Monthly Archives: May 2014

Recipe: Shooting Star Cocktail

I heard of a cocktail named “Shooting Star” when I read Cocktails for Three and thought it would be a great pre-meteor shower dinner accompaniment.

An online search lead me to some horrific monstrosity invented by Kenny Chesney involving rum and energy drinks; a sweet concoction that is basically a Sex on the Beach with added grenadine and Sprite; and a cocktail involving gin, Peach Schnapps, and coconut milk.  Lacking lychee juice, I declined to make this version of a shooting star and grain alcohol “cocktails” are so under-21 universityThis recipe, however, seemed promising: champagne, bourbon (which Mr. Velociraptor and I both enjoy), and the citrus garnishes could be replaced by slices of starfruit.

Under the theory that a Shooting Star is apparently whatever the heck you want it to be, I tweaked the latter recipe a bit and came up with my own version of a Shooting Star cocktail for two:

1 small bottle of champagne (we used a 187 mL of Korbel)
3-4 shots of bourbon
juice of half of one lemon
a dash of sugar
slices of starfruit

In a cocktail shaker, mix bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar with ice. Strain into martini glasses; top with champagne. Put slices of star fruit on rim of martini glass or floating on top of the booze.

For those following along at home, it’s basically a Champagne Americana without the bitters and with the addition of starfruit.  It is also delicious and stunning with the starfruit and bubbles.

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Musings on the VA Scandal

The Veteran’s Administration debacle is such a scandal because it involves breaking a promise to those who risked their lives, health, bodily integrity, and sanity for the country, and it also underscores the many problems that come with government-run businesses. One such problem is that the government cannot act as an umpire when it is also a player in the game: while it can regulate other businesses in the marketplace and bring prosecutions or civil charges as needed, it is fundamentally incapable of policing itself.  Rather than have the government as a neutral third party to ensure that people and companies do not commit rampant fraud, we have a government that is structurally accountable to no one, and victims of its malfeasance lack any redress. While the IRS and Benghazi scandals are dismissed as ginned-up ideological issues, it is hard to do the same for the V.A. when the underlying issues (i.e. total lack of accountability for a government agency or actors) are involved.

Just as the government holds corporations accountable, so do markets. An inefficient corporation that does not provide quality goods or services will find that its customers go elsewhere. While it may struggle to pinpoint the source of the problem (e.g. bad customer service, faulty reporting by employees, or a poor product), it will either find and redress the problem or go out of business.

While I agree with Megan McArdle that the scandal is bigger than any one President, I disagree with her that such an idea exempts Obama from criticism.  In 2008, Obama was more than happy to play the Wonderball game: the one holding the ball when the timer runs out (in 2008, it was on the housing and stock markets) is the loser. If that was his standard in 2008, it should be the standard to which he is held in 2014.

In a larger sense, Obama has done things that promote the evils of the V.A. scandal: on a structural level, he has presided over a massive growth in the federal government, and his signature accomplishment is to bring the V.A. system to all Americans. It’s not that his actions are neutral on this and momentum carried the malfeasance through his term; his entire Presidency has been aimed at making these scandals happen to all of us.  Without government or market oversight, this is our future under ObamaCare – a future that we warned the nation about, but for which we were viciously derided by the current occupant of the White House.

The prescriptions for avoiding such scandals in government agencies are simple: reduce the size of government, eliminate sovereign immunity, outsource as much as possible to the private sector and let competition clear things up, and ensure that at least some reporting is done by the people, not the bureaucrats.

 

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Filed under Economics, Medicare/Medicaid, ObamaCare

A Tale of Two Tragedies

Two mass murders of strangers (or near-strangers), three men, two very different outcomes.  When the Tsarnaev brothers detonated bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, three young people were killed: Lingzu Lu, an only child from China; Martin Richard, an adorable eight-year-old; and Krystle Campbell, a UMass Boston grad with a lovely smile. Carlos Arredondo saved Jeff Bauman’s life, and many other people ran towards the bombs to help save lives.  Three days later, Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed; Officer Dic Donohue was on death’s door.

Bostonians all know who the four dead are, know their stories, and mourn with their families. We were repulsed when Rolling Stone put the younger Tsarnaev brother on the cover in  Jim Morrison pose: the tragedy was not to be about glorifying murderers, but about those who died, those who lost limbs or hearing, and those who lost loved ones.

That could not be more diametrically opposed to what has happened after the Santa Barbara tragedy.  Many people did not even know the gender of the six dead [four men, two women]; few news outlets have bothered to post the victims’ names and brief bios.  (However, you can find that here – thank you, NY Daily News.)  All of the victims are childless, between the ages of 19 and 22 and attended UC Santa Barbara.  Some media outlets have even counted the gunman, Elliot Rodger, as among those “killed” in the rampage, as if he were also a victim.

It is not only the inaccurate “killed” that paints Rodger as a victim: writers and commenters rallied around their new standard-bearer, a young man who wrote a hundred-fifty page manifesto about how his ill treatment at the hands of women made him want revenge upon hot sorority girls. In response to my comment that the gunman’s romantic problem was that he was too psycho for women to want to sleep with, one commenter said, “Couldnt [sic] one of you bitches give him a piece? Do all of you have to be completely controlled by your programming that dictates you must love douchebags for your own safety?”

This disgusting response, and many others like it, implies that Elliot Rodger is not morally responsible for the crime that viciously ended the promising lives of six young people – that moral responsibility also lies at the feet of hot women who “friend-zoned” a murderer.

Complementing the idea that the murderer is not wholly responsible for his crime is the #YesAllWomen trope, which implies that the killer’s victims aren’t really victims, as completely uninvolved non-victims are the real victims. According to the self-absorbed twitter hashtag, the four men who died (i.e. two for every woman who were killed) don’t really count.  However, “all women” are victims of the “misogynistic culture” that prompted Rodger to killit was normal misogyny, not moral aberration or psychosis, that caused this tragedy. Ergo, slain George Chen is just a statistic and cute girls in Minnesota who are told by men to “smile more!” are the real victims of the Santa Barbara murders.

Newsflash, twittering honeys: if you are not dead, were not in danger of getting dead, know someone who died, or live in the general vicinity of the dead people, you aren’t a victim of this mass murder.  Get over yourselves and ask yourself how it must feel to be a mother arranging a funeral for her dead child, who hears privileged, ponytailed twenty-something three time zones away talk about how they are tough survivors of this tragedy.

In the criminal justice system, the person sitting on a table on one side of the courtroom would be Elliot Rodger; at the other table sits the state, representing the people and speaking on behalf of the dead and the wounded. There is no room for pick-up artists, sorority girls who chose other men, or Rodger’s sister and her boyfriend at the former table; the attorneys on the latter side do not represent the petty grievances that many women have against other men. That legal system represents the foundations of civilised society, wherein the person responsible for committing murder is the person who wielded the knife, and the victims of that murder are the dead people and their families. This narcissistic, self-absorbed response to the tragedy – to blame everyone else, or to cloak oneself in the mantle of the victim – only serve to drive us towards chaos and anarchy.

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Filed under Law, Miscellanea

I don’t think that word (meta) means what you think it means

Yesterday, dictionary.com‘s Word of the Day was “meta,” which it defined as follows:

adjective
1. pertaining to or noting a story, conversation, character, etc., that consciously references or comments upon its own subject or features, often in the form of parody: A movie about making movie is just so meta—especially when the actors criticize the acting.
2. pertaining to or noting an abstract, high-level analysis or commentary, especially one that consciously references something of its own type.

Two thousand years of using “meta” (from the Greek  μετά, “beyond” or “after,” e.g. Aristotle’s Metaphysics) to denote something greater than, is trumped by a few nihilistic hipsters.

Look, dictionary.com, if you want to note that “meta” is commonly used by would-be clever twenty-somethings, then please note such a use as definition #2, or as “slang.” For “meta” as a parody, rather than as a “high level analysis or commentary,” is nothing but slang.

 

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The dust bunnies under my bed don’t have human rights, either

The Blogfather’s response to the question of whether or not chimps have human rights is pithy and accurate (“No. Next Question?“), but pithy has never been my strong suit.

No, chimps do not have human rights because they are not members of the human race.  Even the tiniest human, mere moments after its conception, is a member of the race that built civilisation, harnessed electricity, runs a court system, creates art, and builds skyscrapers.  Whether or not that particular human being will end up building skyscrapers or being cared for in a home for invalids is beside the point: we all have equal worth and dignity.

No chimpanzee will ever be part of the human race, nor will it ever (at least in our lifetimes) create a civilisation like ours.  It will not develop a body of governing law, implement a court system, manage roads and bridges, erect a skyscraper, study science, or paint the Mona Lisa. To be a bit sarcastic: if chimpanzees want “human rights,” then they should seek said rights through their own court system, with their own advocates, and using their own laws. That a chimpanzee lacks redress within its own system is an indication that it is not entitled to such rights.

It is absurd to grant human rights to non-humans (especially when human beings are so frequently denied their own rights, like the right to life until one is safely born); the correct set of rights is animal rights.  Chimpanzees may be given the rights that we afford a house pet: the right to food, care, and non-abuse if in our control and custody, but they are not entitled to the full panoply of human rights.

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The blatant political hackery of the “food desert” map

Austrian Anarchist points us to a USDA map which allegedly shows “food deserts” (i.e. places wherein it is hard for people to access grocery stores and food). (Hat tip.) I say “allegedly” because one such “food desert” in Knoxville includes a Food City grocery store, farmer’s market, Trader Joe’s, Target that has a grocery section, several ethnic food stores, and a bus system.

I perused the USDA “food desert” website and found that my beloved alma mater, Tufts, is a food desert!  So much for having two dining halls, a take-out dining hall, and four on-campus cafes: it’s a “food desert” wherein people are completely unable to access healthy food. Tufts, rated as having the second-best food in the nation, is a culinary wasteland.  Thank you, USDA, for bringing this travesty to our attention.

The USDA determines “food desert” regions primarily by having a large proportion of low-income people.  Then they also factor in grocery stores by distance (i.e. if you are in a low-income neighbourhood, then you are in a “food desert” if you are more than a half-mile from the nearest grocery store).

This is the sort of statistical nuttery that bears no relationship to reality.  People are considered to be in “food deserts” even if the bus or subway leaves from their front door and deposits them 0.6 miles later in front of a grocery store.  College campuses are “food deserts” because they have dining halls instead of supermarkets.

The entire concept of defining “food desert” as not being within a half-mile of a grocery store is absurd: there are precious few areas with the population density to support that concentration of grocery stores. There is no government policy in the world that is going to convince supermarkets to build so many stores so close together.  It also ignores other sources of food (e.g. farmer’s markets, ethnic food stores, dining halls) and means to access food (e.g. mass transit).

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Enough of the self-satisfied navel gazing

No, I’m not talking about blogging; I’m talking about the college admissions essay, one of the most absurd and smug pieces of writing that young scholars will ever produce. (See here and here for some commentary on this subject.)

A personal statement is usually about five hundred words long (a page and a half double spaced); the subject matter is a 17-year-old who quite often, has lived an entirely normal life and lacks something profound upon which to reflect and the perspective that enables one to reflect upon such an experience.

I much prefer the idea of long essays that showcase a student’s creativity and ability to think critically and write something more complex than a five-paragraph essay.  There are also essays with neat prompts (e.g. “We flip to page 241 of your 300-page biography.  What does it say?”) that encourage students to think creatively and provide a bit of fun.

However, the current essays (“Tell us about a hardship that you overcame”) is, at best, a complete waste of time; at worst, it results in the whiny “listen to me, I’m a victim!” mentality that suffuses modern university campuses.  The current essay also encourages students to take private tribulations (e.g. family strife, a struggle with depression) and turn it into a literary tap-dance routine for the benefit of college admissions officials. Far better to let students show their personalities more indirectly and let them maintain some dignity.

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New “Feminism”: How Dare You Ask Women to Multi-Task?

Emily Matcher asks if “paid menstrual leave” is “reverse sexism” or a “reasonable human rights move.” Let me explain something to you, Miz Matcher: paid menstrual leave is neither, as it is downright sexist.

If a particular woman has a particular problem with her own lady parts, she can use ordinary sick time, which may be used for menstrual issues just as it is used for the flu or a concussion. Your boss cannot stop you from using sick leave if it is your period, not a virus, that makes you vomit. But it is sexist to suggest that all women need paid sick leave for their periods, lest delicate flowers be forced to work  and menstruate at the same time.

There has been a lot of discussion about how the “wage gap” is mostly due to differences in chosen occupation and hours worked.  I would gently suggest that mandating “paid menstrual leave” will worsen such a gap: women will spend less time in the office, have jobs that are less demanding in terms of face time and reliability, and are implicitly saying that as women, they cannot be expected to do the same job that men do.

The entire concept of “paid menstrual leave” is sexist, counterproductive, and humiliating for women. Why this would be framed as “reverse sexism” (i.e. a benefit given to women but not men) is beyond me.

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Filed under Bioethics

Valerie Baber, Call Your Office

Regular readers might recall when I snarked on Valerie Baber, hooker to the elite and wealthy, because she thinks that men are paying for her amazingly compassionate self, not her twenty-five year-old self.

I’m glad that snark is a New England thing, not a bridget thing. Consider this article from a thirty-something woman with a Ph.D. who claims that stripping is a viable, feminist, and empowering career choice (Hat tip), and this comment thereon:

I’ve got a question that I’m hoping that Claire or Josh can answer. I’m 68 and still teaching. Is there an age limit, as for professional athletes, beyond which earning a living stripping is unrealistic? If there is, what kinds of options will be available for replacing that lucrative source of income?
Betsy Smith/Adjunct Professor of ESL/Cape Cod Community College

Thank you, Prof. Smith, for joining me in the snark. Being paid for being young is not a long-term plan.

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I want these motherf-ing snakes out of my motherf-ing bathroom!

Yesterday, a Texas woman heard noises coming from her bathroom and found a twelve-foot long African python lounging around like he owned the place:

Snake in a bathroom

As Samuel L. Jackson was not available, Veronica Rodriguez called the police and animal control; the animal was returned to its owner.

Yes, you read that right: returned to its owner.  That’s how 12-foot long African pythons wind up in the bathrooms of the nice women of Texas: freaks decide that the best pet that  money can buy is a twelve-foot long predator that eats cats, dogs, crocodiles, and the occasional unattended toddler.

So Veronica Rodriguez, thank your whack job neighbours for not having the sense to get a gecko or a turtle.

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