The state of the military-industrial entertainment educational toy complex

In case you hadn't heard the news: don't do your educational toy shopping at the Dollar Tree.


Thinking seriously about abandoning Haloscan / JSKIt comments

.... and transitioning to Blogger comments. What say you, dear readers?


Best fried rice recipe (work in progress)

This is an evolving recipe. Please post any suggestions.

You will need:

• 1 cup rice uncooked rice or 3 cups cooked rice.
• 3 to 4 T toasted sesame oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
• 3 cups other veggies (can be anything, but I like baby carrots cut in half lengthwise, sliced mushrooms, and chopped zucchini)
• one package firm tofu
• soy sauce
• a really hot chili sauce (we use the "cock sauce," pictured right)

Make the rice.

Make it the day before and put it in the fridge (or just use leftover rice from another dish that's already been in the fridge). There is no other way to get the right texture. Although, if you cannot wait 24 hours, you can get close by slightly undercooking the rice.

Press the tofu.

My method is to set down a flat plate, then some paper towels, then the tofu (sliced so it can lay in one half-inch flat layer on the plate), then more paper towels, then another plate, then about 10 heavy cookbooks. I let the books press the tofu for about 2 hours if I have that long. The longer, the better.

Afterwards, slice it into strips or cubes.

Heat the oil in a wok, and add tofu.

You want to brown the tofu a bit before adding any other veggies. Use high heat.

Add the veggies.

What order depends on the vegetables, of course. With the ones I suggest, add in the carrots first and brown them slightly before adding anything else. Then add the zucchini, and let that go for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic and onion. Now things should be smelling pretty good.

Stir frequently after this so that the garlic doesn't burn.

Add the rice.

Stir fry for about 10 minutes on high heat. I often add a dash more toasted sesame oil at this point.

Add the eggs one at a time.

If you don't mind gloopy rice, the easiest way to do this is to crack the egg over the whole mess and just continue to stir fry. But what I do instead is to push aside the rice from a section of the bottom of the wok and fry the egg there for a couple minutes before stirring it in to the rest of the rice.

Stir in most of the cilantro. Stir fry for 2 more minutes.

If you hate cilantro, you can use fresh basil.

Remove from heat.

Add soy sauce and hot sauce to taste.

Garnish w/ a little cilantro. Serve with spring- or egg-rolls and Kirin Ichiban beer.


I didn't think the President was going to sign the healthcare bill until the reconciliation package had passed

In retrospect it makes sense: It totally takes the wind out of Republican sails. But I bet you there were at least a couple of House members caught off guard as well.


This machine makes Mozart

Finally, Cope's program could divine what made Bach sound like Bach and create music in that style. It broke rules just as Bach had broken them, and made the result sound musical. It was as if the software had somehow captured Bach's spirit -- and it performed just as well in producing new Mozart compositions and Shakespeare sonnets. One afternoon, a few years after he'd begun work on Emmy, Cope clicked a button and went out for a sandwich, and she spit out 5,000 beautiful, artificial Bach chorales, work that would've taken him several lifetimes to produce by hand.

I'm going to try to get a hold of some of these computer-generated works and give you, dear readers, the official Bellman review. But in the meantime, I want to focus on what Jason Kottke said when he linked to the article about Cope:
Gosh it's going to get interesting when machines can do some real fundamental "human" things 10,000x faster and better than humans can.

Humanists, take note! This is not a threatening development.

First, let me posit that while Cope's work's works may not rise to the level of human genius, some algorithms will reach that benchmark during our lifetimes (except maybe your lifetime, Oldy McAbouttodie).

This assertion is not one most of my writer, artist, or musician friends agree with, but they (you?) are wrong, wrong wrong. It's inevitable.

Second, this is not a bad thing. Yes, there will be violent change to our idea of what makes a person or a particular work of art valuable or important. But this change will ultimately be for the better. How could being surrounded by the best art ever made, freshly baked each week, possibly be bad? Computers will find ways to reliably speak to our souls in ways that we rarely have.

And we will all be immensely--almost inconceivably--enriched. The future, she kicks ass.
(img via Curved White)


[Updated] Supertrains come to Austin!*

I love my fair city, but if there is one thing that keeps Austin from being a truly world-class metropolis, it's the terrible transportation infrastructure. We're relentlessly developing a city in which car ownership is required to do just about anything. And if you do happen to have a car, you then have to deal with the fact that everyone else has to have a car, and that means they have to have wide roads and huge parking lots.

After reading that paragraph, you might expect me to be ecstatic that Austin is finally opening its "Red Line " commuter rail in just one week (only two years and one week late!). And while I am excited that we are taking our first steps into hard core public transporation infrastructure, there is one painful flaw in Cap Metro's rail effort: the idiotic schedule.

Rush hour only? No supertrains on weekends?

W. T. F.

Okay, they are calling it "commuter rail," not "super happy Jason fun time rail," and that's fair. But let's outline a few things I can't do using the Red Line.

  • I can't take the family to the Zilker kite festival on the train, so that I bypass the traditional parking clusterfrak.
  • I can't opt to take the train home from drinks downtown rather than climb in my car while dangerously buzzed.
  • I can't work late at the office, without having to find alternative transport home.

I know, I know, it costs money to run the supertrain. And Austinites don't want to pay for the train in the first place, because they don't see what it gets them personally (we all own cars, you know?).

But if there's one way to make sure that we never learn how awesome intracity rail can be, it's to make sure that it never ever seems like a good idea to try it out.

With this schedule, most of us our going to have only one experience with the Red Line: waiting--in our cars--for the train to get through a crossing.

UPDATE: From twitter, @ryanrumsey responds:
@originaljason Sounds like LA's PT planning. Did you know LA has a subway? No? Either do many in LA. Limited service & destinations.

@originaljason Oh, and LA's subway...it's the 'Red Line'.

* DISCLAIMER: Trains may not be very super.


A good place to grow ten to the hundredth power potatoes

AKA, Ad Astra Per Muto Nomen Rabidus (forgive the amateur Latin, it's supposed to mean "To the stars through crazy name change"...either that, or I've just cast some damned wizarding spell).

I was eating dinner at a favorite Vietnamese place last night when I saw a report on the local news about the most recent ridiculousness coming out of my home state. Topeka, my very home town, is changing its name to "Google" for the month of March. Fortunately its unofficial. You can read all about it here. And here is a CNN article about the same subject that makes Mayor Bill Bunten sound a bit...dim.

And, "ToPikachu"? What? It's true. You can never go home again.

Barry Hannah 1942-2010

"Well, yeah, I’m proud, but I tell you, the older you get as a writer, the more modest you get and the more you should shut up. You’re less arrogant, with good reason. There’s just a hell of a lot going on in the world. You’ve not penetrated too many consciousnesses. When I was twenty-one, I thought that you write a book and the world paid attention, man. There was no doubt. Then you grow up and you see that that’s not it at all. That you have to love it itself. And that you’re working for about the top 3 percent, max, of America. And they’re literary. That’s not the nuclear scientists, who ain’t going to read you. You’re working with literary folks, 3 percent of the reading public, and it becomes a tiny club and you should have more modesty.

But Cormac McCarthy, Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, that’s what you should shoot for. Beckett. The best of Beckett’s prose, you know. If you can get that close to the heart, and that honesty, with some music, why write the other kind of books that many people can agree with and not be disturbed by? I don’t like the books where everybody shakes their heads and says, How true, how true. I want to be in a region that’s beyond good and evil. Where it’s just fireworks or Mozart. Where there’s just no explanation. That’s what McCarthy and Faulkner do for me. It’s better than any review. That’s what I’m after."

-from The Pleasures of Influence: Conversations with American Male Fiction Writers

Evolutionary theory really revolutionary?

Interesting article about culture and evolution in the Times today. It begins thusly:
As with any other species, human populations are shaped by the usual forces of natural selection, like famine, disease or climate. A new force is now coming into focus. It is one with a surprising implication — that for the last 20,000 years or so, people have inadvertently been shaping their own evolution.
My question is, why is this so surprising? I've long just assumed that culture exhibited both pro- and anti-evolutionary forces. Who knew this was up for debate?

In other news, that show Archer is hilarious. Whether it is working for or against evolution has yet to be seen.

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