Population of Anchorage Now 275,044

Alex and Sarah have a brand new baby boy. His name is Ian. I don't know the standard things you are supposed to know about newborns, like how much he weighs or how many inches long he is, but the word on the street is that he has a big head.

Ian does not yet have a middle name. That's because Alex and Sarah are selling the naming rights on Ebay.



Curious what you would look like if you were a character on the Simpsons? Simpsonize yourself and find out. This is me:


CJ and the Ancient Egg

I'm reading a book called Salt: A World History, and I came across this passage:
The Chinese also solved the delicate problem of transporting eggs by preserving them in salt. They soaked the eggs, and still do, in brine for more than a month, or they soak them for a shorter time and encase them in salted mud and straw. The resulting egg, of a hard boiled consistency with a bright orange yolk, will neither break nor spoil if handled properly. A more complicated technique, involving salt, ash, lye, and tea, produces the "1,000 year-old egg." Typical of the Chinese love of poetic hyperbole, the 1,000 year-old egg takes about 100 days to make, and will keep for another 100 days, though the yolk is then a bit green and the smell is strong.
Finally! The mystery of the 1,000 Year Old Egg is solved!

Alas, this tale does not take us back to the days of the Tang Dynasty. This mystery began more recently--late in the Summer of 2001: It was 3 Am. Al, CJ, and I went to a 24 hour Chinese restaurant/illegal casino (seriously) in Oakland to get some food. Al ordered General Tso's Chicken. I had tofu and vegetables. Despite his protestations, we then ordered what was, to us, the strangest item on the menu for CJ: the 1,000 Year Old Egg. We had no idea what it was, and our server's broken English did little to solve the mystery.

In our inebriated state we found it hilarious that such a menu item existed (though Al, invoking his Taiwanese heritage, said he heard about them before and claimed that "they are really good." Al, however, is know to lie upon occasion, especially to further a good joke) and that CJ let us order it for him.

When it arrived, the outside was black and shiny. The yolk was greenish. It smelled. And CJ, in the face of much laughter, ate it all. We never tried to figure out what it was, and shortly thereafter, the whole affair had been forgotten--though during the few reunions and late-night escapades that Al and/or CJ and/or I have shared over the past few years, the story has come up. And, I must admit, on many nights I find myself longing for a 24 hour Chinese restaurant/casino.

Knowing that this memory would never be quite as funny with the concrete knowledge that the mysterious 1,000 Year Old Egg was just a pickled egg, I decided to e-mail the passage from the book to Al and CJ anyway. Al's response was indicative of his lifestyle as a cutting edge environmental lawyer, focused mainly on the restaurant/casino and referring to it in his hipster dialect as a "slashy" (restaurant slash casino). CJ's response was more muted, not unexpected given his more-corporate-than-renegade legal practice, his beautiful wife and two adorable children, their energy efficient Berkeley home, and his and hers hybrid vehicles:
That was a surreal place and a surreal egg -- but a man's got to eat! I also remember Al driving my car over a median strip that night... With all of the tomfoolery of our younger days, we're all lucky to still be alive, nevermind gainfully employed.



"Why is my boss calling me so early on a Saturday?"

That is what I was thinking as I stumbled back into bed after looking at the caller ID on my phone. The voicemail message he left didn't clear up the matter either: "Um, B-Dice, we're over here at the meeting and we were just wondering if you were coming..."

Having no idea what he was talking about, I pulled a pillow over my head and rolled onto my side. Thirty seconds later I bolted upright and remembered: Board of Directors meeting. 9 AM. Saturday. I'm supposed to present the quarterly legal program report. Shit.

I completely forgot about the meeting. I jumped out of bed, started throwing on clothes and called my boss. I was thirty minutes late before I even left the house.

Not one of my finer moments.


What The Hell?

First, Marlo was diagnosed with a rare strain of malaria. Then, last weekend, Rob and T's dog, Mo, had to be put to sleep. Last night Alli's dog died. This morning my brother (the youngest one, not this one) was arrested (more on that later). This afternoon Dee was taken off life support. Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on?


The Week That Was

The past seven days included a hectic combination of watching Top Chef marathons with Hank, Viv, and MaryLou; fielding post-breakup e-mails from The New Girl; being really sick; trying to determine if I can spend eight months in a foreign country where drugs and pornography are highly illegal; a good conversation with someone I hadn't spoken to in a long while; thinking about taking a big promotion at work; planning trips for the rest of the summer; learning some sad news (two friends were hospitalized, one friend's dog had to be put down); lining up a source to hook me up with the new Harry Potter book; absolutely beautiful weather; and (tonight) breaking into a construction site to check out the inside of a house that is half renaissance/Disney-esque castle and half church, with what I can only describe as a 40-foot tall plate glass atrium/loft.

Collectively, these events have left me way behind at work, emotionally drained, and without a shred of creativity left for blogging. So, for those of you who have come to rely on Situational Ethics to help you procrastinate for a few minutes during the workday, I apologize for slacking this week. Check back in next week for posts that will discuss 1,000 year old eggs; whether I am going to spend the Winter in Africa; a story that involves economics, the Transformers, and a nine year old B-Dice; and possibly (depending on what happens this weekend) pictures of a lot of Twinkies.


Procrastinatory Assistance

Some stuff to make this Friday the 13th more interesting:
[fn1] One former state legislator has already been found guilty. Three more have been arrested and the feds are taking a close look at Ted Stevens and Don Young. Good times! If you are having trouble keeping track of the crooks and schemes, the ADN has this handy timeline, though it is a couple of months out of date.


Are we too soft on corruption?

Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's State Food and Drug Administration was recently found guilty of taking bribes to allow sub-standard medication onto the market without proper testing. Former Alaska State Representative Tom Anderson is also corrupt. Yesterday, Anderson was found guilty of conspiracy, bribery, and other corruption charges.

Zheng Xiaoyu was executed for his crimes. Fortunately for Anderson, there is no death penalty in Alaska and he only faces fines and prison time. In all fairness, in the China case, people died as a direct result of the corruption. No one died because of Anderson's malfeasance, but Americans die all the time from corporate and political corruption (see, e.g., the "War on Terror" and the health care industry). Perhaps more severe penalties are needed? We might as well follow China's lead--they're going to take over the world anyway.

Shameless Sibling Promotion

Slightly more plausible than the time machine idea mentioned yesterday is my brother's latest entrepreneurial endeavor. As I previously mentioned, Andrew is a medical student and (very) part-time model. He also has a decent head for business, forged through years of following me around and a semester studying commodities exchange at a small liberal arts school in northern Vermont.

So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to his new baby, Medfinds. Medfinds is a comprehensive online resource for alternative medicine. On Medfinds you will find a (still growing) directory of local alternative health care providers, help finding schools that teach about alternative medicine, information about vitamins and supplements, definitions for all sorts of medical techniques and provider types, explanations of herbal remedies, and an index for you to research whatever might be ailing you. Basically, it's a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about alternative health care.

The site was launched only recently, so it is still in its infancy. The health care provider directory needs to include more providers, but that will happen as the site grows. What really impresses me about the site is the up-to-date medical news and the information that is available to research health concerns and to learn more about alternative therapies. So help a (my) brother out. Check out Medfinds and pass it along to anyone who works in this field or is just interested alternative health care options. This is the end of today's shameless sibling promotion.


Billion-Dollar Idea

Alex and I discussed an idea that will make us a fortune: Time machines are great, but they are inherently limited--they take you to a different time, but not a different place; you wind up in the same physical location you are already in, just earlier or later. The idea: build a time and place machine. Brilliant, eh?


Friday Baby Blogging

I was watching The Next Food Network Star with Viv (if it is a reality show about cooking, I'll watch it). The doorbell rang. I wasn't expecting anyone, so I was a little shocked to see a woman standing there holding a baby. I went through a momentary Three Men and a Baby phase before I recognized that the woman was my friend Tina and not a social services agent coming to tell me that I might be this baby's father (or that it could belong to one of my two friends). Tina is visiting from Dillingham and she brought her eight month old daughter, Adalgisa (it's an old Italian name), with her. The last time I saw Tina she was still very pregnant, so it was nice to see the, uh, fruits of her labor. [I can't believe I just wrote that.]

I spent some time with Gisa this morning while Tina was getting ready for her hearing (she's a lawyer; she's not on trial). She looks exactly like her dad, Clint. She can't walk or crawl, but she kicks her arms and legs around in a herky-jerky way that is eerily reminiscent of how Elaine dances. She smells like cookies. Every time I got up and tried to walk away she objected by sticking out her arms and making baby noises. Playing with her was a really nice way to start the day.


A Good Night

We left the game and were driving across town to meet up with everyone at a bar. She was scrolling through my iPod for something to listen to. Every time she found a song she liked, she smiled, turned the volume up louder, leaned back, closed her eyes, and danced a little in her seat--ignoring the constraints of the seatbelt. She never looked more beautiful.

We stopped at a red light. She opened her eyes, looked directly in mine, leaned closer, put her hands on my face and kissed me for a long time. The car behind us blared its horn. Green light. She didn't care. Neither did I. That was a good night.

Boom Goes The Dynamite!*

Josie is terrified of fireworks. When they go off she starts panting and shaking and she looks for places to hide--cave-like spots are her favorite. Past hiding spots include: in the wall (seriously) at our house in Vermont; behind the toilet (in the little space between the toilet and the wall) at our place in SF (getting her out was tough); behind the dryer, behind a huge stack of National Geographics, and (again) behind the toilet at the Kuskokwim Street house. Currently, her favorite hiding spots are under Hank's bed and in Hank's closet.

Hank is asleep, so she can't get into his room right now. Instead, she is doped up on her prescription anxiety medication and trying to relax under my desk.

*The title of this post comes from this now infamous clip of a college news sports anchor having a really bad night. It may be the worst sports broadcast ever recorded.


5 Thoughts While Working on the 4th

1. If you haven't been watching Robot Chicken for the past two years, start now. [warning: start now only if you are a pop-culture obsessed 30-35 year old dork who remembers, appreciates, and obsesses over the intricacies of old toys and cartoons, and who secretly wishes it was still 1983] A representative sampling:
Pimp My Ride? No, Pimp My Sister
He-Man, Thundercats, GI Joe: Where are they now?
X-Men/Police Academy Mashup
Scooby Doo Meets Friday the 13th
And, of course, plenty of Star Wars stuff, including a glimpse at Death Star Orientation Day.
2. Last night, after playing in (and winning) a poker tournament, I got home at 2 am and all I could think was, "I wish Top Chef was on."

3. My friend Earl would hate this: what if Apple made everything? My favorite is the iPotty.

4. As this Slate article explains, the decline in the of quality sports journalism started several years ago when sportswriters, especially those who work for the big outlets like ESPN and Fox, began spending their time doing things other than writing. That trend has continued. Sportswriters are increasingly on the radio and yelling on TV, and their writing--that which gave them the credibility to spout off in the first place--has suffered. The result is shoddy, sloppy journalism rife with unsupported assertions, often leading to the conclusion that some either (a) spend almost no time researching and writing their pieces, or (b) have no clue what they are talking about. [fn1]

5. "Hey, Eric Bana: Thanks."
[fn1] The crew at FJM does a really good job of taking people to task for both of these offenses. And despite the paucity of good writing in the mainstream, there is still a lot of good work being produced: Tim Marchman is excellent, and there are a lot of talented, insightful, independent writers out there like Dave Cameron, Aaron Gleeman, and Jon Weisman, to name just a few.


To Suspend Or Not To Suspend?

That is the question you must answer in Students for Sensible Drug Policy's Bong Hits 4 Jesus Game. Click the link to play. Highest score gets an autographed picture of Joseph Frederick with the banner. Good luck.


Not Everyone Wants An iPhone

Children in the developing world are inadequately educated. The One Laptop Per Child ("OLPC") association was founded to address this problem and to create a learning tool that would increase access to knowledge in developing nations. Thus was born the mission to create a $100 laptop for millions of poor kids around the world.

This Wired article reviews the evolution of the design and the hurdles the creators had to overcome to build a rugged, durable, rechargeable, efficient machine that also looks cool--after all, it's for kids. This is what they came up with:

Here is a more detailed view (click on the picture):

More pics are available here

The machines work, they can be connected to the Internet via mobile ad hoc networking, they can be charged with a hand crank, prices are starting to shrink down to the $100 price point, and they are being sold to governments to distribute to schoolchildren. Despite the initial success, this project raises many questions and criticisms. For instance, do children in developing nations really need laptops? Would $100 per child be better spent on medical care? Or on libraries and schools? What about maintenance and internet connection costs? Who pays for that?

India rejected the initiative, saying “it would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents." Other countries and NGOs have strong opinions as well.

Absent corruption, governments prioritize their spending based on the needs of their people. In the developing world, whether scarce financial resources are spent on computer/internet technology and education, paving roads, healthcare, or national security will always stir debate. I'm taking the "this is a really good idea" side here. I'm not advocating to give laptops to kids who are malnourished and have no shelter (unless there is an edible part of the machine and it converts to a cottage). But, there are many people who live in rural or suburban areas and have plenty to eat and reasonable accommodations. What these people don't have is a decent shot at a good education. That's where this project can be successful.

Of course, not everyone in the computer industry is thrilled with the prospect of a billion new super-cheap laptops that run on free open source operating systems. After all, if they are good enough for the developing world, why wouldn't the rest of us want to purchase one? There is speculation that Microsoft and Intel will flood the market with an inferior and nearly obsolete machine (and take a $200 loss per machine) in order to kill the OLPC project and sign up a billion new Windows users. Microsoft will sell a $3 version of Windows to go along with the laptops, which would generate nearly $3 billion in revenue and, more importantly, prevent a billion plus people from not using Windows. With that much money and market share at stake, it's no wonder Microsoft is playing hardball.