Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Der Burgermeister

Several years ago I mounted a Mission Impossible-style infiltration of Burger King to steal the secret recipe for their veggie burgers (they've since changed suppliers, and the quality has dropped). It required great skill and a fair amount of luck, but I was able to walk away with their free nutritional information pamphlet which, thanks to the USDA, contains a list of ingredients.

What I didn't get is proportions, of course, so I've spent the last several years working on the recipe. Since each batch makes enough to keep us well stocked for about six months, it's taking awhile. To be honest, I don't know if my recipe even comes close to theirs now. I know the consistency is different. But it tastes pretty good.

Anyway, Memorial Day has become one of the two "Burger Days" when I whip up a batch of burgers. It takes me about 4 hours, but we wind up with about 14 meals worth. So yesterday I spent the afternoon in the kitchen chopping veggies, adding filler and "glue", and then cooking them up. The batch was proclaimed the best yet by my independent, impartial taste-tester (my wife), and since all the kids ate theirs as well I'm inclined to agree.

Last night I decided it was time to take my rather cryptic working notes and type them up into something a bit more workable. If anyone cares to give it a try, let me know. I'll gladly send you the recipe. Unfortunately I've never tried to make fewer than 40 patties, so it doesn't scale well to "let's try it for dinner some time."

Perhaps now I might try making soy cheese. Just kidding.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Russian Thuggery

I know, this is not the sort of stuff I usually get excited about, but this is different. I've been there. I know people there. They warned me several years ago that Russia would love nothing better than to get Estonia back.

So when the Estonians move a Soviet monument, they find themselves under widespread internet attack from Russia (via the Washington Post). Abnormally coordinated hackers? Russian Mafia? Russian Intelligence running field tests for cyberspace warfare? Does it really matter who? The fact is that someone can.

"These attacks were massive, well targeted and well organized," Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonia's minister of defense, said in an interview. They can't be viewed, he said, "as the spontaneous response of public discontent worldwide with the actions of the Estonian authorities" concerning the memorial. "Rather, we have to speak of organized attacks on basic modern infrastructures."

This next little bit is telling, not just for just how seriously this is being taken, but by whom:

The NATO alliance and the European Unionhave rushed information technology specialists to Estonia to observe and assist during the attacks, which have disrupted government e-mail and led financial institutions to shut down online banking.

I think we can expect to see more of this in years to come, and not just from Russia. And why don't I find the Russian response reassuring:

A Russian official who the Estonians say took part in the attacks said in an interview Friday that the assertion was groundless. "We know about the allegations, of course, and we checked our IP addresses," said Andrei Sosov, who works at the agency that handles information technology for the Russian government. His IP address was identified by the Estonians as having participated, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

"Our names and contact numbers are open resources. I am just saying that professional hackers could easily have used our IP addresses to spoil relations between Estonia and Russia."

Whether he's lying or telling the truth, the implications are still scary.

"The nature of the latest attacks is very different," said Linnar Viik, a government IT consultant, "and it's no longer a bunch of zombie computers, but things you can't buy from the black market," he said. "This is something that will be very deeply analyzed, because it's a new level of risk. In the 21st century, the understanding of a state is no longer only its territory and its airspace, but it's also its electronic infrastructure."

Or, to quote one of my all-time favorite movie characters, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pauper of the Bride

Last week for our date night my wife and I watched "Father of the Bride". I think we estimated that the wedding in the movie cost at least $100,000. I figured that was an exaggeration (remember, this was 15 years ago).

But then I saw this article online. It claims the average wedding in the US costs about $27,000. The average. In the US we spend more on weddings than the GNP of Lithuania. I understand, however, that Japanese weddings leave us in the dust.

I've got about 13 years to save up. Perhaps I should offer my daughter $10k to elope.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Iowahawk has envisioned what a James Lileks news story might look like in this amusing parody.

He also channels a few other more famous writers to fill out the other beats. Not suitable for the below PG-13 crowd.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Progress and Appreciation

The playhouse is finished. At least the structural part. I need to give all the exposed wood a shot of primer, at the very least. But the verdict is in. My four year old declared it (or at least the porch railing I added on Saturday) "Outstanding!"

I wish for just a moment I could see the whole thing through his eyes instead of my own, which only see all the parts I goofed up on. It's so easy to forget to see things not in terms of mistakes but in possibilities. After all, growing up we had a lean-to shack cobbled onto the side of the house that was crammed full of old stuff and cobwebs. You could barely even get the door open. But it was the absolute coolest place!

Responsibility kills the inner child, I think. Or at least sends it to its room. It's hard to enjoy a playhouse when you're the one who had to build the playhouse. It's hard to live in the moment when you're expected to always be thinking several moments ahead. To quote Barry Manilow, "Oh, for the fun of them when I was one of them."

Instead I get stuck thinking of preparing bedtime snacks and getting kids ready for church rather than giving myself over to a good laugh with my wife over a linguistic near-miss.

Speaking of my wife, I'll extend Mother's Day just a bit and mention just how much I appreciate her. She is completely committed to giving the best to her kids (which far too often includes me). She's an amazing woman who approaches everything with a style and grace of a Golden Age starlet. She's my Grace Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Donna Reed, all rolled into one--dresses like them, too!

One of the advantages of being a husband is that you tend to catch glimpses of your wife's "press." It sufficeth to say that the general consensus is that I married well. I wish I could say the same about her. To quote Alan Jackson, "Be patient...I'm a work in progress."

Monday, May 07, 2007

What a Gas!

'Tis Spring! A time when gas prices climb and people start circulating the "National Gas-Out" email. Yes, let's all stick it to the big oil companies by buying our gas on Wednesday instead of on Tuesday. If ever there was a sign that the American Education System is failing, it's this lovely email. There are so many holes in it I don't even know where to start.

Fortunately, I don't have to. Someone who gets paid to write did it for me. Read all the way to the end for some ideas that really WILL impact our oil demand, and hence gas prices.

The one thing that cracks me up about the email is the line about how in 1997 they did this and it worked. That was ten years ago. Are you telling me, if this is so effective, we can't find any more current data? That's as good as saying "Hey, I drank water from the other side of a glass and it cured my hiccups....once....ten years ago." Anecdotal evidence is not evidence. And doing the same thing over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. If it hasn't worked in ten years, perhaps--just perhaps--it was a coincidence?

Except, according the writer's research, it didn't even work then.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Building Frustration

I'm getting really tired of building this playhouse. I spent most of the day yesterday building a dutch door and to shutters, none of which look very good, in my opinion. The good news is that the kids don't care how it looks. The dutch door is a hit.

As it stands, though, this thing is going to eat up my free time for at least another week. Meanwhile the list of other projects that need doing continues to pile up. I just took vacation, but I need more.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More Microsoft Wit/Wisdom

I found another, not so funny ad from Microsoft today. This one was on repelling alien invasions. The only one that stood out this time was: When the aliens land, tell them the squirrels are in charge and that we humans are their slaves. While they start trying to negotiate with the squirrels, run like heck.

Little does Microsoft know how close they come to the truth.