Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mistakes I Can Eat 2010

I am feeling jolly. Maybe this Christmas season isn't as fun packed as last year's -- friends are out of work and on tight budgets -- but I still spent time with the people I care about and we stuck to the usual traditions.

But here is a holiday custom you'd think we'd be getting better at: our gingerbread creations. I usually sit down with my mom, my sister and her son, now seven years old, and decorate some pre-cut gingerbread treats. Our 2008 mini gingerbread village was memorable because we substituted broken gingerbread pieces with miniature Hershey bars:

In 2009 we thought gingerbread men would be a little easier -- no assembly required. Plus, you can put a lot of creativity into the little guys, and we did. The green skeleton was a hit:

This year, with 2008 memories fading, we attempted the mini village again. No broken pieces this time!

With my nephew being a little older now, we attempted a set of gingerbread ornaments too. Here is one that I decorated, and well, I had no intentions of making it look like a rotary phone... but oh well.

All in all, they still tasted good!

Merry Christmas everybody! I look forward to blogging in 2011!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Not To Get Me 2010

This post started as a list of ten dorky gifts under $10, but the truth is that I wouldn't want to receive most of this stuff, it's not all under $10, and I couldn't come up with ten things. But certainly giving any of these items to your loved ones will make it a Christmas to remember!

First up is this Buzz Light Year sippycup. My, doesn't he look confident? Maybe it's because he doesn't contain any cadmium... Or...

Next up is How to Live with a Huge Penis: Advice, Meditations, and Wisdom for Men Who Have Too Much. $10.36 from The taboos have all been shattered. Penis books are definitely HOT this year!

If that title is a little too suggestive, you might want to consider this gem: Obscene Interiors available at Dream in Plastic for $8.00. What could be obscene about interior decorating you might ask? Let me quote the publisher: "Artist/Author/Provocateur Justin Jorgensen provides incredible voyeuristic insight into interior decorating through the unlikely prism of online personal ads. The exhibitionistic men who originally appeared in these found images have been turned into anonymous silhouettes so that Jorgensen can critique the much-more-interesting bad decorating taking place in the background."

Enough already. This list is about more than wee-wee themed jokes. How about an inflatable banana protector for that special someone on your list? It's available from a UK company called Fruity Faces and will set you back a couple of British pounds. Honestly, I'm thinking about the children with this one. They need more fiber in their diets!

Also, bacon flavored popcorn for $4.99 from I'm not sure if anybody needs this in their diets, but thanks to Holy Juan's secret Santa who I stole this gift idea from.

Another fine culinary delight courtesy of is bleeding heart gummy candy! The world needs more bleeding hearts.

My final gift idea is for the skeptic on your list. In fact, frequent readers might have noticed how often I use the word "skeptical," so it's appropriate that science-themed ceramic jewelry (approx. price $18 - $38) gets the Dorkmonger gift-giving seal of approval this year.

And remember friends, this holiday season, don't drink and gift.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Our Sputnik Moment

Senator John Kerry was on Meet the Press with a message that all Democrats should be pushing every day in front of every camera:

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Kerry pointed out the difference in the economic return of tax cuts versus unemployment insurance. Why hasn't this fact caught on with people? Because it's not being said loud enough.

But the next part about us, the U.S., not even being in the game with solar technology despite the fact that it was invented at Bell Labs 50 years ago is downright frightening. We're not even investing in green tech and China is. Where are our new jobs going to come from? You know, those high-tech, high-paying jobs that many people would like their children to have a shot at one day.

Sorry but the success of the iPad isn't going to fuel our economy.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Dirty Laundry

"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it." — Ron Paul.
You won't see me quoting Texas Congressman Ron Paul very often, but I agree with him here.

He is of course talking about whistleblower site WikiLeaks, their release last week of 250,000 American diplomatic cables, and the subsequent criminal investigation of the WikiLeaks editor in chief, Julian Assange.

I'm confident the world won't be ending any time soon, but most of the media is acting like Assange is some kind of real life Dr. Evil... or the new Osama bin Laden. But I tend to see Assange as a little less sinister and a little more egotistical, ambitious, and naive. He thinks he's going to crush the American government? Jon Stewart has a message for Assange:
"I think you’re underestimating how cynical Americans are about our government already. We’ve engineered coups in Chile, Iran, Guatemala, et cetera. We sold arms to Iran and then used the money to fund Central American revolutionaries. We sell weapons to our enemy’s enemy, who somehow always then becomes our enemy and forces us to defend ourselves from our own weapons. That happens a lot. In fact, you know what we call that? The number 8."
And you can count me among the cynical Americans. Out of all the leaks I've read about, I already knew some of it, strongly suspected most of it, and was mildly intrigued by a few revelations. I have no idea how these leaks will impact other countries like Russia, but I'm sure they have a lot in common with us. As Anne Applebaum on Slate put it:
"In the absence of a political culture that abhors corruption, in the absence of prosecutors who pursue it, this is just another in a long series of sensational scandals. Berlusconi parties with Putin? So what, he parties with everyone."
The most I hope for is that future politicians might think ahead, just a bit, and consider the possible blowback when all their dirty laundry and egregious acts are leaked. Maybe they'll realize that the best approach is to be honest and transparent? Maybe I'm thinking like a radical again...

These leaks could be healthy for us, or they could be used to justify more censorship, new espionage laws, and more vilification of the truth tellers.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Survivor: Kindergarten

I had almost forgotten about the World's Worst Teacher. Back in 2008, kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo at Morningside Elementary in Port St. Lucie, Fla., let her students cruelly vote an autistic child out of the class. Who lets kindergartners vote on anything? But as you might expect, the boy, Alex Barton, then 5 years old, was traumatized by the mockery and exclusion.

His mother sued St. Lucie County, and recently reached a $350,000 settlement. No doubt that money will help Alex in his care and education, but I always cringe a little when schools operating on tight budgets have to pay out large sums in lawsuits like these. It ends up hurting everybody except the person who should be hurting...

Portillo was suspended for a mere year, and has now returned to teaching in the same county with her tenure reinstated. This lack of accountability is what really hurts students.

Last night Stephen Colbert interviewed Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C Public Schools. She believes that the problem with America's schools is that there is no organized interest group that represents children:

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When were we ever number one? Well, it wasn't in my lifetime. Rhee points out that in the 1950's, the U.S. was number one in high school graduation rates, rates of going to college, and general proficiency rates. Of course, at that time, most of Europe was still recovering from WWII and rebuilding infrastructure... but it sure made us look good, didn't it?