socialized booze

The word “socialism” has been frequently misused recently, mostly in hyperbole about the recent health care reforms. However, socialism is alive and well in another sector of the economy, in a number states in which the government has a monopoly on retail sales of spirits. The New York Times describes the liquor control system in the state of Washington, a system which will be eliminated on Friday:

State control, in turn, made generations of civil servants tastemaking critics — their decisions on what to stock dictating what people could order in bars or buy in the stores.

In 2010, for example, a tiny distiller here in Cashmere, called It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, made a grape brandy that the owner, Colin Levi, was quite proud of. Liquor Control Board officials came by for a tasting and did not much care for it, Mr. Levi said, and that was that — it never went into distribution.

Until 2009, I lived in Oregon, another state with a government monopoly on the sale of liquor. In 2002, Oregonians rejected a ballot measure that would have created a single-payer health care system in that state. At the time, I remarked that people in Oregon were afraid of “socialized medicine” but had no problem with “socialized booze”.

Visit to the 9/11 Memorial

Today, Sarah and I visited the National September 11 Memorial, which sits on Ground Zero.

Visiting the memorial requires a visitor pass. The passes are free, but have to be reserved ahead of time on their web site. (I reserved our passes in late April, and there were already no slots available on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.)  There was about a 15 minute wait to enter the memorial, which included passing through metal detectors.

The memorial consists of a plaza full of trees, and two recessed pools in the footprints of the twin towers. Water flows down the sides of the pools, and the names of 9/11 victims line the rims of the pools.

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Looking forward to the 14th b’ak’tun

The media has been discussing the recent discovery of Mayan astronomical calculations of events well past 2012. They are saying that this debunks the notion that the Maya predicted the end of the world on 21 December. Here’s a video news summary from Slate:

While this is really cool as an archaeological find, it doesn’t debunk anything that hasn’t been debunked a many, many times before. Indeed, the notion that the Maya ascribed any eschatological meaning to the end of the 13th b’ak’tun has been throughly discredited. For example, here’s an expert on the ancient Maya quoted in 2009:

“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Fla. To render Dec. 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

And here’s a Mayan elder quoted by the Associated Press in 2009:

Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly “running out” on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it’s not the end of the world.

Or is it?

Definitely not, the Mayan elder insists. “I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff.”

Let me tell you why I find the 2012 hype obnoxious: One of the key tenets of this 2012 stuff is that the ancient Mayan civilization had important insights that are now being ignored by modern Western society. Its believers hold themselves as more “enlightened” for recognizing the value of this native culture. Except, in reality, the hype is based on ignoring what the Maya said and misappropriating their voice to push silly new-age ideas.

Hopefully, these latest archaeological finds will tamp down this 2012 nonsense.

A bowl full of candy bars is another example of “a breakfast they’ll want to eat”

Recently, the makers of Nutella settled a class-action lawsuit from a San Diego mother who claimed advertising mislead her into thinking the stuff was healthy.

I found a YouTube video of one of the ads embedded in Carly Rothman’s article about the lawsuit:

Here’s a question for you: Do you think the health claims in this ad are misleading?

Continue reading “A bowl full of candy bars is another example of “a breakfast they’ll want to eat””

My photography featured on the BBC News website!

Yesterday, I found a photo I took in 2003 used on the BBC News site! It’s pretty awesome. Here’s what happened:

Back in 2003, I received a digital camera as a graduation gift. I used it to take a photo of one of my favorite signs: the sign for the Boring/Oregon City exit on U.S. 26. I was relatively new to photography; I don’t think it’s my best work.

The next year, I uploaded a copy of this photo to Wikipedia. I didn’t know any better, so I reduced the image to 512 × 384, which you are not supposed to do when putting photos on Wikipedia. If I had access to the original full-size file, I’d replace the one on Wikipedia. The closest I have is this Flickr photo, taken in the same session, which lacks the truck.

Yesterday, one of my friends from high school posted a BBC News article on her Facebook wall. According to the BBC, the village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands wants to become the sister community of Boring, Oregon. I followed the link because I, like almost anyone who attended Boring Middle School, was excited to see Boring featured in the international media. But then I saw the photo on the article, which they presumably took from Wikipedia, and said “HOLY CRAP! That picture of the ‘Boring, Oregon City’ sign? It’s my picture!”

I am extremely honored to find my work featured by the BBC!

Since many of my Flickr photos are available under Creative Commons licenses, I am used to seeing them occasionally appear on blogs. I believe this is the first time, however, that my work has been used in an international news story!

(anti)social reading apps


Except: when I click on a link on the Eff Bee to an article and I’m asked to add an app to follow the link, I don’t Google for the article—I refuse to read it at all. I refuse to reward antisocial behavior.