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87 States and a Squirrel

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28th February 2010

4:49pm: spices
I finished the spice racks.

There were duplicates (though mostly empty) of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, thyme, coriander, chili, and curry. There are still duplicates of curry -- they're different. Now we're down to 28 spices, 4 blends we use (curry, curry, curry, old bay), and 4 blends we don't (nanami, ras el hanout, caribbean, 5-spice). Kevin's bringing home paprika to fill out the penultimate open slot in the spices section.

Any spices you think we're missing and need to have? Here's the current list:

Allspice (and whole), Star anise, basil, cardamom (and whole), cayenne, chili, chipotle, cinnamon, cloves (and whole), coriander (and whole), cumin (and whole), dill, ginger, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric.

16th February 2010

5:01pm: 102.7F

11th December 2009

10:54am: Do you want to know what philosophers think?

Now you can.

Of course, you'll need a dictionary, or maybe just Wikipedia's Philosophy Portal.

Remember: only 30% of them would accept a million dollar offer to admit their math is wrong or incomplete (see the numbers on Newcomb's problem).

1st December 2009

10:54pm: Pullup bar
People keep asking me where to buy a pullup bar.


29th October 2009

3:06pm: living
Well, the pickles didn't work out.

The kittens are damned cute.

Molly's curled up in a ball.

I need to start a new batch of sauerkraut.

And the kombucha's flourishing. I'm starting to collect it in the fridge for drinking.

How're your nonsentients?

1st October 2009

11:20am: Dill Pickle
[5] "WHERE DOES FOOD COME FROM?" Dill Pickle bike ride 10/16

On Friday, October 16, the Dill Pickle Club hosts our final field trip of the
season, WHERE DOES FOOD COME FROM?, a bike tour to local food production sites.
The tour will make stops at Bob’s Red Mill, Dave’s Killer Bread,
Brentwood Community Gardens and Widmer Brewery. Steve Cohen, Chair of the
Multnomah County Food Policy Council, will give a brief lecture on food policy
in the region.

7th September 2009

1:32am: The Time Traveler's Wife
Having just read/skimmed far too many reviews to link to (check Rotten Tomatoes if you need a bunch), my sense is that the movie is probably bad. Most of the reviewers prejudged the book as romance/chick-lit, and then viewed the movie as the same, badly done. Many of the male reviewers see the movie as a chance for women to complain about absent men (bringing your home to work, much?), are surprised that Clare doesn't distrust everything Henry does when time traveling, or are deeply creeped out by the 36-year-old Henry naked in the bushes visiting 6-year-old Clare. The only major review from someone who liked the book, the LA Times review agrees that it doesn't live up to the book's potential.

I've rarely experienced the cognitive dissonance of adoring a book that's so snarkily panned by the intelligentsia. How sad for Ms. Niffenegger to have succeeded so amazingly and to have been derided so easily.

6th September 2009

11:23pm: (some) Reality TV is awesome
There are different types of reality TV. Today I realized that one of the types, several examples of which I've liked, isn't just trash-awesome, it's awesome-awesome. It's expert-mediated disaster mitigation. In it, an expert takes on situations that have gone past bad into disaster, shows how to turn it around, and then often returns to see whether the people in charge were able to pull off a turnaround.


  • Kitchen Nightmares

  • The Dogwhisperer

  • Supernanny

What's the value? You can learn, if you watch these, how an expert views success in these areas. You can learn what failure looks like. These are basically drama-souped-up training videos in the area, except rather than teaching you what an introductory text would teach you, they teach you how the expert thinks about the problem. Expert problem-solving is one of the most useful and difficult to transmit information available in human culture, and these should be valued far beyond what they are. They are, of course, limited because of the fact that they rely upon a single expert, and they look for the most dramatic failure, not the most varied. But I don't know of anything comparable but better.

So: do you know other examples?

5th September 2009

4:26pm: Local Currency continued
As a followup to Keturn's post
The idea of currency that encourages transaction (as opposed to hoarding) has come up repeatedly. In the immediacy, the idea seems to resemble a massive increase in the inflation rate, which is generally understood to be bad. Here's a rosy description, though: (From Rushkoff's Edge essay

People brought grain in from the fields, had it weighed at a grain store, and left with a receipt — usually stamped into a thin piece of foil. ...

Now the interesting thing about this money is that it lost value over time. The grain store had to be paid, some of the grain was lost to rats and spoilage. So each year, the grain store would reissue the money for any grain that hadn't actually been claimed. This meant that the money was biased towards transactions — towards circulation, rather than hording. People wanted to spend it. And the more money circulates (to a point) the better and more bountiful the economy. Preventative maintenance on machinery, research and development on new windmills and water wheels, was at a high.

Many towns became so prosperous that they invested in long-term projects, like cathedrals. The "Age of Cathedrals" of this pre-Renaissance period was not funded by the Vatican, but by the bottom-up activity of vibrant local economies. The work week got shorter, people got taller, and life expectancy increased. (Were the Late Middle Ages perfect? No — not by any means. I am not in any way calling for a return to the Middle Ages. But an honest appraisal of the economic mechanisms in place before our own is required if we are ever going to contend with the biases of the system we are currently mistaking for the way it has always and must always be.)
The first innovation was to centralize currency. What better way for the already rich to maintain their wealth than to make money scarce? Monarchs forcibly made abundant local currencies illegal, and required people to exchange value through artificially scarce central currencies, instead. Not only was centrally issued money easier to tax, but it gave central banks an easy way to extract value through debasement (removing gold content). The bias of scarce currency, however, was towards hording. Those with access to the treasury could accrue wealth by lending or investing passively in value creation by others. Prosperity on the periphery quickly diminished as value was drawn toward the center. Within a few decades of the establishment of central currency in France came local poverty, an end to subsistence farming, and the plague. (The economy we now celebrate as the happy result of these Renaissance innovations only took effect after Europe had lost half of its population.)

As it's currently practiced, the issuance of currency — a public utility, really — is still controlled in much the same manner by central banks. They issue the currency in the form of a loan to a bank, which in turn loans it a business. Each borrower must pay back more then he has acquired, necessitating competition — and more borrowing. An economy with a strictly enforced central currency must expand at the rate of debt; it is no longer ruled principally by the laws of supply and demand, but the debt structures of its lenders and borrowers. Those who can't grow organically must acquire businesses in order to grow artificially. Even though nearly 80% of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value for either party, the rules of a debt-based economy — and the shareholders it was developed to favor — insist on growth at the expense of long-term value.

29th August 2009

12:26pm: Tupperware is Hard "Party"
Maybe it's just the feeling in the air, but I suspect that a tupperware is hard party is less attractive than a naked person party. After all, fewer naked people? I'm okay with that. It's a slow day, though the party's still on if you want it to be. So I thought: lids don't take up much space.

So the new Tupperware is Hard "Party" is now a Tupperware is Hard "Depot." There'll be a box of lids somewhere in my house -- if you want to go through your tupperware, you can bring the unmatched ones over. Leave whatever you can't match. As it grows, it'll become more of a useful resource.

25th August 2009

11:15am: Health "reform"
So it seems one of the current healthcare bill being considered is one with an individual mandate and no public option. This means that you, yes, you (and definitely me) would be required to purchase health insurance, whether you can afford it or not, from the companies that will not, currently, sell you health insurance. I'm really angry about it. If you're angry about it, go call your senators and reps. Here in Oregon that's 202-224-3753 (Merkley) and 202-224-5244 (Wyden). Blumenauer, (503) 231-2300, is part of the CPC, which has stated they will vote against any plan without a public option.

20th August 2009

12:21pm: I like stew
Stew can be frozen in chunks and eaten whenever. Who's got good recipes for stew?

13th August 2009

11:44pm: Tupperware Party
Tupperware party!

Here's the deal. I have too many unmatched tupperware. So do you. Maybe some of them match? Bring your unmatched tupperware to my house and try to match them with someone else's. Negotiate, or just use the default: if you brought the bowl, you take the set. If there're tupperware you don't like, or you have yogurt containers (or the transparent New Seasons lookalikes) you want to get rid of, we'll happily use them here.

Saturday, August 29th, afternoon time.

Invite your friends. The more, the better chance of matching.

8th July 2009

12:12pm: Help with this house
The grass in the front yard needs to go away. So if you'd like, you are welcome to contribute to the beauty of this house: just bring over a cardboard box and a large stone, brick, or other heavy thing that doesn't mind being outdoors.

21st May 2009

6:25pm: An amazing article
A longitudinal study from 1937 to now. An amazing read. You should read it.

29th April 2009

6:47pm: I want a church
I'd like a church (the building). Maybe titled "The Best of Humans." For the following:

1. place to go sometimes to listen and talk about how difficult people are, and how to interact with them;
2. a place to go during the week to run into that set of people, sit around, read books from the library, play games, etc.

This comes from a number of things. I've never had a coffeeshop that I really liked -- the money aspect of it always felt too central. I really like reading LessWrong and Overcoming Bias, but I strongly dislike most of the comment threads. Martin and I talked, at one point, about an x-rationality (rationality reinvented) user group, but I can predict the kind of person who'd show up to that group, and I really don't want to go. I don't want to find a new place for the uberpedantic -- I want to talk about how hard it is to be a good human, and how to do it better with empathy, and without deep pedantry or religion. And I want a community space that encourages me to run into the other people who feel this way. I want Joss Whedon to feel comfortable there.

Here are the links that are relevant:

Secular groups should learn from religious ones
Atheistic humanist groups suck, and here's why.
aa video of Joss Whedon talking about humanism and being hilarious.
for your pleasure, Discovery loves the world (video).

But no, I don't want the Quakers, or the UUs. Too much Bible. Too much God. Too much attempting to be religion-lite and not trying to be atheism++.

7th April 2009

11:45am: Today's pretty good
The kitchen's clean -- clean like pretty, not clean like just-barely. The table's clean. There's a vase with flowers in it on the table. I'm eating pie. And the dog was breaking-the-rules-cute followed by a look of "okay, I knew you wouldn't like it, but I'll be good now." Ah, anthropomorphism.

30th March 2009

12:37pm: Bank Nationalization
I try not to ask of you something political too often.

I'd like to ask you to call your congressman and direct their attention to Simon Johnson's article The Quiet Coup in The Atlantic. Simon Johnson, formerly chief economist to the IMF, says that our banking situation resembles that of emerging market failures, and it argues for bank nationalization. Most congressmen get The Atlantic delivered, so it won't be difficult to tell them that you'd like them to read the article.

If you live in Portland, you can call Earl Blumenauer's office at (202) 225-4811

28th March 2009

10:57am: bsg
The ending of BSG ruined much of my enjoyment of the series. It was that bad. It was horrible. It was awful. I am disgusted with the creators.

26th March 2009

10:35pm: power dynamics
I've been trying to figure out why the term nonviolent communication bothers me. It does -- though I'm not as much objecting to the concept. I think I'd call the concept noncompetitive communication, and I tend to agree that's important.

It comes from the purpose of words. A mathematic description of words would include the idea that words describe an area in conceptspace. Often, they describe an area in thingspace. What this means is that words are intended to arouse in the hearer a particular, and often specific, idea.

The idea of violence is particular. If I hear that two people outside are engaging in violence, I hope that I react in some particular ways -- calling the police, intervening, barricading the doors, etc. Different reactions may be called for at different levels of violence. There's a weakening of this because there is such a thing as play violence, which does not call for a reaction -- but it strongly resembles real violence, and thus may force a reaction before it is recognized as not actually violence.

But it is the rare occasion where an act of violence in my surroundings does not demand of me a reaction.

I do not believe the same is true of interpersonal power dynamics, so-called violent communication. If two people are standing on the sidewalk arguing about something, and one of them is winning, I do not believe that it is likely appropriate for me to intervene, call the cops, or barricade my doors.

The reason this bothers me is simple: it seems manipulative. It feels like the people who named it violent communication recognize that I do not believe that it demands an equal reaction, yet they want to convince me that it should. But instead of convincing me through argument and discussion, through examples and stories of people who were harmed by power dynamics, they seek to convince me by naming the act something that arouses in me a desire to react as if to violence.

But I can easily imagine it having a reverse effect -- a crying wolf effect. Someone who describes power dynamics as violence will receive far less response to pointing out actual violence, and for good reason, since the purpose of memory and heuristics is to distinguish between situations, and in past situations, those calls for action have abused language to try to get people to respond.

13th March 2009

3:16am: Overwhelming
Jon Stewart v Jim Cramer.

Jon Stewart decided to throw banana cream pies at CNBC for its craptastic business reporting, and they responded on a variety of shows by attacking Jon Stewart. This has been going on for days, and last night's culmination of it was a Daily Show that was entirely interview with Jim Cramer. If you saw Jon Stewart go on Crossfire, this is very similar. It's not funny (it's amazing).

For the funny, see here and then watch the 9th, the 10th, and the 11th.

3rd March 2009

5:10pm: some stuff I don't want
I have 3 or so boxes of stuff I do not want. I'm honestly too tired to catalogue it right now. If you're in the area and like cataloguing, you'd be welcome to. If you just like stuff, I have it. It can be yours. If you hate stuff, I can relate.

16th February 2009

1:04pm: Trimet, at it again
Trimet is trying to kill Fareless Square again. Comments can go to comments@trimet.org, 503-962-5806, or

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 4-7 p.m.
Portland Building, Room C (vacant storefront)
1120 SW Fifth Avenue

Thursday, Feb. 26, 4-7 p.m.
Clackamas Town Center (formerly The Icing)
12000 SE 82nd Avenue

Friday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Portland State Office Building
800 NE Oregon Street, Room 1E


5th February 2009

6:41pm: The greatest good
I was reading an article on DDT by the ACSH laying out a case that DDT does not cause eggshell thinning, and that Rachael Carson's Silent Spring was, well, alarmist. So I tried to gauge their credibility, and it's not the easiest thing. They do generally get their funding from industry, but their founder is fairly well respected nevertheless. And Norman Borlaug is a board member.

That led me back to a discussion I was having with Beth about the people in history who have done the greatest good. How is greatest good defined? Well, it's not easy. Norman Borlaug saved a billion of lives, sure, but he also put a similar number in jeopardy by helping the agricultural system become more monoculturist, which means that he delayed its fall until there were more people depending on it (if it falls -- it hasn't yet.).

Jonas Salk, discoverer of the vaccine,EDIT: Jonas Salk invented the Polio vaccine, and would seem inadequate for this list. Perhaps Louis Pasteur, instead, who invented pasteurization and was a significant early laborer in the area of the smallpox vaccine? and Alexander Fleming, (re)discoverer of the antibiotic (penicillin), seem to be relatively good and easy candidates. That's saving lots of lives.

I can't find a good read on how many lives DDT saved by effectively ending malaria in much of the world. I do find it amusing, however, that they used to infect syphilis sufferers with malaria so they could use quinine to control their fevers.

But what about other things? Thanks to Gandhi, there's an alternative to violent uprisings. Or should we give the credit to Saad Zaghloul? He was responsible for the Egyptian revolution of 1919, which could be said to be the first major nonviolent resistance movement. Either way, that's saving lives in a very different and much harder to count way.

You could give credit to Buddha for not saving lives, but making them better. Unlike other major religious figures, you don't need to have too much of an argument about the downsides of his philosophy. Similarly, you could give credit to Adam Smith for pointing the way toward our current global economics. Thomas Malthus would be shocked by how many people currently live, so I could see an argument for Adam Smith and David Ricardo in terms of increased quality of life for people. This is definitely in the fuzzy area. Similarly, the invention of sanitation in the forms of sewage removal and treatment, and solid waste removal, would probably classify if they had an inventor.

Lots of people did great things, but it's gotta compare favorably with saving a billion lives to make it onto this list, so think deeply. Still, you probably can't do worse than this list. Who've you got?

20th January 2009

8:52am: Barack Obama
While I'm ignoring Rick Warren, I would like to repeat the question Robin Hanson asked: "what does Obama have to do for you to consider him a "good" president, or even better than Bush? It is enough for you that he is (part) black and a Democrat?" What would he have to do to be a good President? What would he have to do to be a great President?

I think any of the following are big enough things to be better than just a caretaker:

  • Carbon tax, or effective equivalent

  • Significant moves toward a local, nonchemical food system

  • Providing enough resources to an investigation of the Bush administration

  • I can go to a doctor without worrying about who's accepted where and for how much

  • An effective model for free trade that requires other countries to live up to our standards

  • An end to some part of the drug war

  • Serious funding for renewable energy and a commitment to it

  • New, strong environmental protections that bother current extraction industries

  • Policies that effectively discourage sprawl and encourage urbanization

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