Thursday, April 30, 2009

Waterboarding for Jesus

Who would Jesus torture? Why don't you look up your local Bible thumper and find out.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Public Ridicule Required

It's one thing to occasionally mispronounce something or to get a date wrong. You apologize and move on...hopefully making a mental note to yourself to not make the same mistake again.

Then there's Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Train Wreck, and her latest rant on the House floor from some other universe.

"We were led to believe that we would see great change, immediate change, and all we're seeing is a prolonged effort, because just what happened in the 1930s with FDR.

"The more the government spent, the more the government regulated, the more the government put up tariff barriers -- trade barriers -- the more government intervened, the longer the recession occurred. And as a matter of fact, the recession that FDR had to deal with wasn't as bad as the recession Coolidge had to deal with in the early '20s. Yet, the prescription that Coolidge put on that, from history, is lower taxes, lower regulatory burden, and we saw the roaring '20s where we saw markets and growth in the economy like we never seen before in the history of the country.

"FDR applied just the opposite formula -- the Hoot-Smalley Act, which was a tremendous burden on tariff restrictions, and then, of course, trade barriers and the regulatory burden and tax barriers. That's what we saw happen under FDR. That took a recession and blew it into a full-scale depression. The American people suffered for almost 10 years under that kind of thinking."

The twisted idea that FDR was responsible for the Great Depression is standard right-wing nonsense,so we can just ignore it. However, Bachmann's latest specious rant is weirder than most of the stuff she usually delivers. It confirms, once again, that the Minnesota Republican is living in some kind of separate universe or at least one that is rapidly diverging from the one the rest of us are experiencing. This might explain Bachmann's belief that Jimmy Carter was president in 1976, but that is just a minor symptom.

It's hard to even know where to start with the latest screed. First, she posits that the economy under Coolidge was worse than the Great Depression. I guess the name "Great Depression" should be "Second Great Depression" if we are playing by her rules and far be it from me to argue against the idea that The New Deal created the Great Depression. I'd have to be crazy!

What really caught my attention is Bachmann's belief that FDR passed "the Hoot-Smalley Act" and that act "took a recession and blew it into a full-scale depression." First, I could have sworn that the name of the law was actually "Smoot-Hawley" but I've been wrong before. Second, I must have been absent the day they taught that it was responsible for the Great Depression because I am sure I would have remembered something that important. Lastly, the Smoot-Hawley bill was championed by Republicans and signed by President Herbert Hoover who, I am pretty sure, was Roosevelts's Republican predecessor.

Bachmann is blaming FDR for a law sponsored by Republicans, which was implemented three years before he took office.

There really ought to be an independent monitoring group that verifies what Congresscritters utter on the floor of the House and there ought to be penalties for every provable untruth uttered. Here are my suggestions for punishment but feel free to offer your own.

For the first lie the lying Congressperson should have to wear a jester's cap for the whole know the pointed ones with the bell on the end.
For the second lie the lying Congressperson should have to have to wear a clown costume with red nose and full clown make-up for the balance of the session.
For greater than two lies the Congressperson should have to wear a full "chicken suit" like the one worn by the baseball team mascots for the balance of the session. This includes the head piece, of course.

Hey Michele, take your pick....Rhode Island Red or Long Island White.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Speaking of Under the Weather

A bad tummy woke me this morning...I don't think it is swine flu...but feeling a little under the weather. Regardless, I have to get some beds prepared in the garden this morning and will just have to do it. Rain is expected later in the week and I cannot let this dry spell pass and not get everything ready. Even with all the work I have put in on the soil this Georgia clay soil is murder when it is wet. When worked wet it forms little clods, which when they dry in the sun, are no different than little bricks. It takes forever for them to break down again and with a lot of them in the soil its like trying to garden in gravel. Not good. You really have to be patient and not till or dig when the ground is too wet or you suffer for months or longer.

Sprouts Now

I am a little late on this but here it is anyway. You need to be aware that alfalfa and mung bean sprouts are causing some problems here and there with both Salmonella and E.Coli. This is not new and the FDA has always advised that people with compromised immune systems, the very young and old should avoid sprouts. Even if you grow your own sprouts at home you should be aware that it is the seed that is contaminated and even if you are careful with the process you could be exposed. I occasionally use bean sprouts but am not a big fan of alfalfa sprouts but only because I don't like the texture. Anyhow, use with caution...especially if you are feeding people likely to have people in the at risk group.

FDA is updating its health advisory on the risks associated with eating all raw sprouts because of a recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with alfalfa sprouts. This advisory is also being updated to specifically include raw and lightly cooked mung bean sprouts. Since FDA issued its original health advisory on sprouts in 1999, there have been several reported foodborne illness outbreaks associated with sprouts. Persons in high risk categories (i.e., children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised) should not eat raw or lightly cooked sprouts.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness from all implicated raw sprouts have involved the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 and have affected persons of all ages and both genders. Healthy persons infected with these bacteria experience diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping and fever for several days. Those persons who wish to reduce their risk of foodborne illness should not eat raw sprouts.

For people in high risk categories, an E. coli O157:H7 infection could lead to serious complications, including hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure or death. Salmonella infection (i.e., salmonellosis) in these high risk groups can also cause serious illness. As stated in the 2002 Food Code, hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes and senior centers should not serve sprouts.

There have been four foodborne illness outbreaks associated with mung bean sprouts and two outbreaks associated with alfalfa sprouts in the U.S. between 2000 and 2002. All mung bean and one alfalfa sprout outbreak involved salmonellosis. The mung bean outbreaks have been associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts. The most recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was associated with alfalfa sprouts in California.

Some segments of the sprout industry have made significant strides to enhance the safety of their products by following recommendations in the 1999 Sprouts Guidance. However, adherence to these guidelines has not been universal, and outbreaks have continued to occur in association with raw and lightly cooked sprouts.

The FDA offers the following advice to all consumers concerning sprouts:

  • Cook all sprouts thoroughly before eating to significantly reduce the risk of illness.
  • Sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens often contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their risk of foodborne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not be added to their food.
  • Homegrown sprouts also present a health risk if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Many outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even under clean conditions.

The FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of sprouts and will take further actions as necessary, including the establishment of preventive controls to protect consumers. Consumers who have eaten raw or lightly cooked sprouts and are experiencing diarrhea or other symptoms of foodborne infections are advised to consult their health care providers.

Additional information is available at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Labels are Important

Consider this a lesson on the necessity of labeling shit you put in the freezer. What I thought were pot stickers were, in fact, pirogi. Frying and then steaming said pirogi did not produce a memorable meal. Pirogi should be boiled or steamed and then fried in lots of butter and onions. Remember to label and date your frozen victuals.

I ate them but I was not happy!

Giga Storage on the Cheap

If this pans out this is pretty cool. GE has announced the technology to store 500 Gig on a disc...that's 10x over an HD BluRay disk. We are looking at somewhere around 10 cents a gig for storage. Remember back when paying a couple of hundred bucks to add a couple of meg to your PC was the rule?
They laughed at us science fiction readers and our wild ideas!

The Reason People Are Starting to Panic

Reports from news sources outside the mainstream American press such as this article from the BBC are indicating that the deaths from the swine flu outbreak in Mexico are much higher than are being reported.

Just as a reminder. Think clean. Wash your hands often and with plenty of soap and hot water. Try and reduce your exposure to the public and avoid crowds in close places like movie theaters and the like.

The WHO and other public agencies are trying to keep a nice 'face' on this but methinks it may be worse than what we are being told.

Update: here is a link to the NYTimes and an article on some the concerns about this outbreak.

Update 2: Enigma4ever at Watergate Summer is an RN and is doing a good job of covering some of the important highlights of this potentially serious outbreak. You should make her place a regular stop.

GOP Strikes Again

How's that "being the party of NO" working out for ya?

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

I think it is pretty rich that Governor Rick Perry of Texas is the first in line for his stockpile of Tamiflu. Not that I would ever think of punishing Texans for their idiot governor.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's the Garden

I know it has been relatively quiet around here for the last few days but its the garden's fault. There are only so many days of sun and there is so much work to be done that I am in the garden from early morning til late in the day(basically until I run out of gas).

The weekend was good. All of the tomatoes (42) are in and mulched. All of the peppers are in (54) and mulched. Still have the cages for the tomatoes to do. Got all of the 12 varieties of melons, squash, and cukes in. The storage squash like butternut and acorn will go in later. The first planting of green beans, lima beans and okra are done. There will be successive plantings for fresh eating. In the next month or so I will plant all the beans that will dry on the vine for winter storage. Still to come this week are pole beans, butter peas, corn, sweet potato, and peanuts.

I hope your weekend weather was a beautiful as mine. If the weekend is any judge we are going to skip spring and go right to summer. Here it is at 2130 and it is still 73 F outside and 86 F inside and no, I refuse to turn on the air conditioner in April. Summer electric bills are bad enough without having to start paying them in the Spring.
That's my weekend. I will actually spend some time on the job boards tomorrow morning before I esapate to the garden but if the temps are like today I will work inside in the afternoons and leave the gardening for the cooler morning hours.

I think I have mentioned before that Minimonk(AKA my daughter) is a metal sculptor. I thought I might post a picture of her latest work. This is going to be donated to a fund raiser for a local nature center. It will be auctioned and I will be surprised if it doesn't bring in some real money. Like other artists, she is hesitant to claim the proper value for her work. Hopefully, the auction will convince her that her dad is not totally clueless when he says $500 is not too much to expect for a one of a kind sculpture like this. Today's economy might dull things a bit but you never know.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Around

Foiled by a rain, hail storm last night. Had many plans to work in the garden this morning and get some much needed planting and bed prep done. No go. I still need to do some weeding and wet is the best time for it.
The daughter and her firefighting buddies tackled the leaning tree yesterday and successfully got it down with minimal damage to other things. They also felled two other dead pines while they were at it. Much debris to be removed and cleaned up so that will be the plan for today. The warm weather today and bright sun will dry the garden enough so that tomorrow and Sunday we will be able to get back at it. I did get a second crop of carrots planted in the one of the raised beds yesterday and cherry tomatoes planted in their big pots for the deck. Slowly but surely we will get the garden in.
Supposed to be in the mid to upper 80's today so I need to get out while it is cool and get some work done.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Honey Bee News

I'm a little late on this but this is very good news!

ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2009) — For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

In a study published in the new journal from the Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports, scientists from Spain analysed two apiaries and found evidence of honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (also known as colony collapse disorder in the USA). They found no evidence of any other cause of the disease (such as the Varroa destructor, IAPV or pesticides), other than infection with Nosema ceranae. The researchers then treated the infected surviving under-populated colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin and demonstrated complete recovery of all infected colonies.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup is Still Bad

Here is another nail in the rightly deserved HFCS coffin:

Some research has suggested that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, used as a sweetener in a wide variety of foods, may increase the risk of obesity and heart disease. Now, a controlled and randomized study has found that drinks sweetened with fructose led to higher blood levels of L.D.L, or “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides in overweight test subjects, while drinks sweetened with another sugar, glucose, did not. Both L.D.L. and triglycerides have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study was published online on Monday in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

h/t Susie

Earth Day

I try and celebrate the third rock from the sun everyday so I guess I can use Earth Day as a good reminder to try harder. We, as the biggest polluter of the earth, and in spite of all the green this and green that are still doing a woefully poor job of stewardship. If every light bulb in your house is not a fluorescent you aren't doing enough. If you take a trash can or more full of garbage to the street every week you aren't doing enough. If you are sending your vegetable trimming and scraps down the disposer or into the trash instead of vermi-composting them you aren't doing enough. If you aren't recycling all the paper, cardboard, glass and most plastic you aren't doing enough. You know the drill.
Anyhow, take this Earth Day for what it is and re-evaluate how you are stewarding your part of the only home you have. Everyone can improve, even us DFH's. Try and improve your environmental impact today even if it is somethings as simple as taking your own reusable bags to the grocery and other shopping. I keep mine in the trunk of the car so I always have them and at some markets you even get a discount for bringing your own bags.

It Gets Worse

On top of finding out we tortured captives 6 times a day and put their children in boxes full of bugs.... The Senate Armed Service Committee has released its full report on detainee abuse by the US Armed Forces. I have only just read the executive summary on Balloon Juice and it is shameful, to say the least. People like Donald Rumsfeld, Ricardo Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller are shown for the criminals they are, not to mention George Bush.

I went through SERE training which teaches you what to expect if you are captured by an enemy that doesn't recognize the Geneva Conventions. When I think about George Bush and others authorizing techniques specifically designed to violate the Conventions without a second thought it just makes me sick. There are a lot of controls and safety mechanisms built into the SERE protocols that don't exist in the actual theater. It's no wonder captives died in our hands. What really bothers me is that the people authorizing and executing this are militiary people who should know better. Didn't they have a problem using these techniques against captives in Afghanistan, Iraq and GTMO?

The link is here to get the full (15 mb) .PDF of the report?.

h/t Balloon Juice

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

I haven't posted any cooking stuff lately and whilst trying to figure out dinner tonight from the available materials, one of the potential dishes is worth reminding people of. It's classic "cheap eats" and very simple and very good and good for you...especially if you use a whole wheat pasta.

You'll need:
1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
1 16oz. can of cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 Tbsp of good olive oil.
1/2 pound small pasta like macaroni or ditalini (you want something about the same size as the beans)
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
grated hard Italian cheese

In a medium sauce pan cook the garlic in the oil making sure not to burn it. It should just begin to brown. Add the tomato sauce, water and beans and simmer for about 10 minutes. In the meantime cook your pasta until just tender taking care not to overcook it. Add the drained, cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce, add the a little crushed red pepper if you like( I do!). Mix it to coat the pasta and serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parsley and grated cheese. Hint: reserve about a cup of your pasta cooking water to adjust the thickness of the sauce if you need to.

It's that simple and it really is tasty, cheap and wholesome. Also, you don't have to use the cannellini beans if you'd rather use pinto, kidney, garbanzo, or lima beans...whatever. Remember also that this is a basic recipe and you can modify it depending on what you have. If you don't have tomato sauce use canned crushed tomatoes or jarred marinara or even fresh ones, they just need to cook a little longer. If you don't have any tomatoes at all then you'll just have a white sauce...the garlic, parsley and cheese will still have plenty of flavor.

I'm thinking about $3 worth of groceries will serve 4 people here. Yeah, it's Italian peasant food but if you take a look at the pantheon of great Italian recipes you'll find the peasants well represented. The above recipe uses ingredients anyone can find in the grocery but you can raise it to heaven if you make your own pasta and cook your own dried cannellini. If you have never had slow roasted Italian white beans full of garlic, fresh sage and olive oil then you have missed a great experience...especially if they were cooked over an open fire.

Enjoy! and don't forge the Italian bread to soak up the sauce and a little red wine.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

There are finally some answers on the productivity of GM or "franken foods". We've have been told for years and years by Monsanto and its ilk that with genetically modified foods in our arsenal we can feed the world. The truth, it appears, is not so much. A report just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, reflects the results of the first long term study of both intrinsic and operational yields for GM crops versus crops from traditional breeding and selection processes. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops concludes that traditional genetic crosses outperform genetically modified crops by a wide margin.

So what has been done is to release into the biosphere genetically modified plants with an unknown long term impact, produced herbicide resistant weeds and who knows what other disasters and all for naught. Monsanto has made buckets of money and put thousands of farmers out of business and all for naught. Act 5, scene 5 from Macbeth seems all to appropriate.

"Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

If you want to read the report you can read it at the link above and there is a concise FAQ as well. It ought to be very interesting to see how Monsanto deals with this.

h/t Marion

Weekend Warrior

I over did it this weekend in a rush to get everything done before the rains came Sunday. I am actually having trouble moving today. First it was the struggle to get the chipper shredder down the hill to the's a big ole hunk of steel with a 6hp engine. It does have two wheels but it is very heavy. Looking at the garden as I was tilling through the day I decided that 6 small (4") trees, mostly choke cherries) had to go. Down they came and then had to be cut up, the limbs chipped and the logs stacked. Madam helped but a back breaking job nonetheless. Bottom line is everything is tilled but nothing planted. Planting will have to wait for a few days for everything to dry out again. Besides another little cool snap is happening right now with night time temperatures in the mid to low forties and germination wouldn't be good or even happen with nights that cool. Better to wait.

Still babysitting the dogs. We did get in walks yesterday and today and they are now tuckered out and sleeping. They are used to walking with two young people in a lot better shape than I and I was tuckered after this morning's walk. They are well behaved walkers though, no tugging and trying to race ahead but they like a quick pace.

Baking bread today using a recipe from "Baking with Julia" it is the multi-starter version which starts with a sponge made from a bit of unused dough (I made a pizza Saturday night and save a bit of dough) and proceeds through several iterations of adding more water and flour before you actually make the bread dough. This is an old fashioned way to make bread by gradually building a dough using natural fermentation and time. It's a two day recipe but I started yesterday and I just made the final dough a little while ago so we should be baking a couple of batards in a few hours. Yes, I do have proper butter to put on it and I will save a couple of ounces of the finished dough to start a new batch of bread. I've decided that I will give my daughter and her firefighter buddies each a loaf of homemade artisanal bread for helping me with my leaning tree later in the week. My daughter insists I can't pay them but I can give them a loaf of fresh bread and maybe a jar of homemade apple butter for helping me out.

Monday Insanity

Our Georgia boy Newt is making an ass out of himself again today. Why change a winning formula?

Believe it or not the "outrage" on the "never right" is that President Obama shook hands with President Chavez of Argentina.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tore into President Barack Obama Monday for his friendly greeting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying Obama is bolstering the "enemies of America."

Gingrich appeared on a number of morning talk shows comparing Obama to President Jimmy Carter for the smiling, hearty handshake he offered Chavez, one of the harshest critics of the United States, during the Summit of the Americas. [...]

Two Republican senators, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and John Ensign of Nevada, joined in the criticism Monday, with Ensign calling Obama's greeting of Chavez "irresponsible."

President Obama prbably realized when he shook hands with old Hugo that the "tea baggers" back home would have a kitten and accuse him of selling American babies to the devil. He made a point of saying...
"It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States," Obama told reporters. "I don't think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela."
That evidently wasn't enough for Gingrich, Ensign and Gregg who were still licking their wounds after the miserable results of the teabagging follies. They needed something, anything to attack the President with and this was all they could find.

The strange thing is that these "leading" Republicans didn't think through the ramifications and the real message that their attack on President Obama carries. What these so called patriots are saying, in effect, is that America is too weak and fragile to afford extending even the simplest courtesies to foriegn heads of state. On the other hand, the President is acting like the leader of the free world that he is. He is acting like America should act and doesn't hesitate to engage in proper civility toward a foriegn dignitary. Obama sctually said,

"We had this debate throughout the campaign, and the whole notion was, is that somehow if we showed courtesy or opened up dialogue with governments that had previously been hostile to us, that that somehow would be a sign of weakness -- the American people didn't buy it. And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it -- because it doesn't make sense."
Why do you think the Republican leadership is promoting the idea of American weakness? Really, GOP find something important enough to get your shorts in a wad for...there are plenty of issues with more spit and substance. The U.S. President was photographed shaking hands with the twice-elected head of state of a large South American democracy at a forum for hemispheric leaders. That's it. The President didn't whisper nuclear secrets in his ear or kiss him on the lips. Enough already.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Drying Out

It looks like it is now dry enough to till the last half of the garden. This is good because the cover crop of clover, vetch and cereal rye is getting very tall. The red clover is just about to bloom. Today looks like the day to finish the tilling and this weekend the time to put out tomatoes and peppers and get the first planting of beans in. I need to check the soil temperature but I think it is still a little too cool for squash, cukes and all. Another week of normal spring temps should warm everything up enough.

Madam and I are dog sitting this weekend for daughter's dogs as she and hubby are taking the horses to South Carolina for a camping trip. The place they are going doesn't allow dogs. The dogs normally go but this weekend are stuck with grandpa and grandma. Both are well behaved and no trouble Stewart the rat terrier is not as friendly as the pit bull/lab mix Megan. We are all going to take a walk in a bit and then I will get to work. I am sure they will have a good time tilling and playing in the dirt as well. I will try and get a picture of them to post later.

Gorgeous day and perfect for gardening(and walking dogs). Later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Georgia Too?

How disgusting and how embarrassing! I didn't comment on Texas Governor Rick Perry's asinine threats out of respect for my Texas friends(anf wife) was just downright silly and you know how Texans can get worked up. Now, according to Jay Bookman of the AJC the Georgia Senate is even worse! This is just too much on top of yesterday's threat by the GOP governor of Texas to secede as well. The Georgia Senate voted and passed a resolution by a vote of 43-1 to secede from and even disband the United States. There is no other explanation than insanity. Here is Jay...

In fact, Senate Resolution 632 did a lot more than merely threaten to end this country. It stated that under the Constitution, the only crimes the federal government could prosecute were treason, piracy and slavery.

“Therefore, all acts of Congress which assume to create, define or punish [other] crimes … are altogether void, and of no force,” the Georgia Senate declared.

In other words, in the infinite, almost unanimous wisdom of the Georgia Senate, Michael Vick is being imprisoned illegally, Bernie Madoff should serve no time for stealing $60 billion and the Unabomber must go free. In fact, the federal penitentiary in Atlanta should be emptied of its inmates.

But wait, there’s more.

The resolution goes on to endorse the theory that states have the right to abridge constitutional freedoms of religion, press and speech. According to the resolution, it is up to the states to decide “how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged.”

The resolution even endorses “nullification,” the legal concept that states have the power to “nullify” or ignore federal laws that they believe exceed the powers granted under the Constitution. That concept has a particularly nasty legacy. It helped precipitate the Civil War, and in the 1950s and early ’60s it was cited by Southern states claiming the right to ignore Supreme Court rulings ordering the end of segregation.

Finally, the resolution states that if Congress, the president or federal courts take any action that exceeds their constitutional powers, the Constitution is rendered null and void and the United States of America is officially disbanded. As an example, the resolution specifically states that if the federal government enacts “prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition,” the country is disbanded.

In other words, if Congress votes to restore the ban on sale of assault rifles, the United States is deemed to no longer exist.

What you are seeing here are Republicans intentionally inciting violence just like they did during the campaign. They began egging their followers towards violence during the presidential campaign, and continue to increase the inflammatory language using their shills like Glenn Beck and the rest of Faux News. Today they had the gall to call for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to no longer investigate known domestic terror threats. These people are crazy!

Serious Republicans better wake the fuck up and get this extremism under control because the GOP has a serious problem with extremists, not just in its midst, but among its leadership and its key allies in the faux media (FOX News, Limbaugh, the blogs, and the religious right). Maybe they don't realize ( and maybe they don't care) but there is ample evidence that there are some extreme followers who are listening and need very little to move them toward severe violence. Now that they're calling on the government to ignore known terrorist threats, it's only a matter of time before something serious happens and they won't be able to hide from their responsibility for it. If they really want to be the party out of power then let something happen that can clearly be associated with the continuos calls for secession and violence emanating from the GOP and they will know the gutter permanently.

While I wasn't born in Georgia I have lived here long enough to be embarrassed by this. I can truly say that when I read this I was actually speechless.

All Aboard!

That's what I like. Vision! President Obama announced his high speed rail plans today, in a White House press release:
The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.

Additional funding for long-term planning and development is expected from legislation authorizing federal surface transportation programs.

The report formalizes the identification of ten high-speed rail corridors as potential recipients of federal funding. Those lines are: California, Pacific Northwest, South Central, Gulf Coast, Chicago Hub Network, Florida, Southeast, Keystone, Empire and Northern New England. Also, opportunities exist for the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to compete for funds to improve the nation’s only existing high-speed rail service.
All the rest of the developed countries and even China are going full speed ahead on building the infrastructure and making the investments in high speed rail. I have been envious of European rail for years. The trains in France are brilliant. England, unfortunately decided that private companies could do it better and de-nationalized their rail system and are paying for it dearly. British rail is not nearly the experience it used to be. We can do this. During his speech, Obama said, "It's being done. It's just not being done here. There's no reason why we can't do this. This is America. There's no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else, beyond our borders." He's absolutely right. I have always loved trains and taken rail in Europe every chance I got. I still remember the excitement years ago when Madam and I took the train from London to Edinburgh and then on to Inverness for New Year (Hogmanay). The scenery along the eastern coast of England is fabulous. Scot rail was a little primitive and we nearly froze on the unheated train but still had a wonderful time. My friend in London had given me a silver flask filled with single malt and brandy for Christmas which helped. There are multitudes of great rail adventures in Europe and even still in England (like the train from Settle to Carlisle).

Coming from a railroad family, trains are in my blood and it would be just great if we once again had a rail system in this country...imagine the adventures!

A Little Feel Good

Maha posted this link today commenting that it was the most awesome web video I have ever seen. I posted the same link a while back but it is worth seeing again. It made my morning a little better.
Thanks for reminding me and thanks for Mandt for the original heads up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Small Engines

Does anybody out there in the vast "Tube world" have any knowledge of 6hp Kohler engines. The ones I am dealing with are about twenty years old. I have two... one on my TroyBilt tiller and the other on my WW chipper/shredder. They are almost identical.

My problem is that the tiller engine has a tube running from the crankcase to the carb that brings crankcase gases into the input of the carb. They other engine just vents the crankcase.

The tiller, with the crankcase gases, clogs up the air filter with crankcase oil in just a few hours of running and chokes off the engine because of no air. No problem like this with the shredder. I was thinking I might just remove the line to the crankcase on the tiller and just let it vent outside like the shredder. Like I said the engines are identical except for this one difference. I can't afford to replace the air filter after every operation on the tiller and changing this crankcase ventilation may prevent the oil clogging the air filter.

If anyone has any advice...

Insanity Rides

I haven't written anything on the "teabag" events mainly because it is so stupid and I refuse to acknowledge their credibility by even talking about them but I will make an exception tonight. I just have to say something.

One. Let's get something out of the way first off. This is an excuse for the "vast right wing" to bash President Obama. The excuse that this is about taxes is so disingenuous it is to laugh. The budget calls to raise taxes on maybe the top 5% of the population but not even to the rates they paid under Saint Reagan. The reality is that most of the "protesters" are getting a tax decrease and for the life of me I can't understand a protest over a tax decrease. I guess you have to be insane.

This is really no different than the people immediately jumping on President Obama over the proposed changes to the allocations in the DOD budget. It gets rid of some programs that are really toilet fodder anyway and actually increases the total spending by a few percent. Critics are already calling the increased DOD budget "Gutting the military". Go figure.

The bottom line is that the peasants are doing what the peasants are supposed to do when their masters speak. Shirk in fear, mouth the suggested prayer and do what they are told.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Debris and More Debris

Okay, it took the better part of a day but all the storm debris is in a tidy pile by the street for the city to haul away. I still have the big logs to cut up but I just didn't have the spit to drag out the chain saw this afternoon. I only roughly counted the pine cones but it is somewhere around 10,000.

The sun has finally returned with the occasional cloud and the next three or four days should give the garden time to dry out enough to till. The cover crop of rye, clover and vetch is getting very tall with all this rain but the old Troy Bilt won't have a problem tilling it under if I can get to it soon.

Minimonk (the daughter) and a couple of her firefighter colleagues have volunteered to help me with the leaning pine. I have been warned any number of times not to attempt it by myself. I could get it to fall but I am not sure I would survive unscathed. That won't happen till next week though and the wind my bring it down before then.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stormy Morning

No power for most of the morning due to the storms rolling through Atlanta. As you can see from the picture, Monk manor didn't escape without damage. The broken pine was a victim of pine beetles and was going to fall sooner or later but the high wind got it this morning. The problem is it didn't fall all the way and is now leaning against the small gum tree to the right which in turn is leaning into another pine that is not basically two additional trees are now in harm's way. I am going to call the insurance and see if it is covered under the homeowner's but if not I am not sure about how to get the problem rectified. More storms are expected this afternoon and tonight and maybe they will solve the problem for me. That wasn't all the damage but the most significant. The tops came out of a couple of other pines and one of the trees in the vacant lot next door broke in half and the top half is now across part of my front lawn. Springtime in Atlanta. Beautiful but dangerous.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lizard Lights

Glorious Easter Sunday here in Atlanta. Perfect weather for garden chores and all that stuff. Madam and I spent the whole day outside and we got a lot of little chores done. All of the hellebores(Lenten Rose) my daughter gave are safe in their new home. The earlier ones are doing fine so the newbies should get along as well. The bed is on the northern side of the house and gets no direct sun and the only thing that grows there are deep shade loving plants like hellebore. I was surprised today to see that the astilbe I thought was lost is all back and seemingly happy.

While I was cleaning up the bed and getting the new tenants in I kept disturbing the little fellow in the picture. It was still early and coolish and he was determined to get some sun. Every time I came around the end of the bed he would scurry into the cracks but if I was still he would soon creep slowly back into the sun. I was waiting with the camera on one such occasion.

Monday cometh.

Happy Easter

Beautiful Easter morning here in the Northern Atlanta burbs. Great day to be outside in the garden. Even though it is still too wet to work in the dirt I have some hellebores from my daughter that need to go into the ground out front. Even though they should be done in the fall they can't stay in the pots all summer. We'll give it a try.

Madam noticed the cedar waxwings in the holly bush yesterday afternoon and out of many attempts I managed to get just one decent shot. They are shy and spook easily. They are still hanging around and I'll have the camera with telephoto handy while I am out today so maybe I will get a better shot. They are beautiful birds and I love to catch a glimpse of them. They usually only show up in the Atlanta area in the spring and fall on their way somewhere else.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Free Range Pork Lies

Updated: Here is a link to a rebuttal by an organic farmer Rebecca about the article in question

Marion Nestle highlights something that just makes me furious every time I see it happening. In this case it is an op-ed in the New York Times stating that free range pork is more susceptible to being infected with Salmonella, toxoplasma, and trichina than pigs raised in factory farms. Most readers will take this at face value and not think to question the science or the motive behind the quoted source.

In this case the author of the op-ed, James McWilliams is a well respected and prize-winning historian at Texas State San Marcos whose forthcoming book is about the dangers of the locavore movement to the future of food. What is not revealed by the article is that while his source, Foodborne Pathogens and Disease , did find higher “seropositivity” (antibodies) in the free range pigs’ blood than in factory pig blood that the presence of antibodies does not necessarily mean that the animals - or their meat - are infected. It means that the free-range pigs were exposed to the organisms at some point and developed immunity to them. The industrial pigs were not exposed and did not develop immunity to these microorganisms. The article also doesn't reveal that the source research was funded by the National Pork Board which has a vested interest in making free range meat less attractive to consumers.

You see this all the time when it comes to "studies" that show industrial food or processed food is better for you than natural or real food. The High Fructose Corn Syrup ads are a good example. You always have to ask yourself who funded the study and what they have to gain from the results.

Clueless About Salmon

Interesting information on salmon from Mark Bittman in this article. Evidently, most people are clueless about salmon and how to buy it. Salmon is not one of my favorite fish so I don't buy it often and when I do I prefer to buy a whole side and smoke it. I didn't know some of this, though I was aware of the confusion and marketing tricks around Atlantic salmon. If you are a salmon lover this is some good info.

Weather Stupid

I missed my opportunity to till the rest of the garden and turn under the clover and vetch cover crop. It was forecast to rain starting late morning and through most of the afternoon with thunderstorms and locally heavy rains. We did get the storms but not until about 7pm. It takes a couple of hours to do the job so I didn't want to start and get interrupted. I waited and waited for the rain and storms but when I finally decided they weren't coming it was too late. Now the ground is soaked again and I will probably not get a chance until next weekend since we are forecast for rain again tomorrow and Monday. Rats! I did, however, get the grass mowed which is something.

The local man who was cited for keeping chickens in the city limits was staging a "chicken stimulus" this morning and giving away two free baby chicks and a small sack of feed to all comers this morning. He had 900 3 day old chicks. I want to start keeping chickens and I had to resist the temptation to go get mine. I am just not ready for chickens(besides it being against the law currently). I need to build a coop and all that before I would have a safe place for them. Many hawks, coyotes and other predators. They need a safe haven. I am also not so sure all the little chicks given away today are going to be actual chickens and not just Easter treats for the kids. Keeping chickens is a big commitment.

Anyhow, the ground is now saturated so no gardening this weekend. I still have a bunch of tomato cages to fabricate and a giant roll of concrete reinforcing wire waiting. That will keep me occupied and I won't be tempted to destroy my garden soil by working in it whilst it is too wet. Patience, patience.

I did manage to bake a batch of Toll House chocolate cookies(redundant?) for Madam while dithering over the weather. She had been hinting for days on the desire for chocolate chip cookies. She now has a whole tin full.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring is Back

Back from the Masters. A little sun on the face but otherwise no problems. Beautiful day yesterday in Augusta though it started a bit cool. Not as cool as forecast but still in the upper 30's at 7am. Managed to park(for free) right by the back gate so no long walk to the course. Got in the obligatory view of Tiger practicing on #2 and #7 though he quit before he got to #16 where we were staked out for most of the mid morning and early afternoon.
It was Madam's first trip to Augusta National for the Masters and even though she is not a big golfer she enjoyed the day and the gorgeous course, which was in perfect shape. Every azalea was in bloom along with the dogwoods and everything else. She had the customary pimento cheese sandwich and I as well though I added a BBQ sandwich in mid afternoon. For a very upscale and expensive sporting event the concessions are very cheap. Most sandwiches are $1.50 and a beer is $3.oo for domestic and $4.00 for import. Nothing is exorbitantly priced which always strikes me as odd since the clientele is mostly wealthy who wouldn't bat an eye at $5.00 for a sandwich.
Back to the drill this morning. Already moved all the garden plants back out into the sun. They spent two days in the basement due to the cold weather but it is brilliant out so they are sucking up the sun already. All the deck plants are back out as well after they had to be protected in the basement as well.
Now to figure out what is going on the world and to look for that perfect job....

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Very Expensive Water

The next time you reach for a bottle of water instead of filling a glass out of the tap you might think a moment about this:

April 6, 2009 — $1.79 might seem like a small price to pay for a bottle of water. But it costs the Earth far more than that.

Compared to a liter of tap water, producing a liter of bottled water requires as much as 2,000 times more energy, according to the first analysis of its kind. The study also found that our nation’s bottled water habit sucked up the equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil last year.

“The bottom line is that we should understand better the implications of our choices,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, Calif. “It suggests more ways to reduce energy use than maybe we otherwise think of.”

h/t Susie

Mother Nature Strikes

Very strange weather in Atlanta this morning...snow flurries and the temperature is 37F. That's about 25-30 degrees below normal. I spent the better part of the afternoon covering tender plants and will spend an hour or two this morning uncovering. It is supposed to be even colder tonight so this afternoon will be recovering everything. The only thing in the garden that was at risk was the newly transplanted artichokes but I covered them with the cold frame cover. That should do it for tonight as well.
It is going to be a cold morning at the Master's tomorrow morning as it should be about 30 at 8am. There actually may be a frost delay! It should warm into the 60's tomorrow but today we will be lucky to see 45F.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Madness On the Right

As you probably remember President Obama wants to expand AmeriCorps in a big way and about a week ago, the Senate voted to expand national community service programs. This followed on the House passing a similar measure. When the President signs the bill AmeriCorps will grow from 75,000 to 250,000 potential slots.

As usual, progressive policy has the wingnuts going apeshit calling it a new "Hitler Youth" and such. As I mentioned in an earlier post the chief nutcase is not to be outdone, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) calls the other wingnuttery and raises them a re-education camp or two.

This was Bachmann's response over the weekend to the Serve America Act:

"It's under the guise of, quote, 'volunteerism.' But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. [...]

"I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

Like her buddy on the FOX Nutwork Glenn Beck, Madam Bachmann feels free to just make stuff up in order to incite the revolution she so dearly wants. First of all, the bills in both the House and Senate were largely bipartisan and recieved support from both sides. Secondly, AmeriCorps is a volunteer program and nothing in either the House or Senate bills require participation.

What you are seeing is wingnuts without an enemy. The progressive wind blowing in this country has them going crazy because there is nothing they can grab on to that makes a sensible argument against programs like Americorp. It's good for the youth of this nation to have an outlet for community service if they choose. Since there is nothing inherently evil in this or other progressive legislation coming down the pipe, they are forced to lie about them and even make up completely false premises like military police and taking away all the guns. Lies are all they have. They can't argue against these things strictly on merit so they have to resort to desperate lies and hope the dittoheads and other wingnuts swallow them and follow along.

The frightening thing about this is that some of them are swallowing the lies and we are seeing the results in the news pretty much everyday.

Meat's Environmental Impact

Interesting article over at Alternet by Kathy Freston about the environmental impact of eating meat. It's chock full of startling facts about the impact on the environment of our carnivorous ways. Madam and I have all but eliminated meat from our diet. We do occasionally have a sustainably grown chicken and I still have to have a fix of crisp bacon or a sausage biscuit every couple of weeks, but there are weeks where we eat nothing but fruit and vegetables along with dairy and eggs. We have both lost weight and our food bills have considerably slimmed as well. Cooking with basic ingredients such as raw vegetables also helps you control what goes into your face by eliminating the chemicals that plague processed foods.

Here are couple of noteworthy facts from the article:

According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.
Globally, we feed 756 million tons of grain to farmed animals. As Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer notes in his new book, if we fed that grain to the 1.4 billion people who are living in abject poverty, each of them would be provided more than half a ton of grain, or about 3 pounds of grain/day -- that's twice the grain they would need to survive. And that doesn't even include the 225 million tons of soy that are produced every year, almost all of which is fed to farmed animals.
It makes one think about the cost of having so much meat in our diets.

h/t Jill at La Vida Locavore

The American Hologram

A new essay from Joe Bageant is available and a worthwhile read, as usual. If you have a few minutes you might want to read "Escape from the Zombie Food Court"

Expect More Violence

From the Wall Street Journal

PITTSBURGH -- A 22-year-man who shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers over the weekend had been stockpiling guns and ammunition, buying and selling the weapons online "because he believed that as a result of the economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society," according to a court report.


The shootings came during a particularly violent three days across the U.S., with shootings that left 14 dead in Binghamton, N.Y., and six dead in Washington state, where a father shot five of his children, ages 7 to 16, using a rifle, and later, himself. It also follows just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot in Oakland, Calif., in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001. Last month, a North Carolina man shot and killed eight people before police shot him and ended the rampage, and a 28-year-old man killed 10 people, including his mother and four other relatives, across two rural Alabama counties before killing himself.

As tragic and senseless as these murderous rampages are, I'm afraid this will become a more frequent occurrence in the near term. Insane people like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann are setting fires under the people that need just a little push before they go into full blown crazy. People like Beck are repeating and repeating the completely false narrative that President Obama is going to take away all the guns, form a military police and turn us into a socialist dictatorship. It's like shouting fire in a crowded theatre. There are a lot of people with only a fingernail grip on reality and sanity and it takes merely a suggestion that feeds their paranoia to send them over the edge.

The economy already has a large percentage of the populace on edge, one in six Americans are either unemployed or underemployed and a goodly number of the rest are worried about their job. The media should be calling for calm and patience not "armed rebellion". The latest numbers from the FBI report that the applications for gun ownership are up dramatically which bodes very badly for an upturn in violence. It's a very simple equation. More guns plus more tension equals more violence.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Springtime in Atlanta

It's Spring Sir! Here is a little walk around the yard. Click on the pic for a full screen version.

Pollen Storm and Other Stuff

It is the annual spring pine pollen storm here in Atlanta. Madam tends to go berserk during this annual ritual and seals the house completely. Open windows are forbidden. I must admit it is pretty bad. It is blowing in clouds of yellow dust and every thing is coated. You can even taste it when you are out in the air. It only lasts a week or so and then back to the best time of year in Atlanta. Everything is blooming especially the azaleas. Really gorgeous.

Nice weather yesterday and today so far. Madam helped me get the potatoes into the prepared beds and covered with wheat straw and leaves. I am trying the method of growing the potatoes under ever increasing layers of mulch. I planted a few in the traditional trench method just to compare. This method is supposed to produce cleaner potatoes with little effort. As the plants grow just continue to mulch. We shall see.

Artichoke plants moved to the garden as well yesterday. This is my first experience with them so it is all experiment. There is a possibility that I can make them perennial this far south but it will be iffy.

There is a chance of a light frost on Tuesday night so nothing else tender gets set out yet. Easter is always a good rule of thumb around here. Sometimes you can rush it by a couple of weeks but like this year we are going to get a little frost just a few days before the Easter weekend. Home Depot has been selling peppers and tomato plants for about a month and I am sure a lot of new gardeners have planted them already. They will learn. Neither plant will really grow if the night time temperatures fall below about 55F. Until we get consistently warm nights they will just sit in the garden. You gain nothing by rushing to get them in.

I looked up while fixing breakfast this morning and was surprised to see a lone wild turkey standing in the back yard. I am sure he saw me move to the window since he made tracks. That is a first here. Deer, raccoons, opossum, quail etc. but never a wild turkey. I also heard, second hand, that a local hunter killed a 72 pound coyote just down the street. That surely must be a record. I didn't think they got over about 40 pounds. Must like the city life or cats and small dogs must be very nutritious.

Out to take advantage of another beautiful spring day...thunderstorm predicted for later so the rest of the garden will remain untilled for a while. It is only after Easter that I begin to panic if I can't get beans, squash, cukes and all in. All the beds for the tomatoes and peppers are prepared and ready so it is just waiting for good warm weather for those. The rest of the garden is still clover and vetch.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Stoneyfield Yogurt Recall

Thanks to a tip from Cookie Jill you need to be aware of a voluntary recall of Stoneyfield Farms Plain Fat Free Yogurt in 32 ounce containers with a time stamp of May 06 09 22:17 thru 23:59 and all containers with a time stamp of May 07 o9 all time stamps.

No one has been made sick and the products are evidently contaminated with a small amount of chemical sanitizer due to an employee error. You can return opened and unopened containers of the product to your store for a refund.

You can read about the recall at the Stoneyfield Farm website.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

More on Pistachios

Marion Nestle points out something interesting surrounding the pistachio recall which now involves 2 million pounds of nuts and involves 74 products so far. Just how was the Salmonella contamination discovered? It was first reported that Kraft foods found contamination in some of their trail mix and I was giving them credit for following HACCP protocols even though they are not required by the FDA for foods like trail mix. Only for sprouts, fresh juices, seafood, and eggs on the FDA side and for meat and poultry on the USDA side. Evidently, according to USA Today, a small nut company in Illinois, Georgia’s Nut, routinely tests for Salmonella and found the bacteria in nuts purchased from Setton Pistachio of California. Georgia’s Nut recalled products distributed in the Chicago area. This company also produces a trail mix for Kraft Foods. It notified Kraft Foods, which also promptly recalled its products.

It is evidently Georgia's Nut and not Kraft that follows a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) protocol. HACCP is a science-based food safety procedure that requires analyzing where contamination might occur in production processes (hazard analysis), taking steps to prevent contamination at those critical control points, and using pathogen testing to make sure the steps were followed and the plan is working.

Kraft and other like food processors are only required to follow Good Manufacturing Processes, which are considerably less rigorous (Hello the peanut butter recalls ). Kudos go to Georgia's Nut for going beyond the requirements and catching this thing before people got sick.

Marion has long advocated HACCP requirements for all foods which seems like a better and better idea.

Cauliflower Gratin

One of the great comfort foods is mac and cheese. Well, mac and cheese is really just a pasta gratin and while the new whole grain pastas make a good for you mac and cheese there is no reason you cannot substitute a vegetable for the macaroni or pasta. The following recipe is for a cauliflower gratin because that is what I have in the fridge from the CSA last week and it needs to be used. If I had about the same amount of broccoli or zucchini or yellow squash or turnips or even potatoes (use your imagination) I could make a variation on this dish. This recipe calls for cheddar cheese(that's what I have) but Gruyere or Swiss works just as well. I kick in some Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano is best but expensive and not always available) to kick up the "cheesiness' but if you don't have any just use another 1/2 cup of whatever cheese you do have.

Depending on the vegetable you choose or have, the the prep will be different. Cauliflower and broccoli are the same...blanch them for 5 minutes. Squash maybe only 3 minutes, Green beans maybe 5 but something like potatoes would take maybe 15. I have even made a gratin with green onions, leeks and even celery. You just have to judge how much extra pre-cooking time in order for the vegetable to be done after the short baking time since you are really just browning the top and heating it through. Anyhow, on to the cauliflower(mine is one of the orange ones!).

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (not absolutely necessary but it really makes a cream sauce)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Extra-Sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain. Note: If you are using a green vegetable like broccoli, green beans, green onions, etc. then you need to refresh them with cold water after the blanching so that they will keep their color.

While the cauliflower or whatever cooks, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Pour all of the milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir with a whisk until it starts to bubble. This is nothing more than a light white sauce. Simmer, whisking constantly, for maybe a minute, usually once it starts to boil it will be at its maximum thickness. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and the Parmesan or a whole cup of cheese and skip the Parmesan. Stir until the cheese melts and it all comes together into a smooth sauce.

Pour a third of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 11 x 2-inch baking dish or a 9x12 if that's what you have. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the white sauce evenly over the top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and sprinkle evenly on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. you can serve it hot or at room temperature but I prefer it hot.

You can use this as a one dish meal by just putting a nice salad on the side or as a side dish. Left overs will keep in the fridge for a few days and don't suffer too much when heated in the micro wave.

Try this with other vegetables and you will be glad to have this in your arsenal. You can gratin anything as long as you have the weapon of white sauce with cheese.

Read the Labels

This latest round of potentially toxic food (pistachios) should reinforce the need for everyone to RTFL (read the f----g labels). First of all, if you are going to buy processed food, which means it has to have a package and label with list of ingredients, you should automatically read the label and understand what is in it. By understand what is in it I mean actually know what each of the ingredients are and what they mean to your health and nutrition. As Michael Pollan so aptly said...If it has more than four or five ingredients then you should seriously think about putting it back on the shelf. To take that further, if it reads like the formula for rocket fuel or something with polysylabic chemical names and other mysterious things, then definitely put it back on the shelf. I like the rule, If your great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, then it probably isn't.

You can, of course, avoid maufactured food altogether. It means more work in the kitchen but with a little practice, a good knife and some basic cooking skills, there is nothing on the grocery shelf that you cannot duplicate at home. There is also the twin bonuses of knowing what is in it and it costing you less. We won't even go into the fact that it will probably test better.

All of the above being said, I will also tell you that there are processed foods that are a good value and good for you but to find them you have to read the labels. Jarred pasta sauce is a good example. In my cupboard I have a couple of jars for Bertolli marinara. The list of ingredients is small and real, tomatoes, olive oil, spices, garlic and onion if memory serves. These are good for a quick pasta meal and it would take you a couple of hours to make your own sauce from scratch. If I have the time I do make mine from scratch but there are times when it is not practical and turning to a jarred sauce is no sin, if it's a good one and honestly made. Canned beans are another processed food I always have on hand. They are cheap and if rinsed can be added to cooked dishes and salads to ratchet up the protein for a few pennies a serving. There are honest foods on the grocery shelves but you have to read and understand the labels if you are going to discover them.

You owe it yourself and your family to read the labels and understand what's in your food. You also need to seriously consider cooking with basic ingredients and avoiding processed foods whenever you can. I consider my time in the kitchen as a challenge to my creativity and very enjoyable. I look forward to creating dishes from scratch and I also enjoy knowing that, in addition to good food, I am saving money and having the fun of creating something. There is no harm in taking a shortcut now and then, as with jarred pasta sauce or boxed stock, but cooking from scratch can be very rewarding and it surely enriches my life.

Magick Mushrooms?

It is still raining off and on and the multi year drought has been officially called at an end. While we need the rain I am now very behind in getting the rest of the garden ready for the big spring push. As you can see from the picture, my pile of horse manure has decided to get underway without me and sprouted a very nice crop of very strange looking mushrooms. I haven't determined what variety they are but I doubt they are edible and I am not sure I would eat them if they were. Just a little too close to manure from my point of view. Besides they are rather ominous looking.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Organic Lies

Mark Bittman's article on 'organic food' is about a week old now but still very much worth reading. I talk a lot around here about organic and natural foods but I think I am going to have to be more careful about how I use the terms. The United States Department of Agriculture’s definition, means it is generally free of synthetic substances; contains no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.

That's all fine and good if all you are concerned about is being able to put the labe "U.S.D.A. Organic" on your food label. The food like substance in the package is probably "better" than the same food like substance grown conventionally, with pesticides, hormones and who knows what else. However, the "Organic" label doesn't guarantee wholesomeness, nutrition, quality or sustainablility. It doesn't guarantee the food was grown with care for the soil, care for the animals or care for the planet. Those grapes you saw yesterday in the local supermarket labeled "organic" came from Chile for Goddess's sake and are as far from the original intent of the "organic" food movement as something can be.

In the early days of the organic movement the intent was to grow food locally, in harmony with the natural process. You put back into the soil through compost, and natural additives those things removed by growing food. You encouraged a natural biodivesity of beneficial flora and fauna in the soil that would naturally help your food plants fight off disease and pests. You grew heirloom vegetables that had naturally developed the characteristics necessary to survive and reproduce year after year through pestilence and drought. You did all of this with an eye of creating a closed loop system that produced food with a minimal negative impact on your environment and actually tried to have a net positive impact on the environment.

The labels on "organic" food today have nothing to do with the original intent of organic and in many ways are actually hostile to the concept. Food is grown on giant industrial farms that have an overall negative effect on the environment. Beef and pork are raised in huge industrial feed lots and can be called "organic" or "natural" because they are feed organic feed and not dosed with hormones and antibiotics but they produce tremendous amounts of waste that pollutes vast stretches of countryside and the animals live and die in a man made hell.

So from now on when you see me talk about "organic" I am talking about the old fashioned "organic". The small scale, sustainable organic that reveres Mother Nature and actually wants to produce food with a net positive effect on the environment. In spite of the arguments that "organic" food has not been proven to be more nutritious than conventional food I can say that maybe in isolation there may be questions. However, our food and the way it is produced and delivered cannot be taken out of the big picture or separated from entire system of life and living that is the dance we all dance every day. When you consider sustainability, net impact of our quality of life and the higher quality protein and other nutrients shown to be in naturally and truly organically produced food then the answer is yes, it is better for you. As the picture above so aptly depicts, just because it says organic doesn't mean it is good for you.

The picture is shamelessly stolen from the website The Internet Food Association and a post by Ezra Klein