Sunday, January 30, 2005

Good news from Iraq

Today's news concerning the vote in Iraq has exceeded my expectations. Even if the turnout was only 60%, versus the 72% reported earlier, it is still more than most had predicted. CNN, Reuters, and Agence France Presse all had similar, upbeat stories to tell. Aljazeera had a pessimistic view, but they seemed to be highlighting some peripheral issues to find things to be down about.

Personally, I find the news not just good, but moving. In many of my classes on development, there is question about the "appropriateness", or even compatibility, of democracy with development. Many people believe - and maybe the prevailing wisdom is - that security and stability must come first; political liberalization can and will follow once the country is prosperous enough. Certainly that's the history from South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile in the latter 20th century. Even more than just a model of how development "ought" to go, some suggest that people are perfectly willing to make that trade of political liberty for stability and prosperity. That's part of many descriptions of China, 15 years after Tiananmen Square. But events today in Iraq showed, in dramatic terms, the appeal of liberty and a voice in one's own government. In spite of the thousands of deaths before the poll, the threat of further killings today - sadly realized for at least 35 people - and widespread resentment of being under occupation for almost two years, millions of Iraqis did turn out to vote. Only time will tell what their decisions portend for their country, but today I hope they are proud.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

You can't spell "cockfight" without O(c)K

A big thank'ee holler to faithful reader Jen Falk for alerting us to the ongoing efforts of Oklahoma state senator Frank Shurmer, who is trying to return cockfighting to the Sooner state, this time using protective vests and boots, and electronic scoring, à la fencing. If you have about 3-1/2 minutes, it's definitely worth listening to the interview with Mr Shurmer on NPR, if only for the choice of music at the end (Béla Fleck, I think).

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Steelers post-mortem

It's a bit late, but I feel I should mention the Steelers' defeat. I suppose I didn't keep up my end of the bargain, as I did watch most of the game. By the time I stopped watching, it was too late; Pittsburgh could only slow the bleeding.

Actually, I'm pleased by the final outcome, at least relative to what I was feeling at halftime. The way the Patriots owned the first 30 minutes, I wouldn't have been surprised by a final score of 48-6. As it is, it's hard for me not to agree with the masses favoring New England in the Super Bowl (regardless of Terrell Owens's status). In the last two weeks, the Patriots put the smack down on the best offense and the best defense in the NFL, with two significantly different game plans. I can't see the Eagles stopping them.

As for the Steelers, the Jets game and this defeat made a lousy end to a great season. During the off-season, I hope they figure out how to build on their regular season play, as opposed to getting bogged down by a disappointing playoff performance.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Happy Birthdate, Jason Li!

After days of eager anticipation, Jason Li, son of Louren and William Li, finally debuted at 1122 Central Time, weighing 7 lbs, 9 oz.

A congratulatory holler to Louren, William, and big sister Dakota!

For more news on Jason in the days, weeks, and years to come, see 3 of 4.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Letter to David Rapp, Editor of the Congressional Quarterly Weekly

Dear Sir -

Well, which is it?

Sir Robert the Irritable GCB

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Can you believe it? Another freaking cicada post!

Unfortunate readers of The Elkridge Hollerer last spring will recall interminable reports of Brood X, the 17-year cicada swarm that emerged in 2004. Believe it or not, I still find things to discuss about those critters.

The cicadas emerge from their long life underground to mate and to lay their eggs under the bark of trees. This is typically described as being harmless to trees, except for saplings. Not quite so: apparently the damage of the egg-laying is too much for the smallest branches at the extremities. As such, last summer, all of the green trees were fringed with dead leaves.

Half a year later, I mention this as those early-dead leaves are now the only leaves on many of the trees. My guess is that the damaged branches were unable to communicate the chemical message in the fall to jettison all leaves, so the cicada-killed ones remained. Our arboreal skeletons have clumps of dead leaves, like dried flower bouquets, hanging from their fingertips.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

True to my heritage

My family talks about the weather - a lot - so I reckon I should report on the snow today. It's not been too bad so far. We got several inches, but no more than half a foot, I don't think, between 0830 and 1600 today. It may have started back up, but it's dark, so I can't see it, and Kerry's home from the hospital, so I don't care too much. We're not going anywhere.

I need to call Hermanito Scott and see how he's enjoying the 1+ foot of snow and 50 mph winds in Boston. I expect he's not enjoying it much at all, and I can't see how my calling him will help, yet I feel a strong desire to speak with him. How odd...

On the plus side of the snow, I got to know one of our new neighbors, Ted, much better, as we shovelled the Holler's ultra-driveway. If Kerry wakes up, he and his wife, Eileen, may come over tonight, and we can all meet and chill.

I'm not too good at remembering people's names when I meet them, but Ted and Eileen were a piece of cake. I can't even think of them without hearing Dexy's Midnight Runners singing their names to me.

Friday, January 21, 2005

"Life on Earth snuffed out by global warming"

In case you didn't know it, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but The Australian reports that life on Earth has indeed ended.

OK, it's really just a misleading headline. The article is about a paper published in Science, suggesting that "continuous volcanic eruptions in Siberia", versus a huge meteor impact, set off mass extinctions 250 million years ago. The eruptions released a lot of hydrogen sulfide which set off global warming.

Actually, the article is kind of misleading, too, since it just talks about climate change, while the abstract of the paper emphasizes a lack of atmospheric oxygen and indicates that "sulfide toxicity was a driver of the extinction and a factor in the protracted recovery." Well, until there's a heated debate over regulating volcanic emissions, I guess we'll never get the full story.

Meanwhile, it's a small comfort to me to know that I'm not really looking at a squirrel eat our little remaining birdseed. After all, life on Earth was snuffed out.

Adios, Spinsanity

I'd wondered how the three guys at the spin-exposing website Spinsanity did their work as a part-time gig. Now I know: with some difficulty. They're closed the site (though the archives will remain available). I've enjoyed and recommended their site; I reckoned they deserved a "well-done" holler from The Hollerer.

I've only looked at it a few times, but seems to offer good, non-partisan, spinalysis.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


I'm TAing for microeconomics again this semester. In a slight change from the fall, the professor is going to assign homeworks to be graded, not just for edification and enlightenment. Furthermore, he has delegated the task of selecting/creating the homework problems to me. So I've just spent an hour or so picking through problems from last year, trying to figure out what was assigned when, goes with which topics, etc, as well as thinking about logistics (when will problems be due, how will they get them to me, also etc). Not very exciting. But now my non-excitement has been shared with you and so diminished. Sorry, but thanks.

You might think that shoveling snow is not very exciting. You're right, but today it was oddly satisfying. Partly because it was oddly easy (light snow, only a couple of inches), but mostly because I am oddly nerdy. I was greatly pleased, not so much that the snow was cleared, but that a methodical herringbone of shovel tracks streched aaaaaall the way up our long-ass driveway. Pattern, regularity, predictability... delight!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


FOX BLURS CARTOON REAR END ON FCC WORRIES: Fox says it covered up the naked rear end of a cartoon character recently because of nervousness over what the Federal Communications Commission will find objectionable. The latest example of TV network self-censorship because of FCC concerns came a few wks ago during a rerun of a "Family Guy" cartoon. Fox electronically blurred a character's posterior, even though the image was seen 5 yrs ago when the episode originally aired.
(c)2005 DATACAST(R)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Cause and effect

I rarely watch football (or any other sport, for that matter) on TV, so so far this season I've been reading about the Steelers' great run. Then last night, I figured I'd watch their playoff game against the Jets. I almost had a heart attack. I can't believe how close they came to losing based on a punt return and an interception return. I don't want to take anything away from the Jets by calling those plays "lucky", but they're certainly rare. I feel responsible for the change in Pittsburgh's performance, as I changed my gameday routine. I think that for the sake of the team (and my stress levels) I may not watch next week's game.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Best of Kauai

We’re back from Kauai. I’m pleased to report that it’s just as lovely as when we were there on our honeymoon, five years ago. Instead of trying to recount the entire week, I’ll just offer our personal best of Kauai:

Best Place We Stayed on the North Shore – Alii Kai I (Building 3) in Princeville
This condo was above the cliffs east of Hanalei Bay. Even though it was over a hundred feet down to the ocean, the waves were clearly audible, in much the same way a passing freight train is audible. (The winter is not the best time to go swimming on the north shore.) We could see the ocean from Bali Hai to the Kilauea lighthouse, which would be relevant one night. Read on.

Best Place We Stayed on the South Shore – Gloria’s Spouting Horn B&B
We were in the same room as when we honeymooned, so I may be biased. Still beautiful, still with an incredible location on the beach. A new treat this time was seeing whale spouts from the B&B.

Best Day of Snorkeling – PK’s Beach in the morning, Beach House in the afternoon
At PK’s, we saw four sea turtles, two of which were swimming right in front of us. At Beach House, there were more fish and an eel.

Honorable Mention - Poipu Beach Park
We were surrounded by schools of chubs, convict fish, and yellow-tailed tangs.

Best Unscripted, Unrepeatable Moment – a storm rolling in across the ocean
Returning from dinner our last night on the north shore, we noticed a few flashes of lightning. From our condo, we saw lightning on 120 degrees of the ocean horizon. For half an hour, we watched almost continuous lightning, in the clouds and striking the ocean, come closer. The air was perfectly still as the storm approached, the wind kicking up only 30 seconds before a hard rain started.

Most Blissful Ignorance – a storm rolling in across the ocean
The storm we happily observed from our beachfront room was one of the strongest non-hurricanes Kauai has had in years. There were tornado/waterspout warnings for most of the island. Winds caused such damage at the Allerton Gardens across the street from Gloria’s that the botanical park was being closed to the public for repairs. Luckily, we learned all this the next day, so it did not compromise our enjoyment of the storm.

Best Mercury Exposure – Seared tuna at Hanalei Dolphin
In 1999, I thought it was the best piece of meat I’d tasted. Since then, I’ve eaten some delicious former animals, but this one still leads the pack (flock, herd, school, etc). A subtle marinade, seared on the outside, cold sashimi on the inside – beyond fish to the sublime.

Best Dessert – the chocolate-filled flour-less brownie thing at Roy’s
This was somewhat complicated by the Beach House Restaurant serving almost the same dessert, but Roy’s takes the prize with better presentation.

Best Place to be Overdressed – the Kalalau Trail
The Kalalau Trail runs 11 miles down Kauai’s rugged Na Pali coast. The first two miles are open for day hikers; beyond that, you need a camping permit and a plan to stay overnight. The trail offers incredible views of land, sea, and vegetation that we just don’t see in The Holler. The path is relatively steep at points, comprised of slick mud at others, and both simultaneously in a few choice locations. While many of our fellow hikers wore flip-flops or heel-less slip-on jobs, we chose shoes (with laces, no less). I guess we’re just old, with an overdeveloped aversion to sliding to our doom.

Best Animal – wild chickens
A guidebook at Gloria’s said that these were really “Polynesian jungle fowl,” but they’ll always be wild chickens to us. They range everywhere, particularly on the south shore. Towards the end of our trip, we actually saw a hen with her brood of eight chicks. So cute, and then we saw a minor miracle when all eight of them disappeared under her chest and slightly spread wings. You’d never know they were there unless you knelt down and noticed that this hen had 16 tiny extra legs. So now we know what Jesus was talking about.

Most Alone – Alakai Swamp Trail
From the top of Waimea Canyon, a trail runs for roughly a mile along the top of Kalalau Valley, looking 4,000 feet down to the Na Pali coast. The trail then turns east for three miles into a highland wetland. The trail ended with a mile of boardwalk through the swamp, to a point looking down onto Hanalei on the north shore. Though no more than ten miles away, there is no road directly from the west to north shore, so our view of Princeville was some 2-1/2 hours' drive away. On our five hours of hiking, we saw three other hikers.

(Um, yeah, we did fly for over 12 hours, drive a couple more, and hike a few miles to get to a swamp. Isn’t that why everybody goes to Hawaii?)

Best Reading The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren
Granted, not a traditional beach book, but Kerry and I began this 40-day study while on vacation. We're just a quarter of the way through, but I've been impressed. Warren does a wonderful job of synthesizing various themes from across the Bible and presenting them in a personalized way, emphasizing their relevance to the reader.

Best Guidebook – The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed
Full of good advice; never steered us wrong. The same was true of an earlier edition in 1999. Heartily recommended for all y’all heading to Kauai.

Honorable Mention – Snorkel Kauai
As one might reasonably expect, this has much more info about snorkeling. Full of details about entry points, channels, what sea life to look for, etc.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bird brained

Having exhausted our bag of birdseed, I tried putting up one of those "bells" of seed, held together by honey, Elmer's, or some other adhesive. After a day, no bird has even made a try at it, but I did see a very indignant squirrel. It made one futile effort to climb the metal hook holding the bell, but for the rest of the hour, it sat there looking displeased, sometimes pacing, other times sitting on its haunches with its front legs folded over its chest (or so it looked).

Meanwhile, out front, a hawk spent several minutes in the Holler. Though perched a good ten feet above the crick, it was still below our front window, so I was able to get a good look at it. Fun.

Oh, and it's in the mid-60s today. January, anyone?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Secure holidays, rig for Hawaii

I know, it's only the tenth day of Christmas, but we have packed up the decorations. Kerry has finished her six days of double-duty at the hospital (covering for those who covered her Christmas break). Poor thing, she worked so long yesterday she missed out on unhanging lights and ornaments, dragging the tree through the house, vacuuming up needles, etc. I couldn't wait those things on her, though; three days, and we're off to Hawaii for our fifth anniversary trip (observed).

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The password is "cold"

1. I just spent about 48 hours with a bunch of the youth from Glen Mar at Winterfest, a Christian music festival at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. This was my second year to spend New Year's this way, and it was again a wonderful experience. The bands - some new, some repeats - were good again, and they did a great job of integrating worship and teaching with fun and moving music. Perhaps more so than last year, I've come back feeling spiritually recharged, particularly with respect to my post-SAIS future. I have greater confidence that God will put me in the right place, while I have a stronger commitment to discern what that place is.

Liberty University was founded by Jerry Falwell, so we heard him speak briefly twice. His appeals to attend Liberty were not very interesting to me (nor were they directed at me, but at the 6,000+ kids there), but I was delighted to learn that he has fond memories of hunting squirrel as a boy on the very mountain where the university is located. I was not the only delighted one; the crowd, mainly from Virginia and the Carolinas, roared with approval. Jerry Falwell: varmint hunter.

2. Kerry and I watched The Day After Tomorrow, a film that answers the unasked question, "How can we make global climate change, a subtle process that takes centuries, the subject of a two-hour action movie?" The answer, as it happens, is to completely invent a story around a handful of nouns lifted from climatological studies, eg, "ice caps," "North Atlantic conveyor belt," and "cold." Oh, and to set loose some wolves in New York City. But that is all beside the point. The Day After Tomorrow is bad, no question, but it is a good bad movie, relentlessly ridiculous and entertaining, in exactly the way Van Helsing is not. I look forward to this same approach being applied to sequels to The Day After Tomorrow, based on paint drying and grass growing.

I'm shocked that Jake Gyllenhaal was 22-23 years old when this movie was made. He looks much older. I had thought that him as a high schooler was one of the worst casting decisions ever, but apparently the credit is due to the direction, makeup, and/or costuming.

3. Sorry, these were bad clues to the password. I wasn't cold at Winterfest or while watching the movie.