Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Excuse For Conservative Insanity

I have always felt that the people I know that are hard rock conservative and/or 'jumped by Jesus' seem to be wired a little differently. While this study isn't carved in stone yet it makes 'gut sense' to me. I mean really, how else do you explain the insane behavior?
Political opinions are considered choices, and in Western democracies the right to choose one’s opinions — freedom of conscience — is considered sacrosanct.
But recent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major determining factor in the views we hold.
A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.
“It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes,” Geraint Rees, the neurologist who carried out the study, told the media.
Rees, who heads up UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, was originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4’s Today show that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain brain parts and political views.
He cautions that, because the study was carried out only on adults, there is no way to tell what came first — the brain differences or the political opinions.
But evidence is beginning to accumulate that figuring out a person’s political proclivities may soon be as simple as a brain scan — or a DNA test.
h/t Susie

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Actos Drug Ripoff

As many of you know I am a Type II diabetic. Because of that I take a couple of different drugs to help me control my glucose levels. When I lost my medical insurance I dropped one of the drugs, Actos, because it is so terribly expensive. I tried to control my glucose without it but gradually it has crept back up to to an average fasting level of between 140 and 160. Not acceptable. I decided last week that I am going to have to have it in spite of the cost so yesterday I filled a 30 day prescription for the tidy sum of $262.34. The quick math means that each pill costs me $8.74. If I lived in Canada I could get it for a third of that. This kind of blatant ripoff by the drug companies of Americans is really sickening. This one pill represents well over 50% of all my monthly drug costs. To put it into perspective...if I had to depend on the income from my part time job as my sole means of support this one drug would represent about a week's after tax pay and that just sucks.

Government Crime

I was reading about the Fulton Country (one of the metro Atlanta counties) paying lobbyists a couple of hundred grand to lobby the state house against splitting Fulton County and forming a new Milton county from the Northern burbs. Fulton County which includes the city of Atlanta gets the lion's share of its revenue from the wealthy northern part of the county and the wealthier northern cities want to split off and keep some of that money for their own use. Several new cities have been formed in the north in the last few years(Milton, John's Creek and Sandy Springs) but Fulton hasn't reduced it's budgets to reflect the reduced costs for services taken over by the new cities. I can see why Fulton wants to keep the money but at the same time I resent paying taxes which are being used against me. I would get a lot more from my taxes if I were to become part of a wealthy county like Milton. Just seems wrong to me to pay for lobbying against my best interests.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yes, Virginia

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Christmas to All

It's Christmas morning and Atlanta is expecting its first 'white Christmas' in over 130 years. It's currently only 36F but the grounds is cold and we may actually see a bit of accumulation this afternoon. Let's hope it only does the grass and trees and not the streets since I have to be at work at 745a Sunday morning.

Minimonk is working today(we did our Christmas last weekend as a result) so we are not having a big deal around here. As forecast I did a pizza last night for the Christmas Eve dinner and with help from the latest Cook's magazine think I have finally mastered a proper pizza dough. I was doing most everything right except I was making the dough and pizza on the same day. This time I made the dough the day ahead and let it slowly ferment for 24 hours in the fridge. It made a huge difference in the texture and flavor. I also moved my baking stone to the top of the oven and cooked the pizza at 550F(the highest my oven will go). It turned out brilliant. If you like doing your own pizza at home from scratch let me know and I will share the process/recipe. It is actually terribly easy and the results are well worth the little effort. You can make a good pizzeria pizza at home and it will beat any of that frozen stuff hands down.

I mentioned we were having a movie marathon as well. Very disappointed in what we have seen so far. The Legend of the Guardians (the owl movie) put Madam to sleep. Serious Moonlight with Meg Ryan put me to sleep for most of it. Despicable Me was not worth the time but Madam liked the little 'minions'. Finally, The Kids are All Right with Annette Benning was a big disappointment as well. We still have Inception and Salt to watch today so maybe one of those will please.

Everyone enjoy your Christmas Day and if you are traveling please be careful. From the paper this morning it looks like a wicked day for air travel as Delta has canceled some 300 flights already and the snow is all over the Midwest and moving South. I think it is going to be a good day for a pot of Tuscan Bean Stew. That recipe from 2008 BTW is the most popular thing I have ever posted on the blog and still get a few hits a week from it. It is a worthy recipe though and I am glad everyone enjoyed it.

Happy Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Couple of Days Off

I have been working full days since last Sunday but now I am off until the day after Christmas...I try and catch up on the tubes after I finish dinner each night but invariably I find myself waking up sitting in front of the computer and not remembering reading anything and just stumble off to bed. From the look of Google reader I haven't read much as there are thousands of posts waiting. I'll try and get caught up with everybody over the next few days.

These max workweeks(32 hours) appear to be going away as I am only scheduled for 12 hours the second week of January. I will say that I am extremely glad I am not depending on this little bit of income for anything important like feeding a family or paying rent. Seeing as how I have never 'punched a clock' before this, it  is interesting and you really get a different perspective on what a lot of people face for most of their lives. How many hours am I going to get this week and next? What will I do if I only get 12 or 16 hours? How am I going to make it? Very different perspective even though you had an "intellectual idea" of what low income people face daily, it is not the same as seeing it first hand. Granted some of it is still 'intellectual' since I don't HAVE to work but it is no longer completely so.

Madam and I just went out and got a bunch of movies to take us through the holiday. Since we 'did' Christmas last weekend it won't be repeated again. Got a couple of new ones like Inception and Salt, as well as the owl movie and Despicable Me and another one or two. Hunker down and vegetate is the order of the day. Plenty of wine and snacks and crock pot BBQ chicken is bubbling away, albeit slowly. The menu for Christmas eve is currently a homemade pizza for which I must make the dough for tonight.

If my brain turns to mush from too much TV/movies/wine/snacks/pizza etc. and I don't get back here then everyone have a merry holiday and I hope Santa is very nice to you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Power Night

Tuesday is a lunar eclipse. It will be visible from most of North America

Tuesday is also the Winter Solstice - the longest night.

Tuesday is the first night that a lunar eclipse has occurred on a Winter Solstice in 456 years.

For those of you not really attuned to the theory and practice of 'magick' then you should know that, according to people who should know, your personal power to effect change and do 'magick' is increased a thousand times while the moon is in eclipse since its power is blocked. The full moon and its effect goes without saying.

If you have need of some 'magick' in your life then tomorrow is your best chance in some 500 years to make it happen...Just saying.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Early Christmas

We are actually celebrating Christmas today since Minimonk has to work on the real day. I already have the pumpkin pie out of the oven and about to put the apple tart in. Mashed potatoes and soul food sweet potatoes(home grown) with either peas(home grown) or broccoli(home grown). Of course, fresh dinner rolls. (see previous post) We are also having our once a year treat of a Honey Baked Ham. Undoubtedly the best "city" ham there is. I actually prefer country ham but I am the only one so "city" ham it is. Oh, and deviled eggs.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Classic Dinner Rolls

As everyone who regularly visits here knows I am a big fan of fresh bread. I lean towards heartier breads like whole wheat and rye and make sourdough whole wheat every week for our daily bread. There are times, however, when the bread should be delicate and slightly sweet and maybe a bit airy. A feast like Thanksgiving or Christmas calls for a classic dinner roll. Nothing complicated but full of yeasty flavor and the perfect vehicle for soaking up a bit of gravy. There is also a requirement that the rolls keep fairly well so that a proper leftover turkey or ham sandwich can be enjoyed the next day. This recipe is for the Classic Dinner Roll. Not fancy and not difficult to make. It also has the advantage of being a bread you can make the day before...even to the step of forming the rolls and refrigerating overnight and having them ready to bake just before dinner on feast day when other cooking chores require your time. There are thousands and thousands of recipes that are similar and usually the difference is in the eggs... Whole eggs, just the yolks or a combination. I like this recipe as the yolks bring additional fat and tenderness to the roll and leaving out the whites eliminates any chance of a 'rubbery' product. The other key to tenderness is not overworking the dough. This rendition is for a stand mixer like my big KitchenAid but you can do this by hand and if doing so you probably want to knead the dough no more than about 15 minutes...just until it springs back when punched with two fingers.

Make Ahead Old Fashioned Classic Dinner Rolls

18 oz. or 510 grams or about 4 cups of all-purpose flour(I use King Arthur A/P but any good unbleached flour will do
1 package or 2-1/4 tsp.  rapid-rise yeast (you can use regular active dry yeast but your rise time will be longer)
1/3 cup sugar ( I actually use barley malt syrup instead of sugar but sugar works fine)
1 1/2  tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup milk (whole milk works best but I usually only have 2% and its fine) There is also a version of this recipe that uses  evaporated milk,just use 1/2 cup of evap.milk and 1/2 cup of water.
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter ( plus a little more for the pan and hands) Yes, that is a whole stick of butter...I didn't say these were diet rolls.
3 large egg yolks

Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of your mixer, with a whisk mix to combine.

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, stirring gently until the butter melts, and it reaches 115F to 125F degrees(no real need for a thermometer should just feel warm and not hot). Pour the milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients and add the 3 egg yolks. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until everything just comes together and forms a shaggy mass. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the moisture. Finally, on medium high speed, mix/knead for about 8 minutes. The dough should 'clean' the sides of the bowl when it is done.

Turn the dough out of the mixing bowl on to a very lighly floured surface and shape it into a ball. Lighly grease a large bowl(twice the size of your dough ball) with butter, and place the dough, seam side down inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set the bowl aside and let it rise until it doubles in size. This should take 45 minutes to an hour depending upon the temperature of the room, but the doubling is what is important. If you are using regular active dry yeast this will take maybe a half hour longer...maybe a little more.

Once your dough is doubled, dump it out on a clean surface like your kitchen counter. You shouldn't need to flour the surface as the dough is soft but not too sticky. If you have some sticking problems then use a little flour to help you along. Now gently deflate the dough by pressing it with the palms of your hands. I usually fold the dough over itself(the left third over the middle third and the right third over that). Using a dough blade or knife divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. With lightly buttered hands form each piece into a ball by stretching and pinching the bottom together. The goal is to get a smooth stretched suface on the top of the roll. It may take a couple of stretches and pinches to get the ball smooth and round.  Place them evenly on a roughly 9 x 13 inch lightly greased baking pan ( I use a jelly roll pan) with the seam side down.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until almost doubled, about 30 min. While the rolls are proofing heat your oven to 375°F making sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Remove the plastic and bake the rolls until they’re browned, about 20 min. These are best served warm.

Feel free to brush the uncooked rolls with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a tablespoon of water) if you want glossy rolls.

Note: Like I said above, you can make  this recipe a day  in advance. Simply cover the rolls with plastic wrap right after shaping and place them in the chill chest.  The next day, about 3 hours before dinner,  remove the pan from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours until the rolls warm and double, and then bake the rolls at 375 F.

These are nice generous rolls and you can still have a nice sized roll by making 24 rolls instead of 16. (Hint: Instead of first dividing the dough in half, divide it into thirds and then half the pieces three more times.)

This recipe doubles well but double is about all my KitchenAid will handle in a single batch. I sometimes use 750 grams of flour and adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly (increase by 50%)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Woman

When I  read this I immediately thought of the 70's rock song by the Canadian band "Guess Who".
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day—for seven straight months and counting—he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out. In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article—entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?”—the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.” By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”
There is absolutely insane and it makes me ashamed that my country has turned into such a brutal and repressive regime and that it can inflict such treatment on someone that has not been convicted of any crime and was actually(from all evidence) doing what he thought was in the best interest of the U.S. 

I guess what really bothers me the most is that this will not be picked up of the MSM and even though it is likely that the President knows about this nothing will be done. What is even more disturbing is that this is probably happening to others in this home of the free and the land of the brave. Stalin, Pol Pot,  and Idi Amin would be so proud.

You should read the whole article by Greenwald at Salon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not Warm Blooded Enough

I'm normally pretty warm blooded and am not really that to sensitive to cold. Last night and today has made me drag out the long underwear. It was 12F this morning and on my way home from work last night it was 22 with 25 mile an hour winds. I head off to the job again at noon today and I will be better insulated. This is about 30 degrees below normal for us and it is brutal. Most everything outdoors is suffering and even the normally cold hardy plants are burnt from the cold. And yes, it set a new record for cold for the date. Tomorrow it is supposed to warm a bit but the warming will bring precipitation. Not nice.

The Lost Middleclass

I thought the following paragraph was a minor jewel when it comes to explaining the political weirdness right now. It's from Peter Goodman at Huffpo
Was it not just a couple of weeks ago that The Conversation was all about the supposed five-alarm emergency of the federal budget deficit and the hellish consequences that surely awaited the continuation of profligate spending? Never mind. The political establishment decided to tack another $900 billion on the federal tab to stave off an apparently more dire crisis: the prospect that tax cuts lavished on people wealthy enough to worry about mooring charges might soon expire.
the rest of the article is worth reading as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Even Colder

The forecast for Atlanta is to see 20F tomorrow night and the low teens for Monday night. Ouch, very unusual to have this cold of weather until after the New Year. I will lose the winter garden for sure with this hard freeze. The only thing to do is to harvest what I can of the turnips and broccoli and try and preserve it somehow. None of the cabbage is big enough to do anything with. I'll have to do it all today since I work tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday. Still have to finish the insulation in the garage as well plus get my car from the shop...the darn hood wouldn't open(broken cable) and I discovered this after I left the door ajar overnight and it ran down the battery. It's under warranty but still a pain. I also have to go to Tractor Supply and get a replacement heater for the greenhouse since the one little 1500W heater won't be able to protect it if it gets into the teens. Going to be a busy Saturday.

Holy Thorn Tree

Some low life scum cut down the Holy Thorn Tree at Glastonbury in Western England. What a senseless act of vandalism. The tree is known as the place that marks Joseph of Arimathea's arrival in Britian after the crucifiction of Christ. While the tree may recover and there are, in fact, other thorn trees nearby this one had special significance. This is not a good way to start the day.

Update: Madam reminded me of the deal with someone putting poison on the Treaty Oak in Austin, TX. What goes through someone's mind when they due such patently stupid things?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Gone By 2025

Don't Read This
It describes why the U.S. will be a has been empire by 2025. Not a very uplifting article and in a lot of ways very depressing.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It Looks So Easy

Something I have been meaning to do for years has come to fruition today. I went to Home Depot and bought enough insulation to do the ceiling of my garage. I added a foot or two of insulation to the attic last year(I had it done) but I decided I could do the garage myself. The pink panther people have this nice R30 insulation all wrapped on plastic that is nice to work with but getting in place is  a lot harder that it would appear. I got a third of the area done this afternoon but it was a tough slog. I'll try and finish it up tomorrow.
Once I get it all done I am hoping that the tile floor in my bathroom won't be quite so frigid on these cold mornings not to mention keeping the bedrooms above the garage a little toastier. If you have some areas that need a little more insulation now is a good time to get it done as the tax credits for such stuff expire the first of the year. It also doesn't hurt that Home Depot has it all on sale right now.  40 cents or less per square foot.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

RIP, Elizabeth Edwards

Dead at 61. A fine lady who faced a lot of undeserved tribulation in her life. The world is a lesser place without her.

Update: According to CNN the planned protest of the funeral by the cretins from the Westboro Baptist Church fizzled. The five idiots who did show up should have been run out of town on a rail.

Cold Georgia

I haven't been down to the garden yet today to see if the broccoli, cabbage and turnips survived the cold snap. Been working from dark to dark for the last four days and it has gotten colder each night. My greenhouse manage to hold to 39F last night but I fear for the outside stuff. We saw the low 20's last night so I am probably out my fall veges...we'll see.

With the cold such as it is and me in cooking withdrawal I feel the need for something warm and hearty so I am on my way to Whole Paycheck to get some local beef for a stew. I also bought all the stuff for "Chex Mix" last week and I'll probably do that this afternoon as well. We call it "nuts and bolts" here and I make mine a little spicier than the traditional blend. I also add a bunch more nuts and leave out the little toasted bagel thingys and just use the little pretzels. Madam and I also prefer the Wheat Chex to the other Chex so I double up on those. In other words my "nuts and bolts" is nothing like the original. It's not the Xmas holidays without a big batch of "nuts and bolts" around. Minimonk is coming Thursday to bring me a horse trailer full of leaves so I'll have a big bag of mix to share with her. She loves the stuff as much as I do.

Off to market and then to cooking.

Let Them Expire

I hate taxes as much as the next guy but I think it is wrong to extend the Bush cuts. We can't afford it, especially extending the cuts for folks with incomes over $250,000. Yeah, the extension of unemployment benefits would be nice for those affected but the reality is that some six million of us or more have already exhausted the maximum of 99 weeks and this agreement doesn't add another tier. It is going to hurt a lot of people but maybe it will also wake them up and figure out who actually cares whether they suffer or not the Dems or the GOP.
So my vote is to allow all the tax cuts to expire and then reintroduce cuts for the middle class next year and dare the GOP to vote against them.

Remember Pearl Harbor

Don't forget it's Pearl Harbor Day. Take a moment to remember the brave soldiers and sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice that day. My late father was there and was fortunate to have escaped with just minor injuries. Regardless of whether you feel it was a setup to get us into the war or whatever a lot of brave people died or were injured that day. My flag is flying.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Long Weekend

BTW I am working the PT job Friday through Monday so it will be quieter than usual around here.

Great Political System We've Got

Yesterday the Senate voted 53-36 in favor of the President’s tax cut plan, which, to any rational person, would make it seem like the President won.

Wrong... in America, this means that the 36% of the Senate who voted against the tax cut plan win, trumping the majority view point in the Senate as well as a clear majority in the House, the President, and the majority will of the American people. Now that is a political system.

Isn't it nice that we can make sure that nothing interferes with the plutocracy?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

An Opportunity for Sanity

It looks like outgoing Madame Speaker had one more trick up her sleeve:
This afternoon, House Democrats will hold an up or down vote on vote on President Obama’s plan to extend tax cuts to income below $250,000, and they’ve figured out a way to prevent the Republicans from pulling procedural tricks that might sink it—a straight vote on whether or not wealthy people deserve an additional tax break.
[....]Dems once believed they were faced with two mixed options for holding this vote. The first was to hold an up-or-down vote under the normal rules. But that would give Republicans the opportunity to introduce what’s known as a motion to recommit—a procedural right of the minority that would have allowed them to tack an extension of tax cuts for high-income earners on to the legislation.
The second option—suspending the rules—would have foreclosed on that right, but would have required a two-thirds majority of the House for passage: 290 votes, an impossible hurdle.
But Democrats figured out a way to avoid this. They’re attaching their tax cut plan as an amendment to a separate bill [the Airport and Airway Extension Act, to wit]. That legislation already passed the House, and has just been returned from the Senate. The rules say it can’t be recommitted. So the GOP’s hands are tied.

h/t Balloon Juice

Not LGM's But Very Interesting Just The Same

via Gizmodo

At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.
But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don't have to be like planet Earth.

Europe Gets Winter Early

Got a photo from my friends in Eyam in Derbyshire, England. I'm just guessing bit it looks like at least 18 inches of snow on their patio and they say they are snowed in. From what I can see from the news, all of Europe is getting hit hard even Edinburgh airport and London's Gatwick airport are closed. People are even dying from exposure in parts of Europe. My friends were laughing that they had rented an apartment in Portugal for all of February in hopes of missing the worst of winter but were still smacked.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hold The Football Charlie Brown-- Just One More Time

The day after the President sat down with the GOP leadership and everybody came out of the meeting back slapping and ass kissing and promising to make nice the GOP publishes a letter to Harry Reid stating that...

 their intention is  to hold the chamber hostage until the tax policy debate is resolved.
"[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike."
You know, of course, that Republicans will block everything until they're satisfied that the wealthy are aren't going to suffer any tax increase, regardless of the impact on other priorities and then they'll try to block  everything else anyway. The are going to screw America and Obama regardless.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Food Safety Bill - Finally

While the House easily passed this important overhaul of the nation's food safety regulations well over a year ago the Senate finally beat down the ass holes that were holding it up and passed their version today. Even though it had bipartisan sponsorship -- three Democrats and three Republicans it still took over a year to bring it to a vote even in a year that saw  at least 1,300 salmonella-related illnesses spanning 22 states over the summer. The only issue will be how it can be reconciled with the different House bill in the short time remaining before the end of the year adjournment. One possibility is the House holding their noses and just passing the Senate version which could then go to the President.

While it is not a done deal at least there is something positive for a change.
The Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's food-safety system, after recalls of tainted eggs, peanut butter and spinach sickened thousands and led major food makers to join consumer advocates in demanding stronger government oversight.
The legislation, which passed by a vote of 73 to 25, would greatly strengthen the Food and Drug Administration, an agency that in recent decades focused more on policing medical products than ensuring the safety of foods. The bill is intended to get the government to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur.
While the bill is far from perfect it's a big step in the right direction.
Part of the problem is the growing industrialization and globalization of the nation's food supply. Nearly a fifth of the nation's food supply and as much as three-quarters of its seafood are imported, but the F.D.A. inspects less than one pound in a million of such imported foods. The bill gives the F.D.A. more control over food imports, including increased inspection of foreign processing plants and the ability to set standards for how fruits and vegetables are grown abroad.
And as food suppliers grow in size, problems at one facility can sicken thousands all over the country. The Peanut Corporation of America's contaminated paste was included in scores of cookies and snacks made by big and small companies. The legislation would raise standards at such plants by demanding that food companies write plans to manufacture foods safely and conduct routine tests to ensure that the plans are adequate.
The bill would give the F.D.A. the power to demand food recalls.... The legislation greatly increases the number of inspections the F.D.A. must conduct of food processing plants, with an emphasis on foods that are considered most high risk -- although figuring out which ones are riskiest is an uncertain science.

Broccoli In The Garden

One of the nice things about living in Georgia is that you can grow a fall garden that can even survive and prosper into winter if the weather cooperates. Left Leaning Lady asked me this morning what her broccoli should look like so here is a picture from in between the rain showers this afternoon. Looks good enough to eat!

Down We Go

Thanks to Cookie Jill over at Skippy's place here is a link to a must read over at the Great Orange Satan. It's basically a compilation of articles from the European press about where the U.S. sits in relation to other 'civilized' nations when it comes to health care, and other safety net issues. It will piss you off.

Here is just a sample:

(Daily - America starves as executive pay rockets:
50MILLION people go hungry while Wall Street fatcats take home millions

By Daniel Bates
16th November 2010
A record one in six American families went hungry last year because they did not have enough food, a shock survey has revealed.
Some 17.4million U.S. households - 50 million people - were classified as ‘food insecure’ which meant they regularly skipped meals even if they wanted to eat. Others went for entire days without eating and handed round smaller portion sizes to make their meagre offerings suffice.
The news comes as it is revealed that top U.S. executives saw their pay and bonuses shoot up last year in the face of the worst recession for 80 years.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fresh Air Poisoning

I spent all afternoon gathering leaves for the garden and I moved a lot leaves. As a result I spent all afternoon out in the cool fresh air  and I it having its effect. It is only just before nine and I am rapidly falling into a coma. Gotta work tomorrow 9-6 so I have to be hitting the sack pretty quick. I should mention that my broccoli is looking great...picture perfect. I have finally bowed to the other gardeners that insist that you can't grow decent broccoli or cabbage down here in the South unless you grow it in the fall and winter. The broccoli this fall is twice the size of my spring crop and looks gorgeous. You get the added advantage with fall and winter gardening of no pests to speak of.

Leek and Potato Soup Kicked Up

I decided it was 'wintry' enough today to harvest some leeks from the garden and make a pot of leek and potato soup....real simple... roughly an equal amount of diced leeks and potatoes with enough chicken broth to cover. Simmer until the potatoes are done and then hit it with the immersion blender to your desired consistency. Tonight I kicked it up with a bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. It makes a different soup and it is very nice. I should add that I put dried thyme, a bay leaf and about a teaspoon of fresh garlic in the soup as well...just in case somebody jumps on this as some kind of recipe. I also sweat the leeks down before adding the broth and potatoes. Salt and pepper of course and you can make the soup richer by adding a bit of sour cream or yogurt as well. Minimonk doesn't eat vegetables but she eats this soup.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Into the Fray

I'm off for a 10 to 7 shift this morning. We'll see what Black Friday has to offer in my new environment. Forecast to be a rainy day so it is a good day to work. Still on the warm side at 54F this morning but it is supposed to drop over the weekend to more normal temperatures for this time of year. Just packed my regulation turkey sandwich and yes it has Miracle Whip on it and it is made with homemade sourdough whole wheat. Luckily I checked the turkey an hour and a half before I calculated it would be done and lo and behold it was done. Could have wound up with the classic Thanksgiving turkey served in most households if I hadn't been so anal.

Everyone enjoy their leftovers and for Goddess's sake try and refrain from making turkey noodle casserole or turkey divan. Surely there most be an intervention hot line somewhere that you can call when you find yourself reaching for the can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I mean really, there is turkey chili, turkey enchiladas, hot turkey sandwiches, cold turkey sandwiches, soup, turkey and dumplings, and on and on.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Reflections

I'll steal with thanks from Barbara at Mahablog.

There’s a bit of Zen liturgy called the “Five Reflections” or “Five Remembrances” that is chanted before meals; it’s sort of the Zen version of saying grace. There are a number of translations of the reflections floating around, but they all boil down to this:

First, reflect on all the work that went into putting the meal on the table. This goes beyond just the cooking. There are grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers of farmers. And all of those people are sustained by food provided by other cooks and grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers. And don’t forget the non-human creatures represented on the table, from the turkey to the dairy cows and even the bees who make pollination possible. If you think about it, you realize the food in front of you represents a huge web of relationships that spreads across the globe.

Second, reflect on whether you are contributing to the greater good with your own life, and if the work you do is sustaining other people as much as their work sustains you.

Third, reflect on not being greedy.

Fourth, reflect on what food is really about — keeping us alive and healthy.

Fifth, reflect on “attaining the Way,” or realizing enlightenment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Well it is the day before and since Minimonk gave us a turkey which required a variance in the rules from Madam it looks like I will cook a bird tomorrow. It also means I have to do some of the traditional things like pumpkin pie and pecan pie(have you seen the price of pecans lately?). I am about to go get started on the early prep like baking cornbread for the dressing and cubing up some sourdough to dry out. I may bake pies tonight as well it... just depends on my mood. I worked Monday and Tuesday but don't have to go back until 10a on Friday. The job pretty much entails standing on your feet for 8 hours and it is going to take some getting used to. I appreciate the two days rest but I am going to blow some of it cooking.

UPS just arrived with my new Kindle. Just like Christmas early!

Everybody have a great holiday. If your are traveling, be safe. Give everyone in your family a big hug. Don't eat all the turkey in a single sitting because the whole reason to cook a turkey is for turkey sandwiches don't you know.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Just another example of the treasonous behavior of the GOP.  Here is Paul Krugman writing today about Alan Simpson's eagerness for a "bloodbath" when Republicans try to shut down the government next year:
How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.
My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.
It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.

Good Bye Avalon

Forty-seven years ago today I was in biology class when the announcement came over the loudspeaker from a stunned and almost speechless principal... American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in his motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas.

He was the youngest man elected U.S. president and was killed by gunshots on November 22, 1963 as he rode in an open-top car.  He was 46 years old.

I always get a lump in my throat when I think about that day and the succeeding days watching the funeral.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

100 Books to Read

The BBC has a list of the top 100 must read books. Have you read more than six of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Like everyone else in the universe I have some issues with the list as I think Asimov's Foundation series belongs on the list as does the Future History series by Heinlein . I have a few other additions as well and a few deletions(The Bible?) but whatever. I have only read 45 of the list so I guess I should get busy. I mean seriously, how could they put Dune on the list and leave off Heinlein and Asimov?

Updated to add the missing #23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Necessary Reading

Barbara at Mahablog has rounded up some necessary reading for us all that fleshes out her post on the doings of the GOP. The thrust of it all is that it has become obvious to most everybody that if you set out to purposely destroy the U.S. you couldn't do much better than what the GOP is doing now and planning to do in the near future. They want the President to fail so badly that they are willing to bring the nation down to accomplish their goals. It is the elephant in the room and I don't know whether it is going to get the treatment it deserves in the MSM.

This is important, and it relates to the recent post “Failure Is the GOP’s Only Option.” Please read:

Steve Benen, “None Dare Call It Sabotage.”
Kevn Drum, “The Liberal Noise Machine.”
Brad DeLong, “Paul Krugman on the Axis of Depression.”
BooMan, “Cynical or Crazy?

Blue Moon

Today is the third full moon in the last quarter which means it is officially a Blue Moon according to the Farmer's Almanac. I'm off today but there is bread to bake, leaves to round up and put in the garden and all kinds of little chores to be done. Working the afternoon/evening shift tomorrow so I have to get all the chores done today. Still haven't set a plan for Thanksgiving. Minimonk is going to drop off a large frozen turkey that was a gift and she doesn't want it. Madam is relenting and allowing it in the house. I guess I will be doing a turkey and there is a good possibility I will smoke it as a plain roasted turkey leaves me kind of cold. However, I do truly love a cornbread dressing which if nothing else will be on the menu for Thursday along with pumpkin pie. I have a nice ten pound pumpkin grown by my friends Carmen and Kelly down the street  that will make a couple of pies with room to spare. Can't let Thanksgiving pass without those two things.

We shall see if the weather cooperates for the turkey smoking. Right now there is a 20% chance of rain Tues, Wed and Thurs which is all the more reason I need to get out and get some leaves rounded up. If I have time I will also hook up the trailer and cruise the neighborhoods for other peoples leaves that they have bagged up and left on the street. I managed about 60 big bags for the garden last year which really helps the soil. Off to the leaves and don't forget to go out and relish the full 'blue' moon tonight.

Oh, and if you are traveling by air over the next few days...enjoy! I just had a friend return from Australia through LAX and his Facebook post wasn't very complimentary of the process. To make matters worse he is a Brit and none to pleased with Yankee sexual assault.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Thing

With all the kerfuffle about porno scans and sexual assault in the airports I am really, really glad I am not traveling on a weekly basis anymore. I am not sure I could keep my cool. I am pretty much convinced it is over the top and unnecessary. If you think about it...we were doing the shoes off and pat downs and scanners before 9/11 and it was pretty effective. Granted the system failed on 9/11 but ask yourself out of how many aircraft boardings in the U.S. on a yearly basis and you see that it was a rare occurrence. Note also that the security failure on 9/11 really belongs at the feet of Shrub. He and his crew ignoring the warnings about Al Qaeda and not upping the level of security played a huge part in allowing the event to come down.

My personal take on all this is that it is just another way for the fat cats to make money off the 9/11 tragedy at the expense of us regular Joes. If they can keep us off balance and willing to continue to give up our rights without a fuss they will soon have us where they want us and own us completely. We will be begging them for jobs, no matter how menial and we might even have to beg them for food and shelter before it is all over. If we keep giving up our rights and they continue to take more and more of the economic pie we won't be that far from good old feudalism.

Win One, Lose One

The House did something good today and something bad today. The good thing was killing the GOP effort to remove funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and unfortunately the bad thing was not extending the unemployment benefits authorization. Those people that have not used all their 99 weeks of benefits  as of December aren't going to be able to it appears. Just hide and watch... now that that they have told the unemployed to fuck off and die they will debate the pros and cons of giving the wealthiest 2% of the country a continued tax break on all their income over $250,000.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dark Ages...Woot!

Paul Krugman again. No since in me trying to paraphrase it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Two 8 hour days of web/computer based training and I am officially zoned. My eyes look like two pee holes in a snow bank. Anyway that part is over and now I am actually in front of customers. People may smirk and call me a wimp but standing on your feet all day is hard. My back is killing me. Two extra strength Advil chased with a couple of glasses of "three buck chuck" is what I self prescribed. I'm now off for two days so I will recover by Friday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still Here

I'm still here just busy with the new gig. I'll be back to my regular routine in a couple of days.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Glorious Fall Day

I took advantage of another beautiful day and got a lot of clean up done in the garden. All the peppers are out as are the okra trees(seriously). Believe it or not I still found a peck of peppers as I pulled up the plants even after the huge harvest a couple of days ago. Big pile of stuff to compost but I'll wait to drag out the chipper until I am done making piles.

Tomorrow is my first actual day in the new part time gig. We'll see how that goes. Only orientation and training but it is actually going to be on the clock. The last time I earned this low a wage was when I first went in the Navy back in the mid sixties as a seaman apprentice but I am actually looking forward to getting out and about. It is not in a cubicle nor does it require travel and weeks away from home which is a good thing. Now that winter is just about here and all the gardening chores are not part of the daily routine I need something to keep my brain working. As I said, Madam was beginning to accuse me of getting "hermity". What is sort of funny is that my new employer actually paid me(my company) about 30 times more an hour just three years ago for my expertise. It is to laugh.

I did go out and get a flu shot today in preparation for interacting with the public on a daily basis...better safe than sorry.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This poem "In Flanders Field" is a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in a cemetery in the Flanders region of Belgium on May 3, 1915, the day after the death of his young friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

This is probably the most famous poem written during World War I and the poppies they immortalize, have come to symbolize the fallen soldiers of WWI.

I salute you comrades. To all of us that have worn the uniform or still wear the uniform and especially those who have laid their lives upon the alter of war, my most humble thank you.

The painting of Flanders Field is by Willy Werner

Not Serious

Here is all you need to know about the report yesterday from the Deficit Commission. It is best thing I've read so far on the Bowles-Simpson trial balloon.

This covers all you need to know. These people aren't really serious about deficit reduction because all our problems are with health care costs and they aren't really being addressed. As I have said before, any deficit discussion you hear from someone that mentions Social Security with respect to the deficit you can immediately ignore because they are ignorant and/or just bullshitting you.

It is really galling to read article after article in the media that don't make the point that Social Security is not part of our deficit problem. A tiny tweak to the amount of income subject to SS taxes would make it solvent forever.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Attack On Social Security Begins In Earnest

via TPM

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the chairs of the catfood commission, have issued their draft recommendations, and they are pretty much a whack at the middle and lower classes, as you would expect.
The plan would reduce Social Security benefits to most future retirees — low-income people would get a higher benefit — and it would subject higher levels of income to payroll taxes to ensure Social Security’s solvency for at least the next 75 years.
But the plan would not count any savings from Social Security toward meeting the overall deficit-reduction goal set by Mr. Obama, reflecting the chairmen’s sensitivity to liberal critics who have complained that Social Security should be fixed only for its own sake, not to balance the nation’s books.
The proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent on the lowest income bracket (now 10 percent) and to 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.
Surpise, surprise, the wealthy get lower taxes, we lose our mortgage interest deduction,  and not only that but we get a cut in Social Security and a raise in the retirement age to boot. These people are still rolling Medicare and Social Security into the government deficits...which they are not. They are separately funded and their cost does not come out of the general fund. Note also that the commission was created to address the deficit and not entitlements.

Among other recommendations:
  • Index the retirement age to longevity -- i.e., increase the retirement age to qualify for Social Security -- to age 69 by 2075.
  • Index Social Security yearly increases to inflation rather than wages.
  • Freeze federal worker wage increases through 2014; eliminate 200,000 federal jobs by 2020; and eliminate 250,000 federal non-defense contractor jobs by 2015
  • Establish co-pays in the VA medical system and change the co-pays and deductibles for military retirees that remain in that system.
  • Eliminate NASA funding for commercial space flight.
  • Require the Smithsonian museums to start charging entrance fees and raise fees at the national parks.
  • Eliminate funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which many conservatives suggested in the wake of the firing of former NPR contributor Juan Williams.
  • Reduce farm subsidies by $3 billion per year.
Mind you, this is not the actual full recommendation of the commission, which requires 14 of the 18 members to sign off. Supposedly its a starting point to get the ball rolling on getting the full commissions approval.  Couple this with Pete Peterson's new attacks on Social Security and I think we are beginning to see an all out effort to finalize the plutocracy. Without Social Security, viable health care and the rest of the social support network we will be at the mercy of the plutocrats. They will, in short order, and thanks to the GOP be completely free of any government oversight and they will have us at their mercy. We will survive or die at their whim and we will survive only if it profits them.

You can read the draft plan here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Campfire Marshmallows

For some reason these things crossed my mind today and I have been thinking about them ever since. Do you remember when marshmallows came packaged this way? These were the days when they were molded in a corn starch lined mold and not extruded as they are today. The ones in the box were perfect little dusty gems of chewy goodness and were perfect roasted over an open fire. Just another example of "modern" production methods taking away something special.

photo credit: Don Johnson

Lame Duck = Action Time

Go for broke is what I say.

People, especially the GOP, seem to be overlooking the fact that the Democrats are still in the majority in both houses and have the Presidency. Cantor and the rest are already giving orders and ultimatums but the fat lady ain't sung yet.

The Democrats don't have much to lose if they take some serious action in the lame duck session. They have the power to get rid of the filibuster rule and they should. It is the primary cause for most of our trouble right now with respect to the economy. If we hadn't had to appease the conservatives we might have actually gotten some real stimulus. The Democrats should forget bipartisan anything and just ramrod through what they want. Tax cuts the way they want them, DADT, the energy bill the house already passed, more stimulus, extend unemployment benefits, hell, even create a single payer health care or extend Medicare to all, whatever. While they are at it they should raise the debt ceiling as well to take that stick out of the GOP's hands in the new congress.

Kill the filibuster and get some stuff done now because it sure won't get done in the next congress. What's the downside? The Republicans will howl and sling socialist and Hitler around but what's new? Maybe it will push Limbaugh and Beck over the edge and we'll get a twofer.

I know, I know wishful thinking but it is fun to imagine the ruckus it would create.

Fried Green Tomatoes the First Frost Treat

One of the things about having your first frost of the season is that it forces you do pick all of the green tomatoes still hanging around. Once the vine has been frosted and is dying the tomatoes won't grow any more and a hard freeze will ruin them as well. The highlight is that you are forced to do something with them and around chez Monk the answer is Fried Green Tomatoes which both Madam and I love. You can follow the link to my recipe but there are hundreds available around the tubes. For all you non southerners and Europeans that stop in here I would encourage you to give them a try if you have never had them. When properly prepared they are crunchy on the outside and tart and juicy in the center and a great side dish and for the daring they make a great addition to a burger or a roasted red pepper sandwich. We had a dinner from the garden last night with fried green tomatoes, freshly picked spinach and a radish, cucumber and red onion salad. There was a roasted  balsamic pork tenderloin but that didn't come from the garden.

I've got quite a few green Roma tomatoes that are begging to be green tomato relish or green tomato chutney but I am having trouble working up the spit to do it. It would be a shame to let them go to waste. Yeah, they will ripen but letting them ripen off the vine produces a rather bland tomato just like you get from the grocery.

Breakfast Deer

Our family of deer decided to visit during breakfast this morning. A little snack of liriope and a bit of hydrangea with a little sip from the birdbath. Just barely light enough to get a picture. The smallest one in the middle is my friend from yesterday's adventure in the garden. Mama is the one in the back.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What's Up Deer?

I've just come in from the garden and had a interesting experience. I was busily weeding a bit around the cabbage when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. I slowly turned and there was a young deer, probably this spring's crop, standing not ten feet from me giving me the eye. I slowly straightened and it just stood there for 3 or 4 minutes and then turned and walked away to the other side of the garden and proceeded to graze along the fence. I went back to work and maybe 20 minutes later it was there again just staring at me with the occasion flick of the ears. Again, after a few minutes it wandered off, jumped the fence, and disappeared in the woods. This time of year the bucks can get aggressive during the rut and occasionally challenge you but this one was just curious I guess. It was a feel good experience and I did say hello but since I didn't know its true name it felt justified in ignoring me.

It is also rather puzzling why a lot of the things we grow for food such as cabbage, broccoli, turnips, etc. don't seem to interest the deer at all but they seem to relish the parts of other crops but mostly only the parts we don't eat like sweet potato vines and okra leaves. They do, however, have a taste for chard, spinach and beet tops.  I guess I should be glad they don't like it all.

First Frost

We had our first frost over the weekend as the temp on Saturday night fell to 29F. Needless to say the non frost hardy stuff took it hard. The last struggling tomatoes are now burned and gone. There weren't many and there are a few green tomatoes (all Roma) to pick and the plants to get composted. The frost hardy stuff is doing fine and cabbages are starting to head and broccoli starting to form crowns. A little warmer this week so no more danger of additional damage for a while.

I did finally dig up what few sweet potatoes survived the deer depredation and it was pitiful. Maybe 20 proper tubers and there rest just enlarged roots. A lot of work for such a small reward. I can feel the 100 feet of digging this morning in my back and shoulders. I had planted the sweet potatoes on the eastern end of the garden which is where the best soil is but the area gets morning shade and I think the lack of morning sun and the deer in combination did the trick. I'll move them back to the western end next year and while the soil is not as good it seems a full day of sun is more important to sweet potatoes than good soil. Lesson learned.

I am off to do a little more garden clean up since it is a shame to waste another glorious fall day.

Supposed to start my new part time job on Thursday as it seems I passed all the checks and they evidently didn't test for Cabernet. Not that I expect more than a few hours a week but I had better get as much work done around here before that begins.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Made In the U.S.A.

I meant to mention this the other day. I went out to get some shoes last weekend and since I was very happy with the New Balance 992's I got last year and very, very happy that they were made in the U.S.A., I went to the New Balance store again. The 992's have been replaced by the 993 but are basically the same only they now come in black, navy and the original gray. They are still made in the U.S.A. and New Balance has several other lines of shoes that are made in the U.S.A. I like that. So, if you are looking for running shoes, walking shoes or other athletic shoe and have access to a New Balance outlet. Check them out as they are the only company still making some of their athletic shoes here at home. The New Balance shoes you will find in stores like Kohl's, Dillard's or Target will most likely be foreign made. You'll probably have to either go to a New Balance shop or order them online to find American made ones.

Peppers, Peppers

Since we are supposed to get a frost tomorrow night it was time to pick any straggler peppers in the garden. I took the green garden basket. I had to make three trips back to the house to get another container. Somehow, in the last couple of weeks, since I did what I thought was the last big pepper picking things grew. As you can see the community charity food pantry will get lots of peppers in the morning.

Ancient Baking

I finally found a source for emmer wheat(Triticum dicoccum) known as farro in Italy. It is an ancient variety of wheat with fewer chromosomes in its DNA than modern wheat. So I ordered a 4.5 pound bag of emmer wheat flour from Bluebird Grain Farms and it got here the other day. Since it is raining and cold I do what I always do and bake. I've got a batch of emmer sourdough proofing and we'll see what this ancient grain is all about. Since it is probably one of the first grains domesticated by man I thought is would be fun to try. Emmer has all but disappeared from cultivation except in Italy where they grow it mostly for cereal. In the Middle East it was supplanted by barley as the main grain since barley is more tolerant of salty soil caused by irrigation.

Since the DNA is different in emmer(28 chromosomes versus 42 for modern wheat) and it is lower in gluten(and the gluten is different) there is some information that says people with gluten issues can tolerate this flour. I don't have any problems with gluten so I am just trying it for the flavor and experience of baking with such an ancient grain. The bread I have proofing right now is only 50% emmer wheat and the rest is bread flour and it is my standard bread for everyday baking. I just substituted the emmer wheat for the whole wheat I normally use. If this makes a nice loaf at 50% I'll up the percentage 10 % and try again until the lower gluten in the emmer causes the bread to fail. By fail I mean the bread won't be able to support itself and rise. We will just have to see if this ancient flour is worth its high price since it is about 30% more expensive than other organic whole grain flours.

Shot in Foot...Must Reload

Thanks to Mustang Bobby at BBWW for pointing this out. As usual Mark cuts to the chase and says it pretty much as it is. Yes, the performance of the Obama administration and the Dems was disappointing but at least they were trying to govern and battling a giant NO every where they looked. Maybe the incumbent Dems needed to have a knot jerked into their string but now that the GOP is back in power, which is all they care about...power, not governing, we'll see a terrific mess. I can't wait for the tea party yahoos to realize that the GOP is going to do the will of their corporate and wealthy owners and not kowtow to the wishes of the peon tea baggers.

Mark Moford at SF Gate sends a letter to a whiny young Democrat.
Oh, now you've done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party's newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as "the long view"?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren't immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?


So here's what you need to know, right now: Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, a bit of goddamn miracle. He's simply as good as we're going get for an articulate, thoughtful, integrity-rich Democratic prez in your lifetime. Period. To hamstring his administration out of spite and laziness is childish and sad. Check the accomplishments. Understand the process. Deal with the messiness.

It will never be perfect. It will never be giddy liberal nirvana, because it doesn't work that way. Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don't, we all lose.

Your choice, kiddo.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Missed Opportunity

What Athenae Said.

So there's going to be a lot of ink expended over the next couple of weeks trying to figure out how this happened, as if it's a goddamn mystery. This economy blows goats, and instead of being out there every day yelling HEY WE TRIED TO FIX IT THOSE FUCKERS WOULDN'T LET US ALSO BUSH BAILED OUT THE BANKS NOT US, Democrats pretty much figured the midterms were gonna be a bloodbath and hunkered down and hoped it wouldn't hit them too hard. Because that works. That always works.

Here's the problem, you gutless fucks. You had majorities. And I KNOW, okay, but all America sees is that you had majorities and you wasted them. Because that's what the GOP told them, and you said, "buh buh buh" and couldn't point to anything you did right, not even with the unwashed hippies holding your arm up for you. You had majorities, and you had Harry Reid, refusing to be mean to Republicans by shoving stuff through. You had majorities, and you had Barack Obama acting like he was already an ex-president and could be gracious and social with these pricks. You had majorities, used them to do some stuff, and then sat back and acted like we should be grateful when we can fucking count.

We can fucking count, out here. We know what 51 means. We know what 257 means. We're not morons. And all the procedural whatsit you argue today, about ConservaDems and Blue Dogs, doesn't mean shit. You had it, and we worked hard to give it to you, and we see you calling things impossible which are just very hard, and we get fucking annoyed, because we don't get to get away with that shit. Not at our jobs and not in our lives.

Now, I'm not excusing the Party of I Hate You or these teabagging excuses for human beings who think education is vaguely homosexual in some sinister way, but I am saying that the lesson we're all going to take away from this is that America just isn't a Democratic nation and we should all tack to the right and us hippies should just die in a fire already, which is bullshit. The lesson we should take away from this is that America doesn't like [wimps], doesn't like whiners and it sure as fuck doesn't like parties that pretend to be able to do less than they can do just because they don't want to work that hard or have Chris Matthews call them mean.

You had majorities. You had power and you told us you were powerless. Why would anyone reward that with more power? Why would anyone think that's a good idea?

Go leave her some love.

That Was Ugly

Wow! That was one ugly election for the Democrats. Now we get to see how badly the GOP screws things up. It is going to be ugly. Here in Georgia the GOP took every race. Ouch!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Lots of Voters

I just came back from voting and was surprised by the number of people. I was expecting to zip through. The lines weren't as large as the 2008 elections but were respectable. Anyhow, maybe that portends well for Dems as the spread between registered voters and likely voters has never been so large.

I was also reminded by the ballot that U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga) was unopposed which just pisses me off no end. To be honest this is such a hard GOP district that I don't believe a Democrat has ever been elected and it has now been gerrymandered so hard to the right that it will probably never happen.

One More Time

If you’re really, really still planning to shirk your civic duty by not voting today, watch this video and remind yourself of exactly what has been accomplished so far by President Obama and the Democrats in spite of the monstrous stonewalling by the GOP...check out what the fuck Obama has done so far, and then do what is right and go vote.

Oh, and if you don't know where to vote then find your polling place here.

And if you would like some help on deciding who/what to vote for...Find a Local Progressive Voter Guide

Monday, November 01, 2010

Last Chance

Tomorrow is going to be your last chance to do a prevent on the upcoming Congressional disaster. If you are keen on two or more years of gridlock and insanity running your government then stay at home and don't go out and vote for a Democrat. This is a big deal and by not voting you are handing the reins to the GOP and I hope you enjoy the result. The polls are showing that if more registered voters went to the polls the outcome would be for Dems but the enthusiasm gap is causing many Democratic and Independent voters to stay at home. It's a damn shame and it is going to make me really irritated when we see the carnage tomorrow night.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Little Sunshine

Speaking of Professor Krugman. I'll relay this bit of sunshine for your Friday morning.

Krugman paints a happy portrait of our political future:
This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.
I couldn't have said it better myself.


If you are still not planning to vote because of your misguided “plague on both your houses” thinking. Then ask yourself:  that if both major parties are the same why are the billionaires like the Koch brothers and corporations throwing millions of dollars into this election to elect Republicans and against Democrats?

The shrill one also gives us another reason to consider voting.

The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.
While I am at it...I should like to remind you that voting is actually not about yourself but about your country and its citizens. Your enfranchisement allows you participate in the governance of the country and how you and your fellow citizens will work together to "form a more perfect union". One of greatest, if not the greatest, mistakes people make when casting their vote is considering whether to vote themselves "bread and circuses" instead of what is best for the country, county, town as a whole and in today's global interdependent world our votes determine, to a great extent, what will happen in the rest of the world and to the billions of global inhabitants. Yes, your vote will affect you but it is not about you and to vote your own self interest above that of the country as a whole is a great disservice to your country and ultimately to yourself.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mumble, Mumble

Finally quit storming and raining. We dodged the worst of it but North of us got whacked (North Carolina)...very strange weather for October. It was almost like it was the remnant of a tropical storm.

I actually went for a job interview this morning. Nothing much and just part time. Madam mentioned that I was getting "hermity" so I thought I might just find something to while away a few hours and get out among 'em. Since the job involves handling money I have to have a background check, credit check and I went and peed in a cup this morning as well( I sure hope they don't test for Cabernet Sauvignon!). We'll see what  comes of it.

In honor of being accused of being a hermit and since Madam was hinting that she needed cookies with her Trader Joe's French Vanilla ice cream (very nice ice cream BTW) I baked her a batch of Hermits yesterday. She pronounced them acceptable and it is really nice to smell those spicy things baking. One of the great cookie recipes of all time.

I blew off cooking dinner last night and we just had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and salad though they were made with Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar and homemade semolina sourdough. Tonight I decided to make amends for last night's rough grub by making a slow cooked Italian meat sauce which is on the stove now and smelling very good. This one is hot Italian sausage based and using some of my home canned tomatoes from last year and sauce from this year. We canned a lot of damn tomatoes last year! The cool air is back after the storms so a big plate of whole grain spaghetti with meat sauce will be nice and yes there will be Cabernet involved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Going To Be Ugly

Next Tuesday will tell the tale. Judging by the last two years the next two years are going to be an even more intense political disaster than we have seen so far., Regardless of whether the GOP takes back one or both houses of Congress, the obvious political success of the strategy of obstruction will encourage them to raise the ante even higher. The real question is whether we will just collapse into a complete paralysis or just wallow in  incompetence while the economy withers further and joblessness continues apace.
Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:
The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.
And if they take one or both houses of Congress, complete policy paralysis — which will mean, among other things, a cutoff of desperately needed aid to the unemployed and a freeze on further help for state and local governments — is a given. The only question is whether we’ll have political chaos as well, with Republicans’ shutting down the government at some point over the next two years. And the odds are that we will.
No one can argue that their continuous obstruction has been politically popular as evidenced by the forecast gains in Congress. It also abundantly clear that, if anything, their obsession with reducing government and taxes is stronger and just as misguided as ever.  They refuse to admit or recognize that job losses peaked the month before President Obama took office and that now, after a severely weakened stimulus, we are now, after two years, finally seeing some private sector job growth. Somehow, in their very strange world view, they really seem to believe that the solution to improving the economy is doing nothing.

What is even stranger is that they seem genuinely proud of their paralysis and obstruction and they are already crowing that it will get even worse. For example, Mike Pence, the number three House Republican, pledges that the GOP will refuse to compromise with the Obama administration or Democrats in Congress on anything. His actual words were "Look, there will be no compromise" . Mitch McConnell the GOP leader in the Senate actually said,  "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." that says it all.

One would hope, that in a saner world, the Republicans would take the message from the voters and make an attempt to actually govern for a change. That is not going to happen. The GOP are going to pursue paralysis with gusto....the hell with America's problems. It's going to be very ugly and if the GOP does retake the house we can look forward to basically nothing getting done over the next two years and we'll be lucky if they don't manage to shut down the government completely. The only chance for something positive to come out of this is for the President to fight them tooth and nail and for the Democrats to make clear that there is an alternative to just doing nothing. It is, however, going to take leadership by Obama and we'll just have to see if he has gotten over his insistence at doing everything to reach a bipartisan solution. The GOP is going to have nothing to do with bipartisan and it should be clear to the White House by now that the coming two years are going to require a little more spine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally A Little Rain

Woke up to rain this morning...hooray! Since it is a rainy day I think some more baking experimentation is called for. There was a recipe for 'fienbrot' posted on The Fresh Loaf forums from a German baker that might be my answer in my search for the 'perfect' sourdough rye. Evidently, one of the secrets to getting the most out of rye(or any whole grain) when it comes to flavor is to soak it for 24 hours in a lightly salted water mixture. The salt retards fermentation but allows the natural enzymes in the flour to do their magic. I'm going to give it a whirl even though it is a two plus day process as is my process for my 'daily' sourdough which I bake every week. If this keeps up I will have bread dough in some stage of fermenting or soaking 24x7! Madam likes the bread but not my assortment of containers with various concoctions sitting about the kitchen nor the various bags of flour. Right now on the counter are whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, spelt flour, bread flour, semolina flour, and A/P flour. So I ma off to start two long process doughs. My Poilane style sourdough which uses a little rye an spelt in addition to bread flour and requires an overnight levain and the new recipe for fienbrot which has both a whole grain flour soaker and a levain. I might be a nice guy and pre weigh all my flours and at least put away the flour bags since I will have four bowls out on the counter. I can meet Madam half way.

BTW the semolina sourdough turned out brilliant and is definitely a keeper recipe.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Another beautiful weekend but alas no rain either. Still feeling the effects of the 'epizudic' or whatever and have that irritating post head cold hack. The faeries didn't stack all the logs left from the fallen pine that I cut up and I thought sure the full moon would bring them out. Alas, I guess I shouldn't wait for the next full moon to see if they get around to it.

Going to do some more experimental baking this weekend since last weekend's was so successful. Susan at Wild Yeast posted a recipe for soft semolina sourdough that looks good so I'll give it whirl. I have also been buying the occasional bag of whole wheat flat bread from the grocery. It's real bread and nice but I should be able to bake my own much cheaper. I'll give it a try and if I succeed I'll share the recipe.

Money For Nothing and Your Chicks Aren't Free

With apologies to Dire Straits.

I read in the paper this morning that the 'virtual' fence thing along the Mexican border has sucked up a billion dollars or so and proven itself completely useless. The administration and DHS are going to announce 'Oh it's just money' and cancel the whole thing. A lot of contractors made some big bucks, billed some mighty profitable hours so that's OK and some folks in the DHA have a guaranteed job when they are finished feeding at the government trough.

It got me to thinking about this whole DHS thing and TSA. Probably because I was also remembering about the pilot who refused to go through the full body scan at Memphis the other day and the airport shakedown of the Dalai Lama. The thing is I am having trouble remembering any actual thwarting of a terrorist attack or hijacking by all this additional cost and hassle precipitated on us by the DHS/TSA since 9/11. We have paid out billions of dollars but I sure can't remember or see what we have gotten for it other than more hassles. Some events have been prevented but the ones I remember where discovered or thwarted after the perp was on the plane and well on the way. Have they caught anyone with a bomb yet? They have stopped a few people with guns but they weren't hijackers as far as I can remember.

Can someone explain to me what we have gotten from the new TSA bureaucracy other than a big pain in the ass and a huge, huge bill. I might be wrong but I don't feel like we are getting such a good deal.