Friday, February 13, 2009

Accidentally Testing Voter Signature Verification

The good news: I have evidence that my county's procedure for verifying signitures on absentee ballots has some validity.

The bad news: I found this out by having my ballot rejected. I got a letter saying the signature on my absentee ballot didn't match that which they had on file.

(Over the past couple of years, I have shortened my signature to just my initials and last name; it's much faster! But this is the first time I signed my absentee ballot with it and --- good news I suppose --- the checker noticed!)

More good news: I can have my ballot counted if I submit a copy of my driver's license and fill out a form; the county even includes a SASE.

The bad news: I carefully signed the form using my old form of signature. After sealing the envelope, I looked at my driver's license: it has the new, shorter sig. So there's a mismatch either way. I wonder what happens next?

The irony: This was a special election, with only one issue: for the first time, we were electing a commissioner of elections (previously it was an appointed office.) I don't mind stating for the record that I was voting for the person who'd held the position before it became an elective office (she'd done a fine job; why abandon competency?) In a funny way, it's comforting that my ballot was rejected since it would have been to her advantage to retain it; I suppose this is further evidence that the verification process is fair.

If people learn by making mistakes, I am working toward a Genius Grant!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bone Soup

"When the economy gets tough, the tough get economic!"

My peasant ancestors survived harder times than these by not wasting anything, and that especially applied to food. From pigs they used "everything but the squeal" so why did I discard perfectly good food like bones, scraps and wobbly bits? It's both disrespectful to the animals which give their lives that we might live, and (more to the point) not at all frugal.

I offer as an exercise in frugality, as well as in conservation and even in spirituality (See ancestors! I'm following your path!), bone soup.

I started with a roast chicken, minus the part we eat. As I gnawed the meat from the bones, I tossed the bones into a crockpot.
(The crockpot cost a few buck from a thrift store. It's dirt simple and doesn't use much electricity to run, much less than a stockpot on a stove, because it doesn't transmit its heat through a burner. Anyone frugal needs one of these!)
When I got a critical mass of bones and wobbly bits in the crockpot, I searched the fridge for things to add. In went the limp remains of last week's celery, also some carrots and an onion. I avoided peeling; after all, the peels have nutrition too! I like to cut things up with kitchen shears, but many people prefer a paring knife.

Sometimes I have a little leftover rice or bread from takeout or a restaurant doggie bag, but this time no luck. That's o.k.; the randomness of the soup adds to the charm. I dumped in some dried beans (very economical in bulk!) and the last dried pepper pod of summer.

From the freezer I tossed in a few peppers; they were in the freezer because we buy them in bulk, and the last couple always get a little soft. When the last few start drooping, into the freezer they go, to wait until the next soup. (BTW every part of the pepper goes in, including the seeds. Why bother coring them when the seeds are perfectly edible?)

For this week's soup, I happened to have some spare chicken thighs to toss in. Next week, maybe it'll be tofu, or whatever was on sale.

Once I'd added enough liquid, I turned the switch and went about my business. The next day, we had a soup that was tasty and nutritious, featuring less waste, more food, and best of all - not that much work!

Give it a try, my frugal friends: bone soup will please your palate, your pocketbook, and your ancestors!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Justice: More than Skin Deep

I highly recommend this true story from (of all places!) the Washington State Bar News.

Justice: More than Skin Deep

by Michael Heatherly
"As Barack Obama, the nation's first mixed-race president, took office, I was inspired to share a story from my childhood involving race and social conventions. The story is true, although I have changed the baby's name for reasons of privacy ..." CONTINUED

digg story

Monday, February 09, 2009

New Rules for Public Servants in the Internet Age

1. Act as if whatever you do may end up on YouTube.
2. Figure out WHO you you want to be sleeping with and (if you're married) make sure it's your spouse. See Rule #1.
3. Get someone other than yourself to figure out how much you owe in taxes, and make sure their analysis can survive a political campaign, a confirmation hearing, and common sense. While you're at it, always pay the IRS 10% more than you think you owe; if the IRS sends you a refund check that's better than if you're caught short.
4. Do not try to save money by hiring an illegal alien to babysit your kids or move your law. See Rule #1.
5. If you're hiring a contractor to fix up your house, make sure they actually bill you for their work. Also, see Rule #4.
6. Never forget that no kick-back, bribe, money under the table, golfing trip to an island where the drugs and hookers flow freely ... is worth 4-to-10 at Leavenworth, plus an eternity on having your perp walk mocked by your political foes and, eventually, your great-grandchildren. See Rule #1.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Great Garlic Multiplier

What do you need to multiply one one bulb of garlic by ten?
  • Dirt,
  • Some cracked flowerpots, and
  • Time.
That's it!

Late last fall, I disassembled a nice garlic bulb into its component cloves, and pressed them into pots of dirt in out-of-the-way corners of our patio. These were the same pots I'd use to grow tomatoes & nasturtiums, so my only expense was 1 clove of garlic and 5 minutes of time. I figured that around springtime I might see some activity; imagine my surprise when they swiftly raised their Green Flags of Sunlight Absorption and started to grow!

When Seattle got hit by more than a week of freezing cold, I figured the experiment was over; the shoots fell over and look sad. But a week later, they were perky as ever. Imagine growing food in the winter!

Now these bulbs won't make anyone rich. In a few months, they'll be ready to harvest and maybe we'll grill them, or bake them with bacon. Yum! But we'll definitely save a clove from each bulb because I just love the magic of turning 1 of something into 10! If only this would work with money, or at least chocolate!

I suggest that you give this a try,if you have an out-of-the-way corner of a patio, balcony or window. The flowerpot need not be fancy; as you can see from the photo, I use chipped pots that more fastidious people leave at the recycling center. The most expensive part of this project was the dirt! Here in the city, you just can't dig anywhere, and "cheap as dirt" doesn't mean what it used to. But even the dirt I stretch out by reusing coffee grounds, eggshells, and ambient plant matter, e.g. leaves. The potting soil I purchased is more like a soil starter, to be nourished as it gets used up over time.

This money-and-environment project was very little work, amply repaid by the pleasure of working in the dirt and the prospect of totally fresh organic produce.

And best of all: 10-for-1 !