Stuff from August, 2009

This is the archive of tumbledry happenings that occurred on August, 2009.

Bamboo fabric

While taking a shower this morning, I was reading the fabric content of our wedding-gift washcloths. 70% cotton. 30% bamboo. Bamboo? Interesting. According to Wikipedia, bamboo fabric is:

  1. Naturally antibacterial
  2. Capable of absorbing 50% more water than cotton
  3. Doesn’t build up a static charge


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Beauty synonym

Just learned a word I have absolutely never heard before. Pulchritude, meaning beauty. Attempts to pronounce it begin now.

Summer Book

More good stuff from Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, The Best Kids’ Books Ever. Here’s his final selection:

13. “Lad, a Dog” is simply the best book ever about a pet, a collie. This is to “Lassie” what Shakespeare is to CliffsNotes. The book was published 90 years ago, and readers are still visiting Lad’s real grave in New Jersey — plus, this is a book so full of SAT words it could put Stanley Kaplan out of business.


Insurance HELP

Paul Krugman is right about health care. Please allow me the liberty of bolding portions of his piece, HELP Is on the Way, with which I strongly agree:

Now, about those specifics: The HELP plan achieves near-universal coverage through a combination of regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies would be required to offer the same coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history; on the other side, everyone except the poor and near-poor would be obliged to buy insurance, with the aid of subsidies that would limit premiums as a share of income.

Employers would also have to chip in, with all firms employing more than 25 people required to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty. By the way, the absence of such an “employer mandate” was the big problem with the earlier, incomplete version of the plan.

And those who prefer not to buy insurance from the private sector would be able to choose a public plan instead. This would, among other things, bring some real competition to the health insurance market, which is currently a collection of local monopolies and cartels.

The budget office says that all this would cost $597 billion over the next decade. But that doesn’t include the cost of insuring the poor and near-poor, whom HELP suggests covering via an expansion of Medicaid (which is outside the committee’s jurisdiction). Add in the cost of this expansion, and we’re probably looking at between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.

There are a number of ways to look at this number, but maybe the best is to point out that it’s less than 4 percent of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we’ll spend on health care over the next decade. And that in turn means that much of the expense can be offset with straightforward cost-saving measures, like ending Medicare overpayments to private health insurers and reining in spending on medical procedures with no demonstrated health benefits.

So fundamental health reform — reform that would eliminate the insecurity about health coverage that looms so large for many Americans — is now within reach. The “centrist” senators, most of them Democrats, who have been holding up reform can no longer claim either that universal coverage is unaffordable or that it won’t work.


Vince Lombardi

Flogged to within an inch of its life by corporate plaque-makers and mail-order companies, I still think the spirit of Vince Lombardi’s famous speech on winning survives:

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time.


Victimized Chinese students

In China, records of your schooling and achievements therein are tracked by a single, government-protected file. Sometimes, corrupt officials steal these files from poor, high achieving individuals. They then sell the files or use them for their own advancement. Victims are left with absolutely no recourse. They must find menial jobs far below their training. The article, Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future, goes on to explain what happened when a group of parents tried to petition for document recovery on their children’s behalf:



Some days you happen to the world. Other days, you let the world happen to you.


Well, crap:

There is every reason to believe that the big, grab-bag metro daily that mixes its news in with comics, advice columns, obituaries and recipes, and undertakes an expensive manufacturing and delivery operation each day to put the product on the street, will pass into history. Among the problems faced by Tierney and other publishers is that many of the big thinkers on the periphery of their industry — academics, Web entrepreneurs, former journalists with the wisdom of hindsight — have already moved on. They’re done with paper, ink, trucks, fuel, the whole era.


Dr. Oz, on Patients

Dr. Oz, on learning to treat patients once you become a doctor:

When I went into medicine, I assumed, by the time I was done with medical school, I would understand it all. We think that if we study hard enough, we’ll understand how the whole body works. Then you go into practice and someone sits across from you, very sophisticated, smart person, and they haven’t read the book you have read. They have symptoms, and problems, and complaints that just don’t fit what you’ve actually learned seems to be how the body works. So you have two ways of dealing with that — you can assume they’re crazy and ignore them, or you can say “you know what, I think there’s something else going on out there.” So, now, there are a lot of physicians who seem to believe there is something to it [acupressure].



Right now, roughly 1 in 5 Americans don’t have full time jobs:

A truer picture of the employment crisis emerges when you combine the number of people who are officially counted as jobless with those who are working part time because they can’t find full-time work and those in the so-called labor market reserve — people who are not actively looking for work (because they have become discouraged, for example) but would take a job if one became available.

The tally from those three categories is a mind-boggling 30 million Americans — 19 percent of the overall work force.


Hawaiian Sunset


This is a picture of Mykala and myself on Front Street in Old Lahaina Town, Maui. (If you want to get technical, we were standing right in the middle of this map). It was our last night in Hawaii; the last night of our honeymoon. We watched the sun set together, and this was one of the last pictures my camera took before the battery died. The honeymoon was perfect.


Life advice

I think I need to take this quote from a post here in May and print it out:

“What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”


Cocaine Money

90 percent of U.S. bills carry traces of cocaine:

Research presented this weekend reinforced previous findings that 90 percent of paper money circulating in U.S. cities contains traces of cocaine.

“When I was a young kid, my mom told me the dirtiest thing in the world is money,” said the researcher, Yuegang Zuo, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Mom is always right.”



How did we manage this one? “The United States is alone among developed nations with the absence of a universal health care system.”

Improving journalism

The 3 key parts of news stories you usually don’t get at Newsless.org makes so much sense to me. I always thought that I didn’t understand a lot of current events reporting because I wasn’t rabidly following every minor detail — that the onus was on me to put the article in context. In the aforelinked article, Matt Thompson argues that news becomes more engaging, more useful, better, when put into context. Thompson uses a recent, spectacular Atul Gawande article in the New Yorker as an example of journalism done right:


Inbox Zero

Merlin Mann has some great ideas about taking back control of your life. He emphasizes not seizing control, but constructively yielding to the unknown and managing the interplay between urgent and important tasks. Now I’ve gone and made it sound boring. AU CONTRAIRE! Merlin is endlessly entertaining! In this hilarious video, he talks about some of the ideas in the book he is writing, “Inbox Zero”:


McAllen, Texas Healthcare

In the healthcare article of the year, Dr. Atul Gawande has done some outstanding reporting: he has described the core problems of the United States’ healthcare system. He has also pointed out beacons for reform to pursue — the foremost being the Mayo Clinic right here in Rochester, Minnesota:


First Train Home

Imogen Heap’s First Train Home is a completely different song when heard through headphones. Holy cow.

I would recommend a balanced, closed, circumaural headphone. If you have the means, I highly recommend the AKG K 271 MK II. I… don’t have the means.


Hanging off

Motorcycle cornering on a playground spring

One must demonstrate the proper “hanging off” technique of extreme motorcycle center of gravity-altering cornering at any opportunity.

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Homemade Food

I’m a lucky, lucky, lucky man. Dinner: homemade potato salad featuring farmer’s market fresh potatoes, stoneground organic mustard, organic sour cream, and Mykala’s special blend of herbs/spices. Fresh organic eggs in a tasty Rudi’s sandwich. All prepared by my lovely wife.


Banana smoothies

Mykala learned that you can produce an ice cream substitute using just a banana and a blender. The frozen delicacy apparently feels quite similar to ice cream in one’s mouth. She puréed an entire banana down to a surprisingly small amount of brown sludge… probably 2 tablespoons. So, Mykala’s first attempt went like so:


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Maira Kalman’s Illustrated Blog

Maira Kalman started a blog about “American democracy” in January at the New York Times. Intriguingly, it is an illustrated blog. Mykala and I both enjoyed her August entry: ‘I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door’. A quote: