Thursday, December 31, 2009

Verizon Problem

Due to problems in Verizon land line service, my blogging will be interrupted.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Interrupted Blogging

Apparently our snow storm last week resulted in a slow degradation of the phone line, meaning first the loss of dial tone and finally the loss of DSL.  Verizon promises a fix by 9 pm Wednesday night.  If you see this post before, you'll know they've made good on their promise.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Next War and Security Works

Two thoughts coming out of the airline incident:
  • I'm not clear on who handles security in Amsterdam, whether it's TSA for US flag airlines or the Dutch.  Assuming it's TSA, I think we should credit their rules as successful.  Apparently terrorists believe the screening process is good enough that they went to some lengths to evade the process--sewing the explosive into underwear.  And the attempt to use it to bring down the plane failed, presumably because of the difficulties of turning the hidden explosive into an effective bomb.  I'd compare it to a football defense like Carolina showed Sunday--effective enough to force the Giants into low-return and/or risky pass plays. If the terrorist had been able to get an effective weapon on board, it would be a different matter.  And it's a separate issue of whether procedures should have identified and prevented the guy from boarding in the first place.
  • I noted Sen. Lieberman now wants to attack Al Qaeda in Yemen.  That's the downside of Obama's policy in Afghanistan.  He may be right that his new strategy can work and avoid the problems of using lesser force.  But, as long as the strategy is sold as attacking terrorism and preventing a safe haven for terrorism, it's doomed to failure.  The number of failed or impaired states in the world far exceeds the capability of DOD. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

SURE: A Christmas Present for Whom?

The regs on the SURE program were published, and FSA issued the notice announcing the start of signup as Jan. 4.

I give FSA management credit for having the handbook published on the same date.  I don't give the Obama administration much credit for their start time--apparently there's not been any training provided and because everyone will be in use or lose status on annual leave, the start of signup will find people trying to play catchup.  (Of course, FSA people are used to that.)

I see by the handbook the program is being implemented using stand-alone Excel worksheets.  I hope the county people have climbed the learning curve on Excel, that this is not the first time such a process is used. 

How To Get Back to DC

Via Ann Althouse, who used Google Maps to find the distance between DC and Obama's vacation site in Hawaii:

Kayak across the Pacific Ocean
Entering Washington
2,756 m

The Problem With Lists

Blogs like Ann Althouse and Powerline are suggesting problems in the Obama administration's handling of terrorism as a result of the Detroit incident.  Maybe, maybe not. 

I do want to comment on one aspect: according to the Post today Abdulmutallab's father grew worried about his radicalism and notified authorities a month or two ago.  However, he may have applied for his tourist visa to the US in 2008.  All of the following is tentative, based on assumptions: assume the various lists, the "no-fly list" and the broader "Terrorist Identities" list really are "lists", that is static databases which are updated with adds and deletes periodically. So the person processing the visa request checks the appropriate lists, gets no hits, and goes ahead and approves the request. 

Ideally, of course, one would like two-way communication, if not in real-time, at least daily, between the various lists/  If visa requests are checked by matching against the terrorist list, any changes to the terrorist list should be matched back to the approved visa list.  So when Abdulmutallab is added to the list of possible terrorists, a process is triggered that results in putting his previously approved visa into question.

Achieving that sort of two-way communication is probably about 10 times more bureaucratically difficult than the one-way communication.

A Conservative Isn't Good at Math

Each year Maureen Dowd, the liberal columnist for the Times, turns her last column over to her conservative brother (it was an Irish Catholic cop family after all).  This year he shows a deficiency in math, as he gives shots to various personalities:

"To Al Franken: So, 250 years of Senate tradition trashed. Stuart Smalley would have done better." (1789 is when the Constitution took effect, so it's 220 years of Senate tradition.  Not to mention that industrious liberal dwarves have found a similar case in which McCain denied his consent to extend remarks, just as Franken did.)

Most Incredible Sentence Today

"In this column, I was not advocating arming passengers on airplanes (though I would not rule out such a policy if properly regulated)."  Randy Barnett at

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bureaucrats Plan Ahead

And Mayor Bloomberg is a good bureaucrat. See these pallets of salt stored in the NYC government's building at One Centre Place (next to the City Hall) and a location with okay restrooms.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 25, 2009

I Don't Do Personal, But Others Do

I'm a Presbyterian (by half heritage, if not belief).  But Dirk Beauregarde does personal, and here he has some memories of Christmases past.

And Erin Slivka has her Christmas letter up--a different sense of humor than Dirk. Her site, like Dirk's, features some nice photos (but I want to see the cats).

And Life on a Colorado Farm also has some cute and some good pictures up.

Not personal, but beautiful: Sugar Mountain frosted window.

[Multiple updates]

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dairy in the Cold

Via NAL, here's a description of running a dairy farm in cold weather (brings back memories).  I was surprised a bit--the farm milks 700 cows, and has 20 employees, for a ratio of 1 per 35 cows.  That's roughly the ratio I remember from my youth (my uncle had more and did most of the work himself, until his heart attack). I would have expected a bit more improvement in productivity.

The Declaration Over the Constitution

A post at the Edge of the American West describes the travels and displays of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  In passing, this sentence struck me: "The Constitution does not seem to have been exhibited much until the twentieth century.)" The Declaration, and George Washington's commission, seem to have been displayed regularly.  I'm not sure what this means--were 19th century Americans more focused on the Revolution, independence from Britain, and less on the Constitution? Or were they more interested in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and less interested in separation of powers?

I Second McArdle on CBO

Technically, I guess the folks at CBO aren't bureaucrats, they don't follow rules and deal with people, just Congress.  But their contribution is ignored, much as if they were bureaucrats, so I join Megan McArdle in wishing them well and happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stossel and Obamafoodorama

From a very limited knowledge, I'm not impressed by John Stossel, now a Fox reporter.  But I'll be watching what happens when he looks at the White House garden--an adversarial look may be informative, or maybe not.

They Were Wrong:

A few years ago a big theme among the international non-governmental organizations who focused on agriculture was decrying the absurdly high US subsidies to cotton.  End the subsidies, and people in Burkina Faso and other nations could make money planting cotton.  Well, as I like to point out, things are more complicated than often supposed, particularly by self-righteous advocates (of most any position, except those who agree with me).  A case in point is this article discussing the problems faced by cotton growers in Mississippi.  (Nationally, our production has declined from 20+ million bales 3 years ago to about 12.5 million bales this year, all without major changes in the cotton subsidy program, at least that I know of.)

Note:  I have to note the change out of cotton might possibly reflect the "Freedom to Farm" changes of the 1996 farm bill, of which I've been critical, or it might simply reflect that globally people would prefer to eat meat than wear cotton.

Where's PETA in Iraq?

I like the Tom Ricks blog, it's just enough contact with military matters for someone who describes himself as a natural-born civilian. This post reveals a disastrous situation in Iraq, where our esteemed soldiers are killing dogs, then carrying over the habit to Afghanistan.  (I don't remember Vietnamese being fond of dogs, and I won't try the obvious joke.) Unfortunately, despite the fact our military is composed of great people, you put a weapon in someone's hands and you create a situation where the person can abuse the power.

Some Christians Are a Little Strange

From TPM (though this is quite likely a hoax, thought the right didn't like the teabag label):
"Our small tea bag group here in Waycross, we got our vigil together and took Dr. Coburn's instructions and prayed real hard that Sen. Byrd would either die or couldn't show up at the vote the other night," the caller said.
"How hard did you pray because I see one of our members was missing this morning. Did it backfire on us? One of our members died? How hard did you pray senator? Did you pray hard enough?" he continued, his voice breaking. [I think this is a take-off from Sen. Coburn's advice to pray that Dems would not show up.]

From NYTimes:
I asked Steve Bercu, BookPeople’s owner, what the most frequently stolen title was.
“The Bible,” he said, without pausing.
Apparently the thieves have not yet read the “Thou shalt not steal” part — or maybe they believe that Bibles don’t need to be paid for.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Precision Agriculture Versus Organic

Am I crazy or are there parallels between organic ag and precision agriculture? Because organic agriculture usually uses more labor, there's more intelligence applied to each square foot  farmed than in commercial agriculture.  But with precision agriculture (which as I understand it via GPS captures detailed data on what's happening in each square foot in the computer), you're also applying more intelligence.  This thought stimulated by this piece in farmgate:
Precision agriculture can lead to higher yield and profitability. IA farmer Clay Mitchell outlined his concepts to a MO agronomy conference, and noted several successes:
1) Controlling field traffic creates soil qualities yielding 30% above his county average.
2) Deep residue cover allows soil to mimic a forest floor protected from direct rainfall,
3) Water infiltration reaches 4 in. per hour, compared to 0.2 in. in neighboring fields.
4) GPS guided tractors exert 40% less effort driving on compacted lanes in the field.
5) Maps showing single row yield indicated an 83 bu. yield difference from a mistake.

What I Saw at the Metropolitan

A small wooden carving of a domestic scene of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph, with Joseph drying the swaddling clothes before the fire and a set of samurai armor made for and owned by a woman.

We're All Primates

What thunderstorms are approaching in our realm?
"Males display all the time for a number of different reasons, but when there's a big thunderstorm approaching, they do this real exaggerated display — it's almost like slow motion," Pruetz said. "And when I was with this one party of chimps, the dominant male did the same sort of thing, but it was towards the fire, so I call it the fire dance."
Quote from an MSNBC piece on how chimps understand fire.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New York City--First Impressions

Wife and I are visiting NY--the first time I've overnighted since a weekend pass from Fort Dix many many years ago.  So blogging will be light.  But comparing the financial district to K Street in DC, albeit at slightly different times--8 a.m. versus 10 a.m., the NYC crowd is more diverse, both ethnically and by class, but the women wear their good footwear on the streets, unlike the DC women who wear runners to commute and change their shoes in the office.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pigford and the Indian Case

Not much more than this in the ABC post.
A federal judge has approved settlement talks in a decade-old discrimination lawsuit filed by American Indians against the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bureaucracy Is Always Fascinating--US Army

I do find bureaucracy endlessly fascinating, not that it's a wide spread taste. FDR famously mocked government bureaucracies, ending with the Navy.  But Tom Ricks, who used to be the Post's defense correspondent, has a nice blog.  From a post in a series on Army doctrine, there's a nice phrase which suggests the Army is perhaps more primitive than the Navy: "Tensions with the field forces always existed, but were muted -- and senior leaders at the top fully embraced and endorsed TRADOC's central role in the Army constellation of tribes."

The Learning Curve in Transparency

This Post article the other day shows the Obama Administration learning some lessons on transparency, particularly the need for validity checks on data entry and error correction routines.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiger Woods and Albert Einstein

Funny, I was sure that was a combination of search terms that was rare, if not unique. 


188,000 hits on Google.  (My thought was to point out that Albert got forgiven his infidelity.)

People Are Irrational

In the recent flap over mammographies people resisted a study that said, roughly, the costs and risks associated with routine blanket mammographies beginning at age 40 instead of age 50 weren't worth the benefits. 

Meanwhile, in today's NYTimes, there's an article discussing the routine use of tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer. Apparently lots of women resist the idea of taking a pill to prevent breast cancer. 

Somewhere in this vast nation, there's someone who's willing to undergo radiation to detect a tumor but not willing to swallow a pill to prevent it. 

A New Route to Nitrogen Fertilizer

One of the arguments of the organic people (as opposed to us inorganic robots) is tied to the concept of "peak oil"--as we exhaust our oil and natural gas we lose the feedstock for fertilizer. But a reminder that the future is different from an extrapolation of past trends comes in this Technology Review post, Cornell profs "developing reactions to make nitrogen into organo-nitrogens directly", bypassing the need for ammonia.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Question for Foodies

According to this post at Universal York, by 1900 the small city of York, PA had five thriving farmers markets.  So my question to foodies, who push farmers markets, what happened?  Why did the markets fade away, and what does that mean for their current renaissance? 

My own answer is--efficiency and lower costs in satisfying consumers desires was the cause, which means only a small niche in the future for farmers markets.

Extension Service and Health Care Reform

The New Yorker's Atul Gawande has an article on health care reform that includes praise for a USDA bureaucrat, Seaman Knapp, the father of the Extension Service. And praise for the hodge-podge of USDA programs to help farmers (in the 1890-1930 era):
"What seemed like a hodgepodge eventually cohered into a whole. The government never took over agriculture, but the government didn’t leave it alone, either. It shaped a feedback loop of experiment and learning and encouragement for farmers across the country. The results were beyond what anyone could have imagined. Productivity went way up, outpacing that of other Western countries. Prices fell by half. By 1930, food absorbed just twenty-four per cent of family spending and twenty per cent of the workforce. Today, food accounts for just eight per cent of household income and two per cent of the labor force. It is produced on no more land than was devoted to it a century ago, and with far greater variety and abundance than ever before in history."

Transparency is Good for Professors?

Am I being really mean by highlighting Brad DeLong's post here?  Or is he trying to gain what we used to call brownie points by admitting to being less than clear?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Data Sharing

Back in the day (i.e. 1992) when I was part of the Info-share project, we tried with some success to pull data from multiple databases of different agencies into one database that was accessible by farmers.  It weems some 17 years later, the federal government has reached the point where the data can be pulled on the fly--at least Mr. Kundra says, according to this Federal Computer Weekly piece,  Education and IRS will be able to support a new student aid application process by populating it with IRS data.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Transparency Is Good, Even If It Hurts

The Environmental Working Group led the way with its FOIA request to get farm payment data from FSA and putting the data up on the Internet.  News organizations are following the precedent--here is a CBS report from Florida spotlighting FSA payments made to dead persons.  They matched data from the SSA's death index to payment data from EWG's database to identify such cases. 

I find the matching interesting because one of the conditions under which USDA provided the data was that social security numbers were replaced in the data by constructed numbers, meaning EWG doesn't have social security numbers.  But, given the advances in computing it was presumably easy enough for CBS to match using name and address from EWG's files to the name and address from SSA's files--they got along without the SSN.

There's some misinformation in the article--notably when an EWG type compares making welfare payments to a dead person with making farm payments to a dead person.  The comparison is invalid, because the farm payment goes with the land, not the person. And I wonder how many cases there are of the heirs leaving an estate open just out of inertia and procrastination. As usual the media and critics make things seem simpler than the reality is, at least the reality seen by a good bureaucrat.  But the bottom line is, if FSA doesn't follow its rules, people should be able to find out.  And if people think the rules are wrong, then in a democracy they can get them changed.

Under the Obama adminstration's open government initiatives, I'd like to see FSA put up its own database, including all the data it gives to EWG, plus the matching to SSA's files.  Of course, that would take resources FSA doesn't have, so maybe it's better to out-source this stuff to EWG and the media.

Pigford and the Women

From a Government Executive post:
two key House members introduced legislation Thursday to establish a $4.6 billion compensation fund for female farmers who have been denied loans since 1981.
The article discusses Pigford and the other discrimination cases filed against FSA and USDA.  But there's no substantive discussion of the basis for the amount or any indication of what lawyers are involved.  (In the Pigford case there were allegations of misconduct by some of the lawyers.)

Updated:  See the press release on De Lauro's site for more details.  I refuse to use my dwindling brain cells to analyze the differences between De Lauro's process and Pigford but it looks as if it's the two track process again: one track for people who credibly claim to have applied for a loan, another track for people who can prove discrimination.  The first track gets $5,000 instead of the $50,000 for Pigford; the second gets an adjustable $109,000. 

One white male chauvinist legalistic remark:  there's no provision to prevent double-dipping by a black female  farmer (or, in the event, a Hispanic female or a Native American female farmer).

Google's Web History

Looked at my Google Web History today and found some mysterious searches in my top 10. Specifically, they're in the format: ocean2-*.org  where the asterisk represents a string of numerals.  Clicking on the link produces a "Server not found" message.  Doing Whois for " finds very little.  So, big concern.

However, this page at serverfault provides a possible explanation--it's a byproduct of doing searches on Google Books (which I often do in my genealogy pursuits).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Payment Limitation Rules Proposed by Christmas?

From the Delta Farm Press:

“I expect — and I don’t want to create any more anxiety out there than already exists — but I expect we will be announcing our proposals for rules governing payment limits and actively engaged as well as a memorandum of agreement with the IRS,” said James W. Miller, undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services.
Miller, the keynote speaker at the USA Rice Federation’s Rice Outlook Conference in New Orleans on Thursday, said he anticipates the regulations for the new payment limit rules and the implementation of the new crop disaster program known as SURE, could be published by the end of the year.
I might even rouse myself to read the darn thing (I assume an interim final rule) but I'm sure it will be fun and games for FSA and farmers to figure out.

Most Incredible Sentence Today--Robin Hanson

" Even if we gained from other kids’ schooling, that only suggests we subsidize schools, not that governments run them. "

Robin Hanson is usually interesting, but occasionally I find him obtuse, as in this discussion of why we have public schools.  His argument is that public schools are a means of propaganda for the government and vested interests (i.e., Protestant theology in the 19th century). What stops me dead in my tracks is the "if" in his sentence, as if there were any doubt.  In my mind, the big argument for globalization is the idea it gets more minds working away at hard problems, like maybe how to prevent Alzheimers (or whatever issue rings your bell). 

Electronic Health Records Advance

My healthcare provider is Kaiser, which has had electronic records for a while now.  They've improved the setup--my wife was able to schedule an appointment online very easily (about as easily as I was able to schedule an appointment for the car to be serviced).

Today, though, I got an email from the vet (for our two cats)--they're going electronic as well.  So far I'm less impressed with the software than the others I've mentioned, but the march of progress is carrying all before it.

Losing Historical Data

"Climategate" has in part focused on the loss of climate data supporting the research.  From another realm, that of high energy physics, comes another tale of scientists losing data, and the audit trail between raw data and published results.  No one will allege conspiracy here; it's a non-controversial field of science. 

(I do shed a tear for the idea that Fortran is an endangered language--if people can worry about the languages of the remote areas of the world being endangered they surely should also worry about Fortran and Lisp. )

Worst Sentence, Punctuation of the Day

"Our relatively youthful and socially diverse population includes a large component of people,..."

Apparently this conservative isn't sure what else our population includes. But since we liberals try to be half-way fair to our conservative brethren, here's the full sentence, with the proper punctuation inserted: ". Our relatively youthful and socially diverse population includes a large component of people, particularly males[,] with limited skills and education."  Still not graceful writing, I wouldn't use the word "component" in this context.

 From a Politico opinion piece attacking Obama for his climate change policies.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Mystery for Political Scientists

It's commonly agreed farmers have greater influence in the EU than in the US.  That accounts for the greater subsidies in the EU.  But, as reported by Dan Morgan via Farm Policy, EU politicians ignore farmers when it comes to climate change, while agriculture looks to be a key player in Congressional debates over cap and trade information.  Why?
"...American farmers often wish they wielded the same kind of power and influence [as EI farmers].
So I was surprised recently by the answer I got from a senior official from Brussels when I asked him about the role agriculture was playing in the European debate over climate change. After a pause and a momentary blank stare, the European Commission official replied that the farm lobby hadn’t been a major factor.”

Those Learning Curve Glitches with FSA Payments

There's a post here (Illinois Farm Bureau) saying that the glitches with centralized payments from Kansas City have been so bad that some House members are considering forcing the payment process back to the county offices.

Updated:  NASCOE has a piece on this (click on "Nascoe Now" to download the Word document) which essentially says there's no going back (rather like Obama with Afghanistan, maybe).

Megan McArdle Reveals a Mystery

Ms. McArdle is usually interesting and often sensible, even though she's a bit too libertarian for my tastes.  But today she revealed something--I quote the full post:
"Designer handbag rental.  Terrifyingly, this actually seems rather sensible to me.  I mean, if I didn't buy most of my bags at Target.  In fact, I largely moved out of Manhattan so that I could buy most of my bags at Target.  But if you're going to try to stay at the forefront of fashion, this seems like a cost effective way to do it."
I'm sure every male will see the mystery: why does a woman need multiple handbags?

Eating Your Own Dogfood--Kid's Food

A minor theme of the health care debate over the years has been that Congress should not have better health insurance than the rest of the nation, or put another way, that Congress should live by its own standards.  (Come to think of it, that was one part of Gingrich's Contract with America with which I agreed--making a series of laws, like OSHA, apply to Congress.)

In the the IT business it used to be called eating your own dogfood: if you were working on a word processor, you ought to be using it to do your writing.

If I've followed the debate, the Senate health care bill does put the top echelon of the government, including Congress, in the new healthcare exchanges.  And now there's at least a temporary extension to food--Jane Black in the Post reports Congressional staffers are getting fed the same food USDA provides for school lunches. Too bad the law wouldn't allow a continuance--staffers are typically lowly paid and would welcome a low cost lunch every day.  There's no magic to dogfooding, but it gets people outside their usual routine and such change can generate improvements.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What "Open Government" Doesn't Cover--Subordinate Offices

Here, via OMBwatch, is the text of the Obama's administration instructions to agencies on opening government. I like it, but I think there's a major problem: it treats each agency as an entity, not as a set of interrelated offices.  For example, an agency like FSA has over 2,000 county offices, state offices, offices in Kansas City and Salt Lake City.  NRCS and RD have similar structures.

So the issue, which I've hashed with at least one county executive director, is whether you have a centralized unitary open government structure or a more decentralized one. Complying with Orszag's instructions implies a centralized structure, which in a way is contrary to the open government philosophy. I'll be trying to track how NRCS and FSA implement this directive.

Hoop Garden

Obamafoodorama posts on the installation and use of hoops and hoop covers for the White House garden.
"Fabric-covered aluminum hoops have been placed over the crop rows and these capture passive solar energy and boost the interior temperature dramatically, so the garden soil and air is warmed, and crops can flourish--even in winter. Hoop Houses are often tall enough to walk through, but the White House is using mini versions, about two feet tall, which some farmers and gardeners refer to as "low tunnels" or just simply "row covers."....
But no matter: It's warm and cozy inside the covered beds in the 1,100 square foot Kitchen Garden, and the winter crops, which include lettuces, cabbage, winter radishes, onions, broccoli, turnips, and carrots, are easily accessible, because the covering fabric is held down with sandbags, and can easily be flipped back to weed, harvest, or water, if for some odd reason it doesn't rain (but it'd been raining a lot before it started to snow)"
I'm not sure it's going to be warm and cozy, particularly when the winds blow.  And I still think they'd do better with collards and kale than lettuce, but it's their first year.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Whatever Happened to Clinton's Surgeon General

The one who was unfairly fired  (Jocelyn Elders, maybe?).  She might enjoy this post from Margaret Soltan.  I well remember when masturbation was an unmentionable subject.

Best Sentence Today (Berluscone in a Speedo)

"However, all the attempts I've seen are like Silvio Berlusconi trying to wear a Speedo - no matter how you try to make everything fit, a couple of awkward bits wind up poking out and ruining the picture."  (From the 1930 Blog" musing about an economic theory which would explain current market movements.)

The Problems of Foodies--"Founding Farmers" Restaurant

Jane Black had an article on the problems the hot new "Founding Farmers restaurant" has with its goal of serving local, sustainable, and organic food.  She catches instances where their performance is less than their promises, but I don't take it as a critical, muckraking piece, rather as showing the difficulties of putting a square peg (the sustainable restaurant) into a round hole (the existing food system).  What happens is the buyer for the restaurant assumes a big responsibility which isn't easily performed, the responsibility of searching out the backstory of every food item purchased.  There might, in bigger cities, be a niche for an organic, sustainable broker, someone who takes on that burden and serves as a middleman between food producer and the restaurant.

Monday, December 07, 2009

And Round in Circles We Gaily Go

This post on the USDA blog praises a Forest Service employee who is a finalist in the competition for the best suggestion to save money.  Based on a fast skim (still trying to catch up from my travels) and fading memory, it seems to me ASCS used to use the proposed method.  We even had bank accounts in local banks.  That system is long gone, both the accounts and the methods of processing collections.  So maybe the proposal is in effect a return to the past for a USDA agency.

The Importance of Looks

Robin Givhan is a writer I mostly can ignore but the fashion/culture writer for the Post had a good piece yesterday: the theme being that the Salahi's were able to gate crash because they looked right--a thin blonde on the arm of a man in a tuxedo. Change any of the parameters and the security people would have been much more likely to challenge.  It's a sobering reminder of the importance of the genetic lottery in our culture (probably all cultures).

First We Kill All Middle Managers

No, that wasn't Al Gore's mantra, but he wanted to get rid of them and he thought he did.  Hope he is doing a better job on climate change.  These thoughts evoked by this piece in Government Executive on the use of numerical targets in managing government

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Snow and Foxhounds

Baldwinsville, NY is in the snowbelt--meaning they get the lake effect snow off the Great Lakes, at least until the lakes freeze over.  But this year they haven't had much, if any, snow.  But the day after I got back to Reston we started to get snow, snowed most of the day yesterday, 5 inches or so of the wet, pretty stuff.

I got some nice photos this morning on my usual walk for Starbucks, but none as great as this first photo from the Post, showing the Middleburg hunt leading the Christmas parade.  The rest of the photos in the show are worth viewing as well.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Restaurants of Baldwinsville

Returned from my trip last night and thought I'd resume blogging with thumbnail reviews of the restaurants at which I ate:
  • Chili's.  Nothing to be said--a chain restaurant with a good southwestern chicken salad and too much beer (my capacity for alcohol diminishes as I age). 
  • Mohegan Manor.  Downtown Baldwinsville's classiest restaurant, I suspect. This was new to me, though I've seen it on previous visits.  Had the black cod special, the fish on top of some tarted up mashed potatoes and steamed? spinach.  Enjoyed the food, but not the noise.  The restaurant's in an old building (long ago mansion I expect), which has been renovated down to the original floor boards, so there's nothing to absorb the sounds.
  • Tabatha's. Have eaten here several times, usually try to hit it once each trip.  It's a home-style restaurant with good food and lots of it.  What makes it special are the desserts, particularly the pies. 
  • Canal Walk Cafe. Deserted the hotel's continental breakfast for this place, which is by the side of the canal. It reminds me of the corner restaurant in Greene, NY.  Good food.  I almost said "simple", but their breakfast special Thursday was a "strata" something--a cheese omelot stuffed with Italian sausage, onions, and other stuff (I'm not exactly a discerning eater, BTW).  It was good, but so was the scrambled egg on Wed.  It  to be the sort of place with neighborhood regulars, and a friendly atmosphere where the waitress calls you: "honey". 
Any or all of these are recommended in case you're visting the Syracuse area.