June 2008

[UPDATE: Originally posted yesterday, this manly guide was overshadowed by the very manly news that the Supreme Court wants men to wear manly guns while admiring the impressive monuments to our great Founding Men in the Nation’s capital! So now we have restored this manly piece to a place of prominence this fine and manly Friday!]

Today I’ve decided to answer some cooking questions from our readers. In this short Q&A session I’ll help you understand how to cook in a manly fashion, while maintaining your Patriotism™.

Q: How many man-laws are broken when grilling marinaded steaks on a Foreman grill?

A: George Foreman made a name for himself beating people senseless with his fists. The Foreman grill is thus sanctioned for man use. It’s also a great tool when you are too lazy to fire up, and later clean up your charcoal or gas grill. Since men like to be lazy, the Foreman Grill gets the Angry Man stamp of approval.

Q: I’ve been having problems with food sticking to the pans, but I use plenty of Canola Oil… what is going wrong?

A: Canola Oil is low in saturated fats, and thus not the best for non-stick applications. Use something with a bit more saturated fat, like Corn Oil. It should also be noted that using Canola Oil supports terrorism. Do you know what canola stands for?

“Canadian oil, low acid”

Real Patriots™ use Corn Oil. Yes, I’m sorry but Canola Oil, aka the Oil of Communism, should be avoided when you’re worried about food sticking (or when you decide to love America).

Q: How do I avoid the taste imparted to food when I fry with my Teflon™ frying pan?

A: Teflon is a fluorinated hydrocarbon coating applied over a metal base and is suitable for low to medium heat cooling. High temperature cooking like sauteing, frying and searing can bake off the fluorine and cause an unpleasant taste. Teflon, a product of the both Patriotic and Manly Apollo space program, was initially applied to cooking with such warnings and an admonition to use only plastic spatulas. Modern versions are significantly better in both their temperature and metal utensil tolerance.

The approved Angry Man method of nonstick cooking, however, is to use a cast iron skillet suitably seasoned. Cast iron provides for a much more uniform heat spread and a well-seasoned skillet also provides a relatively non-stick surface. (Eggs excepted).

Q: I used your Patriotic Corn Oil™ while cooking stir fry and almost caught the kitchen on fire. How do I avoid this and still be Patriotic?

A: When cooking in a high heat open pan environment, a somewhat less Patriotic Oil should be used. The Angry Man approved Semi-Patriotic Peanut Oil™ is the way to go. (If you are from the south, this may be deemed Patriotic, as peanut farms and farmers abound. In the midwest, where we recall a less-than-Manly peanut farmer, peanut oil is somewhat less-than Patriotic.) None-the-less, peanut oil has a higher flash point than corn oil and is less prone to ignition at the temperatures involved in stir frying.

Now, about that less-than-Manly form of cooking — the stir fry… Ahem!.

Q: What is the best marinade to use to tenderize meat?

A: Based on credible evidence and scientific studies, marinades, e.g., those solutions of exotic wines and spices in which meat is soaked for hours, are fairly useless. Studies have shown that the absorbtion of marinade into the meat is essentially zero no matter how long the meat bathes. The effect of a long bath in a marinade is usually to turn the outer surface to mush as biological processes degrade the protein and connective tissue. The same effect without the mush can be obtained by ‘aging’ the meat without the marinade. If you use marinade, about four seconds is all that is required. Marinades do little for tenderizing the meat.

The Approved Angry Man Meat Tenderizing Process™ consists of laying the meat on a substantial wooden surface (UHMW cutting boards are acceptable), applying a layer of spice mixture, and beating the everloving shit out of it with one of those spikey meat tenderizing hammers. In addition to making Manly construction sounds, annoying present female persons and driving dogs to seek shelter under the bed (all good Manly things), hammering your meat is equivalent to 10 push-ups per minute of tenderizing. All of that and the hammering actually breaks the muscle and connective tissue, making the meat tender at the same time as forcing the spice into the meat (which a marinade is incapable of). We recommend various size hammers ranging from a small 8 oz. hammer for pork chops to a whopping 32 oz. tenderizer for those 2 inch thick juicy steaks.


The Supreme Court of the United States just struck down the Washington D.C.’s ban on handguns arguing that it was unconstitional. But were they right, or has the SCOTUS dropped down on it’s knees before the almightly NRA? Or are they defending freedom and justice worldwide in a fashion worthy of Superman? The full text of their opinion can be found here. The 12 Angry Men discuss…

Angry New Mexican
The District of Columbia v. Heller ruling shipped with it’s own set of knee-pads for the SCOTUS. And a tube of astroglide. And a sawhorse. Because at the end of the day, the ruling was nothing so much as a sell-out to the NRA. Now, granted, the SCOTUS didn’t go out and endorse the public ownership of crew-served weaponry, but barring that minor oversight, the Opinion of the Court, as penned by Justic Anton “Kill ’em all” Scalia, was the largest victory in court for the NRA in decades. Let me explain.

The first holding of the court was another wonderful example of conservative judicial activism. The court held that the Second Ammendment grants “an individual right to posess a firearm unconnected to service in a militia.” While that opinion has been widely held by many Americans and has been the de facto policy of the land in many states, it’s really not what the Second Ammendment says, given that it allows for the right to bear arms explicitly due to the need of a militia. Justice Stevens notes as much in his dissent.

Second, the court overturned the District’s requirement for trigger locks. Nevermind the fact that trigger locks save lives each and every year — by making guns less likely to be accidentally fired — the iron will of the NRA will broker no exceptions. The Court’s assertion that trigger locks makes it “impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense” is laughable. Justice Breyer’s dissent points out the absurdity of the majority’s reading of the DC statute which lead to this holding.

Finally, the court struck down the ban on handguns because the law “amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of `arms’ that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.” The holding there is a bit disturbing since the identical logic could be used against say, an assault weapons ban, should assault weapons become more popular among Americans (no doubt the NRA already has this idea in mind). The idea that if a sizable minority of American’s use gun X nobody can ban it, is another blow to federalism, as it potentially allows (a minority of) states with liberal gun laws to override the laws of those who have stricter laws.

For all these reasons, and the others that Justices Stevens and Breyer enumerate, this was a bad decision. But I’m sure Justice Scalia will have a nice hunting vacation sometime this fall.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Well, you are of course, free to make up meanings for words whenever you wish, but for those who care about the accepted meanings of words, here’s what the actual Second Amendment actually says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Let’s leave aside arguments over the meaning of Militia in the 17th and 18th centuries, and just point out that the structure is: “For this reason, this right shall not be infringed.” Whatever the reason is, it cannot override or destroy the right that follows. It may inform our understanding of limits to it, but not so far as to be a weapon to destroy the natural right being enumerated. And that right is clear: the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.

The Constitution can enumerate rights of states, and if the writers had intended the revisionist meaning ANM proposes, they certainly could have said “the right of the states…” But their intent was never to simply support the states over the Federal government, but to state clearly that basic rights of humanity include the right to the means of defense, survival, and—if need be—rebellion against tyranny. Let’s not forget that these were radicals, folks—radicals who had just overthrown their King and “lawful” government not 20 years ago.

And the notion of “conservative judicial activism” is laughable here. Originally, of course, pesky things like the Bill of Rights did not apply to the states or localities. Established churches, draconian gun regulations, trampling civil rights—all fine at the state level, originally. “Activism” is particularly funny here, because the champion of Incorporation (incorporating the Bill of Rights into the Fourteenth Amendment which does explicitly apply to the states) was, of course, a strict constructionist. Indeed, he was in many ways similar to Scalia in his belief that we should actually follow the document we have and not the “living document” we’d like to have.

So, perhaps rather than shilling for the NRA, Scalia is simply being faithful to that icon of Incorporation, Hugo Black!

Midwest flooding

Ethanol as the keystone of energy policy takes a body blow!

My family has its share of farmers and I remember family discussions not so long ago where the farmers of the group were dreaming about selling their corn for $2.90 a bushel. Corn was selling somewhere south of $2.40 and cost of production was around $2.35 with rising seed corn prices, fuel, fertilizer, and insecticides. Market conditions such as these led to the aggregation of small family farms into agribusiness conglomerates which had economies of scale, purchasing and pricing clout. Also they had political clout.

The food production and distribution supply chain in the United States is a complex system, so it’s hard to fault the farmers who just want to break even; and making ethanol from corn seemed like a good idea. Washington agreed — after all, working with the agribusiness people is a lot more pleasant than fighting with the whacko environmentalist lobbies who opposed offshore and ANWR drilling. The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandated a 500% increase in Ethanol usage in gasoline by 2022. Farmers were ecstatic and planted more acres of corn and trucked more of that which they grew to ethanol plants sprouting like morels after a spring rain. The same act subsidized ethanol to the tune of 51 cents per gallon.

Now others looked at this act and compared the efficiency of ethanol production (e.g. energy required to plant, cultivate, harvest and convert corn into ethanol) to that of gasoline production. Even with the subsidies, the overall production energy balance was unfavorable. Given that the energy output per unit weight was much higher in gasoline than ethanol, the absolute energy balance was even worse. Then others (not me), concerned about the carbon footprint, noted that ethanol generated massive amounts of carbon during the fuel cycle. The journal Science concluded that corn-based ethanol would nearly double greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years. Finally, as more and more corn was diverted to alcohol, the impact on the food supply began to be felt. Corn based products began to rise and countries dependent on US exported grains felt the pain. Beef prices rose as corn feeds rose in price. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) costs rose and since it’s used in about everything, the price of everything rose.

Basically, Congress created an Energy Policy by taking advice from one group of people without consideration of the unintended consequences, even though many could predict them. And will they change this policy? No — not politically feasible.

Nature however is not beholden to lobbyists and does not need campaign contributions. With the Midwest flooding of Iowa and other corn production states, corn is now around $7.45 a bushel. July corn futures traded Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade at $7.46 a bushel, up about 25% from early this month before the flooding. The recent wave of flooding prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to lower the nation’s corn production estimate to about 11.7 billion bushels — or 10 percent less than last fall’s crop.

July ethanol futures traded recently at $2.91 a gallon, up about 20% from around $2.40 a barrel before the flooding. Even with the subsidies, ethanol is becoming more expensive than gasoline. More to the point, plant owners have no chance in hell of recouping their investment in plant and equipment when the raw material costs exceed the price they can charge in the marketplace. Consequently, investor groups are shutting down ethanol plants in droves. Heartland Ethanol dropped plans to build seven ethanol plants in Illinois. Analysts lowered their year-end capacity forecast to 9.5 billion gallons from 10 billion of ethanol produced.

So the Midwest flooding is using the hammer of raw economics to do what Congress is unwilling to do for fear of alienating the agribusiness lobbies. Sometime there is a silver lining even to the horrible circumstances of a flood.

Goodnight Moon Goodnight Bush

One fine Thursday night I was browsing a local bookstore and came across a new version of the venerable Goodnight Moon, a children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown. As is the case when you have absolute familiarity with a thing, at first glance I scanned right past the book to others on the new publications shelf. My wife, however, redirected my attention back to the book. It, in fact, was not by Margaret Wise Brown, but a publication by Gan Golen and Erich Origen. The first few pages in were enough to see that this was the Bush hater’s parody dreambook.

I can still probably quote the entire original version from memory having read it to my two daughters at least a thousand times when they were two through five years old. It was one of their favorite books. While I in general support Bush and find the “Bush lied, people died” crowd tedius and annoying, this parody had me almost rolling on the floor laughing. The book is full of subtle anti-Bush sentiments and barely hidden jokes.

At the begining of the book, a stuffed elephant and donkey toy are sitting demurely on the shelf. In the middle of the book, the elephant is humping the donkey and at the end the donkey is reaming the elephant. (Hopeful thinking, I guess.) A miniature Bin Laden is skulking around, and a puppet theatre evolves gradually throughout the book. The room’s bookcase shelves numerous titles. Reading carefully you can see both “The Prince” and “The Art of War” (both of which I own multiple copies), as well as less well known titles such as “No Chad Left Behind”.

A Halliburton “H” adorns the refinery flag, hidden microphones are placed on the walls and behind the pictures and a truely tasteless “Goodnight towers” page shows two towers of alphabet blocks knocked down by a model 757 with the words “911” and “blowback” spelt out. Clearly the authors attribute the entire 911 event to Bush even though he had been president for less than a single year.

I would have bought the book except for the knowledge that my money would be in part going to these scurrilous authors. It’s sad that nothing is sacred and a children’s classic is now being used as a political tool. I will however donate my money to any lawyers who might want to sue the authors for copyright violation.

Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.

I don’t have pet peeves. I have major, psychotic hatreds.

George Carlin, who died Sunday at age 71, made being and pretending to be angry in equal measure his life’s work. Carlin was born in Manhattan, where he lived until he joined the Air Force in 1954. After getting kicked out of he Air Force for numerous sins (none bad enough to earn the Big Chicken Dinner, though), he tried his hand at DJing. He kept getting in trouble and, eventually deciding to go it as a duo with fellow DJ Jack Burns, then solo, becoming one of the kings of Sixties (establishment) standup. Lenny Bruce changed Carlin’s life, moving him from suit and tie king of establishment comedy to the king of sarcastic anti-establishment libertarian comedy in a few short years, spawning a pile of imitators. He attained broad cultural importance in his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” which ultimately led to the Supreme Court in 1978. If you want a brief retrospective, see the Wiki page and, of course, the flood of obits to follow soon, e.g., the one from the New York Times.

We’ve decided that Carlin—love him, hate him, some of both or maybe neither—deserved a little appreciation.

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Mildly Piqued Academician I’m too young to have seen Carlin at his peak (the early to mid 1970s), before his first heart attack. (Too much cocaine will do that to a person.) So basically I know him from his HBO specials, film work and books. His books are, essentially, the written version of his standup. I found Carlin to be about 52% hilarious and 49% cringe-inducing (yes, the overlap is intentional). When he was on he was amazing but the line for me was often crossed into wince. Carlin, like George Orwell, ripped imprecision in language, in particular things he viewed to be euphemisms. Unfortunately, unlike Orwell, he often shot with a broad pattern and could hit targets that didn’t really have it coming. The most memorable episode of this for me is the shell shock -> combat fatigue -> post traumatic stress disorder one. Survivors of traumatic events that may have nothing whatsoever to do with being bombarded by artillery fire often have the exact same symptoms; post-traumatic stress disorder is not a vague euphemism. Nonetheless, I think we’ll miss George’s commentary on the next ten years. Nobody else has his touch, though I’ll give nods to Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. Most of his imitators are >52% cringeworthy and <49% hilarious.

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Angry Overeducated Catholic I have to concur. Towards the end I often found Carlin a bitter old man who seemed to have lost “the funny.” Even then, though, he had flashes of greatness. And, earlier, he was incredible—with that rare gift to, as one tribute put it, “offend without giving offense.” Even while he was ripping up your sacred cow, you could laugh along—at least much of the time. And his routines about baseball vs. football and the instructions you receive on airplanes remain two of the funniest things I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

Ultimately, however, Carlin is a celebration of the American tolerance for dissent. He spoke his mind, come what may, the nation embraced him for it. He was also that rarest of things: an honest man. And one who did what he loved right up to the end. Lord knows he had his faults—a whole truckload of them—but in a world of spin, he was refreshingly blunt about where he stood. And so, knowing that the Lord of the Universe is on record as disliking wishy-washy types much more than honest unbelievers, I hold out hope for even this most vocally fallen of my co-religionists. To close, then, even though he’d hate to hear it: Requiescat in pace.

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Angry Immgrant The mark of a real performer is that he can be enjoyed by many audiences, and he never lets himself be typecast into only one character. Despite fighting against censorship by the tried and true method of vigorously promoting profanity (much of it lovingly parroted by every college freshmen in America), at his peak, he wasn’t limited to forcing a laugh through the cognitive dissonance of unexpected vulgarity that he declined to in his later years. He re-invented stand-up comedy as social commentary, (much to the benefit of Seinfeld, Bill Maher and John Stewart). When people tried to pigeonhole him as a heartless swear machine, he befuddled them by being a multi-year mainstay on the children’s show “Thomas the Tank Engine”. I remember being taken to his live show, only to leave within 10 minutes of it starting — as the live show wasn’t his TV stand-up act, it was the all guns blazing act.. That we thought his show wouldn’t be full of profanity goes to show our naivety about stand-up comedy, but also demonstrates that his non-profane work was quality enough that we forgot about his mainstay. With a mainstay like that, that’s an impressive feat.

For all of the things he might have done (“I might have brought my arrowhead collection…”), he leaves the reality of a mixed legacy. For a guy whose characters were so vehemently against pretending everything is pure and unsullied, I think he’d be satisfied with that.

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Angry Biologist

Who? I hear he croaked.

I live in a nice quiet suburban town.

I did not, until this very morning, truly understand how difficult suburban living is. With the aid of my neighbor, a first time home buyer and suburban resident, I now truly know how difficult suburban living is. The many pitfalls that await the first time suburban resident. But as a life long suburbanite what I am most impressed by is the sheer number of things I’d simply never even think of doing.

Mistake #1: No matter how soon you think it is going to rain, no matter how high your grass is, the tao of suburban living says: do not mow your grass at 6AM on a Saturday morning. This will seriously annoy your neighbors, who, might perchance, to day dream of sleep.

Mistake #2: Never show up at the neighborhood block party. The block party serves the most useful function of getting to the people on your block, which is nice, because when you do something like mow your lawn at 6AM on a Saturday, people are more willing to let it pass if they actually know who you are.

Mistake #3: Water features and small lots do not mix. 1/4 acre is simply too small for a fountain in the front of your yard to look good. But so far the only thing going on is a difference in taste — and to be honest, it isn’t like mine is so hot. But, while you think of a fountain as a good thing, rest of your block thinks of it as a death trap for their small and stupid children.

Mistake #4: If you live one block away from a forest preserve with a river in it, don’t leave out 50 gallon lidless drums of water. You might discover that your neighbors are rather sensitive about mosquitoes. Yes, I know your copper downspouts were stolen. Get them replaced instead of placing 50 gallon chemical drums under the old downspout locations. You’ll also find that your neighbors are sensitive to the notion that their small (and yes, still stupid) children might, say, climb into said 50 gallon drum and drown. Can you say sunk cost?

Mistake #5: Don’t talk to your neighbors about upcoming projects to your house. The tao of suburban living says let your neighbors know about house work that will involve bobcats. They’re much happier if they know how long things will last, and how much disruption to their lives their will be.

Mistake #6: If a large angry neighbor (not me) starts yelling at you to knock it off at 6:30 AM, knock it off.

So, a short time ago, the Associated Press decided that bloggers who quote a little too freely from AP’s wire should be ponying up:

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

They did retreat from this somewhat extreme position, however, and announced that they were looking for clear guidelines. Regardless, the AP was clear that it believed that:

As content creators, we firmly believe that everything we create, from video footage all the way down to a structured headline, is creative content that has value

(Hat tip to the New York Times, with which I frequently disagree but which has never tried to sue me for quoting their articles!)

Now (and you could probably see this one coming) it seems that the AP doth protest too much:

In a news item about the e-mail from Judge Kozinski’s wife that I posted on this site, an AP article lifted numerous passages.

I counted 154 words quoted from my post. That’s almost twice the number of words contained in the most extensive quotation in the Drudge Retort.

And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s this:

Ironically, in January 2007, the AP syndicated reports written by a group of Media Bloggers Association member bloggers covering the Scooter Libby trial. The AP did not compensate the bloggers, though it benefited from their work.

Now, to be fair, in that last case it looks like it was win-win.

But isn’t that really the point? With fair use, it’s always win-win, especially on the Internet, where links back to the original material are pretty much par for the course. So basically, the AP gets free advertising and traffic for their site, and bloggers get a bit of free news.

You’d think a news gathering organization would be all for generating more buzz…but, of course, there’s this:

The central point of this post – that the AP’s middleman rewrite service business is becoming obsolete – stands.

Good point, Bill, good point. That’s what I think is really going on here: just like the music industry, the news media realizes that the gravy train is coming to the last station. Inevitably, markets destroy all middlemen, inevitably those middlemen resist and lash out, and inevitably they lose—and the rest of us win. That’s how I see it, any way. But what about you?

So…a show of hands from those who think that the AP was actually justified in its little blizzard of cease-and-desist letters? Those opposed? Crazy conspiracy buffs with a bizarre explanation of how everyone involved is really on the same side?

UPDATE: Really, this happens so often I sometimes forget, but I shouldn’t: Hat tip to Instapundit for pointing me towards this story.

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