Cul de sac

I have to say that I was way ahead of the prediction curve on this, partly through desire and partly because it’s pretty fucking obvious just from looking at commute times that the ever expanding suburb is an evolutionary dead-end. It will become a city or the people will move out. The people moving out is happening faster.

I’d been remarking on this verbally since at least 2001, but wrote it down in 2006. Meanwhile, I listened to my wife’s heart’s desire and bought this house instead.*

However, one must note that a finer analysis of the data needs to be done to see if there’s a comparable shuffle along the suburban-exurban-rural gradient toward locally urban areas, not just the larger cities. I suspect there is.

So, you ask, where do I recommend anyone buy in Dutchess County? Well, first I recommend you buy *my* house, but if you’re not that kind of buyer, look at the following, depending on where you work.

  • Beacon, city of
  • Poughkeepsie, city of
  • Pawling, village of
  • Rhinebeck/Rhinecliff, villages of
  • Millbrook, village of

There are other rather compact villages, but they don’t offer the amenities of those. You’ll have to travel a bit to find some items, or have them shipped to you. But if you don’t mind, try in no particular order

  • Dover Plains
  • Tivoli
  • Red Hook
  • Staatsburg
  • Hyde Park

Unfortunately, new housing stock is still being built in wide-open green spaces, and turnover in the smaller villages is slight. Best bets are Beacon and Poughkeepsie. Not only are there more properties for sale in those cities, but the prices there are lower due to racial and wealth discrimination, and “concerns” about the school systems.

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Posted in economics, Place | 10 Comments

Sorry. Procedures.

I’m reading an excellent book right now that’s discussing how we surrender our judgment to detailed rules and procedures: The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, by Philip K. Howard.

These problems plague any large organization, not just government.

An example from today: One of the applications I support needs to increase storage by 26 GB (spread across 8 filesystems on 3 hosts). (IBM doubled the size of some software.)

The Company funds increases of up to 10% of the existing filesystem from the operations budget, but requires a special project and dedicated budget line for anything over that. The needed increase is greater than 10% of the size of the existing filesystems.

So, I could increase the 3 TB filesystem by 307 GB, but not the 3 GB filesystem by 3 GB?

Kinda funny what happens when people don’t understand percentages, isn’t it?

Posted in law, Work | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Arlington (NY) Central School District School Board of Education Seeks Perfection

They chose an impossible goal: no failure.

[B]y the year 2017:
a. Increase 5 year graduation rates to 100%
b. Achieve 100% grade level literacy by the end of Grade 3

And how will we achieve these goals? And at what cost?

Failure is certain.

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You Missed a Spot

In housework, as in any field primarily concerned with the reduction of chaos, the work itself is not noticed; only the failures are.

Take a few moments today to thank your spouse, your domestic help, your secretary, your department of public works, your firefighter, your sysadmin for keeping chaos at bay.

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Things I Love About Working from Home

  • the sounds of children playing
  • making breakfast
  • sunlight on the deck
  • the Great Blue Heron and friends
  • the smell of dinner cooking
  • watching her at work
  • hugs
  • the sound of someone coming home
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Great Scientists

A friend of mine posted a Carl Sagan quote that reminded me of something.

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.

A few years back we saw Fourth of July fireworks from the causeway across Lake Carmel. I think the Big Sister and the Little Sister were four and two, respectively. We had a conversation that went something like this.

Big Sister: Why don’t the sounds match the fireworks?

Me: Why do you think?

Big Sister: I think the light is faster than the sound.

That’s my girl!

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Public Embarrassment

This needs a picture.

The corner grocery has placed anti-theft devices around the pregnancy tests.

Has the embarrassment of purchasing a pregnancy test caused an increase in thefts?

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Obesity is the Government’s Business

NPR has an excellent series of debates on various topics called Intelligence Squared (U.S). On February 10th, the question was “Is Obesity the Government’s Business?“. Listen to the debate (or read the transcript), and then come back here.

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On the Arlington Central School District Budget (2012-2013)

Arlington Central School District budget planning for FY 2012-2013 has resulted in a fairly good budget. I particularly like the appendices that are included for the first time in this year’s budget book.

Budget creation is a bit of a balancing act. This year our district has done well in limiting the increase in costs — unlike the adjacent Wappingers Central School District which has chosen to add a potential long-term increase in costs in order to secure a one-time grant — so I will vote to approve the spending plan.

Late last year the Poughkeepsie Journal relayed the news that the district wanted public input prior to planning the 2012-2013 budget. I e-mailed the following:

By the time the budget discussions arrive, the costs are fixed in contracts, so staff reductions are the only option. It’s during contract negotiations that the board needs to consider the effect on the budget. If the budget is capped at a 2% annual increase, then don’t agree to contracts that will result in a 4.29% increase.

I should have written the costs the district controls are fixed in contracts. There are other costs imposed by the United States and New York State which can change the budget numbers significantly. These include, among other things, required administrative reporting changes, curriculum changes, and, most predictably, contributions to the pension funds. The U.S. and New York typically pass these costs on to the localities. It is reasonable for localities to support the cost of public education, but not when they have not been party to the decisions that have increased those costs.

But, as in previous years, Arlington has not yet confronted the need to project long-term budget impacts during contract negotiations, and will, once again, need to discover $4,000,000 in reserve funds, operating cost reductions, and a tax increase to cover an increase in labor costs. The district’s costs are primarily labor-related, so any persistent reduction in cost must consider labor. And if the district cannot reduce labor costs caused by Washington and Albany, then it must address those it can.

More information on the Arlington budget can be found at the district’s web site.

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Grandmother’s Bread

By way of my sister’s recipe box, comes this memory.

Scald all together and set aside to cool:

  • 2 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. shortening*
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt

Add 2 cups water to above mixture.

  • 1 cake yeast**
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 13-14 c. flour (approx, depending on flour)

Crumble yeast into water to soften. Sift flour into large bowl; shape a hole in the middle and gradually add milk mixture and yeast, beating constantly to keep mixture smooth. Mix until a medium stiff dough is formed. Knead on a floured board until smooth. Place in a greased bowl and brush with melted shortening.

Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down and let rise again, then shape into 3 or 4 loaves (depending on size of pans). Place in greased bread pans; let rise again until double in bulk on top of pan. Bake in hot oven (425) for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to moderately hot oven (375) and bake 25-30 minutes longer. Large loaves take a little longer. Remove from pans and brush crusts with butter. Put on a rack or cloth to cool.

* shortening, known in some circles as lard and in others as Crisco.

** fresh yeast = compressed yeast = active fresh yeast = cake yeast = baker’s compressed yeast = wet yeast Equivalents: 2-ounce cake = 3 X 0.6-ounce cakes Notes: This form of yeast usually comes in 0.6-ounce or 2-ounce foil-wrapped cakes. It works faster and longer than active dry yeast, but it’s very perishable and loses potency a few weeks after it’s packed. It’s popular among commercial bakers, who can keep ahead of the expiration dates, but home bakers usually prefer dry yeast. To use, soften the cake in a liquid that’s 70° – 80° F. Store fresh yeast in the refrigerator, well wrapped, or in the freezer, where it will keep for up to four months. If you freeze it, defrost it for a day in the refrigerator before using. Substitutes: active dry yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each .6-ounce cake of compressed yeast) OR instant yeast (Substitute one package or 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast) OR bread machine yeast (Substitute 2 1/4 teaspoons for each cake of compressed yeast) [I'm still deciphering this paragraph.]

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Ink

I just spent $80 on ink cartridges for my printer. The lad at CVS had to get a key from a locked drawer behind the counter in order to release them for me. I’ve had an easier time purchasing cigarettes.

Theft is a risk because there is excess demand unmet at the price asked.* Counterfeit goods are a risk for the same reason, and because the cost of manufacture and distribution is so much lower than the price asked that even at cheap street prices the product is still profitable.

The same applies to Coach bags, Guggi purses, Ford auto parts, and Rihanna’s latest hit single. It might apply to the Apple iPhone, but Samsung prices the Nexus as a premium product.

* if demand exceeds supply at the price offered, then there is unmet demand, and thus lost profit. Lower the price, let the supply meet the demand, and reap the benefits.

Posted in economics | Tagged , | 1 Comment

You’re Dead. Stop Kicking Me.

Interactive Television has always failed, and will always fail.

A lesson from the early days of telephony is significant. Early on it was thought that telephony would provide a subscriber with a way to listen to opera in the convenience of his own living room. And while that was sold for a while, it turns out that humans are social animals, and that the profit lies in enabling communication, not in delivering content. We want to talk to each other.

The ONLY reason that television has been around so long is that the cost of communicating with video was beyond the reach of all of us.

That is no longer the case.

Television as we’ve known it is dead. But like a chicken with its head cut off, it’s still running around.

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Third-Party Content Removed

I have removed all advertising from my website. I’ve had a website online since 1996 or so, and since then I’ve made perhaps $3.00 from affiliate advertising. I have no idea how anyone makes money from this.

Because this advertising is no great benefit to me, and no great benefit to you, the reader, it serves no purpose, and must go.

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Grenadine

Many cocktails call for grenadine, which, it seems, is much more than Red No. 40 and high-fructose corn syrup. It’s pomegranates! Who knew? (The FDA seems not to care.)

But more importantly, can we make it at home?

Once one finds Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe for grenadine, one can.

Morgenthaler’s Grenadine

  • 2 c. fresh pomegranate juice or POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate
  • 2 c. unbleached sugar
  • 2 oz. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp. orange blossom water

Heat juice slightly, just enough to allow other ingredients to dissolve easily. Stir in remaining ingredients, allow to cool, and bottle. Yields two cups.

But I’m missing a couple of ingredients.

Luckily, around the time I was looking for pomegranate molasses, I saw Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode on the pomegranate, and he covered the topic.

Pomegranate Molasses

  • 2 c. pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 TBsp. lemon juice

Dissolve sugar in pomegranate juice and lemon juice over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, simmer over medium-low heat until reduced by 3/4, or the consistency of a thick syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Yields four to six ounces.

I called a number of ethnic groceries in Dutchess County searching for orange blossom water, with no luck. Another recipe online used vanilla, so I substituted that. Thus we end up with

Grenadine

  • 2 c. pomegranate juice
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 oz. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Dissolve the sugar in the pomegranate juice over low heat. Add molasses and vanilla; stir to combine. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat and bottle. Yields two cups.

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Daylight Saving Tricks

Now that we’ve returned to Standard Time, let us pause for my annual rant on Daylight Saving Time (DST). Calling the boiling point of water 100 instead of 212 does not mean the water boils when it is colder.

We’re talking about a unit of measurement here, so people can agree to meet at a certain point in time, or so factory shifts can start precisely and predictably, or so polls can have a known start and end. My work hours are variable and cross all timezones, and have since I graduated college. I wake well after dawn and work well after dark, or wake well before dawn and work well after dark. I work generally apart from others; they are in Tokyo, Manila, Bangalore, Sarajevo, New York, St. Louis, Dallas, Sao Paolo, San Ramon. The people I must have real-time meetings live one to three hours west of me, and consistently schedule meetings during lunch or dinner.

What benefit does DST have? Most of the stores I visit are open all the time, because they are online or groceries. If I want to attend my daughter’s softball game, I don’t need the whole factory shift to let out earlier; I need the assholes in California to stop scheduling meetings when they’ve just returned from lunch.

The DST switch only coordinates activities with people local to me (e.g. the school district’s bus schedule), and only for people shoved into a tight schedule, and that could be just as easily done without bothering the rest of the world, or me for that matter. And the easiest way to do that would be to pick Daylight Time or Standard Time, or anything else for that matter, and stick to it.

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The Mexican Eagle

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. That’s not quite exact. Limits are.

When one is out of one’s preferred spirits, has no citrus stocked, and is looking around for a cocktail to mix, one turns to what one has to hand. In this case, what recipes are there for tequila and vermouth?

Turns out that there’s a very fine, complex one made with just three ingredients: the Mexican Eagle. It’s also appropriate for International Migratory Bird (cocktail) Day.

Mexican Eagle

  • 3/4 oz. Jamaica rum
  • 3/4 oz. French vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Tequila

Combine in your mixing glass, stir with ice, then strain to serve in a cocktail glass.

In mixing these, I used Appleton Estate V/X rum, the remainder of the Familia Camarena tequila, and Dolin dry vermouth. Afterward, I was out of both tequila and vermouth.

Posted in drink | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Grandmother’s Lemonade

The hot days of Summer call for a cool drink, shade, and a lazy breeze through the apple trees. If my taste memory serves, this is Grandmother’s Lemonade.

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. lemon juice
  • 2 qt. minus 1 c. water

Cover the bottom of a half-gallon glass Tropicana Orange Juice bottle with sugar. Squeeze lemons until the sugar is covered and begins to melt. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add water and ice to fill the remainder, about two quarts.

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Negative Feedback Loop?

I’m a little puzzled by one of the statements in David Hackett Fischer‘s conclusion to his The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. On p. 249, he writes,

In a free market, individual responses to inflation commonly cause more inflation. Individual defenses against economic instability cause an economy to become more unstable.

This process might be called the irrationality of the market. It is so in the sense that it converts rational individual choices into collective results that are profoundly irrational. Far from being a benign or beneficent force, the market when left to itself is an unstable system that has repeatedly caused the disruption of social and economic systems in the past eight hundred years.

In a heavily footnoted text, this statement has no supporting citation, so it must be part of the common wisdom. But I must have missed that part of Econ 101.

Is this statement supportable? Is there evidence that this is the case? Or has every instance of “market instability” resulted in an over-correction by forces “outside” (or dominant players inside) the market?

Posted in economics | 1 Comment

Margarita, Won’t You Come to My Party?

For those interested in the recipe for the gallon of Margaritas which was consumed at my party yesterday, I used Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe from A Gallon of Margaritas by the Gallon. Below are the details on which tequila and triple sec were involved in this concoction.

A Gallon o’ Margaritas

Pour each ingredient in a gallon jug, then shake and refrigerate. To serve, wet the glass then roll in salt so that the outside rim is coated, then pour the Margarita over ice.

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Hasta la Vista, Baby

We’re cancelling DirecTV service.

It’s been about a year since purchasing the HDTV and the associated DirecTV package. Meanwhile, our viewing of “normal” television fare has been steadily declining. We hardly ever watch anything live: we have other things to do with our time. And more often than not, the children are selecting shows from Netflix, YouTube, or the producer themselves, instead of from the previously recorded episodes of Sesame Street, Jake and the (cute little) Never Land Pirates, Little Bear, Wizards of Waverly Place, or whatnot.

In the interest of completeness, I’ve compiled a list of what we normally watch with any regularity, and where it can be found now that we’ve cut the downlink. The challenge now will be getting some of them off the Internet and on the big screen. Apple TV, perhaps? Boxee?

Did I mention it’s cheaper when you’re not paying for the umpteen channels of shit on the TV you don’t watch? People don’t care about “channels.” They care about shows.

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Posted in communication, economics | Tagged , | 2 Comments