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Tales From City of Hope #8: The Day +3 Cake

| Sun Apr. 26, 2015 11:45 PM EDT

As promised, the Day +3 cake arrived today, produced with a mother's love along with an assist from Duncan Hines. That's the childhood formula, so that's what I got. I will spend the next few days in a chocolate coma.

Marian visited today too, which was a good thing. My fatigue is getting ever worse, and when I got back from my daily hydration I pretty much crashed for two hours. So the visit was mostly between Marian and my mother. I woke up just in time to say goodbye. Before I crashed, however, I did get this badly-composed selfie of the three of us, all sporting our now-stylish surgical masks. Enjoy.

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Quote of the Day: George Bush Still in Foreign Policy Denial

| Sun Apr. 26, 2015 9:57 PM EDT

From Bloomberg's Josh Rogin, after reading a transcript of George W. Bush's remarks on the Middle East to a closed-door meeting with Jewish donors this weekend:

For George W. Bush, the remarks in Vegas showed he has little respect for how the current president is running the world. He also revealed that he takes little responsibility for the policies that he put in place that contributed to the current state of affairs.

Yep, that sounds like the George Bush we all came to know and love. My favorite quote: "In order to be an effective president ... when you say something you have to mean it," he said. "You gotta kill em."

The Law, In Its Finnish Majesty....

| Sun Apr. 26, 2015 1:04 PM EDT

In Finland, a speeding ticket costs you more if you're rich than if you're poor. Fair enough, perhaps. "The thinking here is that if it stings for the little guy, it should sting for the big guy, too," says the New York Times.

In any case, I already knew this. What I didn't know was the formula:

The fines are calculated based on half an offender’s daily net income, with some consideration for the number of children under his or her roof and a deduction deemed to be enough to cover basic living expenses, currently 255 euros per month.

Then, that figure is multiplied by the number of days of income the offender should lose, according to the severity of the offense.

Mr. Kuisla, a betting man who parlayed his winnings into a real estate empire, was clocked speeding near the Seinajoki airport. Given the speed he was going, Mr. Kuisla was assessed eight days. His fine was then calculated from his 2013 income, 6,559,742 euros, or more than $7 million at current exchange rates.

Sadly for Reima Kuisla, he was clocked at 103 kph, which set him back a whopping 54,024 euros. However, if he'd been traveling just 3 kph slower, his fine would have been only 100 euros. No matter what you think of the social justice of this system, that does seem like a bit of a steep spike, doesn't it?

Here in America, though, perhaps we have different priorities. What minor but annoying infractions would you like to apply this system to here in the good 'ol USA?

Why CNN Wouldn't Cut Away From White House Shindig To Cover Huge Freddie Gray Protest

| Sun Apr. 26, 2015 11:06 AM EDT

As politicians, celebrities, and journalists gathered for the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner last night in D.C., just miles away in Baltimore, Maryland, a big crowd marched to protest the death in police custody of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. By Saturday evening, 12 people were reported arrested as some in the largely peaceful crowd threw rocks and smashed windows, and the jumbotron at the Baltimore Orioles game warned fans to stay inside.

But you wouldn't have known any of that from CNN, which chose to stick with live coverage of every second of the White House dinner. "The most powerful man in the world is going to tell some jokes," contributor Errol Louis explained, with scenes of the gala in the background. If you wanted to know what was going on with the rallies, you could "find a live feed" somewhere, he said—just not, evidently, on America's 24-hour news network.

"We sort of make our best choices, and we'll catch up," Louis said. "They'll find out all of what happened in the streets of Baltimore by this time tomorrow." 

This Was Pretty Good/Sad/Awful

| Sat Apr. 25, 2015 11:05 PM EDT

I haven't liked Cecily Strong's speech tonight very much but this was pretty good/sad/awful.

 

Here is Obama's White House Correspondents' Dinner Speech

| Sat Apr. 25, 2015 10:55 PM EDT

Obummer's speech starts at 3:08.

What did you think?

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One Tweet Shows How Far We As Americans Still Have To Go

| Sat Apr. 25, 2015 8:33 PM EDT

Tonight is the White House Correspondents' Dinner. It's a really dumb event where journalists play grab ass with the subjects they cover. I think it's a venial sin at worse, because every industry has its stupid, embarrassing events, but even I, an apologist for it, found myself nodding along when I read this tweet.

He's talking about the WHCD at the Washington Hilton in DC and the protests against the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. But in all seriousness, this tweet is evergreen. Terribly, awfully, intensely depressingly evergreen. This is America in 2015.

I'm going to watch the WHCD if I can, write some jokes, embed it in a blog post, etc...But the truth is: It doesn't matter. What matters is what's going on down the road. What matters is what's going on down so many roads.

 

Tales From City of Hope #7: Weekend Update

| Sat Apr. 25, 2015 12:54 PM EDT

Since my actual stem cell transplant happened on Thursday, that counts as Day Zero. Today is Day +2. It turns out that part of the prep for the transplant was an IV injection of both Benadryl and Ativan, so I was pretty conked out the entire day. Friday was about the same. Strong stuff, but today I seem to be more alert. For now, anyway.

My white cell count continues to drop, which is paradoxically a good thing. Basically, my immune system will drop nearly to zero, probably around Monday or Tuesday, and then begin rebounding. Assuming nothing goes wrong, the main effect will be lots of fatigue and poor appetite. So let's hope nothing goes wrong, shall we?

In the meantime, while I wait for a guest post from President Obama, my mother has promised to deliver me a traditional chocolate birthday cake of my childhood on Sunday. We shall christen it the Day +3 cake since we're not even within shouting distance of my birthday at the moment.

Otherwise, today is busy! Marian is here, doing some laundry while I'm being hydrated for four hours. Later my sister is coming, and our friend Eileen a little after that. Should be quite the party.

This Stat Will Make Deforestation Hit Home

| Fri Apr. 24, 2015 4:33 PM EDT
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Okay, so deforestation is sad, and it's Arbor Day so we should be extra sad about it. But there are so many things to be sad about, right? Well maybe this stat, from a study that came out last month, will make the loss of the world's forests sink in for you:

More than 70 percent of the worlds's forests are within 1 kilometer of a forest edge. Thus, most forests are well within the range where human activities, altered microclimate and nonforest species may influence and degrade forest ecosystems.

That's right, we've arrived at the point where the majority of the forest in the world is just a short walk from the stuff humans have built. If you need that in graph form, here you go:

Science Advances

According to the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances, the largest remaining contiguous forests are in the Amazon and the Congo River Basin. The study also synthesized past forest fragmentation research and found that breaking up habitats to this degree has reduced biodiversity by as much as 75 percent in some areas.

Happy Arbor Day…

Say What You Will About Almonds, but They Are Wildly Popular

| Fri Apr. 24, 2015 2:39 PM EDT
An almond orchard in California.

California's thirsty almond orchards have been generating an impressive amount of debate as the state's drought drags on. But that won't likely stop their expansion. The title of a new report from the Dutch agribusiness-banking giant Rabobank explains why: "California Almonds: Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees."

The report is "exclusive for business clients of Rabobank," but an accompanying blog post offers some good tidbits. "Drought conditions and the stronger US dollar have increased the price of almonds for all buyers," it states. On the US East Coast, wholesale prices for premium almonds have risen 20 percent since last year. "In Europe, the almond is becoming increasingly popular, not only as a nutritious snack but especially as a go-to ingredient for manufacturers," it continues. There, wholesale prices are up 50 percent since last year, while "buyers in India and Hong Kong are paying 25 percent and 20 percent more, respectively."

Those higher prices will evidently more than compensate California farmers for higher watering costs, and inspire than to expand acreage. Rabobank expects California almond production to rise by 2 percent to 3.5 percent per year over the next decade, accoring to Sacramento Bee's Dale Kasler, who got a look at the Rabobank study.

That's impressive growth. If almond output expands by 3 percent per year over the next ten years, then—using this trusty formula—production will grow a whopping 34 percent between now and 2025. That's a lot of growth for a state that already churns out 80 percent of the world's almonds. This scenario doesn't imply a 34 percent expansion in almond acreage—some of the almond trees that will contribute to that growth in output have already been planted and will be coming into production over the next few years (it takes almonds about four years to begin producing after they're planted). But it does imply a robust expansion. Kasler quotes the study:

Higher prices and good profits for California almond growers will continue to encourage more planting of almond orchards.... Nurseries report very little slowing in orders of new trees.