Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Film: Across the Pacific

I was raised in the Panama Canal Zone. As such, any bit of popular culture that includes a reference to my homeland interests me.

I've seen "Across the Pacific" more than a couple of times. It's a Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor film set in just-prewar Panama. I've never noticed this, though:

During the opening credits a map of the Canal Zone is displayed. The map is turned around a bit, so that the Carribean is on the left and the Bay of Panama is on the right, with the Canal itself pretty near to the horizontal.

Well, that's okay; nobody says that North has to be at the top of the map.

But although they labelled the two bodies of water properly, they have the cities of Colon and Panama - and, more importantly, the Pacific and Atlantic (or "other") sides of the Isthmus reversed.


Well, I guess this kind of thing probably doesn't matter to more than a handful of people today.

The Journal Editorial Report

Excellent news: the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report is moving from PBS to Fox News. This is particularly good news for those of us here in the Dallas area, since the wretches at KERA have consistently refused to carry it.

Read about it here.

Recipe: Margarita

I'm kind of a precise sort of cook. Much of what I do is by instinct and feel, but when I hit upon the right combination of ingredients, process and cooking times, I tend to write it down and get pretty anal-retentive about doing it exactly the same way the next 10,000 times. And my margarita recipe is like that:

First, obtain the biggest, juiciest limes you can find. Buy one per margarita. If you can only find sad little hard limes, buy two or three per margarita.

Oh, and buy Persian limes. If you can only find Key limes, just forget it and buy some nice Belgian beer.

For each margarita:

  • Place a large cocktail glass in the freezer. Wait half an hour or so; two hours would be better. The kind with etched designs on the outside and which look like over-sized martini glasses are best.

  • Roll the lime on the counter, kind of hard, to loosen it up just a bit. Cut it in half through the "equator." Rinse your knife off, particularly if it's that nice Henkels with the fresh edge. Squeeze the lime with a hand squeezer (the kind that looks like a bowl with a central ribbed squeezy-thingy). Throw one half of the lime shell in the compost pile, and put the other half aside for the moment.

  • Strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer and into a cocktail shaker. (If you don't have a cocktail shaker, run out and buy one. Get a good stainless-steel one, or a professional glass-and-stainless combination with a separate strainer.) Use your (clean!) finger or a muddler (if anyone's looking) to break up any lime sacs; you want all the juice you can get.

  • Get out your graduated cylinder. (If you don't have a graduated cylinder, use your volumetric measure with the smallest units; preferably milliliters.) Measure the volume of the lime juice.

  • If measuring in ml, round off to the nearest integer divisible by three. This makes the arithmetic easier. If not measuring in ml, read on and (shudder) fake it.

  • Double the amount obtained in the last step, and divide by three. This is the amount of triple sec you will use.

  • Pour the lime juice back into the shaker, and measure out the triple sec. Add it to the lime juice in the shaker.

  • Using the doubled amount obtained in the lime-juice-measuring step, measure out your tequila. Pour it into the shaker. This gives you a ratio of triple sec : lime : tequila of 2:3:6, which is the definition of a margarita. Anything else is, well, something else.

  • Add ice cubes (or, yeah, crescents) to the shaker. Leave enough head space for a medium-sized apple. (No, don't add an apple, just leave that much space. Sheesh.)

  • Close up the shaker, and shake very vigorously 128 times. (To keep count easily, count four repetitions of four shakes, and repeat that four times; then do it again.) What you're after here is for the mixture to be VERY well mixed, the shaker to threaten to give you frostbite, and the ice to be broken up into pieces; some small enough to get through the strainer and into the glass. If you can obtain this last feature, you are very close to margarita nirvana indeed.

  • Put the shaker on the counter, and catch your breath for just a moment. Particularly if this is your third or fourth margarita. Ignore any expectant glares from your housemates or guests.

  • Take the glass out of the freezer. Rub the reserved lime shell around the rim. Throw it (the lime shell) onto the compost heap. Pour a bit of kosher salt into your (clean!) palm, and coat the now-wet rim of the glass with it. If you don't have kosher salt, pour the whole mess down the drain and call it a day.

  • Strain the margarita into the glass. You may have some left over; if the margarita is for you, just let it sit till you want it. If it's for a guest, this is your portion; add it to your own glass.

  • Repeat as required or requested.


Use a middle-of-the-road triple sec and Jose Cuervo white tequila. Cuervo Gold is for undergraduates, who don't know any better. If you're making "top-shelf" margaritas, use Cointreau and Sauza Hornitos Reposado and be sure to let everyone around you know about it.

Be sure to build the margarita in the order given. The tequila helps rinse out the sugary reside of the triple sec from your graduated cylinder.

If someone asks for a margarita "on-the-rocks," it is permissable to sigh heavily and proceed as above - only instead of straining the margarita into a proper cocktail glass, just dump the whole thing, ice and all, into a (salted!) rocks glass and add more ice as necessary.

If someone asks for a frozen margarita, it is permissable to give them the back of your hand and order them off your property.

If someone asks for a frozen margarita with fruit (other than lime juice) in it, it is permissable to shoot them through the head with a small-frame, large-caliber handgun and order their friends to remove the corpse from your property.

If you are making margaritas for a house party, it is common practice to ask guests to squeeze their own limes. The reason for this become obvious after the eleventh or twelfth margarita. The host's prerogative (taking the leftover from the shaker after pouring the drink) evaporates (so to speak) under this policy, however.

Have fun - and, as always, play safe.

Bush tweaks the NY Times

Just about a month ago, the blogosphere was all a-twitter over a bit of creative quoting by the NY Times. It seems that, on the occasion of the moonbat celebration of the 2000th American soldier killed in the Iraq war, they chose to quote from a letter found on a dead Marine's laptop - but did so in such a way as to completely change the meaning of the man's words and to obscure his great depth of character.

You can read all about it here.

This morning, in a major war-policy speech at the Naval Academy, President Bush read from Cpl. Starr's letter. But he left the important bits in. I can't interpret this as anything but a pointed dig at the Old Gray Lady - and if anyone deserves it, it's her.

Here's the text of the letter:
Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.

The Times published only what's seen in boldface. The President put the rest of it back in.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I have GOT to get one of these

What's the buzz? Teens don't want to hear it


The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Who am I?

First off, forget about getting my real name. There are too many horror stories out there about people who've lost their jobs or lost out on business or employment opportunities over their blogs. I'm not going down that path.

Otherwise: I'm an engineer. I worked for a major semiconductor manufacturer for over ten years, until they got tired of paying me and hired two Indians to do my job. To hell with them. I'm still an engineer, but today I work in the electronic design automation industry - we sell software to major semiconductor manufacturers, so they can keep putting chips in Xboxes and other such crap.

I live in Texas. I'm not a Texan, though - apparently you have to be born here to claim that. It's fine, except that it's bloody hot in the summertime and there are way too many biblethumpers.

I don't like children, Democrats, Eurotrash or other such whiners. I don't believe in God or the Devil, although I sure as hell believe in the active presence of Good and Evil. I'm heterosexual and am in a long-term, stable relationship, but I don't believe in marriage - so for you gays out there, go ahead and knock yourselves out; I don't care.

(Okay, well not all of that is literally true. My mom was a Democrat, and some of my best friends are Democrats, and I like them just fine. But they're still Wrong. And children are fine if they're clean and quiet and behaving themselves, which they're usually not, but still. Some of them are even cute. Sometimes.)

What do I like? I like dogs, guns, beer, wine, whisky, cooking and film. Not necessarily in that order, and certainly not all at once. I like being outdoors and out of the city, although I almost never am either. I must like arguing with people about politics, since I seem to spend most of my time at that.

And if you haven't figured it out by now: why yes, I am an obstreperous curmudgeon.