Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Weird Food Phobias
Over at the illustrious Fark, there's an interesting thread about foods people refuse to eat. Hey, James Lileks and Neal Boortz are avid readers of Fark, so I'm not embarassed to admit it. I'm always amazed by these threads... There's a lot of foods that are fun to hate (like haggis, I'll get to that in a moment), but the people that refuse to eat ketchup or eggs or mushrooms tend to bug me. I fear that these are people that would have been weeded out of the gene pool generations ago, and now they're going to breed and perpetuate these weird phobias.

You see a lot of the old standards on the list, but I'm still amazed... Haggis is popular for being a despited food, but it's really not any stranger than your average sausage. Sushi? Are these people stuck in 1982? I'm spoiled because there are two grocery stores on my way to work that prepare fresh sushi, and it's cheap. For $5.00, I get 8 oz. of sushi, with several varieties. Believe it or not, I was driving to work today eating eel, salmon, tuna, and shrimp sushi. In the car. Wasabi and pickled ginger, no soy sauce (though the eel sauce got my fingers sticky).

There are things that I don't get hungry for often, but there are few foods that I refuse to eat. As a general rule, I don't eat land predators. That's for a variety of biological reasons, but I've also heard that they don't taste that great, and are hideously overpriced (and illegal in a lot of places). It's more of a "I eat lion harvested from a dead zoo animal, so I must have some big damned balls" mentality. I don't eat anything that's visibly spoiled. Properly fermented, fine. Regular old rotten, no. I'll drink milk a week after it's out of date, but I wouldn't eat an egg that had been sitting out at room temperature for a month. Increasingly, I stay away from overly sweet or overly salty things. The sweet I can't explain--I used to eat babas au rhum that threw normal people into insulin shock, but I don't get the same joy now. They don't taste bad, I don't have a reaction, I just don't crave sweet things these days. The salt isn't out of any health concern, but it's out of a sneaking suspicion that anything heavily salted these days is hiding a really bad or boringly neutral flavor. Anything burnt gets thrown away (and I include the abomination known as well-done beef, but not properly grilled foods like blackened catfish--there is a difference).

And, of course, all of those mild rules go right out the door at dinner parties, family gatherings, or during emergency situations. Things get bad enough, I'll grill up roast mountain lion in a thick honey glaze.

Anyway, here's some weird things that I've eaten, and enjoyed:
Other things I've eaten, but didn't particularly like, but would eat again if I had to without throwing a hissy fit:Hopefully this list has made the bile rise in your throat... I'm obviously some sort of freak in my personal tastes. I frequently astonish friends and family with my tolerance of weirdness and blinding levels of spiciness. As far as food goes, I've always adhered to the Cajun maxim "I'll eat anything what don't eat me first."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Itemized Tax Payments
I came across a link to a proposal from Charles Murray at the American Enterprise Institute. The idea pops up frequently: allow taxpayers to choose the government agencies or programs they wish to contribute to. So conservatives can fund the military and liberals can fund the EPA and everybody's happy. There are similar proposals to elect the Cabinet positions rather than use the method of presidential appointment (with Congressional confirmation). Both ideas have their merits, but the first problem is that they would certainly collapse under too much democracy. As for the Cabinet elections, let's start with the major snag from a 2003 survey that:
...nearly six out of 10 Americans could not identify any of the executive departments in the president's cabinet.

The Polling Company found that 58 percent of respondents failed to name even one of the executive branch offices while 41 percent could name at least one. Sadly, only 4 percent were able to identify at least 5 of the 19 departments.
Just the names--not the functions--of the 19 departments are difficult enough. Are we going to trust the entire federal budget to the same group of idiots? I'm all for reduction in the size of government and the size of government spending, but this isn't the way to do it. Specifically with income taxes, I think it would actually increase federal spending. How? Murray actually mentions the culprit but doesn't realize the flaw:
Now what if taxpayers skip over the boxes that appear to be useless because they do not understand their necessity? Let's expand the thought experiment. Say that those ignored boxes can advertise--but that the advertisements must meet the same standards of truthfulness as the advertisements for, say, antacids.

What a delicious prospect: a government office having to explain itself in order to persuade taxpayers to support its existence. The elements within the government that can make a persuasive case will do fine.

Imagine every year in the months leading up to the tax deadline, getting blasted by government advertising as agencies compete for your dollars. Print, radio, television... And in many cases these agencies would be fighting for their very survival, prompting them to be pretty ruthless. I suppose there could be Congressional oversight--but they are paid by the federal budget, so they're going to be advertising as well. At some point the FCC steps in and enforces all sorts of new rules, but they would also be fighting for your tax dollar...

And what sort of massive bureacracy is going to be able to handle this? The tax forms would be phone book-sized in order to include every little program (and in Murray's example, ads as well). That's going to require a lot of extra work on the part of the IRS, but who is going to be willing to donate their tax dollars to the IRS on tax day, especially after having to spend several weeks searching for the Federal Mohair Protection Program because Cousin Cletus raises mohair goats and depends on those fat subsidies.

Also keep in mind that federal employees would hate this idea, and campaign vicously against it, as it would mean that large swaths of them could face being fired every year. There's about 2 million federal employees, which is a small number, but they tend to vote in higher proportions than the general population and have a lot of family members that vote as well.
South Korea to Increase Troop Strength in Iraq
Sort of as a response to the pullout of soliders from Honduras (they were under the command of Spain, this was pretty much expected), South Korea is sending more soldiers to join the U.S. coalition in Iraq.

In a Fark thread about this, someone posted the following quote:
"They don't like anyone who isn't Korean, and they don't like each other all that much, either. They're hardheaded, hard-drinking, tough little bastards, 'the Irish of Asia'."

O'Rourke, P.J. (1989), Holidays in Hell.
I've read that book before, but I'm still laughing.

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