March 28, 2011

Rethinking Power

Category: Economy — Cranky @

As the Japanese nuclear crisis continues to unfold, all over the world countries are rethinking nuclear power. A majority of Americans favor a moratorium, according to the International Business Times. I’m not sure I understand the logic. It’s a 40 year old design that’s having problems after an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami, so the answer is to stop building new, safer nuclear plants that don’t have those issues, and keep running the old ones?

The rallying cry is, “You must consider the worst case scenario! Nuclear reactors can melt down!”

I embrace their logic, wholeheartedly! By all means, let’s consider the worst possible outcomes.

We’ll start with nuclear. I think it’s fair to say that Chernobyl is the worst case scenario. The World Health Organization says 4000 deaths could be attributed to it. 31 died at the scene. Now, that’s bad, but it also represents the vast majority of deaths ever attributed to nuclear power.

By comparison, deaths due to coal emissions don’t need a worst case scenario. They’re an ongoing nightmare – worldwide there are a million or more deaths (250 Chernobyls) each and every year. It’s not necessary to mention the impact of coal-fired plants on the global climate. Yes, some plants are much cleaner than others… but most are not.

Hydroelectric, on the other hand, has a clear worst case scenario. Indeed, the worst catastrophe related to power generation occurred in China in 1975 when the Banqiao dam burst. 26,000 people died during the flooding, and 145,000 more died in the subsequent famine and outbreaks of disease. Dams in general are an environmental nightmare, but that’s a different issue.

The logic is inescapable. After looking at the worst case scenarios, it’s vitally important that we stop making coal plants and dams. More than that, we must close down the ones we already have. They’re incredibly dangerous.


March 4, 2011

What I Love About Poker

Category: Life — Cranky @

I love crushing the spirit of others. I hope to help them, ultimately, by forcing them through the five stages of poker grief.


“There’s no way he’s better than me. I’ve got the edge completely. Sure, I might have lost to him a few times recently, but I can play rings around this guy.”


“What the hell’s going on? Seems like every time I get heads up against this joker he’s got my number. Why’s that? I’m the better player, after all – it’s like the fates are on his side! He’s doing his best to give away his chips, and I can’t catch a break?”


“Please, God, for heaven’s sake – let me catch a card against this joker. I’m starting to doubt myself here. Come on, please… throw me a bone.”


“I can’t do it. No matter what I try it just seems to end badly. Seems like it doesn’t just stay in the poker table – my failure is bleeding into the rest of my life. Maybe I’m not cut out to do any of what I do.”


“Well, that’s it. I have to face up to to the facts. Next to him, I’m barely conscious that I’m playing poker. He’s just that much better than me. Now I have to stare wistfully out of the window as it rains at dusk and contemplate my diminished status in the universe.”

Yeah… that’s the stuff.


March 2, 2011

The Stove is a Cruel Taskmaster

Category: Cooking — Cranky @

Some time the best laid plans go swiftly awry. Sometimes the plan is substantially flawed, and perhaps deserved to go off the rails. And sometimes the plan was half-assed or non-existant, and, well, clearly that’s not going to fly.

So it was with my attempt at Shrimp Lemon Pepper Linguini.

Everything that could go wrong, did. It started with the fact that I didn’t create my Mise en Place, nor did I reduce the ingredient amounts on paper before starting. Mistakes abounded, and none of them were the fault of some mystical, antagonistic force. I sucked.

The recipe calls for reducing a mix of chicken broth, wine, lemon juice and lemon zest by half. If you don’t read it closely, you might miss “in a sauce pan”, and use a frying pan, like I did. Guess what? Stuff reduces almost immediately when you spread it thin enough. I poured it in, turned my back, and when I looked again, all the fluids were gone. I coaxed it back to life – a sort of Frankenstein-ish pseudo-life – but I started to think perhaps this wasn’t going to turn out well.

I mixed in the butter and looked for parsley and basil – and discovered it needed chopping. Of course my mix is further evaporating, so I chopped my herbs poorly and quickly, and tossed them in. Naturally I didn’t cut it to match my reduced recipe, as that would have been a positive step.

Then came the shrimp, but they weren’t fully thawed and needed extra cooking time. I reduced the heat to try to compensate, but the brackish sauce was starting to look less and less like food, and more like what you might scrape off the axle of a work truck.

At that point I mentally threw in the towel. In went the linguini, and several minutes later dinner was served. One bite of pasta was enough. I ate the shrimp because, well, it’s shrimp, and the rest went unceremoniously down the garburator.

Mise en place. Learn it, live it, love it.