Thursday, August 31, 2006

When In Santa Fe

So there I was for my trip this week, and I decide to try out one of the town's better Mexican restaurants, a place called Los Portrillos. I always enjoy eating at locally owned Mexican restaurants, and the food is usually pretty close to genuine, except I'm not exactly sure what "genuine" is. It's pretty subjective. But in general, the closer you get to Mexico, the better the food gets. And I was in New Mexico.

The first immediate clue that this wasn't a typical Mexican place came when I opened the menu. Usually you find the page full of the combo plates. Taco-burrito-enchilada. Burrito-gordita-taco. Taco-taco-tamale. And on and on and on. Not so here. Sure they had some lunch plates, but after the appetizers, the rest of the menu was entrees. A whole column of chiles rellenos, for instance. A column of fajitas and pollo. And at least a dozen fish specialties. It took a while, but a half glass of Sprite later, and I made up my mind. That is, only after the server approached the table and I made a snap decision.

An aside. When you've traveled a while, you eventually get around to trying every menu item for restaurants in each type of cuisine. I've had more bland alfredo sauce than anyone should have to stomach. Did you know that most of the entrees at your TGIChiliRedLobsterbees is prepared in a microwave? If I see an item on a menu with ingredients that I recognize that I've never had before, then what the heck, let's give it a shot.

And so it would be Cabrito. Seemed good on the menu. Marinated, seasoned goat, with beans, picante and guacamole. And since it was in the fajitas column, I figured it would come with tortillas and I would eat it just like tacos. Can't be too bad, right? Just a short while later, out it came. There was a plate with bowls of beans and a sauce/soup that I didn't recognize. A container with piping hot torillas. Then the large plate with a large serving bowl, with the lettuce, tomato and guac on the side. The server pointed out a large soup spoon on the side of the bowl. Inside the bowl was a dark red sauce with blots of melted grease floating around. And in the sauce were large hunks of meat with a bone sticking out here, and some connecting tissue there. And with the opaque sauce, I couldn't tell just exactly how much meat was in there. Even if this was to be the best thing I ever tasted, I couldn't possibly hope to eat it all. And this was going to be some work.

I tried to look like I knew what I was doing as I took the first tortilla out of the container. It was hot. Very hot. How can I load this thing when I can't even hold it? And there wasn't another plate to set it on. How can I cut the meat (I had to steal a knife from another table) when I'm holding a tortilla? I dug around the bowl with a fork until a piece of meat stuck to it. Problem was, there was a bone sticking out of that. I felt like a one armed paper hanger trying to put this thing together. And in the meantime, there was sauce running all over my hand. This was getting messy and fast. I scooped out some beans, trying not to take too much sauce from that pot. And forget about the third bowl. I tasted that stuff and ruled it non-essential. After hurredly scooping some guac on the pile, I rolled up the rapidly weakening tortilla and tried to eat it. Then an analogy struck me. Eating with tortillas is the Mexican equivalent of chopsticks, and I suck at that, too.

The taste? Ever have venison? For those who have, you know there's good venison and bad venison. Same can be said for cabrito. This stuff was tender enough, and the sauce did a decent job of hiding the taste, but it still seemed gamey to me. It also seemed every piece of meat had connecting tissue to deal with, and that's never pretty. And little pieces of bone made for an eventful experience. I managed to eat about three more helpings, and that was that.

All in all, let's call cabrito an "acquired taste". I don't fault the restaurant for anything. The service was satisfactory, and the meal was prepared well. It just wasn't for me. Sometimes a hunch works (khing curry chicken) and sometimes it doesn't. And hey, it helps to break up the monotony of life on the road.

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Olbermann Reacts To Rumsfeld

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has always used condescension as a way of striking back against critics of the administration's tactic in the fight against terror.  This time Mr. Rumsfeld challenges decency by inferring that today's critics are analagous to fascist appeasers.  Keith Olbermann of MSNBC responds to Mr. Rumsfeld's unfortunate remarks.
Bloggermann: Feeling morally, intellectually confused? - Bloggermann -

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Now It Shows Up

Rich comments on something he knows a little bit about.

this is an audio post - click to play

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Patton Again

Reserving the right to peridodically print cute pictures of the puppy. Hey! It's my blog!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How Big Is The Earth?

Ever seen scale mockups of the solar system? For instance, there's a town out there (wish I could remember where) that set up a scale solar system that extended out for over 10 miles. The sun would be a beach ball in the center of town and Pluto would be a poppy seed in a farm field, or something like that. (Oh that's right, Pluto's not a planet anymore. What will the astrologers do?) Earlier this summer, on our camping trip on Lake Michigan, some local astronomy buffs did a solar system walk on the beach, with Pluto almost a half-mile from the sun.

Anyway, Mark Horvath posted some graphics showing the earth with respect to the inner planets, then all the planets, then against the sun, and so on. Would you believe that Antares is to our sun, as our sun is to the earth? Amazing! Click below:

Not Quite a Reputable Journal of Opinion: How Big is the Earth?

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Saturday, August 26, 2006


Towering cumulonimbus cloud over Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Jazz Great Gets A New Gig

I learned today of the passing of trumpet great Maynard Ferguson. When studying the line of succession in jazz history, chances are "The Boss" was not more than one step removed. He played with the greats. He was great. He was my first trumpet hero. He will be missed. - The Official Web Site of Maynard Ferguson

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Confused About Pluto?

So is the Bad Astronomer.  So instead of trying to paraphrase his discussion on today's decision by the IAU, just click the link below to read it straight from the BA hisself.

Bad Astronomy Blog > Breaking News > Pluto not a planet!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Commas In The Sky

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Monday, August 21, 2006


A benefit of travel (contrasted against all of the time away from home and family) is that once in a while I visit a town that is home to a professional baseball club. Which then gives the opportunity to catch a ball game. Baseball, on the surface, is not a particularly exciting game. I heard the other day the latest measurements of how long the ball is actually in play, and it is something like 9 minutes for a whole game.

I had a chance this month to attend two minor league games, one at Applebee's Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the other at Canal Park in Akron, Ohio. And once again I was reminded why I enjoy attending baseball games more than other sports. It's not just about the game, it's about how we pass the time. Other sports may have passed baseball in popularity, but none will ever beat baseball as our national pastime.

The intimate surroundings facilitate access to the players. The most notable player for the Lexington Legends is Koby Clemons, the son of Roger Clemons. You might recall the elder Clemons made two starts for the Legends during his training prior to rejoining the Houston Astros earlier this year. Only a small percentage of these kids will ever see "the show", but at this level, optimism reigns supreme.

Life as an umpire is a lonely one at any level, but more so at Class A level by a factor of 2. Yep, only two umps for these games. I wonder what their per diem is?

Dad: Now son, a team scores a run when a player goes around the bases and reaches home.

Son: Why do they have to do that?

It's easy to upgrade your seat for free when most of them are empty to begin with. Not that it's a problem. I sat by the dugout in both stadiums for $10.

Located at the edge of downtown Akron, Canal Park has a striking view of the surrounding buildings. Don't stare too long at the scenery or you risk a batted ball right in the puss.

The sun sets on the third base side of the stadium, but rest assured that it will rise over the first base stands tomorrow morning.

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Friday, August 18, 2006


A street crossing in Houston, Texas.

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One of my favorite bloggers (and fan of this blog) abruptly deleted her blog a couple of weeks ago and seemed to disappear from the blogosphere. Well she's back with a new blog focusing on her excellent photography. I encourage all of you to check out Pleasant Avenue for a soothing look at some marvelous Australian picturescapes.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rock River Break

A scene from Watertown Riverfest, held earlier this month in my fair city.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Music In Motion

I had the distinct privilege of attending the Drum Corps International World Championships held in Madison, Wisconsin this past weekend. I say that it was a privilege because I know exactly what it takes to participate in this event and this activity. It takes a near fanatical committment to excellence, to teamwork, to performing and, most of all, to drive oneself to perform at a level that you never thought was possible. I marched two seasons with the Garfield Cadets (as they were then known) and that experience did more to shape my life than anything else I've ever done.

Camp Randall Stadium. Not a very pleasant place to watch an event like this, even after the renovation (which, on this side of the stadium, was basically a coat of paint). My guess is that the crowd was around 22,000. If only I had ordered the tickets earlier, I could have had better seats. My wife and I went to semifinals the night before and we were about the same height, but 25 yards closer to midfield.

This is a shot of the opening set for the performance by my old corps, now known as The Cadets. Their show was a vairation of the "Alice In Wonderland" fantasy. It was (in my opinion) one of the two best visual presentations of the night. And yet, the defending champions finished in fifth, falling below a corps that performed well, but had a fairly straightforward production. Why was that?

That's a very complicated question. Visual is only one caption. Music score and execution is considered, as well as marching skill. But the Cadets have been the leading innovators in the activity for the last 24 years and have never taken it easy. Theories abound, but I can summarize it this way. Judges can be a capricious lot. Judging panels change from performance to performance, so it makes sense that scores can vary based on that. Anybody who watches professional sports knows how frustrating it can be when officials are inconsistent. There's really nothing that can be done about it; we're human, after all. But the judging community is also a caretaker of the activity, and sometimes it takes that role too seriously. They can either squelch innovation or promote it. Sure it's a fine line, but this year I think they got it wrong in the case of the Cadets. They just didn't seem to get it.

Also not getting it was the audience. Back in the day, crowds were much more expressive at high points in the performances. In 1984 our performance earned three standing ovations during the course of the show. There seemed to be much more electricity from the stands, and that fed into our performances. That was missing Saturday night. I can come up with several reasons. First, all the best seats go to the corporate sponsors these days. I'm sure they are fine folks, but they can be much more buttoned down. Second, is show design. How's that you say? After all the innovation over the last 25 years, shouldn't the powerful sound and lightning visuals just pull the people out of the seats? I don't mean to come across sounding old, but I think the complexity of music arrangement and visual design has exceeded the audience's capacity to absorb it all and truly appreciate it. I look at what those kids do now and marvel at how I possibly could have done the same thing when I was their age. The show designers select music that is not easily recognized by the mainstream music public and the arrangers often take extensive liberties with their arrangements. It's always been a tough line to draw, and I think the trend needs to come back to the public.

The participating corps assemble on the field for the presentation of the awards. Over 1600 young men and women, who have given their sweat (and sometimes blood) for the last 9 weeks now learn how well they did. The finale is an emotional moment for everyone. It's the end of a long road, and for those who are "ageing out" it's doubly emotional. This is the last time they will take the field. And that's before they announce the scores.

On this evening, the winners were The Cavaliers, from Rosemont, Illinois by less than half a point. For those who are interested in seeing more, there will be a 2 hour production of the contest that will air on ESPN2 on Tuesday, September 5 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

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Skepticality Is Back

It has been a long ride for Derek and Swoopy, but the leading podcast for skepticism is back. Things seemed quite up in the air for a while after Derek's aneurism, but now he's quite well recovered and back to busting myths.

read more | digg story

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Need Motivation?

For the Star Trek fans out there, and you know who you are. Thanks to the Bad Astronomer and Fark for the find.

More hilarity at this link:
Star Trek Inspirational Posters

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Going For The Easy Laugh

I have no shame.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The View From

Sometimes you get the penthouse, and other times...

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Double Rainbow

Seen during my recent trip to New Mexico. If you look real close to the right of the main rainbow, you will see a faint double bow. For more on the science of rainbows, click here.

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Another Step On The Quest

Rich's Quest For Flight

I started working on the knowledge test right as I was starting my flying lessons. There was the big handbook by Jeppesen to read. Then there was the companion test prep book to go with the handbook. And let's not forget the test prep package from ASA with all the DVDs and dry commentary. There are 657 questions in the FAA test bank, and I must have answered 550 of them, some of them multiple times. Today it all paid off.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006


Midwest Airlines Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is this it for Landis?

I hope it isn't, I want to believe him, I do believe him. But with every day and every new report it becomes harder. Now it seems not only was his Testosterone to Epitestosterone ratio high but the Testosterone found in his body was synthetic.

UPDATE: The International Cycling Union today released the results of the backup urine sample, which agreed with the results of the first sample, as expected.

read more | digg story
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Newest racing sausage, the Chorizo, sent to the bench

Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers introduced a new member of their famed sausage race with much fanfare. Now comes word that Chorizo is heading back into the freezer ... at least for a little bit.

read more | digg story
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Important Science Developments In Kansas

A close, but important, victory for science in Kansas.  Read more by clicking below.

Bad Astronomy Blog > Science wins in Kansas!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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