side-trip.

We did stop at the P&H Truck Stop in Wells River, VT, for supper on the way back.

As described in Roadfood:

P & H Truck Stop
Exit 17 off I-91 802-429-2141
Wells River, VT BLD | $

P&H, a real truck stop, is not for the fastidious epicure. You need to pass through the aroma of diesel fuel outside to get to the smells of fresh-baked bread and of pot roast with gravy in the dining room. Enter past shelves of whole loaves of white and cinnamon-raisin bread for sale. This is a kitchen that means business.

Soups and chowders are especially inviting: tomato-macaroni soup is thick with vegetables, ground beef, and soft noodles; corn chowder is loaded with potatoes and corn kernels and flavored with bacon. We love the falling-apart pot roast and any kind of sandwich made using thick-sliced P&H bread, but the mashed potatoes (puree de pommes de terre on the bilingual menu, written for French-Canadian truckers) taste like they were made from powder, and the meat loaf is strictly for die-hard diner fans.

The homemade dessert selection is huge, including fruit pies, berry pies, custard pies, meringue pies, Reese’s pie (a peanut-cream), a few types of pudding, and maple-cream pie thick as toffee and topped with nuts.

FWIW, Doyle has the meatloaf whenever we stop there.

October 13, 2008
Breaking news, 7:11 ET
Posted by Patrick at 07:13 AM *

Paul Krugman wins the Nobel Prize in Economics. For, we immediately assume, his distinguished work in the field of Being Right.

Okay, actually, it’s for his “formulation of a new theory to answer questions driving world-wide urbanisation.”

“He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography,” the committee said in its statement.
Anyway, congratulations to one of the world’s most accomplished science fiction readers.

Hot cookies
Posted by Teresa at 02:21 AM *

Away with all those forgettable “snowman, candy cane, Christmas tree, gingerbread man” cookie cutters! What you need is an 18th C. cookie mold more than nine inches across, showing Elijah being carried off in his chariot, Elisha being mocked by the disobedient children of Bethel, and, right there in the foreground, a disobedient child being eaten by a bear. That’s putting the old-time religion back into Christmas, you betcha.

You can get the Elisha & Elijah cookie mold from House on the Hill, which sells nifty reproductions of all kinds of antique Mitteleuropean molds.* Your gingerbread man can be the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705), who reputedly had the amiable habit of commissioning portraits of himself in gingerbread to give away to his subjects. Other accounts say it was Emperor Frederick III who did that, in 1487. (Maybe they both did it. Free gingerbread is never a bad idea.) If eating a fully togged-out Habsburg is too much for you, you can eat Martin Luther’s head, or just munch on a baby.

Humans have an irrepressible tendency to turn media of exchange into channels for communication.

And while we’re at it, let’s do away with that demoralizing moment when the cookie recipient turns the thing from side to side, peering at it, and asks what it’s supposed to be. Farewell, ill-advised teddy bears and clumsily decorated sleighs! Now, when the recipient is confused, you can give them unexpectedly new and interesting answers: it’s Shakespeare, Pentecost, Epiphany, a 1510 folk-art Book of Revelations, a Biedermeier mermaid, laundry day, the King of Acorns, Punch and Judy, a baroque owl, a wild sow with piglets, a spiral nautilus, a couple of musicians hanging out by a fountain, the Resurrection of Christ, and some guy with antlers riding on a rooster. Also, optionally, saints Cecelia, Martin, John the Evangelist, George (with Dragon), Peter in Chains, and St. Paul and Silas in prison, plus Saint Nicholas about a dozen times over. It’s worth it just to dumbfound the “Xmas is a conspiracy” crowd.

On a side note, I observe that the people who made the original cookie molds appear to have had a larger set of coy explanations for where babies come from than we have today. The stork gets his due airing, but babies are also allegedly delivered by angels, who grow them in their gardens, or catch them in nets when they’re out boating. The most engaging theory is that babies grow on trees (note the different stages of ripeness). When they’re ready to pick, the father shakes the tree, and the ripe baby drops off and is caught in its mother’s apron.

Compare that with one of the illustrations on this interesting springerle mold, in the Mildred E. Jenson collection, in which it is revealed that husbands also grow on trees. The young ladies are giving the tree a good shaking, but the husbands hanging from it are undersized, and look scared. The other illustrations on that same springerle board show a spinster, a virgin martyr, and a burning heart; so perhaps it was the the pre-literacy equivalent of a career counseling pamphlet for girls.

The other really interesting cookie molds illustrating the reproductive cycle (if you don’t count their strikingly underdressed Adam and Eve) are the ones that form the component pieces for 3D models. One of them makes a swaddled infant in a cradle. If I read the parts correctly, the other makes a detailed miniature house which, if munched open, turns out to contain a newlywed couple in bed.*

For more info about springerle, speculaas, shortbread, gingerbread, marzipan, and other elaborately molded confectionery, start with Gene Wilson’s Cookie Mold Site. Move from there to Ken Hamilton, the Springerle Baker, who has recipes, directions for using moldboards, the works. One of his sub-pages is a gallery of antique molds that came over with German immigrants, dating from the 17th to 20th century. All of them are interesting, but the Mildred E. Jenson collection is three pages long, and a must-see. The other noncommercial gallery of antique molds is the Thomas Collection of Cookie and Cake Boards. ITC Web Designs is a German firm that offers a great diversity of designs carefully duplicated from antique cookie molds, and also new molds in traditional styles. Firma König - Springerle Model is working in the same vein as ITC Web Designs, but they’re even more German—as in, their site’s not in English. Go ahead, be adventurous. They have some very cool molds.*

[Recipe Index]

October 11, 2008
Don’t Blink
Posted by Patrick at 11:51 AM *

If, like me, you believe that the HTML “blink” tag is the devil’s work, Lifehacker has you covered: Disabling Blinking Text in Firefox. Takes about twenty seconds, including the time involved in reloading the afflicted page. Better yet, it works on all other pages henceforth.

The Presidential Book of Lists
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:16 AM * 17 comments

At Albacon today I met my friend Ian Randal Strock. Ian is as pleased as only an author with his Very First Book (The Presidential Book of Lists: From Most to Least, Elected to Rejected, Worst to Cursed—Fascinating Facts About Our Chief Executives) can be. (Buy one; better still, buy a dozen! They make excellent gifts.)

The book is being released on October the 21st, which is a bizarre date, but rather better than the date that Villard originally wanted to release it: December of this year. “Arrrgh!” Ian said, or words to that effect. “Wouldn’t piggybacking on the ultra-million-dollar publicity campaigns of these guys called the ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats’ make sense?”

“Perhaps you have a point,” said the publicity guys, and moved up the release date.

The release party will be at Books of Wonder in NYC (18 West 18th Street) on October 28th, 6:00pm-7:30pm. I advised Ian that he should bring a lollipop tree and a booksigning-tablecloth (like all the pros) and that he should dress up like a president. George Washington would be appropriate.

So. Preorder now! Help Ian get a second printing! Help Ian get a second edition! Help Ian get The Presidential Book of Lists Volume II: Vice-presidents, First Ladies, and Presidential Appointees, into print!

If you’re a pundit, a political blogger, a social-studies teacher, or Sarah Palin, you need this book.

October 10, 2008
In case you were having problems commenting lately—
Posted by Patrick at 10:51 PM * 4 comments

—life should be better now. RIP, scraper bot that was running through every page on the site. Thanks to Annette at Hosting Matters.

The decline and fall of knowing anything about anything
Posted by Patrick at 03:16 PM * 217 comments

David Matthew, in Interzone, August 2008, reviewing the Orb reissue of A. E. Van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle:

“The very title…is falsely cute, especially if it brings to mind a scampering puppy…”
I personally find van Vogt’s “Golden Age” science fiction to be heavy sledding, so I’m happy that David Hartwell has been on hand to package, with verve and enthusiasm, the series of reissues we’ve done over the last few years. But even I know what the title of van Vogt’s 1950 fixup refers to.

What do they teach kids in British schools these days?

October 09, 2008
PSA re Soren
Posted by Patrick at 09:56 PM *

A message from Making Light regular Marilee J. Layman:

Our friend, Soren “Scraps” de Selby, has had a stroke and is in the ICU. We’ve sent hope, love, prayers, music, family, and friends. That’s wonderful! However, Soren doesn’t have health insurance and ICUs tend to be expensive.

We have the approval of Scraps’s significant-other, Velma, and I’ll be collecting the donations to my PayPal account and sending them on to her in larger amounts. I’ll also be accepting checks, depositing them, and also sending larger amounts to Velma. Michael Weholt will be auditing my accounts regularly.

You can send PayPal donations to, or checks to:

Marilee J. Layman
9468 Scarlet Oak Dr.
Manassas, VA 20110-5658

Or just click here:

Please email me at with any questions.

Thank you all so much for how you care for Soren! Even the smallest amount will make a difference.

A few of my favorite things
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:11 PM * 160 comments

We are physical beings, dear people, and we like having physical possessions. Children collect broken bits of plastic from the playground. (And leave them in their pockets, so that they fall out, covered in sand, in the dirty clothes basket. But I digress.) And we adults are forever tempted to define ourselves by what we own; thus marketing. It goes right back, I think, to the first tool user who decided that this stone was better than any other, and became attached to it, domesticated by it like a dog would become domesticated by one of his descendants.

This can be a bad thing, of course. Consumerism, and the consequent feelings of poverty, blunt the appetite to own a few precious things with a gluttony of clutter. We are seeing the costs of that now. And a persistent hoarder can fill a house with “indispensable possessions” (you could not walk through some of the rooms in my grandparents’ house for the things stored there). Likewise, deprivation grinds harder when everyone around you has more stuff than you do.

Wisely do those who abjure the world take vows of poverty.

But the fact that an aspect of our natures can twist like a knife in the hand and damage us does not make it go away. To turn this possessiveness into a helpful force, we should own a few dear things, care for them, and cherish them. (Note, however, that all things pass; we must drink from the cup as though it is already broken rather than hide it to keep it safe.)

What, of the things that you possess or are possessed by, are most precious to you? Why?

For my part, I would name three things.

  1. A jade-green ceramic mug that I bought at a craft fair at Stanford University, one Mother’s Day in the 1980’s. It was on the mark-down table, because it had been touching another item in the kiln and had four pale marks on it as a consequence. I could have afforded something full-price, but I didn’t want perfection. I wanted story, and that leaves marks.
  2. My maternal grandmother, whom I resemble but never met, had a chiming mantel clock. Its ticking was the heartbeat of the house when I was a child. My mother, who has few reminders of her mother, kindly gave me the clock when she found out how much I wanted it (I offered to trade my claim on a contested set of garnet jewelry for undisputed rights to it in her will). “It’s more fun to give things away when I can watch you enjoy them,” she commented. It just chimed at me, a rich and reassuring sound.
  3. I have the neatest laptop case/messenger bag. It wasn’t expensive, in the small local shop where I found it. From the front, it’s a relatively ordinary bag, beige and black, big enough for a laptop and a few books. But on the back is a little zippered flap; open it and you see a couple of clips (one repaired now, after a little…gravitational incident) and some Velcro strapping. The clips and the strapping mean that it hooks right onto the rack on the back of my bike. I love it because it is an expression of things that I enjoy so much about my life right now: working at a technical job with a small company, shopping locally, biking to work.

This is—clearly—a non-political thread.

The Corner goes round the bend
Posted by Teresa at 02:40 PM * 184 comments

The Corner has gone round the bend,* with Powerline following right after.

For commentary on this, I recommend reading Hilzoy at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, and Thers at Whiskey Fire. As Thers says:

…And so I quote from the 487,982nd hothouse paragraph at NRO this week alone, in which the author attempts, through the comical disgorgement of ridiculous detail, to prove that Barack Obama may be too much of a Nut for ordinary Americans to accept. It’s like getting fashion tips from a man wearing a clown nose & fruit hat, with a live salmon down his pants: “Your tie does not match your socks. Giggle! Calm down, Mr. Wriggles!” Frap frap slap. “Eeeek!” (Exit, pursued by a bear.)

It is a very edifying spectacle. Strangely admirable, though, like the band that kept on playing as the Titanic slowly slid ‘neath the frigid tide. Except in this case they’re all playing kazoos. Badly.

Forward into the background:

As you know, Bob, The Corner is the bloggy opinion-mongering operation of National Review Online. Their fame recently spiked, not in a good way, when Rich Lowry wrote an infatuated review of Sarah Palin’s performance in the VP debates that earned him Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person of the Day award. The Corner was embarrassed enough to remove Lowry’s piece from their site, but you can still hear Olbermann read the whole thing verbatim on YouTube.*

They’ve continued their slide into bizarre behavior with their focus on Obama’s supposed (i.e., nonexistent) radicalism. In this, they’re taking their cues from the McCain campaign—which, with the country embroiled in the worst financial crisis since the Great Crash of 1929, has chosen to concentrate on Obama’s connections with Bill Ayers, an elementary education theorist and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who happens to be an old Weatherman.

Obama’s ties with Ayers are pathetically slight, and boringly respectable. They met at a luncheon meeting about school reform. Ayers hosted a coffee for Obama’s first run for office. Between 2000 and 2002 they both were on the board of a community anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, which met a dozen times during that period. In April 2001, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama’s re-election campaign for the Illinois State Senate. Oh, and they live in the same neighborhood. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

(It’s obvious, if you take a look at the list of their meetings, that Ayers and Obama weren’t plotting revolution there. Lenin and Trotsky themselves couldn’t have plotted revolution at those meetings. None of them were occasions for Ayers and Obama to talk to each other. They were all attended by lots of other people, all of whom had quite different agendas.)

The idea that this connection says anything about Obama’s politics is a giant heap of BS. Nevertheless, that’s the tune McCain and Palin have been playing on their fiddles while our financial system has burned.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Since 2002, there has been little linking Obama and Ayers. The senator said in September 2008 that he hadn’t seen him in a year and a half.” In February 2008, Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement from the senator about the relationship between the two: “Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.” CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the non-profit projects in which the two men were involved. Internal reviews by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic “have said that their reporting doesn’t support the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship”.
Translation: “Their reporting doesn’t support the idea” is the media’s mealymouthed way of saying that McCain and Palin pulled this one out of their collective ass. But McCain and Palin are so desperate for talking points that they’ve continued to misrepresent the trivial Ayers connection as proof that Obama is “palling around with terrorists.” (I suppose McCain thinks it’s preferable to admitting that he was wrong the last seventeen times he said “the fundamentals of the economy are sound,” and called for more deregulation of the financial industry.)

You’d think the crack political analysts at The Corner would have recognized this as the act of political desperation it is. Not so! They’ve flung off their tinfoil hats and embraced the theory that Obama is secretly a dangerous radical. Worse, they’ve endorsed the even loonier theory advanced by a blog called Politically Drunk on Power: Web Archives Confirm Barack Obama Was Member Of Socialist ‘New Party’.

Wayback doesn’t confirm any such thing, by the way. What it does confirm is that the NP endorsed Obama and claimed he was a member. It’s hardly an unknown thing for marginal political groups or individuals to claim others as fellow travelers.* For instance, look at all those members of the Alaskan Independence Party who claimed that Sarah Palin was a member. They may come by that impression honestly, seeing as how (1.) the secesh First Dude, Palin’s chief political crony, really was a member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002; (2.) she attended their 1994 and 2002 conventions; (3.) earlier this year, she made an encouraging video for the state AIP convention; and (4.) she has close ties with Wally Hickel, a former Alaskan governor elected on the AIP ticket, who served as the co-chairman of Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

The only response the Republicans have to this still-pending question is that Palin is a registered Republican. If that’s good enough to prove her bona fides, it should be good enough to prove Obama’s. If it isn’t, the question of the Palin’s ties with the AIP is still open. That could get interesting, seeing as how her own ties to domestic terrorism are a hell of a lot broader, more recent, more persistent, and scarier than Obama’s.

Joe Vogler, the AIP’s founder and for many years its guiding spirit, preached armed insurrection. He’s repeatedly on record as hating the United States, with lines like “My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand.” As David Talbot reported in Salon:

Vogler wasn’t just a blowhard either. He put his secessionist ideas into action, working to build AIP membership to 20,000—an impressive figure by Alaska standards—and to elect party member Walter Hickel as governor in 1990.

Vogler’s greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States “tyranny” before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.

That’s right … Iran. The Islamic dictatorship. The taker of American hostages. The rogue nation that McCain and Palin have excoriated Obama for suggesting we diplomatically engage. That Iran.

From Talking Points Memo, Founder Of Group Palin Courted Professed “Hatred For The American Government”; Cursed “Damn Flag”:
The founder of the Alaska Independence Party—a group that has been courted over the years by Sarah Palin, and one her husband was a member of for roughly seven years—once professed his “hatred for the American government” and cursed the American flag as a “damn flag.”

The AIP founder, Joe Vogler, made the comments in 1991, in an interview that’s now housed at the Oral History Program in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

“The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government,” Vogler said in the interview, in which he talked extensively about his desire for Alaskan secession, the key goal of the AIP.

“And I won’t be buried under their damn flag,” Vogler continued in the interview, which also touched on his disappointment with the American judicial system. “I’ll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.”

At another point, Volger advocated renouncing allegiance to the United States.

That’s the kind of political organization Todd and Sarah Palin were hanging out with when they didn’t think anybody in the Lower 48 was watching.

Meanwhile, as I say, The Corner and its cronies continue their descent into conspiracy theory, as they attempt to “prove” that Obama is really a socialist. Ironically, the last few weeks have seen socialism’s biggest advance in decades at the hands of the Bush administration, which has nationalized Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and AIG. As of this morning, it appears likely that the feds will also be taking ownership stakes in many U.S banks. (Which is probably a good thing, given current conditions. It’s certainly better than McCain’s proposed solutions, which do more to justify the “more of the same old same old” criticisms leveled against him than almost anything else in his career.)

Are The Corner, Powerline, and Politically Drunk on Power screaming about that sort of socialism? They are not. It’s enough to make you think that the “issues” they normally go on about are just flags of convenience, and that the only issue to which they’re truly committed is that their side should always win.


Down in the comment thread, Chris explains:

#13 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:44 PM:

#10: For once, the Freepers are ahead of the curve. They already know McCain will fail; therefore he must not be conservative, because the defining axiom of conservatism is that conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. Anyone who fails just wasn’t conservative enough.

All the other conservatives will come around to this after McCain fails, but the Freepers are starting the party early.

OMFG: Jonah has trumped everything thus far by pointing out:
#17 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:15 PM:

And in case you had any doubt that the folks at NRO are completely around the bend, John Derbyshire has a column up in which he attempts to make the case the Obama will cut funding for life sciences because he is afraid of research showing that the white folks are inherently superior to black folks.

October 07, 2008
Dirtiest Campaign Ever
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:04 PM *

Cindy McCain is claiming that Barack Obama is running the dirtiest campaign ever.

Cindy McCain lashed out at Barack Obama Tuesday, telling a Tennessee newspaper the Illinois senator has waged the “dirtiest campaign in American history.”

Apparently, at least for the Republicans, talking about the issues is fighting dirty.

This is the place to mock the second Mrs. McCain for a) her ignorance of American history, and b) her ignorance of her own husband’s campaign.

(Use of rhymed verse, particularly to the tune of Rosin the Beau, Old Dan Tucker, or Grandfather’s Clock is particularly appreciated.)

Scraps DeSelby’s in Intensive Care
Posted by Teresa at 11:12 AM * 672 comments

Yesterday Scraps (Soren) DeSelby had a hemorrhagic stroke, and is now in the Intensive Care Unit at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope in Brooklyn. (This story has been percolating along in the current open thread, starting here, if you want the as-it-happened version instead of my excerpts.) This morning’s news is guardedly hopeful: he’s not in a coma, he understands language, and the inoperable hematoma hasn’t gotten any bigger. Nothing is guaranteed, and he is not out of danger. Even given the best possible outcome, he’s going to be in there for some time to come.

So often at these moments one wants to help, but there’s nothing you can do. In this case, you might. Does anyone have a superseded iPod, or failing that a CD player or other musical device they won’t mind losing if someone swipes it from his room? For Scraps, music is second only to oxygen, and the only option in the NYM ICU is an obnoxious Top 40 station that plays lots of ads. If we can get that set up, he’ll be a lot happier, and people can send him mix tapes. (Okay, I know they aren’t tapes anymore.) To get a sense of his musical tastes, see his weblog, Parlando, especially the 99 Albums Project and the Song Project.

Velma is the primary contact person for most purposes, and Patrick and I are the secondary contacts, but if someone wants to help coordinate the music thing, that’d be, well, helpful.

One more thing. Nobody’s asked me to say this, but it’s not like I haven’t been in the same position. There’s no such thing as paid sick leave for freelance copyeditors. We should think about this.

Onward. Here’s how this started, at least from my POV:

#446 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 06:43 PM:

I regret to tell you that Scraps (Soren) DeSelby is having a hemorrhagic stroke right now. His partner Velma Bowen phoned me earlier this afternoon, saying that Scraps was having an odd tingling and loss of muscle control in one hand and one foot, and did I have Macdonald’s phone number?

Jim wasn’t at home, but I talked to Doyle, who declared that she was speaking with Jim’s voice, and that Scraps should go to the ER. Which was the right answer, of course. I felt stupid. I think I was flustered.

I phoned back and talked to Velma and then to Scraps. He wanted to stay home and rest, and see whether that didn’t make it go away. I told him firmly that there aren’t many fast-onset lateralized neuromuscular disorders that aren’t serious. So Scraps and Velma went to the Lutheran Medical Center, where they decided he was having a stroke, and sent him off to New York Methodist in Park Slope, where they have a stroke center. NYM got him CATscanned pronto, and found he had a hemorrhage on one side. Last we heard, they had a neurosurgeon coming in.

Velma said his blood pressure was 220 over 166. She also said his speech was now affected.

He is a beloved friend. We’ve known him since he was 17.

I feel stupid and useless and full of dread.

And don’t we all, at moments like that.
#453 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2008, 07:59 PM:

Scraps is bleeding on the right basal ganglias. It’s too deep for surgery. They’re admitting him to Intensive Care. He’s forty-four.

It took half of forever for them to get him into Intensive Care. Velma was going to come over to our place after she got Scraps settled in, but she wound up going straight home.
#483 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2008, 02:45 AM:

… I am home from the hospital, dehydrated and exhausted, and trying to remedy the former before I fall over. To clarify: Soren called me in mid-afternoon, and said, “I don’t want to alarm you, but I have numbness and trouble gripping with my right hand…”. He was going to tough it out, and I asked if I should come home immediately. When he said, “Thank you,” I hauled ass into the nearest cab.

Once I got home, we had something of a disagreement about going to the hospital (as he has no insurance/health coverage). That was when I called Teresa to get Jim’s number. We were going to take a cab to Lutheran Hospital, but Soren couldn’t walk down the stairs, and I couldn’t carry him. That’s when I called 911; the ambulance came within about ten minutes, and they had him in the hospital in another ten or less. He got a room in the ICU at 1am.

Prayers, good wishes, good vibes, what-have-you are all appreciated. And if there’s anything that might affect the universe positively in his direction, it would be one of his other great loves: music. So make music, or listen to music.

Today is the eighth anniversary of our first date, which happened, in part, because of Patrick and Teresa playing matchmaker.

This morning, when Velma and Patrick and I were there visiting Scraps, she said, “Dear, for our anniversary next year, let’s do something really boring.
#494 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2008, 10:50 AM:

OK. I just got a phone call from PNH, who is at the hospital. He says there are some encouraging things.

He said that the top priority right now is to bring Soren’s blood pressure down from the scary heights it was at. There is definite progress on this; yesterday it was at two-hundred-mumble over oh-god, and now it’s at one-hundred-something over well-that’s-better-than-yesterday-at-least. … Get the blood pressure down and this reduces the risk of further bleeds, and the risk of all sorts of other things. Get him stabilized at a safer level, and then everything else can be addressed.

“Everything else” includes stuff like finding out exactly what the damage is and then working to get back as much function as possible. As Velma and a number of other people said, he doesn’t have speech right now, though he’s made some words here and there, and PNH reports that Velma said he achieved a couple of phrases during the night. (“Oh, come on!” being the most memorable, apparently; last night Patrick said that Soren’s pissed off, which is kind of a good sign, you know?) Patrick says that though Soren’s not talking, he is answering questions with eloquent gestures. TNH asked him point-blank, “Do you have language?” and she got a strong affirmative nodding in reply. This is major goodness, because he’s in there processing, even if his speaker isn’t working at the moment, and he can communicate that he is processing. …

He slips in and out of sleep every few minutes. His left leg and arm are twitchy and irritable (he keeps trying to turn over on his side, which is how he always sleeps), but his right arm and leg don’t move. He can’t talk. He can’t stick out his tongue. But when I said “Scraps, do you have language?” he made it clear that he did. “Oh, thank god, you’re still in there,” I said, sitting down. “Let me see if I can remember everybody who sends their love…”

Updates as they occur. Watch this space.

October 06, 2008
McCain: pass it on
Posted by Teresa at 12:48 AM * 246 comments

The McCain campaign has stepped up their campaign of fraudulent personal attacks on Obama. They’re coming down hard on tenuous connections between Obama and Bill Ayers, who was a Weatherman back in the Pleistocene, and other supposed connections that are equally inconsequential. It’s complete BS—the kind of thing you used to only see coming from marginal cranks—but the McCain campaign has apparently given up even the appearance of legitimacy.

I don’t know what they can be thinking. Obama’s past is well documented and as close to squeaky clean as real humans get. McCain’s past is the one that doesn’t stand close scrutiny. All I can say is, please pass on the following:

The Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis website, which just went live, was paid for by Obama for America. There’s nothing underhanded about it. This isn’t a bunch of artfully deniable statements about undefined “ties” to undefined “terrorists”. It’s a mass of research, documentation, and news story reprints about McCain having been in the thick of the Keating 5 scandal and the collapse of the Savings and Loan industry. Short version: it started with respectable-sounding “deregulation”, and quickly turned into massive fraud, the collapse of a formerly stable area of the financial services industry, and a bailout that cost taxpayers about $120 billion. IMO, the biggest thing we learn is that between that financial scandal and the current one, McCain professed to have learned his lesson, but actually learned nothing at all.

As of this Monday morning, 06 October 2008, with the global economy severely destabilized and in panic mode, here’s the McCain campaign’s take on the important issues.

Amy Silverman’s Postmodern John McCain: the presidential candidate some Arizonans know—and loathe is a mother lode of local Arizonan coverage of McCain’s vile past. It’s a big article. Pack a lunch. If you need help sorting out Silverman’s article, John McCain Detested in Arizona is a summary of the high points, and Phoenix Reporter Details McCain’s Sordid Political Past breaks it out as a timeline.

Make-Believe Maverick, subtitled A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty, is a long and very solid article from the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Early on, it quotes the nearly legendary Air Force Lieutenant Colonel John A. Dramesi. Not long after McCain and Dramesi were released by the North Vietnamese, they fell to comparing notes about their next career moves:

“I’m going to the Middle East,” Dramesi says. “Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran.”
“Why are you going to the Middle East?” McCain asks, dismissively.
“It’s a place we’re probably going to have some problems,” Dramesi says.
“Why? Where are you going to, John?”
“Oh, I’m going to Rio.”
“What the hell are you going to Rio for?”
McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.
“I got a better chance of getting laid.”

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. “McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man,” Dramesi says today. “But he’s still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in.”

John McCain’s Sweet Ride. Sheikhs on a plane! Remember how all flights were grounded after 9/11, only somehow a bunch of highly-placed Saudis managed to get themselves quietly flown out of the country? And remember that blonde lobbyist, Vicky Iseman, who certainly was getting a lot of favors out of McCain for a while there? Watch the discreditable connections stack up in all directions.

Further discreditable connections involving Vicky Iseman, from the Huffington Post.

The U.S. Veteran Dispatch is a somewhat obsessive site, and I certainly don’t agree with everything on it, but they have interesting information. (1.) McCain’s divorce. Came home from Vietnam, ditched the crippled wife, and married a beer heiress seventeen years his junior. (2.) Not that that kept him from jumping anything that moves. (3.) Did you ever think we’d see a major national politician whose military record would make George W. Bush’s look like a string of peccadillos? Try John McCain: Unfit to Serve as Commander-in-Chief.

Meanwhile, we have Governor Palin proclaiming that Barack Obama is a good buddy to terrorists. When the AP Truth Squad reported today that Ms. Palin’s attacks on Obama were bogus, she replied that the AP is wrong. Essentially, she’s given up all pretense to being a serious politician, and is letting herself be used as a cheap right-wing attack bimbo in the style of Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. It’s an ill-advised long-term move for her. Politicians have established careers and regular salaries, even after they get boring. Attack bimbos are only as good as their most recent numbers.

October 03, 2008
Brown Bagging Your Pie
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:54 PM * 43 comments

What delicious New England treat shall we discuss today? The famous Brown Bag Apple Pie!

You know about tin foil dinners, and dinners cooked in parchment pouches, and suchlike good things—more a steaming process than anything else.

You can do the same with apple pie. The trick is to slide the pie into a large brown-paper bag (your basic grocery-store bag), fold over the end until it’s tight (paper clips and staples are allowed), then bake it on a cookie sheet at 350-400 degrees F for a about an hour.

Herewith, a recipe:

Brown Bag Apple Pie

Take a metal pie plate (if you’re using disposable aluminum pie plates, use two). Put in a layer of your favorite pie crust. Slice up Apples Sufficient to Fill the Pie Plate. (Depending on size of apple, six to eight will probably do the trick.) Mix the apples with 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, a half teaspoon of nutmeg, a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. If you used red apples add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. Mix the sugar and spices and apples and put them into the pie shell.

Make a topping from 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup butter. Blend with a pastry cutter until it’s coarse-meal textured. Put on top of the pie.

Slide the pie into a large paper bag. Fold over the end. Put the pie onto a cookie sheet, and put it on the hearth. Or put it over a charcoal grill for the same time.

Remove from heat, cool until warm (rather than Scalding Hot) and serve with ice cream and/or cheddar cheese.


Brown Bag Apple Pie from Filling is just apples, 2 Tbsp of flour, and a half-teaspoon of cinnamon. Crumb top.

Brown-Bag Apple Pie from Leite’s Culinaria. Filling is apples, flour, spices, and lemon juice. Includes an unusual and dramatic way to present the pie.

Apple Pie Baked in a Bag from the Food Network: Uses a top crust rather than a crumb topping. Includes instructions on browning the top.

Jake’s Grandmother’s Brown Bag Apple Pie from the Christmas Place Blog: Uses apples with skins and all. Apple slices are tossed with sugar-and-spice mix.

Brown Bag Apple Pie from Filling includes a quarter-cup of Half-and-Half.

[Recipe Index]

Getting Your Shots
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:22 AM *

It’s October, and that means it’s time to get your annual flu shot.

Getting that flu shot helps protect you two ways: First, by making it less likely that you’ll personally get the flu. Second, by creating a firebreak between someone who does have influenza and someone who hasn’t gotten the immunization for some reason.

Remember to always wash your hands (the simplest and easiest of the public-health measures you can take).

Now’s the time to inventory and restock (as necessary) your Flu Pre-Pack.

Get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and if you’re feeling sick, don’t go out. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

October 02, 2008
Let’s Go Again!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:53 PM * 30 comments

The autumn leaves are peaking this weekend through next weekend in New Hampshire.

I’ve mentioned visiting to see the leaves before. A year ago, in “Let’s Go” I gave some routes that Leaf Peepers might like to try. (See the comment thread also for more Local Color.)

Here’s another trip: Your best route to I-93, then whip up to the end of the road in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. When you get there, visit the Fairbanks Museum. Miss Teresa visited there, the trip where she saw a moose. The Lovely and Talented Miss Teresa was amazed by the patriotic pictures made from beetle shells. (They also have fossils, a stuffed moose, Jeff Davis’s checkerboard, and many other wonders.) The Eye on the Sky weather reports on Vermont Public Radio are broadcast from the Fairbanks Museum. The museum is open all year Tues - Sat 9 AM - 5 PM and Sunday 1 - 5 PM. Closed Mondays.

As long as you’re in St. J, drop by Maple Grove Farms to get a factory tour and visit the shop (maple sugar candy seconds, very good, very cheap, and samples of all kinds of grades of maple syrup). No matter what kind of painting of Happy Rural Life in Vermont you see on their catalogs’ covers, the actual Maple Grove Farms is a concrete building on a railway siding. It’s a farmers’ cooperative and this is their central location.

When it isn’t maple season they make a wide variety of other foodstuffs in their factory. They’re located on US Rt. 2, on your right as you head east out of town.

Speaking of places to go, for dinner there’s Angelica’s Restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Bethlehem (for no obvious reason) bills itself as the Poetry Capital of New Hampshire. But this has nothing to do with Angelica’s. It’s located in the middle of town, across from the stone horse-watering trough, (2085 Main St Bethlehem, NH 03574 (603) 869-5420) The owner is a gent of Portuguese extraction whose family is in the fish business in New Bedford, MA. He gets fresh fish at family prices by whipping down I-93. Which is why he specializes in fish and other seafood (scallops! yum!).

Other places to eat on your trip: Diners in New England.

If the weather is cloudy (or even rainy) that just makes the autumn colors a bit more glowing. Do pack a sweater.

October 01, 2008
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