Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More About the Special Election

Ok, I promised to write more about this, so I will. The reason why we have to have this special election rather disgusts me. Basically, it is a kowtow to the minority Republicans in the state legislature, who really only have one goal – to lower taxes for corporations. This is clear because the budget that was provisionally passed (more on this in a bit) includes lots of cuts in services, while at the same time lowering corporate taxes permanently, but allowing for personal income tax to increase. This is simply amazing. And the reason why they were able to this is that the budget requires a two-thirds vote to pass, thanks to Prop 13, and of course the state needs a balanced budget because unlike the US government California cannot print money.

So the state needed to pass a budget because otherwise no one would get paid (including people getting tax refunds) and to pass a budget, the Governor and majority had to deal with the minority. And the way the deal worked out was “we will pass this budget, but we need a special election with the following constitutional amendments on it, and if they don’t pass, the budget is toast come February.” And what do they all contain? More constraints on how money is spent, and backdoors for lowering taxes when times are good (we’ll talk about this when I discuss 1A).

There is a second demon from Prop 13 that has lead to this path, of course. The property tax limitations limits income when times are rough – the state’s main and pretty much only way to generate revenue is via personal income tax, because corporate income tax gets axed by the Republican minority, and because corporate property is taxed at its value in the 1970s.

What to do? Start over. Raise the constitution and reconvene to make it new. Not going to happen, but I think that’s the only solution. Note this is basically a rant, and not really meant as anything else. Useful information in this series will begin in my next post on the subject, to discuss Prop 1A.

posted by neil at 8:56 pm
under 2009 special election,politics,rambling  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Howard Jarvis’ Legacy

30 years ago Prop 13 passed in California, ballot measure that basically limited property tax, but also made almost anything to do with collecting or spending revenue in CA impossible. Now, partly because of the stipulations of this ammendment to the state constitution, we have a special election next month.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to go over the 6 ballot initiatives. Now, I reckon that the majority of my dozen or so readers don’t care a bit about this, but that’s OK, because this is more an exercise for myself than anything else – I want to know what the effects of these ballot initiatives will really be, but I also intend to dig in to the strange situation that led to this election, which is basically fallout from the way budgets must be passed. More on this tonight.

posted by neil at 10:43 am
under 2009 special election,politics  

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Quantum of Solace

I watched the latest James Bond movie, A Quantum of Solace this weekend. The movie was as bizarre as it’s title. pretty much. The plot featured a bad guy who was definitely not good, but not a giant mastermind – but of course I think this is an introduction to the modern SPECTRE, Quantum. Or maybe not. There was not super cool tech in this movie, not even an in car-defibrillator, but I guess the super cellphone and the special computer desk were considered gadgety enough.

I decided that I like Daniel Craig a lot, while at the same time not being a huge fan of his Bond character interpretation. Of course it might not be his fault, but that of the writer and director, but Mr. X from L4yer Cake is more suave than his Bond version could ever hope to be. Still, he’s better than Timothy Dalton, for sure.

As far as a rating, it’s about 3.25 out of 5.4 rabbit turds, on a rabbit turd scale. – pretty low for Bond!

On a lighter note, I will leave you with this, the theme song as if David Bowie had sung it:

posted by neil at 8:39 pm
under Media,movie review  

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Long time readers might remember the plum liqueur I put up last summer. I took a bit out and chilled it today, and we tasted it after dinner tonight. Quite nice, if not quite proper umeshu!

posted by neil at 8:44 pm
under cooking,food  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Feed

Transparent, but I thought I would mention that I decide to check out feedburner, so I added a plugin that supposedly redirects my feed through that.

The feed itself is:

posted by neil at 12:43 pm
under meta,technology  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reading a book on an iPhone? OK (if it’s free).

Last month Amazon released the Kindle for iPhone application. It’s a pretty silly idea in some ways, because while the iPhone has a large screen for a phone, it’s a small screen for an electronic reader. However, the screen is very nice, so the experience works in it’s own weird way. Here is a screen shot of the reading screen:

As you can see the text is crisp and clean – there’s just not much of it on the page. You advance “pages” by thumbing side to side on the touch screen. It’s a straightforward enough interface, and I don’t see how you can do any better. It’s a simple app, but it’s missing some features that you get with an actual Kindle e-reader (although it keeps the pesky DRM, of course) – periodicals being the most major, but also annotations. I am not even sure it syncs properly with a linked Kindle, which would lower the utility for those that have both, but that’s not the point of this review. I’m going to focus on it as a stand-alone app.

I was very skeptical when I downloaded it, but it was free, so what the heck. I found that Random House is offering a free versions of some science fiction and fantasy novels through the end of May. Now, it just happened that His Majesty’s Dragon was the only 2007 Hugo Award nominee that I had not read (because it’s fantasy, which I tend to avoid), so I quickly snatched it as a test read.

So here I was, set with a free book to test out the free application, and you know, I rather like it. It’s convenient to have something to read when I need to pass a bit of time, waiting in line at the grocery, on the bus, or what have you. It sucks up batteries a lot due to the screen being mostly white, which is a down side. The novel is much better than I reckoned on it being as well, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me considering how strong the other nominees were that year.

To sum it up iPhone oweners could do a lot worse than downloading the app and one of the free public domain e books that are available. I’m just not sure it’s worth actually buying content for, for various reasons including it being a less than perfect general purpose reader (but it’s a very nice entertainer!).

posted by neil at 7:04 pm
under technology  

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Revenge of the Matzoh Egg

Ok, it’s not a revenge, but I thought I would make a short post about breakfast. A matzoh egg with some spinach sauteed in olive oil and green garlic. I even have a picture:

posted by neil at 6:19 pm
under cooking  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How To Feel Old

It’s really simple: go to an all ages show!

I went to see Los Campesinos! (the most exciting thing to come out of Wales since the new Doctor Who) last night at Slim’s. It was an all ages show, and while I think at least half the club were of drinking age, most everyone was barely so (or got in with a fake ID). That being said, it was a really good show. The opening band, Sky Larkin, were, frankly, an adorable trio of youngsters from Yorkshire. Much like LC! themselves, they are indie pop, and were a fun opening act.

The headliners did not disappoint, playing a good mix of songs from their newer album We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (which I don’t like as much as…) and their older album, Hold on Now, Youngster…. Age is relative, both are from 2008! Their songs are super poppy and fun in general, and they are really energetic live – so much so that Gareth Campesinos! had to reach for his brand new inhaler that he obtained via posting on Twitter, as he had lost his on their US tour.

During the finale/encore the people from Sky Larkin came back out, and half of Los Campesinos! came down to the floor, which was odd, but sort of cool.

A few iphone pics:

and supar crappy on the floor during the encore:

posted by neil at 4:59 pm
under adventure,music  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Matzoh Egg

Matzoh Egg, or Matzoh Brie, should not be confused with Egg Matzoh, which should only be eaten by the infirmed, aged or childen:

Anyway, this is a typical Eastern European food during Passover, and also something that I like quite a bit, and I try to make at least once a year. It’s really simple actually, as you will see, but it also opens itself up for various additions (which I plan to play with in the next week or so).

Here is my basic recipe:

Matzoh Egg
Serves 1 to 2

2 eggs
1 sheet matzoh
1 Tbsp butter

  1. Preheat a medium sized non-stick frying pan over medium or medium low heat.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  3. Soak the matzoh in hot water for about 5 seconds, then take it out and break it apart, squeezing all the water out.
  4. Melt the butter in the frying pan, and when it stops foaming add the egg and matzoh mixture. Mix it around a bit and let it form into a sort of omelet. After it cooks for a few minutes you can try to flip it, or you can put a lid on to cook the top of th eggs.
  5. Serve immediately. I like it with a browned exterior and the inside a bit runny, but tastes vary. Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt to taste.

Note that you can scale this up by adding an additional sheet of mazoh per two eggs, but after about 6 eggs and 3 sheets you’d need a really large pan to cook it effectively. You can also finish it in the oven like a frittata to set the top.

Now for variations, you can incorporate small amounts of ingredients as you would an omelet, right before you finish setting the eggs (this means you will likely want to precook them).

posted by neil at 5:13 pm
under cooking  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Food Post

You’ve been warned by the title. If you don’t want to read about food, move along!

Saturday Mackenzie and I made the Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken recipe, which I found, slightly adapted, at the rather awesome food blog smitten kitchen.

We actually made a couple of modifications to the recipe. 1) I used a kosher chicken, so I didn’t salt it ahead of time, but I did put pepper and herbs on it as instructed and 2) instead of using garlic cloves in the bread salad, we used green garlic, because it’s in season and delightful.

Here is a picture of the chicken after it was flipped over the second time for a few more minutes to crisp up the breast skin:

And here it is all done, after slashing the skin (i guess to let steam out) and letting it rest before carving:

And finally, the chicken, and the bread salad on the table. I really should look into getting some sort of serving platter one of these days.

The recipe as presented on the blog is actually fairly straightforward – the big to do is preparing ahead of time – but I reckon you could just dry a kosher chicken really well, and put some pepper on it and some herbs in it and cook it at the last moment in this way, assuming it was small enough. Also dripping a bit of the pan juices over the bread salad at the last moment makes from some extra deliciousness.

And now, for a bonus, absinthe shown before and after mixing with water:

posted by neil at 9:48 pm
under cooking  

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