Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vegetarian food...good?

With Lent winding down, I thought it would be interesting to do a post on the history of Falafel.

In case you didn't know, Falafel is mixture of chickpeas and/or fava beans. This mixture is ground up, mixed with spices, lumped into balls, and (as Moe Szyslak would say) "Deep fried to perfection." A relatively light snack, a typical pita sandwich weighs in at about 400 calories. It's also mostly protein and carbs, surprisingly enough.

I used to look down on falafel, but after trying the world famous Mamoun's (original location on MacDougal street) I haven't had enough of it.

Multiple stories circulate about the origins of falafel as a food. Some speculate it was introduced by Coptic Christians during their fast days, which would mean they ate it quite a bit. That's because more than half of the Coptic Calendar is devoted to fast days!

Others argue it originated in India, while still others contend that it was a dish that dates back to the Pharaohs.

Regardless, it's really good and certainly a cheap meal. In case you don't know, a cheap falafel dish ranges from $2.50 to $5, and it just got a bit cheaper. On St. Mark's, a new $2 joint opened up. It's not as good as Mamoun's, but it holds its own. With the right spin, it could be the Middle East's answer to Two Brothers!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Case You Needed Another Reason to Ignore the Times...

Damian Thompson has provided a link to the one person the Media didn't ask about Fr. Lawrence Murphy (who has gained infamy as of late), and certainly should have.

Cackle...this certainly vindicates my decision to ignore all those subscription ads for the Times...

But, far more importantly, Fr. Thomas Brundage understands the scourge of pedophilia far better than any modern secular humanist could...and not only from first hand encounters with abusers. His Boss (Who also happens to be our Boss) warned us as much. Something about millstones and the sea...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unsustainable Generosity...

is hardly generosity at all!

One of my fondest memories of working at Scout Camp was "Helicopter Day", which was an annual celebration at the camp. No, the BSA does not own (or rent) a helicopter. Instead, the TMR Scout Reservation would receive a visit from multimillionaire Jack Rudin (disclosure: the man also gave me a scholarship). One hot August day each summer, Jack Rudin would land his helicopter on the sports field, and made quite a show of it. He had all right to do since he subsidized the camps so heavily.

Even more memorable to me, however, were his visits to the trading post. If you were lucky enough to be near the canteen when Jack Rudin showed up, you would be treated to anything (anything!) you wanted. He would buy out the entire inventory!

Now, it certainly was a nice thing to do, but nothing is stopping any of us from doing the same. If you scrimped and saved, you could afford to blow $1,000 on chips and soda for the boys. But therein lies the difference. Jack Rudin probably earned as much interest in the five minutes he spent in the store as he spent, whereas we are not so fortunate.

I am reminded of this given the recent sighting of an animal thought extinct in our country for, say, about 220 years. The recently passed monstrosity might sound like a good idea. Why, it could even be a great idea (in execution). But the bottom line is the plan is unsustainable. There's nothing to pay for it, and we're running out of breathing space. No one who voted for this plan seriously expects the tax hikes and medicare cuts to happen, for if they did they would not have timed them for 2014. Truman famously remarked that "the buck stops here", but our President is under the delusion that he can let the next guy settle it (alas, actually solving problems is not his forté).

It could be said that previous Presidents had the same problem, and I agree. To an extent, there's a time when something can't be resolved, and a change of house (or the balance of power) is needed to get it done. But this is the beginning of year two. November 2012 is a long way off...

But even more arresting is how vehemently the President (and his party) deny any criticism of the bill (now, cough, a law). Unlike Jack Rudin, who accurately sized up risks and rewards for his own profit, President Obama and his party don't have to worry about the money they're spending. In the end, it isn't their checking accounts on the line.

But it would be uncharitable of me to imply that our President doesn't have anything in common with successful businessmen-there was one billionaire who made a splash using other people's money. And he did a great job of it, too...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Can you believe this?

Because I can.

We have seen the future...and it is high-larious.

Who bankrolls these abominations?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Follow the Bouncing Ball...

A history of Karaoke

Since the dawn of man, people have loved to sing. However, up until the industrial revolution most music was folk music. Melodies were simpler, lyrics straightforward, and everyone (or at least most) could join in.

Ironically, the rise of modern music certainly put an damper on impromptu singing. Attempts to imitate modern songs without accompaniment are generally not pleasant to hear. If you disagree, sing any top 40 song (A capella) on your next subway ride at the top of your longs. If you're still alive afterward, I'll still say "Told you so." Modern music, instead of being accessible and repeatable, emphasizes individual style and inflection. This makes imitation more prone to disaster, which (as we all know) is great for true Karaoke.

But, anyway, the first mass medium for singing popular music was actually the singalong. On American TV in the early to mid sixties, there was apparently a show called "Sing along with Mitch." I have no clue who Mitch was (I don't much care) but he must have been a hit to eke it out for five years.

The same mass music media that displaced local folk music was used to create karaoke. The first "Karaoke machine" consisted of a cassette player, along with recordings of an unaccompanied live band. This originated in the Philippines, but really made a splash in Kobe, Japan.

Urban legend has it that the band failed to show up for their engagement at a nondescript sake bar, so the manager asked if anyone there would like to sing. The rest is history- karaoke spread throughout Japan. Interestingly enough, the purported inventor of the first karaoke machine, Daisuke Inoue, never thought to patent the device. A filipino by the name of Roberto del Rosario ended up cashing in. From Japan, karaoke spread throughout the west by the 1990's.

And now, just a few comments concerning "Kah-ray-oh-kay." I would argue that everyone is good at karaoke (provided they know the words) because it's not about style or proficiency, but the confidence that really wins over a crowd.

In the same vein, it's essential for the crowd to be positive and inviting to every person who works up the nerve to step up to the mike. Whether a first timer or a semi professional, it takes guts (and cajones) to sing in public. Any good faith effort deserves at least some applause. That's how you can tell a good crowd from a bad one-if they're only there for themselves, you can tell pretty quickly by their ambivalence to 'strangers.'

I was inspired to write about this becasue I am going karaokeying in a few hours, and look forward to a pleasant evening.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Only in America...

Could we sell our patrimony for a bunch of red stuff. (Gen 25:30)

So, the fortune 500 list came out, and the world's richest man is no longer the guy you curse out every time you see the blue screen of death.

That's right...the richest man in the world is from...Mexico.

That's great, you could say. Maybe the Mexican dream is more like the American dream than I thought. But, even a cursory glance at the article indicates that Mr. Slim is the son of Lebanese immigrants. He started "fundraising" early in life, and worked his way to the top. Wonderful. In fact, Thomas Sowell has written on this sociological phenomenon. Lebanese, Jews, and Armenians tend to be relegate themselves as a merchant class in whatever society accepts them (and their enterprise). This perseverance flowers, through hard work, into wealth. Unfortunately, yet another thing all three groups have in common is occasional persecution and harassment from the local "native" population.

My bone to pick is that while it is well and good for other nations to generate wealth, it should be America's focus to encourage such prosperity. Granted, it needs limits and checks. But ultimately, the payroll from Mr. Slim's many corporations is organizing far many more communities than any Harvard Law Graduates I know. Also, these communities tend to be more sustainable...but I'm not far left. Sustainability isn't my primary concern.

If that wasn't negative enough, here's some great news from up North.

I say, after beating them in the medal count, go for it Canada. If the Great White North can't dominate the winter olympics, at least they can dominate the Economic Freedom Index.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And now a shameless plug for...

Rogaine replacements.


But seriously, I just wanted to let you all know about a great internet radio station that I've been involved in.

These guys are not afraid to ask the questions, or pull the punches. I've had the honor of joining them on the air, and usually do every week. I expect to be on tomorrow night too.

The format is...well...whatever is in the news (and on their minds). The language is a bit more like Howard Stern than NPR, but (as you can probably tell) I'm not much of an NPR fan anyway.

So, I hope you check it out...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Human Goat Hybrid Found in China?

I just found this story to be interesting.

I'm sure they can find a doctor willing to nip the second one in the bud, gratis. If not, her family should spearhead the effort to be able to flip the bill. (Sorry, I couldn't resist)

I'm just worried it could be another case of this...

After all, China is graduating scientists and engineers at a remarkable rate!

However, some critical analysis is even poking holes in that argument.

What is great is that China and India are on the way up, and millions (like this woman) will be better off as a result. However, there is no need to romanticize or idealize their progress.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Because of the beautiful weather...

I thought it might be a good idea to write about why the sky is blue (reminded by some helpful notes from wikipedia).

As you may be aware, sunlight is composed of the entire band of the spectrum. That includes x-rays, gamma rays, ultra-violet (the cause of tanning and sunburn), visible light, microwaves (mmm....microwave), infrared, and radio waves. The earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere help us avoid deadly x-rays and gamma rays, while the ozone layer helps cut down on the amount of ultraviolet radiation.

Now, the other thing to know about the spectrum is that each component (visible light, ultraviolet, etc.) is differentiated from the others by its wavelength (N.B.: Wavelength is measured in meters; it is more like "height" or "width" than it is an abstract quality). In the visible spectrum, red has the longest wavelength while violet has the shortest. The astute reader may notice that infra-red is the region adjacent to red on the spectrum, while ultraviolet bounds visible light on the "violet" end of the spectrum.

Because blue light has a wavelength that is half as much as red, the scattering approximation indicates that it will scatter 16(!) times more readily. This approximation can be used because the vast majority of the atmosphere (nitrogen and oxygen) has a diameter that is of a similar size to the wavelength of blue light.

Think of it like hurdles in the olympics. If a person is running down the field, would a 3 inch hurdle be any difficulty to jump over? Of course not, unless he trips over it. A tall jumper with a small obstacle is analogous to red light being scattered by nitrogen and oxygen. Because of the huge wavelength of the redlight, it isn't really affected by minute particles that are half the size.

Nitrogen's diameter is approximately equal to the length of blue light, however. Think of (amateur) runners trying to clear a six foot wall. All the athletes unable to make the hurdle would be bunched up in front of the wall, and are just like the blue light that is deflected by gas particles.

Now, it just so happens that violet light scatters even more readily than blue light. But the reason that isn't obvious on a beautiful day like today is that the human eye doesn't pick up violet (or "purple") so easily. Low concentrations of violet blend in easily with the blue sky to be basically invisible. One of the reasons violet was the color of royalty was because high concentrations of the color were required to make dye of a sufficient intensity.

If the atmosphere scatters blue light throughout the dome of the sky, why are sunsets red?

There is more air separating a viewer from the sun during sunrise and sunset because the sun is so low in the sky. Most of the blue light has been scattered as it passed through the atmosphere to the point that red and orange dominate during dawn and dusk. These have scattered throughout the sky for the same reason blue dominates a spring afternoon-however, dust (and not nitrogen) acts as the scattering medium. Thus, a high level of pollution makes the scene even more vibrant. You could say a beautiful sunset will take your breath away.

Hope this satisfies your curiosity, but if not, there's always this guy:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Just in Case...

You're a dehydrated vampire stuck in the south seas, coconut water is a decent substitute for IV fluid. Read all about it here.

What I wonder is how was this determined? Who was the pioneer of coconut transfusions (soon to be re-dubbed "coco-fusions")? Whoever he was should take his place with Harvey, Galen, and Hippocrates as a pioneer in the field.

On a lighter note:

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Room - Public Screening

I have the good fortune of living three blocks away from Village East Cinemas. A former Yiddish theater, its also known for running mediocre films.

One exception is its monthly screening of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. An independent project shot on a 6 million dollar budget (including advertising), its quality matches Manos, Hands of Fate, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 mainstay made by a fertilizer salesman with $19,000 to burn. Both are incredibly hilarious, and worth a viewing (if you're willing to waste the time).

But back on point, Village East Cinemas is the central hub for Room devotees. Graced with lukewarm acting, stilted dialogue, and a myriad of continuity issues (both in plot and filming), it has developed a whole litany of little traditions much like Rocky Horror.

While I first saw the movie a decade ago [Dec. 31, 2009], I was somehow able to remember enough of it to follow along during the public screening. And I was glad I did-imagine hundreds of people screaming at long since washed up actors while they try to remind you that "Johnny is his best friend" for the 6th time.

Just to whet your appetite (or convince you that this film isn't for you), here's one of the best scenes.

I don't care what they say, I sympathize with Johnny more than any Na'vi...


Today marks my first attempt to actually communicate with the wide world through use of the internet. I don't want to overstate the significance of this post, or of this blog, but I just thought it would be a good idea to lay out just what I mean by Three Double Swings.

While trying to think of a name for this blog (probably the biggest hurdle for me, because I invest much significance in names-both for people and things), I was inspired (perhaps literally, who knows?) to use this name.

My first reason for the name was that I wanted something that sounded kind of low key, but also catchy.

Secondly, and most importantly, I hope this blog gives glory to God. This is not intended to be a religious blog (though I do intend to remark on matters of Faith). However, it would be foolish that a believer fail to acknowledge both the first cause (ultimate source) and final cause (ultimate goal) of his efforts. And that is, as I said above, God's glory. If you think that means that I'm planning to talk about God all the time, you're wrong, for as St. Irenaeus put it: "Man fully alive is the glory of God!" And while we ultimately need God to be happy, I would argue that He encourages-no, requires-us to use, enjoy, and reflect on His creation. That's why most of my posts will be utterly random, and (hopefully) of wider interest.

This second point is reflected by the title, which refers to the number of swings of the thurible given to show the highest honor towards God. In this image, God is being incensed in the person of the Priest. The Eucharist, the Crucifix, and the Gospel are all honored in the same manner-by three double swings. It's similar to "hip hip, hooray" (x3), but is much more dignified.

And, finally, the idea of adhering to a rubric of three double swings connotes a degree of thoroughness that I hope to capture here, copying Him who did all things well (Mk 7:37). This sense of accomplishment is not pursued out of pride, but out of earnestness for the task and hand and out of regard for those who attempt to benefit from it.

Now that the heavy stuff is out of the way,
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."