I decided to do a quick trip to Iowa to visit with my college roomie, Kat, once more before she heads back overseas. Wandering down Main Street in Ames, we saw a game shop, and went in. It mostly sold Magic cards, but stocked a few board games as well. Kat has been mulling over getting some board games to take back to Cambodia with her - the catch being that they need to not rely on English writing on the cards or board, and they have to be simple enough that she can teach them with the limited Khmer she has learned thus far. The clerks in the store pulled out a demo copy of Tsuro, and Kat ended up picking up a copy. I picked up a copy of Pandemic, and we played it yesterday evening with one of the folks Kat is staying with in Ames. I liked it enough that I'm considering getting a copy of the expansion before Omegacon.
So, it appears that we are headed into our second statewide recount in as many years. I've been nervously contemplating what will happen if Pawlenty (our current governor) stays on past January - particularly as far as redistricting is concerned. But a news piece today has renewed my hope that this will not drag on past January.

Assuming the article I read was accurate, the number of rejected absentee ballots is about 3000. The difference in votes between Dayton and Emmer is about 8800. In 2008, the recount (including the examination of all challenged ballots), had concluded by December 19th. After that, it was primarily litigation over which rejected absentee ballots should have been included in the count. There were 12,000 rejected absentee ballots in that election, and less than 300 votes separating the candidates at that point in the process. (At the end of all the litigation, Franken ended up ahead by 312 votes.)

So, the way the process goes forward at the moment is that in the next few weeks county officials will double check and verify election night tabulations reported to the secretary of state's office. It is not unusual for numbers to change a bit in this time. In 2008, MPR conducted an analysis of statewide elections over the prior 10 years and found that the average change in vote totals as reported on election night compared to the certified result is 1,500 votes.

So, assuming worst case scenario based on that, after all of the double-checking has taken place, let's say that the difference in votes is down to 7300. The canvassing board certifies that vote on November 23rd, and the official recount begins. This is the phase where every ballot is physically examined and hand-counted, with representatives from each party watching. The representatives can challenge ballots, for a variety of reasons. In spite of the fact that Republicans were more aggressive about challenging ballots, Franken had picked up 274 votes at the end of this process, putting him in the lead. I expect Republicans to be even more aggressive about challenging ballots this time around. I expect the numbers will change a bit after this process too. Let's err on the safe side a bit, and say that Emmer picks up 5 times as many votes as Franken did in 2008, so about another 1500. Now Dayton is only up by 5800 votes.

Even if every single one of those rejected absentee ballots was cast in Emmer's favor, he still loses the election. I don't think there will be the same protracted legal battle over them.

From [livejournal.com profile] thaadd

Nov. 3rd, 2010 06:17 pm
An owl pouncing on imaginary prey! It's banded, and looks like it's inside, which makes me wonder if they sometimes keep owls as pets in Japan. Or maybe it's a rehab owl, with neurological issues? (More common than you'd think - a raptor eating prey that had lead shot in it is a big culprit.)

Regardless, it's a super cute little owl!
Here are my predictions for the next two years:

- Our new Republican overlordsHouse is coming in with an axe to grind, not with a feasible agenda. They want to repeal the health care law, but they can't without the Senate being on board as well. It doesn't mean they won't put a lot of gusto into trying - and with that sort of attention on it, a lot of people will realize they like a lot of the health care law. Besides, according to the exit polls, the people who voted for the Republicans are pissed off about the economy, and there is no silver bullet for that. Not raising taxes, not lowering taxes, not spending more, and not spending less. In expending a lot of gusto on health care, while not doing anything to really improve the economy, it will put the Democrats into a better position going into 2012.

- Nothing will really get done in the Senate, except a lot of fillibustering. Immigration Reform will get discussed, but it will be divisive, and only a nominal change will get passed. But it will be enough to make some minor improvements in the lives of immigrants, and will help shore up the hispanic vote for 2012.

In Minnesota:
- Some state Republican was quoted as saying, in reference to our upcoming gubernatorial recount, that "this time it's personal!" I'm assuming that's a reference to our last recount, where (after months and months and months and months) Al Franken ended up going to the Senate instead of Norm Coleman. Minnesota law requires an automatic recount when the different is less than 0.5%. In 2008, the difference between Norm Coleman and Al Franken was 0.01%. In the gubernatorial race, it is 0.43%. Those are all small margins, but I'm a little bit more confident that a 0.43% lead will hold in a recount than a 0.01% lead. (And I'm hedging here, because I dont want to jinx anything.) Ultimately, the goal of the Republicans is going to be to keep the recount going as long as possible, because the way state law is written, it sounds like our current governor will stay in office until it is done. With the new Republican state legislature, they will try to push a few things through. However, if they do take this tact, it will piss off a lot of Minnesotans, who tend to like their divided government.

Really, I need to tell myself these stories about what will happen, to not feel overwhelmingly sad today. Feingold lost, and even though I haven't been a resident of the state of Wisconsin in over a decade, that's the loss from yesterday that hit me hardest. I was in high school when he was first elected. When he still seemed like a long-shot in the primary, he came and spoke to my high school youth group. He was enthusiastic and genuine - everything that you'd want from a green-around-the-ears politician looking to topple a powerful incumbent. Even though he went on to become the powerful incumbent, he has remained one of the politicians I have had the most respect for. He voted against the PATRIOT act in 2001, and I have never forgotten that he took an unpopular stand, that many people thought was going to be his political suicide, to try to protect my right to privacy.

In local politics, my Democratic congressman was reelected by wide margins. My district is so electrically blue that a Green would be more likely to be a viable opponent than a Republican. In outstate, an 18-term Democratic congressman - Jim Obserstar - lost. This is sad, but really didn't surprise me. I heard a little bit of a debate between him and his opponent when I was driving to lunch one day, and he sounded old and a little bit confused. In his opening statement, he went over time, and was cut off at an awkward place. The Republican running against him eluded pretty much every question he was asked, but I think confusion and awkwardness sticks with many people more than elusiveness does.
I eat a fairly low meat diet, in part because I rarely cook it at home. When I do cook it at home, it's usually lamb I have bought from Sunshine Harvest Farm. They have a stand at the farmers' market I go to, and they also deliver to a drop-off site near me. I also buy eggs from them, since they don't de-beak their chickens.

Throughout the summer, they have sporadically had these little packs of 4 small lamb chops. One pack is perfect for two people, or for having leftovers, so I've tried to keep a couple packs in my freezer most of the time. Today, they had a lot more lamb options. And now, my freezer is full of a lot of lamb. In addition to lamb chops, I bought lamb for stewing and a lamb roast.

Now, instead of all the productive things I could be doing, I've been reading up on preparing and roasting lamb. Om nom nom.
I got up at 4:30 AM, finished packing, and drove to a remote lot at MSP. My flight was packed full, but on time. I slept for the first hour or so, and then worked on my laptop the rest of the time.

I got into SFO at around 9:30 AM, claimed my checked bag, and caught the BART into San Francisco. I got off at the Powell Street Station, where some confusion ensued about what I should be catching next. It turns out that Transit511 could have been a little clearer that the Powell-Mason line was a cable car, not a regular MUNI route. Once I sorted that out, I figured out that my best option was a bus a few blocks away - something I should have known, since I've taken that bus almost every time I've gone to San Francisco.

On the plus side, the bus goes through Chinatown, and it is fun to watch the hustle and bustle and shops full of weird fruit and weird meat hanging from the ceiling as you're riding through there. I got off in North Beach, and walked to Brian's dad's office, where I'd be leaving my luggage while I adventured in the city. I chatted with Brian's dad, Lance, for a few minutes and he offered to loan me a book, Stairway Walks in San Francisco. The walk in North Beach hit all of the places I wanted to see, plus some others, and had a bunch of neat historical facts, so I gladly took him up on it. He also recommended a sushi place just down the street for lunch. I went to get fueled up for my walk, and ordered what felt like way too much food when it actually came. It was all *so* *good* though, some of the best sushi I've had in ages, and I was able to finish with no problem. It's just as well, because there was a lot of uphill walking in my immediate future.

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So, I finally got around to watching the television series. I saw the final episode yesterday evening.

Some thoughts. Spoilers through the series finale. )
Back when I was in college, one of the things that got me interested in analytical chemistry was this news piece:

Security scanners at a major British airport are being confused by Christmas puddings packed in suitcases.

Hundreds of holidaymakers jetting off for the festive season in the sun have packed the Christmas treats into their luggage.

But Manchester Airport's £14m security scanner system cannot tell the difference between the pudding mix and deadly explosives such as Semtex.

Security officers have been forced to examine hundreds of bags before allowing them onto aircraft.

An airport spokesman said: "The security system is designed to detect organic matter like Semtex, and Christmas puddings have an unusual density which alerts the system.

"The system is simply doing its job and doing it extremely well. It isn't causing any inconvenience or delays to passengers."

Manchester Airport has more scanning machines that any other in the world but Christmas puddings were not one of the many items used to test the equipment when it was installed.

I read that story over winter break my junior year, and ended up writing a paper about airport scanning technology for my instrumental analysis class the following semester. I know that everyone thinks any additional gadget in the airport security line is just one more p.i.t.a., but I'm always totally fascinated by any new airport technology. I stand in line and watch everyone else and try to figure out what's going on chemically and analytically inside of whatever shiny box they've rolled out.

Which is why I like seeing new articles about what the next shiny box is going to be:

New scanner aims to make liquids on planes safer

MRI for shampoo bottles!


Oct. 6th, 2010 01:15 pm
I will be attending at least three costume parties this October, so costuming has been on my mind a lot lately. Party #1 is a masquerade party in the bay area. I have an awesome mask I'm planning to wear - figuring out what all else I'm going to wear with it has been a bit difficult. I have an idea in my mind of what I want to look like, but don't have the technical sewing skills to make it happen. I might e-mail Anna - one of the hosts of the party, who has an entire costume room in her house - to find out if there are things she could loan me that would work with the mask, as that would also cut down on what I would need to bring with in my luggage.

Party #2 and party #3 are both local, and both have themes. I'm still not sure if I'm going to go with the theme for party #2, but inspiration struck for a costume for party #3 last night. Over my lunch break, I ran to Joanne's and picked up part of what I need to make the costume. Most of the rest of what I need should be pretty easy to find, with the exception of one thing. Does anyone know where I can find brown marabou boas and/or trim? I was surprised that the enormous Joanne's in Maple Grove didn't carry it.
Since I am happy with the quality of photos from my new camera, I will be selling my old one. I figured I'd offer it up here before I put it on Craigslist. It is a Canon Powershot G3. I will probably be selling it for ~$40, including a couple of CF cards for it, a lens cloth, battery charger, and USB cable for the camera. I need to figure out if I still have the manual somewhere, though it's also available for download online. I've taken good care of this camera, and it takes beautiful pictures. The resolution is fine for printing up to about 8x10 photographs.

Here are a few examples of pictures I've taken with it over the years:
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Let me know if you're interested. I feel kind of sentimental about this camera, and I'd like to see it go to a good home.
I finally got around to uploading my pictures to livejournal!

First off, I got a new camera. I have been using what was a really nice digital camera when I got it about seven years ago. It still takes beautiful pictures, but it's bulky and digital camera technology has come a long way. My new camera has 14x optical zoom (my old one had only had 4x), is smaller, has more than twice the resolution, and takes hd video.

Here's an example of the zoom. Taken from the overlook at Hawk Ridge, this is looking out over Lake Superior:

If you squint, maybe you can see that there's a big ship in the Duluth harbor. Here my camera is fully zoomed in on the ship:

And I am happy with the quality of the photos. Here is a shot I took of a sharp-shinned hawk they brought up from the banding station:

I love how well the deep red of the hawk's eyes turned out, and how sharply in focus I was able to get the hawk.

Anyhow, I will now put an lj-cut in, since this is only about 1/4 of the pictures for this entry.
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- On Sunday afternoon, a family came up to the ridge who had an adorable little boy dressed up in a Wolverine costume. I told his mom he had an awesome costume, and she thanked me and told me he had been Iron Man that morning, but usually was Batman. "We have a lot of costumes, even when it isn't Halloween." What an awesome mom.

- Two weeks ago I met a new volunteer who looked vaguely familiar. I figured at the time it was because she bore a strong resemblance to a college friend. She has a pretty unique name, so when I saw a picture of her tagged by another volunteer on Facebook and saw her comment on a non-Hawk Ridge friend's status update, I realized I actually might have met her somewhere else. I mentioned this to her this weekend, and we realized we'd hung out at Omegacon!
I want to do a long post with pictures, but for the time being here are some stories from my weekend. (I have already posted a bunch of the pictures on Facebook, but they take much longer to upload here.)

- I arrived at the ridge on Saturday afternoon, around the time that migration is usually starting to wind down for the day. I decided to go incognito, and leave my volunteer badge off, since I wasn't on the schedule. It was kind of weird to be there in tourist mode - I've gotten used to being there to talk to people about hawk ridge, and help point out birds, and tell people to move off the road when they're in the way of a car trying to get by. I think I prefer that to just standing around and watching birds, as much as I like doing even just that. While I was there, they banded a peregrine falcon. It was the first time I'd seen one in hand, and it was much smaller than I thought it would be!

- Late Saturday afternoon I made my way to Jay Cooke to see about getting a campsite. My timing was fortuitous - they had been booked but had just had someone depart early. While I was waiting for them to double check that the campsite was vacated, a middle aged woman came in by herself looking for a site. They gave her a list of other campsites in the area and sent her off to use the courtesy phone. I have a really small tent - it doesn't take up even half of the tent spot on Jay Cooke's sites, so after I had the campsite registration I walked next door and offered to share my site with her, if she had a small tent. She did and she took me up on it, and we ended up sharing our dinners and chatting at the picnic table for a while. She was heading off for a week in Tettegouche State Park.

- Saturday night I headed back to Hawk Ridge for the owl program. No sooner did I arrive than the naturalist handed me the radio and asked me to run owls if the banding station got any. I ended up doing a run to the banding station where they had six little saw-whet owls at once. There was cute everywhere I looked! I got to carry two of them back.

- I feel weird about talking about owls as tame *at all*, but saw-whet's kind of act tame when they're in the hand. They're docile and like having their heads petted. (They close their eyes and tilt their head around, a lot like my parrot.) They have the softest feathers ever.

- Today we had a lot of low flying birds, including a merlin that came and perched up in a tree close in, a pair of sandhill cranes, and about 50 turkey vultures that streamed past all in a long row.
This amazon parrot got hauled off by the Columbian police! I hope they at least give him a better cage.

My plans for staying fit over the winter are starting to come together. Today I went and picked up an exercise bike from a Craigslist ad. It is an older model - a Lifestyler, probably vintage late 80's or early 90's. But, it was practically free, and doesn't take up much space. If I use it a lot, I can upgrade to something nicer without worrying about getting anything for this one. With help from [livejournal.com profile] loyehudhara, I got it into my basement. The next step is to put a TV down there.

So I'm looking for TV suggestions and information. My basement is unfinished, and while it has never flooded while I've been in the house, I can't discount the possibility of that happening. So, I don't want to spend upwards of $1000 for a really nice TV, because I'd like to get something that I won't be too upset if it gets damaged or destroyed by water. (I am planning to put it on a TV stand off the ground and away from the wall, but with a basement you just never know - I could also get a leak in a pipe above or something like that). Anyhow, I'd like to get something for under $200 that I can connect a DVD player and a Netflix Roku box to. I don't care about surround sound, or having absolutely perfect picture quality. I just want something that can provide me with entertainment while I'm working out. I've had one offer of an older, non-flat screen, 36 inch TV. I might take it, but is there anything I need to be sure the TV has to hook up the DVD player and Roku box? Is there anyone else on here that has a TV they're interested in getting rid of or selling? And if I do go out and get a flat screen TV, does anyone have any good guides for what to look for? Also, does anyone have a TV stand they're interested in unloading?

Finally, I'm planning to get a folding exercise mat, to do hula hooping and other floor exercises on. When I mentioned hula hooping a few weeks ago, a couple of people said they were also interested in hula hooping. There are directions online for making your own hula hoop, and I was thinking about having a hula hoop making/craft day party. Other than the two people who spoke up before, is there anyone else who would be interested in making a hula hoop? I would ask you to chip in some $$ for supplies, but it would be no more than $10 (less with more people).
He's sometimes there, behind my barberry bushes, when I get home from work. I've never had to ask him to leave, haven't talked to him at all actually. When he sees me come home he quietly leaves on his own. I haven't been sure whether to notify someone, but he seemed harmless enough. I thought he just enjoyed the quiet of my garden, and had no particular devotion to me. Until yesterday.

He left me a gift.

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(Not mine, don't worry.)

Tweeting the old-fashioned way can net you a steep discount on a fine feathered pet.

The Animal Humane Society says its five Minnesota locations have an overabundance of birds. It says many of the 279 birds are the result of voluntary surrenders.

To encourage people to adopt one the group is offering a promotion — tweet your best bird call or sing or whistle a few lines of a bird-themed song and you can adopt a bird for $1.

Officials say most of the cockatiels, parakeets and finches were being properly cared for but the owners could no longer handle them. Workers have examined the birds, tested them for disease and prepared them for adoption.

The promotion applies at the group's locations in Buffalo, Coon Rapids, Golden Valley, St. Paul, and Woodbury.

Online: / Animal Humane Society: http://www.animalhumanesociety.org/

279 birds! It looks like less than half of them are listed on the website. If you've ever considered getting a pet bird, please adopt.
Today on my lunch break I saw a green heron. They are a very common bird, but they're also really good at staying hidden and/or camouflaged, so I don't see them all that often. When I spotted this one, it was in the shade on the side of a little creek. In the shade, their colors look pretty drab - a muddy brown that blends in with the surroundings. I wouldn't have even noticed this one if I hadn't been looking through my binoculars. It's only when they're standing in the sun that you realize they're actually pretty flashy, with bright iridescent green feathers. While I was watching him, he started running around on a mudflat, in and out of the sun, it was beautiful.

Quick, what's your favorite recipe that uses green beans?

I bought a bag of green beans at the Farmers' Market on Sunday, to make a curry with. Then I had dinner at my parents' house that evening, and they gave me a big bag of green beans from their garden. Between the two, the vegetable drawer at the bottom of my refrigerator is half-filled with green beans - and it's a big drawer!
I have been trying to find the right words to write about this for a couple of weeks now. I am horrified at the opposition to building a mosque near the Ground Zero site, especially the vocal opposition of the ADL. As I don't want that to be the face of Judaism on this issue, I feel it is important to speak out. But every time I try to find words to express how I feel, I find myself reaching at the words of others who have written more eloquently on this than I feel I can. So I am going to quote from an article that I agree with in its entirety.

Every year Jews emerge from the Passover Seder table with one indelible message -- remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt, that you were degraded and humiliated for no reason save that you were Jews. As Jews, we therefore must raise our voices and do all in our power to prevent such bigotry from being directed at any other people or faith. The empathy taught by our tradition demands that Jews neither be silent nor forbearing in the face of such injustice.

Since 9/11, many Muslims have felt similar broad brush rejection just because they practice the faith of Islam. No distinctions among Muslims are made by their critics. Blame and derision are unconscionably hurled upon an entire faith. History has well taught us how indecent and immoral it is when an entire faith group is held culpable for the acts of a few.

An Islamic Center and mosque north of Ground Zero will make the powerful statement that persons of all religious faiths can stand together as children of God. Historic memory requires us to behave with simple decency and affirm the proposed plan of our moderate and law-abiding Muslim sisters and brothers to construct this Center. We look forward to the day when we can join together with our colleagues of all faiths in dedicating this religious center which will represent the triumph of love over hate, humanity over insanity.

I don't know that there's much I can do on this issue other than voicing my opinion. The decision has already been made to green-light it, and while they can talk about it as much as they want, no federal legislator really gets a say in what the New York City Landmark's commission okays. But I am worried that this will become a wedge issue in the election - particularly one that Republicans will try to use to sway Jewish voters. It is important to me to do as much as I can to counter the bigotry on this issue.
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