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Archive for February, 2017

Last month, I wrote that for the first time ever, I was angry at the US government for their restrictive travel ban. The ban was overturned by various federal courts in the days following, so that crisis has been averted.

But in the weeks since then, I have been amused at the number of leaks coming out the White House. These are not related to national security, but rather, about the personalities in the White House and how things are in disarray.

One of my favorites is the Twitter account RoguePOTUSstaff. This is a Twitter account run by a handful of low-to-mid-level employees in the White House that are unhappy with the administration’s incompetence. In it, they talk about the inner workings of the Oval Office, and how personality clashes and chaos is reigning over there. We get to hear about how Trump and Bannon are raging egomaniacs who have their own view on things that are out of touch with reality.

RoguePOTUSstaff is populated mostly by Republicans unhappy with the state of things. They are passive-aggressive and their intent is to #resist the current administration by leaking how incompetent they are.

Another source of leaks is the intelligence community. When Trump’s NSA advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign, the White House tried to deflect the issue by saying the real outrage is that the phone calls by Flynn were leaked. Indeed, we’ve been seeing leak after leak by the intelligence community and it is distracting the Trump administration. That’s what happens when you go to war with your nation’s spies; they get back at you in all sorts of ways. It’s surprising to me that Trump couldn’t predict this when he took Russia’s word for it that they didn’t hack the election over the word of 17 different intelligence agencies.

However, the big reason I am enjoying this schadenfreude is because during the election campaign, President Trump reveled in the difficulties his opponent had with her political opponents (Russia) leaking her own team’s sensitive emails. Trump couldn’t say enough good words about Wikileaks. My criticism back then was that we had to take the foreign interference seriously because while Trump was benefitting from it at the time, eventually the shoe would be on the other foot and he would be negatively impacted when the leakers turned on him. He ignored this sage advice at his own peril. It never occurred to him (or his supporters) that he, too, could suffer the wrath of the leakers.

And now they have turned on him. That was fast.

So, to see a little bit of poetic justice being done fills me with warm fuzzies.

I know that’s not being mature.

But I am enjoying it nonetheless.

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I go through phases. We all do. But lately, I’ve been organizing my own evening or late afternoon snack.

For you see, since I’m currently on a wine kick, this past Sunday I bought a French baguette from the bakery in Fred Meyer. I came home and cut up a few slices, and had it with some basil-flavored olive oil that we bought in Sonoma, some cheese, and a glass of wine.

It was a typical French dessert. I was quite pleased with myself, and I can’t wait to have it again in the future.

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Well, this is interesting.

During the past month (if that), I have preferred drinking wine instead of beer.

What? How’d that happen?

I don’t know. It may have started when the wife and I went down to Sonoma, California where I attended a conference. Sonoma is wine country, and one of the evening events was wine tasting.

We went to the Kunde Winery where I tried 7 or 8 different types of wine. And it was good! So good that I became interested in having wine rather than beer when I got home. So that’s when it started.

Except, even before that, I had been enjoying Riesling, a style of white wine. And I had reduced my beer consumption even before the trip to Sonoma.

I’m not sure what’s driving this (temporary?) wine preference. I’ve discovered that I prefer white wine instead of red wine, but what I think I really prefer are wines that have a “clean” finish; that is, wine that does not have much of an aftertaste. Most red wine lingers on your palate after you sip and swallow it. I’m not a fan of that.

But apparently, there are some red wines that have clean finishes. I discovered some at the Kunde Winery. That made me think “Hmm, maybe some red wines are decent.”

I’m still at the stage where I can’t distinguish between $10 wine and $100 wine. I’m also still at the stage where I can’t really distinguish between different styles of wine.

That is, for the two main types of beer – ales and lagers – I can easily tell the difference between ambers, browns, stouts, and IPAs because those are so distinct. But even within the golden-colored beers, I can distinguish them. Pale ales, kolsches, golden ales, pilsners, hefeweizens, pale lagers… it doesn’t matter because I can reasonably predict what they should taste like.

However, for wine I am not that discriminating. For white wine, there’s Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, and I don’t know what each one is supposed to taste like. For red wine, there’s Pinot Noir (which is the only one I know that is supposed to be reasonably light), Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Malbec… if you gave me one I wouldn’t know what to expect. Nor would I be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.

So, I am still a rank amateur when it comes to wine.

But, in the past couple of days, I’ve been enjoying having a late evening snack. I have bread, olive oil, cheese, and a glass of wine.

Ça, c’est magnifique!

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For several months now, I had been thinking about taking an online course about art.

For you see, I started reading a couple of books about art. I had by Rick Steves about art history, then I picked up another book from Half Price Books, and then I watched numerous videos on Khan Academy about art. It was fascinating.

But recently, I’ve been getting flyers in the mail from The Great Courses, and one of the courses was called How to Look at and Understand Great Art:

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This is a 36-lecture series, and I am currently on episode 8. I come home and after eating, cleaning up, and exercising, I like to watch a video. This doesn’t happen every day, but it happens often enough.

The course costs around $200, but I got it on sale for something like $30. That’s about $1/lesson, which is a fantastic deal.

It starts off on the basics about composition, color, balance, lines, and perspective. These are all things I may have learned at one point but have long since forgotten. Or, I picked up bits and pieces when I was reading other books on how to make good designs in presentations. But this course brings it all together.

It’s even made abstract art a bit easier to understand.

I’m looking forward to making my way through the rest of it so that next time I go to an art museum – any museum – I will have a new level of appreciation.

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I’ve wanted a second mural for several months now, and this past month the wife finally let me get another one.

It had been rolling around in my head a long time what I wanted to get, and we finally came up with the below:

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I think this is a fantastic mural!

We went through a lot of different options but ultimately we went with a variation of a painting in the Louvre by Giovanni de Panini. The dimensions had to be modified to fit our wall to make it more rectangular instead of the square that is the original:

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2. We removed a bunch of the neoclassical themes from Panini’s painting, I thought it was a little over-the-top. You can see that there is statue after statue, and painting after painting, of Greek thinkers and symbols.

Yeah, that was too much.

3. The painting on our wall is not of neoclassical images but instead of various places that we have been to. These are anachronisms, that is, there’s no way the people in the painting could have been to those locations.

The idea of inserting anachronisms comes from Raphael’s "The School of Athens".

There are plenty of anachronisms in this painting. So instead of a ton of neoclassical references, there are medieval references (left side of mural):

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…but also places that the artist would never have been to (right side of mural):

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4. In Panini’s original painting, the people are no one special (as far as I know). In this one, they’ve been replaced by well known Enlightenment thinkers, or scientists. Starting from the left:

  • Isaac Newton, known for his three laws of motion
  • Albert Einstein, known for his work on the photoelectric effect and theory of relativity
  • John Locke, known for his work on theory of government in that it exists to protect the natural rights of humanity (life, liberty, and property – rephrased to "pursuit of happiness in the US Constitution)
  • Adam Smith (standing in front of Lock), known for his work on the moral philosophy of free markets
  • It’s supposed to be Baron de Montesqueue, known for his work on the separation of powers in government to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful (thus countering Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan); except that it’s actually John Stuart Mill, known for his work on the moral philosophy of utilitarianism

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5. Finally, our cats said they both wanted to be in the painting. So, we obliged:

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Good stuff!

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