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October 31, 2013
Elections 2013
Posted by Avram Grumer at 08:47 PM * 104 comments

Wouldn’t it be something if people put as much energy into caring about local politics as they did about the presidential elections? Granted, it’s hard to get as excited about your local comptroller race as it is about the guy who’ll be commanding an army of flying killbots, but most of the legislation that affects your life is enacted at the state and local level. (Note: I don’t know if that’s actually true, about legislation. Sounds plausible, though, doesn’t it? Get out there and help keep your local school board from being taken over by Christian Dominionists.)

I’ve been going through the voter guide the city mailed to me. It’s a newspaper-sized (11″×15″) pamphlet, 40 pages (half in Spanish), with process-color printing on semigloss paper. Nice!

(Special note to John D Berry: See the double-prime marks and proper multiplication sign in the paragraph above? You’re welcome.)

  • Mayor: I’m voting for Bill de Blasio, though Jimmy (rent is too damn high) McMillan is also in the race. Yes, that’s his actual name as printed in the voter guide! I see that John Catsimatidis (a would-be Republican candidate beaten by Lhota in the primary) is running on the “Taxes 2 High” ticket — there’s a party that clearly doesn’t understand the publicity value of light profanity.
  • Public Advocate: I voted for Letitia James in the runoff election, so I might as well support her in the general.
  • Comptroller: Scott Stringer is the Democrat, so yeah.
  • City Council: Looks like Laurie Cumbo is running unopposed in my district (35); I usually withhold my vote from unopposed contests. If you live in NYC, here’s a map you can use to find your own city council district, and here are the candidates by district.
  • Ballot Proposals: My general policy on ballot proposals to amend the state constitution is to vote no unless the proposal is obviously a good idea.
    1. Authorizing Casino GamblingNO — Why? Advocates of gambling always talk about how it’ll generate new revenue for education, then they wind up cutting education budgets anyway. If upstate wants more state revenue, they can authorize a tax hike.
    2. Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post-AppointmentYES — I’ve gone back and forth on this one a couple of times. My main concern is that it’s not limited to veterans whose disabilities were acquired during their service. But considering the massive backlog in processing paperwork at the Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, I can’t be upset about a few disabled vets getting a minor benefit that they might not deserve. And even if it’s the wrong choice, I can’t see any serious damage that could come out of it.
    3. Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage FacilitiesNO — We’ve already seen, at the national level, how legislators who are in favor of enforcing debt limits when it means denying aid to the poor suddenly change their minds when it comes to something they actually care about. Screw that. If you’re not going to treat your debt limits as a hard limit, then get rid of your debt limit. This extends an exception to the state constitution that’s existed since 1962, so it’s probably gonna pass, but if it passes by a narrow margin, maybe that’ll be enough to scare people into thinking ahead for the next extension.
    4. Settling Disputed Title in the Forest PreserveNO — Here’s another one I’m ambivalent about. It deals with the land around a lake in the Adirondacks, supposedly purchased by private residents in tax sales in the late 19th century. Apparently, the proper paperwork wasn’t filed back then, or nobody bothered with receipts, or something, because clear title was never properly established, and ownership has been disputed ever since. Article 14 of the NY State constitution establishes the Adirondacks as a forest preserve, so the state can’t just sell the land without some kind of constitutional amendment. Seems reasonable at first, but bypasses the court system and establishes a potentially dangerous precedent.
    5. In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, IncFUCK NO — Allows a private interest to drink the public’s milkshake, with little to no employment benefit. Establishes an obviously dangerous precedent.
    6. Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can ServeNO — Gives state judges a later retirement age than local judges, keeps a bunch of old guys on the bench.

October 29, 2013
Looking Warily at Mal
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:52 PM *

Today’s email brought this:

From: “”
Subject: order #AAR-5018964-8346289
Date Sent: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 05:59:12 -0700 (PDT)
Date Recd: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 08:04:21 -0500

[Full headers omitted — letter came via Yahoo Mail from somewhere in Israel if I’m reading the IPNs right]

Good afternoon, Thank you for your order. We’ll let you know once your item(s) have dispatched.You can view the status of your order or make changes to it by visiting Your Orders on Order Details Order #AAR-5018964-8346289 Placed on October 26, 2013 Order details and invoice in attached file. Need to make changes to your order? Visit our Help page for more information and video guides. We hope to see you again soon.


Yep, an attachment. I wonder what’s in it?

To answer the insatiably curious, it contains an executable called Order details.exe with a file size of 69,120 bytes. Which I’m not curious enough about to run.

It turns out that quite a number of letters like this have been going around lately; the order number is different each time, and the supposed address is different each time. Sometimes it starts “Good morning,” other times “Good afternoon,” and yet other times “Good evening,” but they’re all supposedly from even has a link up on their main Help page, Unexpected E-mail From

From other reports on the web from folks who did open the attachment and click on the link, it takes you to a supposed page where they ask you for your email address, account name, password, banking information, and such. Which doesn’t mean that it didn’t drop a ton of malware too.

So: Stay safe and be suspicious of unexpected letters containing links or attachments.

October 27, 2013
The Angry Sea
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:28 PM * 38 comments

Britain braces for worst storm in years

It’s going to be a long night in southern Britain.

The region is getting hammered by a major Atlantic storm, which could be its worst in years.

Strong winds blew and heavy rains fell late Sunday. Conditions are expected to worsen as the night progresses.

Stay safe, folks.

See also: Why They Dim the Lights in Mousehole; Many other Making Light posts on emergency preparedness; foul weather, hypothermia, and safety.

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:43 PM * 30 comments

Let me introduce a kid named Jake Weber, from my town. He’s between my elder son’s age and my younger son’s age. When we had town thingies (Old Home Days, stuff like that) he drove the ox team. He’s big as an ox himself.

He was my student when I substitute taught and he was in primary and middle school.

When he was sixteen he joined the fire department, and later became a firefighter/EMT. I worked a lot of scenes with him, some good, some bad, but he was a stalwart. Big Jake. There was this roll over, where the guy was caught by his left foot in the crushed metal where the driver’s door used to be, hanging in the air by his mangled leg. Jake got behind him and did a squat-lift to take the pressure off the wound, and stayed like that, holding the guy up, until the Jaws could strip away the metal and release him. We ran through three oxygen tanks, each one good for 12-15 minutes while Jake just held the guy up.

Later on, Jake moved over to Vermont, and joined the Underhill Jordan Fire Department. (That’s him in the photo, fifth from the left in the back row, looking like the exhaust pipe from the engine is coming out of his hat).

People who’ve met me, when I tell you Big Jake’s big, believe me.

Anyway. A week ago Saturday he told folks he wasn’t feeling well.

I’ve just got back from his funeral. He was thirty.

It is given to no one to know the day or hour.

Live each day as if it were your last; be kind, be good, and hug your kids.

October 22, 2013
Gravity ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:58 PM *

A science fiction movie with a 97% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Doyle and I saw it yesterday.

I guess everyone liked the unicorns in space suits powered by cinnamon-bun unicorn farts and rainbows.


October 16, 2013
Creamed rice and greens
Posted by Teresa at 07:33 AM * 89 comments

2 C. white rice
4 cans Campbell’s concentrated chicken broth
1/2 bag each frozen collard greens and kale
1 C. - 1-1/2 C. half-and-half or cream
salt, pepper

Empty all four cans of chicken broth into a large non-stick pot. Fill each empty can half-full of water and pour that in the pot too. (A lot of the flavor is in the trace amounts of chicken fat, which has a tendency to stick to the can. This helps get the last bits out.) Bring to a boil. Add rice. Turn down the heat and cook until the rice is done and all the chicken stock has been taken up. Add more water if needed.

Meanwhile, defrost the greens and gently simmer them with the cream for five minutes or more. You can do this via microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Add this mixture to the rice just before it dries off. Add black pepper, and salt if you really think it needs it.

Optional additions: cooked mushrooms; bits of cooked bacon or pancetta; some quantity of precooked wild rice; bits of blanched chopped pecan; more greens than the main recipe calls for. Add optional ingredients at the last minute, except for extra greens which get added to the main batch. Optional substitutions: vegetarian broth for chicken broth; brown rice for white. Caution: if you substitute fresh greens and are using half-and-half, precook and drain the greens first.

American cooking would classify this as a side dish with chicken or turkey, but it’s good all by itself, and filling enough to use as a main dish or serve in place of funeral potatoes.

Cooking With Light (recipe index)

October 10, 2013
Open Thread 189
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:43 AM *


Today, the 10th of October, is the 127th anniversary of the introduction of the tuxedo.

Tuxedo Park, New York, forty miles from Manhattan, was home to some of the richest and most powerful folks in America. It was a true gated community. J. P. Morgan, William Waldorf Astor, Emily Post, and Herbert C. Pell (among many other notables) lived there.

At the annual Tuxedo Ball held by the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, on the 10th of October 1886, young Griswold Lorillard, heir to a tobacco fortune, shocked the fashion world by wearing a short-cut jacket rather than the traditional long tail-coat expected for men’s formal evening wear.

That short coat was the talk of the town—and soon the fashionable young men of society were throwing caution to the winds in their mad rebuke of their fathers’ dress.

When, in 1889, a gentleman wearing a “Tuxedo” (as the rig came to be called) was admitted to the New-York Metropolitan Opera’s Dress Circle, Griswold’s fashion revolution saw its victory.

October 08, 2013
Show me your favorite gorilla (non-political thread)
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:30 PM * 469 comments

Remember when we used to do non-political threads? I think we need one right about now.

Someone in another context was talking about worldbuilding in fantasy, and about the feeling that changing one element from our own world (like adding magic) would cause too many deep seismic effects on the shape of society. Here’s what I wrote back.

If women warriors existed, the world would be different. Except… If there had been people of color in Europe throughout its history, we’d have noticed. Well… The Early Middle Ages actually happened. Not everyone buys that. I could go on.

The fact is, a lot of what we know about history is wrong or incomplete. There are tremendous numbers of back-formations and elisions: places where we already have a picture how it was, so we ignore, or don’t see, evidence to the contrary. This is relevant.

History is full of gorillas.

(I should emphasize that I already knew about women warriors, am agnostic about the black royalty theory, and do actually believe in the Early Middle Ages.)

What’s your favorite historical gorilla, strolling through the basketball game of stories we tell ourselves about the past? Please avoid ones that lead inevitably to partisan political discussions.

Things To Do in Iceland When You’re Me
Posted by Patrick at 08:40 AM * 120 comments

In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll be in Reykjavik for slightly over 24 hours, with nothing to do except see sights. Yes, it’s that famous perk of flying across the Atlantic on Icelandair—you can stop in the middle for no additional charge.

I’m sure that quite a few Making Light readers have done this. So while I’m perfectly capable of putting together my own list of things to see and do, I thought I’d put the question to the Fluorosphere.

Constraints: I arrive a bit after 6 AM local time, and I’ll be leaving the next morning a little after 7:30. I have a hotel reservation. And I know it’ll be pretty brisk outside.

Basically, I’m a history-and-culture nerd. I like new-to-me food and drink, historical museums (including art museums to the extent that they illuminate history), and aimlessly walking (or cycling!) around interesting urban neighborhoods I’ve never seen before. Things I’m not interested in: Night clubs, strenuous cross-country exertions, and that fermented shark dish everybody’s always on about.

I have one day, containing about nine and a half hours of daylight. What should I do with it?

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