It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey
the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog,
passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.
To those who have come to trust
The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial
tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped
lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects
and interest categories where others feared to tread.
Please keep Steve's friends and family in your
thoughts and prayers.
HOUSTON - One of the last surviving communities built by freed slaves after the U.S. Civil War is on the verge of disappearing, despite long efforts to save it.
The old buildings of Freedmen's Town in Houston are being bulldozed to make way for new homes in a transformation that preservationists say is wiping out an important piece of history.
The U.S. South was once scattered with such communities, but most have faded away or been swallowed up by suburban growth.
The loss of Freedmen's Town is particularly significant because historians believe it was the largest of the freed slave settlements that was still intact architecturally and to some degree culturally.
Its long rows of narrow wooden houses, interspersed every block or two by churches, stood as a monument to the will of its founders to thrive despite bitter racism that forced them into isolation.
Freedmen's Town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, with more than 530 buildings in a 40-block area in the shadow of downtown Houston.
Today, only about 30 of those buildings remain and their fate is uncertain.
A few groups are scrambling to save what is left because they say it is important that society not forget the dark era in U.S. history that produced the freed slave settlements.
"People need to know that even though slavery ended, there was still a long time of disenfranchisement. Just like the Holocaust museums, this can remind us of what should never happen again," said Catherine Roberts, founder of the Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum, one of the remaining homes preserved in the neighborhood.
The Depression dealt a harsh blow to Freedmen's Town, and from then on it declined economically, becoming steadily poorer and less stable.
Politicians, with support from developers who coveted the prime location, began promoting the idea of urban renewal for the neighborhood in the 1970s.
Black leaders resisted for years, insisting that Freedmen's Town be preserved, but by the 1990s political and economic pressure to redevelop had won out.
What began as a trickle of change in the old quarter has become a flood the past few years.
Developers such as Bob Perry, better known nationally as the chief funder of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks against
John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, have torn wide swaths through the old housing stock and replaced it with condos and townhouses.
Even though Freedmen's Town was on the National Register of Historic Places, weak local preservation statutes allowed the wholesale demolition of the old homes.
But in the end, said Lenwood Johnson, who grew up in Freedmen's Town and led a long fight to protect it, one thing did in his old neighborhood -- money.
The desire to make a buck by putting up new homes trumped the interest in preserving history.
"The people with money wanted it and got it. This system is so controlled by corporate dollars," Johnson said.
"Now a people's history and culture is being destroyed. If you destroy their culture, you eventually destroy the people."
I'm shocked that one of the co-authors of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" (which originally started as a website--and was later turned into a book--that stated the obvious: that successful markets really begin with conversations between the seller and the potential customer and the seller tries to meet the needs of the customer based on those conversations) has been named as being a member of a recently pulled blog called meankids.org whose members are largely responsible for the harassments and death threats.
I have never heard of this blog or of Kathy Sierra before seeing the BBC News story and she doesn't strike me as being a hateful right-winger like Anne Coulter. Apparently she writes about technology-related issues and it's been hinted that she may be paying the price for being a woman writing about traditionally male-dominated fields. Even if it is sexism at work, it seems beyond the pale to threaten someone's life simply because you object to something she wrote in her own blog.
Contrary to what you might think RPS is not simply a game of luck or chance. While it is true that from a mathematical perspective the 'optimum' strategy is to play randomly, it still is not a winning strategy for two reasons. First, 'optimum' in this case means you should win, lose and draw an equal number of times (hardly a winning strategy over the long term). Second, Humans, try as they might, are terrible at trying to be random, in fact often humans in trying to approximate randomness become quite predictable. So knowing that there is always something motivating your opponent's actions, there are a couple of tricks and techniques that you can use to tip the balance in your favour.
The secret to winning at RPS
Basically, there are two ways to win at RPS. First is to take one throw away from your opponent options. ie - If you can get your opponent to not play rock, then you can safely go with scissors as it will win against paper and stalemate against itself. Seems impossible right? Not if you know the subtle ways you can manipulate someone. The art is to not let them know you are eliminating one of their options. The second way is to force you opponent into making a predictable move. Obviously, the key is that it has to be done without them realizing that you are manipulating them.
Most of the following techniques use variations on these basic principles. How well it works for you depends upon how well you can subtly manipulate your opponent without them figuring out what you are doing. So, now that the background is out of the way, let's get into these techniques:
1 - Rock is for Rookies
In RPS circles a common mantra is "Rock is for Rookies" because males have a tendency to lead with Rock on their opening throw. It has a lot to do with idea that Rock is perceived as "strong" and forceful", so guys tend to fall back on it. Use this knowledge to take an easy first win by playing Paper. This tactic is best done in pedestrian matches against someone who doesn't play that much and generally won't work in tournament play.
2 - Scissors on First
The second step in the 'Rock is for Rookies' line of thinking is to play scissors as your opening move against a more experienced player. Since you know they won't come out with rock (since it is too obvious), scissors is your obvious safe move to win against paper or stalemate to itself.
3 - The Double Run
When playing with someone who is not experienced at the RPS, look out for double runs or in other words, the same throw twice. When this happens you can safely eliminate that throw and guarantee yourself at worst a stalemate in the next game. So, when you see a two-Scissor run, you know their next move will be Rock or Paper, so Paper is your best move. Why does this work? People hate being predictable and the perceived hallmark of predictability is to come out with the same throw three times in row.
4 - Telegraph Your Throw
Tell your opponent what you are going to throw and then actually throw what you said. Why? As long as you are not playing someone who actually thinks you are bold enough to telegraph your throw and then actually deliver it, you can eliminate the throw that beats the throw you are telegraphing. So, if you announce rock, your opponent won't play paper which means coming out with that scissors will give you at worst a stalemate and at best the win.
5 - Step Ahead Thinking
Don't know what to do for your next throw? Try playing the throw that would have lost to your opponents last throw? Sounds weird but it works more often than not, why? Inexperienced (or flustered) players will often subconsciously deliver the throw that beat their last one. Therefore, if your opponent played paper, they will very often play Scissors, so you go Rock. This is a good tactic in a stalemate situation or when your opponent lost their last game. It is not as successful after a player has won the last game as they are generally in a more confident state of mind which causes them to be more active in choosing their next throw.
6 - Suggest A Throw
When playing against someone who asks you to remind them about the rules, take the opportunity to subtly "suggest a throw" as you explain to them by physically showing them the throw you want them to play. ie "Paper beats Rock, Rock beats scissors (show scissors), Scissors (show scissors again) beats paper." Believe it or not, when people are not paying attention their subconscious mind will often accept your "suggestion". A very similar technique is used by magicians to get someone to take a specific card from the deck.
7 - When All Else Fails Go With Paper
Haven't a clue what to throw next? Then go with Paper. Why? Statistically, in competition play, it has been observed that scissors is thrown the least often. Specifically, it gets delivered 29.6% of the time, so it slightly under-indexes against the expected average of 33.33% by 3.73%. Obviously, knowing this only gives you a slight advantage, but in a situation where you just don't know what to do, even a slight edge is better than none at all.
8 - The Rounder's Ploy
This technique falls into more of a 'cheating' category, but if you have no honour and can live with yourself the next day, you can use it to get an edge. The way it works is when you suggest a game with someone, make no mention of the number of rounds you are going to play. Play the first match and if you win, take it is as a win. If you lose, without missing a beat start playing the 'next' round on the assumption that it was a best 2 out of 3. No doubt you will hear protests from your opponent but stay firm and remind them that 'no one plays best of one for a kind of decision that you two are making'. No this devious technique won't guarantee you the win, but it will give you a chance to battle back to even and start again.
First question: establish the terms of the discussion.
Elizabeth, first and foremost, how are you feeling?
Translation: we're not going to talk about anything except for your cancer.
Next, keep the interview focused on the single area that you've selected.
Have you found that people are relating to you a bit differently with this news?
Have you received any additional information the last couple of days about where the cancer might have spread other than this area of your ribs?
Tell me about that roller coaster.
Tell me what went through your mind when you looked at that bone scan?
Were you terrified you might lose your wife?
Note: use loaded, subjective words whenever possible. If you can, tell the subject what to think.
That must have been hard once again to have to face your kids and to talk to Emma Claire and Jack who are 8 and 6. That is tough.
Make sure to remind your subject about their children and their ages. They may have forgotten.
Can you describe the decision making process for me in terms of what should we do now? Do we stay in? Do we suspend it temporarily? Do I call the whole thing off? Do we call the whole thing off? How did that unfold?
If you ask about another topic, make sure it's in the frame that you have already cho. In the case, ask about the presidential race in terms of the cancer. Don't ask any questions about why the subject might actually want to run for president.
At your press conference, you were both extremely confident, very upbeat.
Elizabeth said, "Right now we feel incredibly optimistic. I don't expect my life to be significantly different."
And I think some people wondered if you were in denial, if you were being realistic about what you were going to be facing here.
"Some people" is a good way to avoid saying "cynical right-wing commentators."
Your decision to stay in this race has been analyzed, and quite frankly judged by a lot of people. And some say, what you're doing is courageous, others say it's callous. Some say, "Isn't it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves?" And others say, "It's a case of insatiable ambition." You say?
Again, use the pronoun "some" to cover up that you're pulling questions from right-wing blogs and commentators.
Here you're staring at possible death...
And you're thinking, "I don't want to deprive the country of having my husband lead us."
Politics, as you know, can be a cynical business. You didn't know that? Glad I... (laughter) I'm glad I could teach you something today.
It's a clever strategy to make jokes about cynicism while you're asking cynical questions of the subject. It throws them off.
Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this.
See how helpful the "some would say" construction is? This is a great way to call someone a goddamn liar without actually putting yourself on the spot.
Some people watching this would say, "I would put my family first always, and my job second." And you're doing the exact opposite. You're putting your work first, and your family second.
I guess some people would say that there's some middle ground. You don't have to necessarily stay at home and feel sorry for yourself, and do nothing. But, if given a finite – a possibly finite period of time on the planet – being on the campaign trail, away from my children, a lot of time, and sort of pursuing this goal, is not, necessarily, what I'd do.
They're 6 and 8. They're still baby birds.
Again, they may have forgotten how young their children are. If you can, bring photos so they remember what their children look like.
Even those who may be very empathetic to what you all are facing might question your ability to run the country at the same time you're dealing with a major health crisis in your family.
Can you understand their concern, though, Senator Edwards, that gosh, at a time when we're living in a world that is so complicated and so dangerous that the president cannot be distracted by, rightly so, caring about his wife's situation?
If you talk politics at all, make it as vague and meaningless as possible. Extra points if you can subtle refer to terrorist threats without using the word "terrorism."
You said, this weekend, "I am definitely in the race for the duration." If you want to give the honest answer, how can you say that, Senator Edwards, with such certainty? If, God forbid, Elizabeth doesn't respond to whatever treatment is recommended, if her health deteriorates, would you really say that?
A First Draft group of 14 bloggers and readers has come down to New Orleans to gut houses this weekend, and continue Scout's excellent reporting on the aftermath of Katrina. This is a cross-post from First Draft, look for other posts over the weekend.
She was standing at the entrance of somebody's driveway, as we drove past looking for the spot where the levees broke and the water came rushing past. Scout would know the precise name of it, the name of the street: we drove around today for two hours looking at places she'd been and I'd never imagined. Mary, full of grace, with her head cracked off and put back on, and all the broken places showing.
What you don't want, what you aggressively don't want, when you're going through something, is some comfortably situated loudmouth telling you they know exactly what you're going through. Misery hates company. Misery hates shallowness more. Misery hates, above all, being lectured at. We came to put our hands to use places where they could be used. I came, having been here as a child only once and only briefly (there was a doll shop, and a doll with a purple hat with ostrich feathers, and the raised graves concerned me, is all I remember). The light is different and the streets are narrow and everything smells sweet, like something baking, and this is what we saw, around the city, today.
People communicated through markings on houses, a code: who was here, when, what they found and what they left. A dog is trapped, in black spraypaint. No pets, in green. One body, marked in red. People painted their own street signs, because nobody else did it and it had to be done. In the Lower 9th Ward, there are electrical cables lying across the road ways. There is a house sitting on a car.
There were tourists on the plane, necks wrapped with beads, drunk and silly and out for a good time. The plane was full, the Quarter crowded. A five minute drive away and it's a ghost town. Two men sitting on a blue porch on a street called Forstall (which makes me think fore·stall [fohr-stawl, fawr-] verb, to prevent, hinder, or thwart by action in advance; to act beforehand with or get ahead of; anticipate) wave at us as we drive past. They once lived on a block of houses. They're all alone now, other houses in the 9th having been torn down. Weeds creep up past the level of the stoops that still stand there, ivy reclaiming the debris.
The school's fence is crushed like a giant stepped on it. The house behind Mary, the windows were blown out, broken glass everywhere. The Lord is with thee. She's standing watch, blessed among women, her and the kid with the visor and stop sign warning us that there's road work ahead and to turn back.
Thanks to Sara "Mrs." Robinson for this fantastic series that we've enjoyed tremendously - THANK YOU SARA!
And at last -- we come down to Draper Kauffman's last seven rules onreality hacking:
21. Remember the Golden Mean. When people face a seriousproblem, they tend to overvalue anything that helps solve it. Theymobilize their energies and fight hard to solve the problem, andoften keep right on going after the problem is solved and thesolution is becoming a new problem. When most children died beforetheir tenth birthdays, a high birth rate was essential for survivaland societies developed powerful ways to encourage people to havelarge families. When the death rate is reduced, a high birth ratebecomes a liability, but all those strong cultural forces keep righton encouraging large families, and it can take generations forpeople's attitudes to change.Like the man who eats himself to death as an adult because he wasalways hungry as a child, people tend to forget that too much ofsomething can be as bad as too little. They assume that if more ofsomething is good a lot more must be better--but it often isn't. Thetrick is to recognize these situations and try to swing the pendulumback to the middle whenever it swings toward either extreme. What Kauffman is describing here is a feedback delay. Systems oftenfall apart because the feedback mechanisms that keep them within anoptimal range don't return current information; or because there's adisconnect between the feedback mechanism and the rest of the systemthat keeps that information from being acted on in a timely way.Creating a feedback delay is one of the better ways there is to wrecka functioning system.Unfortunately, one of the greatest weaknesses of democracy is thathas a stronger structural tendency toward feedback delays than mostother forms of government. In monarchies or oligarchies, you onlyhave to convince a few people to take action; and once they'reconvinced, things happen. But in a republic, you have to convinceeverybody -- and they have to convince their representatives -- andthat takes time.A lot of us knew a decade ago that global warming was going to be adefining issue of our time. In this case, the feedback delays arekilling us.
22. Beware the empty compromise. There are also times whenthe middle ground is worse than either extreme. There's an old, oldfable about an ass who starved to death halfway between two bales ofhay because it couldn't make up its mind which one to eat first.Sometimes you just have to choose, because a compromise won't work.The only way to tell is to examine the entire system carefully andtry to anticipate what the results of different decisions will be. Twenty-two rules in, it's still amazing to me how many of these rulesW violated on his way to Iraq. (Which, I guess, proves that hedoesn't listen to his cousins -- Draper Kauffman's mother wasPrescott Bush's sister -- any more than he does the rest of us.) Theroad to Iraq was a succession of empty compromises; and the longerwe're there, the more of them seem to crop up.
23. Don't be boiled frog. Some systems are designed so thatthey can react to any change that is larger than a certain amount,but they can't respond to changes that are below that threshold. Forexample, if a frog is put in a pan of hot water, he will jump rightout. But if he is put in a pan, of cool water and the water is thengradually heated up, the frog will happily sit there and let itselfbe cooked. As long as the change is slow enough, it doesn't trigger aresponse. Sometimes a country can use this tactic to defeat an enemyin a patient series of small steps. Each step weakens the opponent alittle bit, but is "not worth going to war over" until finally thevictim is too weak to resist an attack. (These are sometimes called"salami-slicing tactics". "Divide and conquer" is another version ofthe same thing.) While a healthy system shouldn't overreact to smallchanges, it has to be able to identify and respond to a series ofsmall changes that will bring disaster if allowed to continue. Rule 19 said that loose systems are often a good thing, because theycan adapt. But, sometimes, you can adapt yourself right out ofexistence…or at least a perfectly decent Constitution.
24. Watch out for thresholds. Most systems change prettygradually. But some systems are designed to switch abruptly from onekind of behavior to a completely different kind. Sometimes this is adefense against the "boiled frog" problem. ("He's meek as a lambuntil you push him too far. Then you'd better watch out!") In othercases, it's a way of avoiding "empty compromises" (#22). But mostoften it's because the system, or a subsystem of it, has exhaustedits reserves for coping with some pressure on it. This can bedisastrous if you are relying on a system that has seemed able toabsorb a lot of abuse and it suddenly collapses as a result ofsomething apparently trivial. Democracies, market economies, andnatural ecosystems are all prone to behave in this way. They seem sosturdy that we can kick them around, interfere with subsystem aftersubsystem, increase the load more and more, and they will alwaysbounce back. But we can never be sure which straw is going to breakthe camel's back. Actually, if we're watching the right spots closely and interpretingfeedback correctly, we can get a pretty good idea of just how closewe are to loading that last straw. The trick, of course, is figuringout which spots are the right ones, and reading the feedback rightly.
25. Competition is often cooperation in disguise. A chessplayer may push himself to the limit in his desire to defeat hisopponent, and yet be very upset if he finds out that his opponentdeliberately let him win. What appears to be a fierce competition onone level is actually part of a larger system in which both playerscooperate in a ritual that gives both of them pleasure. Not "doingyour best" is a violation of that cooperative agreement. Similarly,the competitions between two lawyers in a courtroom is an essentialpart of a larger process in which lawyers, judge, and jury cooperatein a search for just answers. Businesses cooperate to keep theeconomy running efficiently by competing with each other in themarketplace. Political parties cooperate in running a democracy bycompeting with each other at the polls. And so on.How do you tell cooperative competition from destructive competition?In cooperative competition, the opponents are willing to fight by therules and accept the outcome of a fair contest, even if it goesagainst them.' One reason extremist or totalitarian movements aredangerous in a democracy is that they turn politics into destructivecompetition. Kauffman wrote this upwards of 30 years ago -- but was prescientabout the way in which the right wing has decimated our ability toengage with the right on the same field, under the same rules, forcooperative control of our government. They took their ball, wenthome, and came back with guns. And, at that moment, any possibilityof democracy as usual vanished.
26. Bad boundaries make bad governments. Unlike mostcities, St. Louis is not part of a larger county. St. Louis Countysurrounds the city and keeps it from expanding its city limits. As aresult, the communities in the county have become parasites on thecity, using the city's commercial and cultural resources butcontributing nothing toward the cost of maintaining them. As long asthere is a boundary that splits the metropolitan area in half, and nogovernment with authority over the whole area, the county will keepgetting richer and the city will keep getting poorer until urbandecay completely destroys it. Similar boundary problems afflictstates, nations, ecosystems, and economic regions. As a general rule,the system with responsibility for a problem should include theentire problem area; authority must be congruent with responsibility,or commons problem (#27) results. The CFC/ozone hole problem was a major landmark in human history,because, for the first time, the boundary of both the problem and itssolution transcended the boundaries of individual countries. Solvingit required that we create global institutions capable of mounting aplanet-wide response -- and, to our credit, we did.The fact that we successfully rose to this first-ever globalchallenge bodes well for our ability to deal with the otherchallenges that are now rising ahead of us. However, it also meansthat we're headed into a century in which we'll continue to extendthe strength and reach of our international political, scientific,legal, and other institutions -- because they're the only ones withboundaries large enough to deal with the issues raised by economicglobalization, global warming, rogue states, environmentalrefugeeism, and so on.
27. Beware the Tragedy of the Commons. A "commons" problemoccurs when subsystems in a competitive relationship with each otherare forced to act in ways that are destructive of the whole system.Usually, the source of the problem is the right of a subsystem toreceive the whole benefit from using a resource while paying only asmall part of the cost for it. The solution is either to divide thecommon resource up (not always possible) or limit access to it. The only real solution to a commons problem is to form a governmentthat's empowered to regulate access to the shared resource. Much ofthe violence that the GOP has done to the American body politic overthe past 30 years has resulted from the fact that the right wing a)does not recognize the concept of the commons in any way, shape orform (that's what all their talk about privatization is about --eliminating any commons, anywhere); and b) does not recognize thelegitimate right of government to regulate the commons that doexist. These people want to privatize our air and water, and sell itback to us for a price. For them, the only valid function ofgovernment is to protect the property rights that allow them to ownthings, and charge for access to them.Of course, the Earth is reminding us that this is wrong-headed:nobody can possibly own the atmosphere and the oceans, unless we alldo -- and manage them accordingly. It's coming clear now that ourvery survival depends on creating institutions that are big enoughand credible enough to handle this job.
28. Foresight always wins in the long run. Solutions toproblems affecting complex systems usually take time. If we waituntil the problem develops and then react to it, there may not betime for a good solutions before a crisis point is reached. If welook ahead and anticipate a problem, however, we usually have morechoices and a better chance of heading the problem off before itdisrupts things. Reacting to problems means letting the systemcontrol us. Only by using foresight do we have a real chance tocontrol the system; or: those who do not try to create the futurethey want must endure the future they get. Unfortunately, in a democracy, it's very hard to summon the will forchange until most of the voters are convinced change is needed. And,in most cases, that's not until they've already felt the brunt of acrisis -- by which point, any action will be strictly reactive,instead of preventative.
Sources: Although some of these guidelines are associatedwith particular people, it is impossible to trace most of theconcepts back to specific originators with any confidence. Rules 1,3, and 5 were either coined or popularized by Barry Commoner. Rules2, 14, 16, and 27 are associated with Garrett Hardin. Number 4 isassociated with Commoner and science fiction author Robert Heinlein,among others. Number 6 is an old idea, but the words apparently comefrom humorist Will Rogers. Number 7 is associated with Jay Forrester.Number 9 is also an old idea; it has been emphasized by Isaac Asimov,Paul Ehrlich, Hardin, Forrester, and Donella Meadows, among others.Number 15 is a quote from John Platt's book, The Step to Man. TheBoulding quote in number 17 is from The Meaning of the 20th Century.Most of the rest are "in general use"--i.e., not especiallyassociated with an originator or a popularizer. They have generallybeen paraphrased or re-stated for this list.
Steve Gilliard has been dealt a lousy hand, but he's still in the game and for that his friends - real and virtual - are thankful. For those who may not know Steve: he's a voluble and iconoclastic blogger, a New Yorker with a deft writing style and a strong sense of justice. I've met him only once or twice, but Steve's voice has been part of my day for years now. He and his blogging partner Jen run the prolific News Blog, a tough, front-of-the-cab view of politics, war, culture, media, business and technology.
To call Steve outspoken is to call Kansas flat; his voice is millions of square miles worth of attitude and opinion. I'd venture that none of his readers agrees with everything Steve writes - just when you think you've got him pegged, he'll smack you. On race relations and New York politics, there are few keener observers than Gilliard. He knows food, roots for the Mets, despises the political status quo, hates blowhards and phonies, and is a hell of a military historian besides.
So news of Steve's medical crisis hit his readership hard, indeed. Jen's updates have had us all on edge now for a couple of weeks. There has been some slight improvement of late, but the big man's not out of the woods. Today, Jen worried that Steve will be angry when he wakes up and reads all the medical updates and comments on his health - that most personal of subjects.
But I don't think so. I think Steve will realize with a certainty that few of us are ever so privileged to feel that he is a highly-valued member of his community, that his virtual family is huge, and that his work is worth all the long hours and sleepless nights. Read the comments over at his blog, where volunteers are writing posts and handling tech duties to keep it running. The dude has atheists lighting candles.
The other night, we had a little gathering under the newcritics banner - where Steve gave me a couple of guest posts right before he fell ill - half a dozen bloggers, a few libations, and plenty of talk at a midtown bar. After a while, the conversation turned to Gilliard. We ordered a new round and raised our glasses to Steve. So here's the toast: to our blogging brother, the richest man in town.
Since we are all sitting here in a virtual campout outside Steve's hospital room, how about an old-fashioned potluck dinner?
When I was a kid, potlucks always meant church suppers or family reunions. They always involved homemade fried chicken, potato salad, my grandmother's seven-layer salad (which was ostensibly a garden salad but somehow seemed to have more mayonnaise, green peas, and shredded cheese than anything), and someone always brought a salad/dessert hybrid thing made with green Jello and fruit cocktail and Dream Whip (powdered precursor to Cool Whip and just as vile).
The fried chicken was always good, though. Sometimes there was chocolate cake. And lemonade.
I remember, too, a time when we'd just moved to a new neighborhood and joined a new church and were invited to the Wednesday night potluck supper. I was married and working and had two small babies, but I arranged to take off early from work that first Wednesday afternoon to go home and make a recipe from my grandmother's mayonnaise repertoire:
Potluck Chicken Broccoli Casserole
3 packages frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
cooked, chopped meat from 1 chicken
3 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 stack of saltine crackers
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place thawed chopped broccoli in an even layer over the bottom of a large flat casserole dish. Place chicken. chopped in bitesize pieces, over broccoli.
2. Mix soup, mayonnaise, and 3/4 cup cheese together. Spoon evenly over broccoli and chicken.
3. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Smash crackers to crumbs and sprinkle crumbs over cheese.
4. Bake at 350° for about an hour. Serve hot or room temperature; keeps well for a couple of hours. Serves a crowd, at least 8 full-size portions.
(Rereading this recipe now, I feel faintly queasy. However!)
I took my casserole in its approved little calico carrier () to the parish hall, arriving in time to set my dish on the big table with the others. Imagine my astonishment -- and outraged sense of betrayal! -- to see a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the table! And next to it, potato salad from the grocery store deli!! In its original little container!!!! I was incensed that people would cheat like that!
The next Wednesday, I stopped after work and picked up brownies from the bakery as my contribution. I learn fast.
Years later, I joined an art critique group that met once a month for -- yes -- potluck lunches. By this time, though, I knew enough about food that neither bakery offerings nor Grandmother's Mayonnaise Delights would do. I dinked around for a while before coming up with this giant vegetarian summer sandwich as my contribution, which was (ahem) considerably more well-received than the mayonnaise casserole. Leave out the anchovies if you don't eat fish or don't like the taste.
Summer Messy Picnic Sandwich
2 medium zucchini
2 small eggplants (I like Rosa Biancas)
1 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped (or about 3 fresh ones, in season)
2 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped
1 large loaf French bread
Preheat the oven to 425°. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into thin slices and place in large bowl. Cut the eggplant and onion in half lengthwise, then crosswise into very thin slices and add to bowl. Add the garlic and half the basil. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of the oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss until well mixed and coated.
Transfer the vegetables to 2 large baking sheets. Roast, stirring and turning every 5 minutes, until very soft, 25 to 35 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Combine the tomatoes and anchovies with the remaining basil in a blender. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and process until chunky, adding more oil to make a spreadable paste.
Slice the baguette lengthwise, leaving one side hinged. Hollow out the center of each side, leaving a retaining wall all around. Spread both sides lightly with the tomato-anchovy mixture. Carefully lay the roasted vegetable mixture evenly in the hollow.
Carefully close the top half of the bread. Using a spatula, press any protruding vegetables back into the sandwich. Wrap in waxed paper and tie at 2-inch intervals. Top the sandwich with cast-iron skillets or other heavy weights and let it stand at least 1 hour to compact. To serve, use serrated knife to cut into thick slices.
Serves about 8. Pack plenty of large napkins.
Time for dinner! Who brought dessert?
Kate Petersen blogs about food, cooking, and politics from the wilds of central Alabama. You can read more at Jazz Cooking -- a fusion of playful improvisation and good basic food.
Thanks to ice weasel for this great post - THANKS ICEE!
words and image by ice weasel with a big nod to Ezra Klein for the link
There are certain bloggers who, at least in my mind, I associate with particular issues. Which isn't to say that these bloggers are single issue or one hit wonders. In every case of the people I'm think of that's not true. But it is true that in every case these writers really hit their stride on one issue. For me, when it comes castigating the mushy middle better than anyone, it's Driftglass. Drifty can weave a tapestry of disgust and righteous indignation that is bulletproof in its factual assertions and hilarious in its descriptions. I wish I could write like that. Oh how I wish...
Which brings me to one of the poster girls of the politically androgynous (which is an unintentional insult to all androgynes out there), ann althouse. Aside from the fact that every proud badger out there must cringe a little, taste just a bit of that vomit of disgust in the back of their throat when they hear her described a law professor at UW Madison (an otherwise fine institution). Hell, I just lived in Wisconsin during some of my formative years and it makes me a little nauseous. Saying one is mostly liberal but really only liking conservatives is the kind of mental judo that althouse specializes in. That and the classic Larry King non-sequitur. Look at the pretty snow...
Anyway, I urge to visit Bloggingheads TV and watch this link. If you're impatient you can scroll forward to 5:07 and see althouse really blow a gasket but it's only ten minutes long in total, so watch the whole thing. You wouldn't want the altmouse to say you were taking her out of context would you? Hey, is that chocolate...
Seriously, you deserve this. Well, other than the almost unavoidable shame you will feel when you look at Garance Franke-Ruta's face and know how uncomfortable it is to be the victim of althouse's patented brand of shrill. You know the feeling. When you see someone do something so stupid that you feel shame for being the same species that they are. Yes. Watching poor Garance's face patiently endure althouse's pathetically petulant rant is difficult. But there is the althouse meltdown. So it's kind of a wash.
Patented, developed in Africa, the RapeX condom has 25 fish-like teeth which can only be removed by a doctor once they clamp down and attach to the head and shaft of the penis of the rapist. "I want this guy to be identified. I want a way that will prove that penetration took place," said Ehlers (the woman who invented RapeX.)
Ehlers believes the moments of initial pain will give women an opportunity to escape. In the latest crime statistics, South Africa recorded 54,926 rape cases, giving it one of the worst sexual assault records in the world. And as is well known, only a fraction of rapes are reported.
In what I think is one of the stupidest controversies I've ever heard, people are arguing over whether RapeX is a medieval device built on a hatred of men or whether it is an easy-to-use invention that could free millions of South African women from fear of rape.
What part of forcible rape means your johnson may get glomped onto by sharp knives don't you understand? I fully believe in non-violence in almost all circumstances. For those rare circumstances, it's important to keep Hubris Sonic and the Teams available (and their counterparts in the other services.) It's also critical I believe that people can protect themselves, and hand to the Gods, protection just doesn't get more personal than the RapeX condom. (Yes, even more personal than a Glock.)
As the father of three daughters, and as someone whom has taken care of sexual assault victims many many times, this is a wonderful invention. Will someone, somewhere, get pranged with it in an act of revenge? You bet. And we have laws which deal with domestic violence, just as if she took a bat to his head, or zapped him with one of those cute little pink tasers.
Africa is a nation where women are not generally respected, where rape is sometimes used as a weapon of state against nations, in violation of not simply basic UN rights for all human beings, but specifically in ways which earn those ordering and participating invitations to the Hague. Rape as an act of the state is a war crime, designed not just to destroy the will of a people, but to foster children by a different gene pool upon the losing side.
Anything to help stop the raping of girls, of young women, of women, is good. And if a few penises are lacerated along the way, well, fuck them.
- posted by Jesse "Doc" Wendel
Watson: "Old Business: the O.J. Simpson Verdict"
They love me in Florida
Thanks to Watson for this great analysis - THANKS WATSON!
While we wait for our 'justice system' to process the police killing of Sean Bell, permit me to revisit another racially charged case. I followed the O.J. Simpson trial pretty closely, closely enough to believe that the outcome was a miscarriage of justice, and that OJ got away with a double murder.
My complaint is with the mainstream reaction to the verdict. I thought that Simpson's acquittal was a routine example of the wealth effect on criminal justice. There were some evidentiary problems with the prosecution case, Simpson had the resources to magnify those defects, the defense team was more credible than the phony Marcia Clark, and so the jury acquitted Simpson.
Our punditocracy doesn't usually object to the fact that defendants wealthy enough to spend millions of dollars on investigators, experts, and lawyers regularly turn prosecution weaknesses into 'reasonable doubt' acquittals.
But in the Simpson case the pundits were infuriated. What was different in his case?
Granted, double murder is more serious than the varieties of grand theft for which our well-to-do brethren are ordinarily indicted. But an honest punditocracy would object to the wealth effect phenomenon in all cases.
To me the different reaction was because our pundits are biased and racist.
Wealthy defendants are typically white males, our pundits are mostly wealthy white males. Simpson, though wealthy, was black, as was the lead attorney, and most of the jury.
The pundits asserted that the miscarriage of justice was caused by Johnny Cochrane's unprincipled 'playing the race card', but it was they who were unprincipled in howling 'reverse racism' to obfuscate the fact that the result was just another instance of the wealth effect.
Cochrane didn't bring race into the case. Time Magazine admitted that its 'cover portrait of O.J. Simpson after his arrest was doctored to make his skin look darker. The manipulation made an accused man seem more sinister before he had gone to trial, and it did so by playing off the language of racial stereotype.' Race was introduced into our culture hundreds of years ago by slavers, and we adamantly refuse to take the steps necessary to become a non-racial society.
Cochrane didn't bring race into the courtroom. The LAPD injected race into the trial when it dispatched racist Mark Fuhrman to the crime scene and to Simpson's residence.
The famous gloves were put into evidence by the prosecution on the theory that they were the murderer's gloves. Officer Fuhrman said that he found one of them in Simpson's yard. When they appeared not to fit Simpson, it was perfectly appropriate for Cochrane to argue that Fuhrman was a liar whose racism gave him a motive to frame Simpson.
Dishonest criticism of the Simpson verdict has served to reinforce our dominant culture's dogma that blacks, unlike whites, are irrational and dishonest about race and racism.
That's why I believe that it's important to defend the Simpson verdict as rational given the circumstances. The outcome was because rich people can buy justice, not because Cochrane or the jury were racist or unprincipled.
Seitan Worshipper: "Harpers.com - McGovern & Polk - The Way Out of War"
Thanks to Seitan Worshipper for this great find at Harpers - THANKS SW!
Although our govt. has missed the deadline set by the authors, it's still a compelling read - and if our Congresscritters aren't totally hopeless, might be persuaded to implement at least some of the "blueprint," if the McGovern plan can be shoved in their faces a few (hundred) thousand times:
Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2006. Originally from October 2006. By George S. McGovern and William R. Polk. Staying in Iraq is not an option. Many Americans who were among the most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These Americans include not only civilian “strategists” and other “hawks” but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently, combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. This is the reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis’ right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.
We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.
Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
Withdrawal will not be without financial costs, which are unavoidable and will have to be paid sooner or later. But the decision to withdraw at least does not call for additional expenditures. On the contrary, it will effect massive savings. Current U.S. expenditures run at approximately $246 million each day, or more than $10 million an hour, with costs rising steadily each year. Although its figures do not include all expenditures, the Congressional Research Service listed direct costs at $77.3 billion in 2004, $87.3 billion in 2005, and $100.4 billion in fiscal year 2006. Even if troop withdrawals begin this year, total costs (including those in Afghanistan) are thought likely to rise by $371 billion during the withdrawal period. Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, a former assistant secretary of commerce, have estimated that staying in Iraq another four years will cost us at least $1 trillion.
Let us be clear: there will be some damage. This is inevitable no matter what we do. At the end of every insurgency we have studied, there was a certain amount of chaos as the participants sought to establish a new civic order. This predictable turmoil has given rise to the argument, still being put forward by die-hard hawks, that Americans must, in President Bush’s phrase, “stay the course.” The argument is false. When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to “stay the course.” A nation afflicted with a failing and costly policy is not well served by those calling for more of the same, and it is a poor idea to think that we can accomplish in the future what we are failing to accomplish in the present. We are as powerless to prevent the turmoil that will ensue when we withdraw as we have been to stop the insurgency. But we will have removed a major cause of the insurgency once we have withdrawn. Moreover, there are ways in which we can be helpful to the Iraqis—and protect our own interests—by ameliorating the underlying conditions and smoothing the edges of conflict.The first of these would be a “bridging” effort between the occupation and complete independence.
The next installment of Kauffman's Rules: more stuff to think about, and more to talk about.
15. High morality depends on accurate prophecy. You cannot judge the morality of an action unless you have some idea of what the consequences of the action will be. According to this point of view, an action cannot be good if it has evil results, and everyone has a moral obligation to try to foresee, as well as possible, what the results of various decisions will be.
Another of my favorites. We don't usually think of good foresight as being essential to morality -- but consider that foresight is nothing more than forward-looking judgment; and we know that real- world morality (as opposed to the synthetic fundamentalist product) has everything to do with sound judgment.
This explains why double-highs (people who are high in social dominance, and also in right-wing authoritarian traits) are unfit to hold positions of political or cultural leadership. Double highs don't look much farther ahead than their next chance to stick it to somebody, or grab for their own glory; and common-good definitions of morality have no place in their worldview at all. You might as well put your future in the hands of a Class V hurricane rather than hand it over to people who are constitutionally incapable of assessing or accepting the results of their own decisions. (Oh….right. Never mind.)
16. If you can't make people self-sufficient, your aid does more harm than good. This usually comes up in discussing problems of poverty or hunger, where temporary relief often postpones the disaster at the cost of making it much worse when it comes. It is not really an argument against helping, but an argument against half-way measures. Ghandi said the same thing in a more positive way: "If you give me a fish, I eat for a day; if you teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime."
Or, as another beloved freedom-fighting guru of a later generation put it: Do or do not. There is no try.
Partial fixes that are focused one part of the system alone almost always make the situation worse. They're usually just big enough to throw the system out of balance, forcing it to adjust elsewhere to compensate. And that adjustment, more often than not, creates a bigger problem than the one your tweak was trying to solve. In other words, the road to unintended consequences is paved with quick patches.
[Of course, as one commenter noted when this first ran at Orcinus: "Teach a society to fish, and within a few years they'll have totally depleted the local fish stocks."]
17. There are no final answers. As Ken Boulding put it, "If all environments were stable, the well-adapted would simply take over the earth and the evolutionary process would stop. In a period of environmental change, however, it is the adaptable, not the well- adapted who survive." This applies to social systems as well as natural ones. In a time of rapid change, like the present, the best "solution" to a problem is often one that just keeps the problem under control while keeping as many options for the future as possible.
I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who think that the way things are now is the way they're always going to be. (Again, it's probably a more common conservative habit of mind -- was it only a year ago that the GOP was gloating they'd be running the show for the next generation?) But the fact is that change is the only constant -- and there are a lot of serious people who think it's going to keep coming at us faster and faster in the decades ahead.
The future belongs to those who know how to surf the waves of constant adaptation. But people who allow themselved to be seduced into thinking that it's all settled, and they can relax now, are setting themselves up for disappointment. It's never been true, and never will be. Life is flux. Get over it.
18. Every solution creates new problems. The auto solved the horse-manure pollution problem and created an air pollution problem. Modern medicine brought us longer, healthier lives--and a population explosion that threatens to produce a global famine. Television brings us instant access to vital information and world events--and a mind-numbing barrage of banality and violence. And so on. The important thing is to try to anticipate the new problems and decide whether we prefer them to the problem we are currently trying to solve. Sometimes the "best" solution to one problem just creates a worse problem. There may even be no solution to the new problem. On the other hand, an apparently "inferior" solution to the original problem may be much better for the whole system in the long run.
Kauffman is foreshadowing my friend John Smart's Second Law of Technology here: All new technologies are inherently dehumanizing in their first iteration. (Think about it. It's true.) Whenever we step beyond the limits of our current experience and understanding, we're forced to guess. We're doing something that's never been done before; we have no idea what the consequences will be; and so there's no real way to prepare ourselves. All we can do is take the best precautions we can, test small before going big, and remain open to the option of turning back if it proves too dangerous to continue.
19. Sloppy systems are often better. Diverse, decentralized systems often seem disorganized and wasteful, but they are almost always more stable, flexible, and efficient than "neater" systems. In Boulding's terms (#17), highly adaptable systems look sloppy compared to systems that are well-adapted to a specific situation, but the sloppy-looking systems are the ones that will survive. In addition, systems which are loose enough to tolerate moderate fluctuations in things like population levels, food supply, or prices, are more efficient than systems which waste energy and resources on tighter controls.
This is why central planning usually fails; and why small distributed networks are a much better environment for almost everything from moving data to moving food to ensuring economic risks are shared rather than concentrated.
This rule is also the fundamental indictment of monopolies.
20. Don't be fooled by system cycles. All negative feedback loops create oscillations--some large, some small. For some reason, many people are unable to deal with or believe in cyclical patterns, especially if the cycles are more than two or three years in length. If the economy has been growing steadily for the last four years, nearly everyone will be optimistic. They simply project their recent experience ahead into the future, forgetting that a recession becomes more likely the longer the boom continues. Similarly, everyone is gloomiest at the bottom of a recession, just when rapid growth is most likely.
Another example of that common fallacy: It's no different now than it's ever been. Yes, it is. The question is: is the current situation within the normal parameters of past cycles -- or are we headed into uncharted territory here? You may recognize this frame as a favorite of global warming skeptics, who still don't think there's anything at all out of the ordinary about the fact that it's the first of March and I'm writing this in a snowstorm in a city that never sees snow after January 15.
21. Remember the Golden Mean. When people face a serious problem, they tend to overvalue anything that helps solve it. They mobilize their energies and fight hard to solve the problem, and often keep right on going after the problem is solved and the solution is becoming a new problem. When most children died before their tenth birthdays, a high birth rate was essential for survival and societies developed powerful ways to encourage people to have large families. When the death rate is reduced, a high birth rate becomes a liability, but all those strong cultural forces keep right on encouraging large families, and it can take generations for people's attitudes to change. Like the man who eats himself' to death as an adult because he was always hungry as a child, people tend to forget that too much of something can be as bad as too little. They assume that if more of something is good a lot more must be better-- but it often isn't. The trick is to recognize these situations and try to swing the pendulum back to the middle whenever it swings toward either extreme.
I consider this a restatement of #20, but from a different angle. The main caution here is: just because a tool always worked before, don't expect it will continue to deliver the same results in the future. Every situation's different, and deserves its own unique response.
All right: that's the third set. Stand by for the fourth and last set. And thanks to those of you who've grabbed on to this and are playing with it. These rules are delightfully simple stuff; but once I started working with them, I found they made a sweet little shift in how I approached people and problems that used to just drive me to despair or annoyance. I found I could forego being annoyed at foolish people (who usually can't be changed), and instead focus my energy on foolish systems (which often can be).
And in these rough days, anything that gets us out of our stuck places is worth looking in to.