Monday, January 24

Too Warm for January

It is waaay too warm outside. Better than 60 degrees.

Skiing on Saturday was not too pleasant -- the hill had lost about 10 inches from the week before. I actually (gasp) took a snowboarding lesson rather than scratch up the bases on my skis.

Great Falls looks dry and dusty. We need cold weather and lots of precipitation. Anyone thinking that this weather is nice is not thinking ahead to the fires we will be having in August (or maybe June/July).

Anyone know a good snow dance? Here's hoping for 10 feet of snow and forty below.

Not a real ad, but funny nevertheless

Wednesday, January 19

My Tu B'Shevat Gift to You!

In honor of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat (the new year for trees), I have created the following recipe. Enjoy!

This recipe is designed to be milchig (dairy), and as such does not include any meat products. To make a fleishig (meat) meal, simply replace to tofu with ground lamb and the veggie stock with beef or chicken stock. In that case, I would change around the spices (a little oregano would be nice; think Greek), sear the ground meat first and then use the lamb fat in which to cook the miripoix. Of course, if you use meat, ixnay on the eesechay!

Mediterranean Apples Stuffed with Dates and Figs


  • Apples (small and crisp bakers)
  • Jasmine Rice
  • Miripoix (diced). [You are reading this on a computer. Go to Google and look it up!]
  • Dates (pitted and chopped)
  • Figs (pitted and chopped)
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Fresh spinach (washed and spun-dried)
  • Feta cheese
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Garlic (to taste, chopped fine)
  • Walnuts (chopped and toasted, please)
  • Crisp white wine (suggest Riesling or similar; since this is for a Jewish dish, keep it kosher!)
  • Suggested Spices;

    • NaCl (pref. kosher sized flakes)
    • Pepper
    • Cinnamon
    • Ginger (powdered)
    • Cumin
    • Allspice
    • Cayenne

Set oven to preheat to 350ºF.

Press the tofu between two clean towels for 10 minutes to wring it of moisture. Then cube it and marinate to add flavor. Figure out your own marinade.

While the tofu is marinating, cook the rice in the stock. Set aside to cool after it cooks.

After your rice is cooled, sauté your miripoix in vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the vegetables and sauté the tofu until firm and G-B-D. Remove the tofu and deglaze with the wine.

Cook the figs, dates, spinach walnuts and the garlic until the spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat and add the rice, tofu and miripoix. Mix until well combined. Add spices and seasonings to taste. Set mixture aside to cool.

Scoop out a cavity in each apple from the top, and place in sheet pan. Spoon the stuffing mixture into each apple, until each is loosely filled. Top with feta and bake until delicious.

Serve with the remainder of the white wine and a tabouli salad.

Tuesday, January 18

Is Schweitzer buffaloing us with his Bison Plans?

Sarpy Sam is spot on in his analyis of the Governor's newly announced plans to make the Yellowstone Bison herd brucellosis-free by depopulating Yellowstone of its sick animals.

Every report I have read on this situation since the late 1980s has indicated that the bison contract brucellosis from elk. The elk herd in Yellowstone carries brucellosis. I am far from an expert on the subject, but I would like someone to explain why the bison in the park will not just re-contract the disease from the Yellowstone elk herd.

Or does the Governor have a plan for the Yellowstone elk, as well?

Monday, January 17

*nix Powered, Temperature Controlled Brewing Chamber

I greatly enjoy my own homebrew, and am usually frustrated in my attempt to keep my wort at a specific temperature (which is absolutely necessary for lagering, and very helpful for brewing ale).

Anyway, today on /. is a link to the code and hardware instructions to convert an old fridge into a *nix-powered controlled temperature chamber. Slick!

Listen to Another World

The European Space Agency has posted audio recorded by the acoustic sensors in the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI), taken during Huygens' descent to the surface of Titan on Friday.

The sound of another planet, and it sounds quite a bit like the wind on a cold day on a Montana prairie. If you take a drive out by Judith Gap this week you should hear something similar. The temperature there, at least last week, also bore a great deal of similarity to that experienced by Huygens on Titan!

Neither Red Nor Blue

You Are a "Don't Tread On Me" Libertarian

You distrust the government, are fiercely independent, and don't belong in either party.

Religion and politics should never mix, in your opinion... and you feel opressed by both.

You don't want the government to cramp your self made style. Or anyone else's for that matter.

You're proud to say that you're pro-choice on absolutely everything!

EXIF data script

Happy Monday! The cold front broke yesterday, and now all of Great Falls is basking in the balmy 40ºF. Too bad. I love every part of the "bitter" cold, except the heat bill.

Anyway, I spent much of yesterday arm deep in my *nix box (Mandrake 10.1), trying to write a regular expression that would help organize my image directory. I just rebuilt the machine, and when I tranferred over my files, the file date/time was adjusted to system date/time of the transfer.

Anyway, I want write a script that will parse out the EXIF image creation date/time for every file in my image directory (including the entire subdirectory structure), and change the file date to the EXIF date. I would also like the file name prepended with the YYYY_MM_DD-hh_mm in those EXIF headers. The script should look at every file in the directory and only adjust those with a valid EXIF header. Because of the different programs/devices used to capture images, it should be able to find images with non-standard file extensions (i.e., *.JPG; *.jpg; *.jpeg; etc.)

I played around with jhead, to no avail so far. Any ideas?

Saturday, January 15

My son Max, the only skier I saw today wearing a cape!

What a beautiful day! It is Saturday, so that means Youth Ski League at Showdown ski hill. My daughter skied her first intermediate-level run, and my son zoomed down the rope tow. More later ...

Thursday, January 13

Tax Dollars Should not be use to Advertise

Does our government now believe that its services and laws are products, to be puchased like a pack of diapers or a new bedspread?

George Will has a column in today's Washington Post describing the millions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent by our government to propogandize government programs, like the "No Child Left Behind" Act or the Medicate Prescription Drug expansion.

I submit that informing the public of the existence of programs, like the IRS' use of advertising to convince the public to e-file (presumably to save even more taxpayer dollars to process the paper forms), is a useful expenditure of tax dollars. However, to spend money on propaganda is both inappropriate and wasteful.

The Blizzard was Oversold

Well, I spent the last few days battening down the hatches. With predictions of -35ºF before windchill, I have been closing down every crack and crevice where heat could escape both the house and the office.

Yesterday, I walked to work in a balmy 27ºF. By 10 a.m., the temperature had dropped to -5ºF. And then it stayed there ... all day.

This morning, it was a pleasant -14ºF, with a predicted high of -9ºF. Not exactly Hawaii, but not -40ºF with 50 mph winds, either.

Oh, for the skiiers out there; Showdown is expecting a high today of an almost tropical 10ºF. I just love that magical inversion on the Meagher/Cascade border!

Sunday, January 9

A Pleasant Weekend

What a wonderful weekend. Spent two days with the computer off and took the kids skiing.

My daughter did great in her first day of Youth Snow League. My son also did well, even if he seems to be against the whole notion of turning. I had a lot of fun, but twisted my knee into a position it really didn't like. Sometimes I miss being 18.

Anyway, to everyone in Great Falls freezing in the -5ºF, it is good to remember Showdown's famous inversion. About four miles past Neihart, a miraculous thing always seems to happen; the temperature skyrockets. That inversion seems be localized right around King's Hill.

Anyway, while the entire State shivered in the deep freeze, the temperature at the top of the double chair read 34ºF! Remember that next week, when Great Falls is supposed to dip to -40ºF.

Friday, January 7

Montana Now Has Two "Cardinals" Representing Us in DC

The news that Denny Rehberg won a spot on the House Appropriations Committee has received scant notice from the other Montana blogs today.

I suggest to you that this is a big deal, and a good thing for the economy of our State. It also suggests the pragmatic (dare I say, purple?) nature of the average Montanan's votes for our Representatives and our Senators.

Of our three delegates to the Congress, two are members of their respective Appropriations Committees, and one is the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate Finance Committee. What's more, all three are smart, accomplished politicians with a reputation for impeccable constituent service.

For a rural State with a small population, such clout in DC is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Hooplah Over Montana Bison Hunt is ... Well It is Stupid

Recent reports have focused on whether or not the State will authorize a hunt for potentially brucellosis-infected bison migrating out of Yellowstone National Park.

Well, this is all marketing and hooplah. The Yellowstone herd is almost 4,000 head, and this "hunt" is for a total of 10 licenses.

That is not a hunt. It is a marketing effort to get national attention on Montana. If this was a real hunting and fishing issue, I might be on the other side. However, I think it is just silly to get hot and bothered about this either way.

Thursday, January 6

US/Anglo Private Tsunami Aid Exceeds $360 Million

Slate is reporting that private donations for tsunami relief in the U.S. and the U.K. have now exceeded $360 Million. If you add that to the $445 Million donated by the U.S. and U.K. governments, I suggest that the resulting $805 Million in contributions, in scarcely more than a week, gives an example of the true generosity of which we are capable.

The Birthday of Relativity

George Will has a good piece in today's Post about the centennial of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Good reading.

Love My Score!

Well, I frankly expected a high score. Didn't quite think it would be this high, but I will take what I get.

I am nerdier than 89% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

All kidding aside, although I have been posting a lot of politics, I expect to post quite a bit of tech here. After all, I was a wirehead first!

Red v. Blue thinking in Helena

Sarpy Sam from "Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere" has an interesting post on a Gazette article about the new partisanship in Helena.

Unfortunately, it appears that the closer the divide between the parties in power, the more asinine “Red v. Blue” thinking we get.

I believe it is because the party not in power is close enough to winning power that they start thinking tactically instead of strategically. Unfortunately, that just gives us gridlock and infighting.

Wednesday, January 5

Get this; The French Resent American Tsunami Aid

The Belgravia Dispatch posts a review of an article that just appeared in Le Monde. Apparently, the French resent the prominent role of American aid to the tsunami victims in SE Asia..

Maybe I am naive, but I had hoped that politics would be divorced from this tragic situation, at least until we had finished counting and burying the dead. Guess I was wrong.

Daily Kos Writes about Montana Speaker Vote

Daily Kos has a post about the fracas that chose Matthews as the Montana House Speaker. He casts it entirely in Red v. Blue terms.

One of the things that I love about this State is that we think for ourselves. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats have a monopoly on the truth. For that reason, we think and vote as make sense; we elected a smart-talking and thinking Democratic Governor with a Republican Lt. Governor. We voted to legalize medical marijuana, and overwhelmingly for a smart and capable conservative Republican congressman.

Montana did not turn "Blue" this November. We just reinforced our heritage as a people committed to moderation and common sense. I am proud to call myself, and my State, purple.

Big Surprise; NPR airs another biased, anti-Israel story

I know I shouldn't be surprised any more, but the audacity of this NPR (motto: All Anti-Israel, All The Time) story on the deteriorating Palestinian economy gave me pause.

In short, the story highlighted the decline of the Palestinian economy since September, 2000. It specifically spoke about the difficulties faced by a Gaza Strip family in finding work, and laid the blame squarely on Israel for closing the border. However, the story did not make the obvious link that closing the border was a direct response to the terrorist attacks that had flowed through the border since the beginning of the most recent Intafada, which began in (surprise) September, 2000.

Finally, the article emphasized the economic troubles that would beset the Gaza Strip Palestinians once Israel pulled out. What chutzpah! Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don't; NPR criticizes Israel for occupying Gaza, and now criticizes Israel for pulling out.

Here are the facts, as I see them. Israel needs to control its borders against terrorists. It is not acceptable to allow terrorist thugs to kill innocent bystanders with suicide bombs or rockets. Israel is making a magnanimous gesture in pulling out of Gaza. Sharon is doing the right thing, and should be commended for it.

UPDATE: Visit CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, for more examples of egregious anti-Israeli reporting by NPR.

Tuesday, January 4

Why no reports from Burma?

If you look at a map of Southeast Asia, Myanmar (Burma) should have been right in the path of the tsunami that devastated the area last week. However, the government of Myanmar has refused any aid, and is reporting minimal casualties.

Ethan Zuckerman has written a fascinating post, describing the likely impact the tragedy had on Burma, and possible reasons why the Myanmar government is covering it up. Sad to see such tragedy compounded by the power-mad avarice of the Burmese despots.

Ho Hum, another Blog

Oh. Another Blog. How ... original?

So why am I writing this? I am certainly not looking for a following of readers and there doesn't appear to be any money in it.

However, I think I have an interesting perspective, and I like to write. I am also very tired of all the partisan crap that has been floating around since the beginning of the last election season.

We are not a nation of red and blue thinkers. The vast majority of Americans, and certainly Montanans, definitely think, and decide, in shades of purple.

I have rarely met someone who thinks entirely in "Red" or "Blue". Myself, I am a committed burgandy. Many of my friends are decidedly lilac. (OK, I am stretching the analogy to the point of silliness. But I am almost done, so hear me out.)

So ultimately, a defense of the radical moderate will be the point of many of these posts. For it is the ticket-splitter who is the real free thinker.

British Prove Themselves Hypocrites

A new British Telegraph poll shows that the majority of British subjects view Israel as one of the world's "least democratic counties" and the least deserving of international respect.

Well, I guess that open, fair elections, true respect for the rule of law and a free press make a country undemocratic. In Israel, Arabs have always been given the franchise and have served in the Knesset. The same can not be said for the British in Ireland.

Proof that the Ironic and the Fair are Related

This morning, two political stories came across the wire that have restored some of my faith in the essential humor of the universe.

In the first, the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly changed course and reinstated an ethics rule forbidding indicted Members from leadership posts.

In the second, the Montana House of Representatives chose its Speaker. Nothing noteworthy about that, unless you consider that Speaker, a Democrat from Miles City named Gary Matthews, was elected by the GOP conference and three rogue Democrats.

Why do I find mirth in these stories? First, the US House's (or should I say GOP conference's) original decision to loosen its ethics rules was the most brazen example of chutzpah that I have seen in years. Whether the Conference decided to change their mind because it was the right thing to do, or whether they just bowed to political pressure, I am exceptionally glad to see our Congress (and surprise, the Majority Leader!?) taking the high road (for whatever reason).

Second, watching the tussle over the Montana House for the last two months has been a painful exercise in the problems with which we exercise our democracy. From the end of the first recount, it seemed obvious that the five votes that were counted for Jore should have been disqualified. The Supreme Court did the right thing in awarding the election to Windham, making the House split 50-50 and the Speaker a Democrat.

However, many Republicans have a valid point when they argue that the only reason that our House was split 50-50 in the first place was the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Montana Republicans through the stacked redistricting commission that stuffed new GOP districts with a population exceeding its target by 105%, and loosely populating the new Democrat districts with a population missing its target by 95%. After all, there were 18,000 more votes for Republican representatives than there were for Democrats in November’s election.

So, by unfair rules, the Republicans lost. It is only fitting with such a topsy-turvy set of rules that the Democrats were hoist on their own petard, and the GOP got to choose the Speaker.