Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Think About the Fiddler

Charles Pierce has a post discussing why he is voting for Barack Obama and it is worth a read. Here is just a taste...

Barack Obama owes more than I'd like him to owe to the Wall Street crowd. He probably at this point owes a little more than I'd like him to owe to the military. The rest he owes to the millions of people who elected him in 2008 — especially to those people whose enthusiasm I neither shared nor really understood — and he will owe them even more if they come out and pull his chestnuts out of the fire for him this time around. He may sell them out — and, yes, I understand if you wanted to add "again" to that statement — but they are not likely to revenge themselves against the country if he does and, even if they decided to, they don't have the power to do much but yell at the right buildings.

On the other hand, Willard Romney owes even more to the Wall Street crowd, and he owes even more to the military, but he also owes everything he is politically to the snake-handlers and the Bible-bangers, to the Creationist morons and to the people who stalk doctors and glue their heads to the clinic doors, to the reckless plutocrats and to the vote-suppressors, to the Randian fantasts and libertarian fakers, to the closeted and not-so-closeted racists who have been so empowered by the party that has given them a home, to the enemies of science and to the enemies of reason, to the devil's bargain of obvious tactical deceit and to the devil's honoraria of dark, anonymous money, and, ultimately, to those shadowy places in himself wherein Romney sold out who he might actually be to his overweening ambition. It is a fearsome bill to come due for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee. Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the difference.

Happy Samhain or Halloween

It's a power day.
The moon is still almost full and bright.
Placate the spirits and honor your ancestors.

If you give treats think about chocolate instead of empty sugar and for Goddess' sake don't give out little boxes of raisins. It's a known fact that thousands are maimed, injured and even killed by angry polar bears for giving out boxes of raisins on Halloween.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nothing Much

Just some wind here about from Sandy for which I am thankful. I really feel for all those in the Northeast that are getting hit. Every time one of these "able to prepare for" events comes up I am just amazed or ashamed or aghast that no one talks about the folks that are just scraping by. Everyone of them has long since used their food stamp money as it is the end of the month and won't see any more until Thursday at the earliest. The talking heads go on and on about stocking up on batteries and canned food and water and all that but the reality is that there are probably millions of families that don't have two nickels this time of month in Sandy's path. What should have happened is that all their food stamp debit cards should have had an emergency addition a day or two ago and they might have been able to buy a cheap flash light and a can of beans. It's just really depressing. All I have to complain about is that it turned a bit chillier than I expected and thus I wasn't properly prepared for my outdoor shift in the garden center last night. Only got down to about 50F but with the wind I nearly froze.

Finally got another day off today which allowed me to actually get to the gym for the first time in nearly a week. I had pans to do a little gardening today but it is just too windy. I'll spend some time practicing the guitar and cooking. I need to charge my batteries because I'm scheduled almost a full 40 hours this much for part time.

Speaking of cooking...
The cool and windy weather has prompted me to make a nice beef stew for dinner...a nice little piece of top round chunked up and braised in red wine and a mirepoix, a little tomato paste and some beef broth, a couple of bay leaves and a tablespoon of dried thyme. It will braise in a slow oven for a few hours and then before serving I will add pan roasted whole shallots and some sauteed(in butter) baby portabellas and crisp lardons. Just have to decide on the wine but I am leaning toward an Italian old vine Zin which should pair well. It was only 6 bucks at Trader Joe's and it is a very good value. I had the first bottle with a lamb stew I made last week which was also a slow braise BTW and it was excellent.

Speaking of guitar...
My teacher gave me a tough assignment to nail before the next lesson and that is master all five "boxes" of the pentatonic scale in "E". If you know anything about guitar and pentatonic scales it is the shapes that are important and if you can do it all in E then you can do any scale by just starting on another note. It is important in that it lets you utilize the entire fret board. I can do them slowly with only the occasional flub but speed is eluding me. I'll get it but it is not easy. I still haven't understood why the pentatonic scales leave out the C and F of the sacred basic C scale but I.m sure there is a good reason or at least some monk in the middle ages thought there was.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Racing South

I don't think I have ever seen the clouds move so fast.
Racing South across the almost full moon.
This is an omen and I fear an ill one.
The clouds never race South.

A Little Wind and Rain

Just got off a back to back(closed at ten last night and opened this and we are getting some pretty good gusts of wind and an occasional shower from Sandy. The temperature has dropped pretty significantly and now at nearly 6pm it is only 55F. We should see temps in the 30's for the first time this season. I just got everybody that needs protection into the greenhouse so we are good.
Good night for soup but I just have to decide which....butternut squash or potato or onion or onion and potato. I think I am leaning toward a nice roasted cippolini onion and potato. All the ingredients would be from the garden(except for the chicken broth which is, however , homemade) but then again so would the butternut squash soup. Work again tomorrow but have Tuesday off so we may actually catch up with things here.

If you are in Sandy's direct or near path please be safe. Remember, tie a string to the cork screw and then to your ankle so that you can find it the dark. You did buy a case or two of 2 buck Chuck to see you through didn't you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Car Damage

Ok, I've put the Obama-Biden sticker on the back windshield so I should expect some car damage in the next couple of weeks. This place is lousy with mouth breathing Rethugs and Tea Party cretins so it is just a matter of time. This is especially true as my car will be in the Home Depot parking lot for extended periods. Oh the price of choice.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Break

Whew, tonight was the last of five straight long days at you know where. I've had to close for each of the last five nights and it has really taken its toll. I'm exhausted. I finally have a day off tomorrow but am wondering if I will have the spit to do anything. I just have to wait and see what the morning brings. Believe it or not I have just passed my two year anniversary and it just seems like last week that I started. Since I am never late, never call out, have the best performance numbers of anyone I got a whole 25 cent per hour raise. Pretty soon ( 3 or 4 years) we'll be talking real money...maybe even 10 bucks an hour.

The supervisor made the mistake of asking me about the "raise" and I reminded him that I am making less a month here that I was making a day at my previous job(thanks Bain Capital).

RIP - George McGovern

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90.

My vote for Senator McGovern was my first ever vote in a presidential election...and  yes I've been a "bleeding-heart" liberal since way back. Here is what McGovern had to say about being labeled a "bleeding-heart" liberal:

During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I've been labeled a 'bleeding-heart liberal.' It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad. A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate. Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by society's ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction "Love the neighbor as thyself."
George S. McGovern, What It Means to Be a Democrat (2011).

They don't make many like him and I am proud to have voted for him. It's really too bad Nixon won because who knows where we would be today if McGovern had prevailed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lesser Evilism

My friends at Adgitadiaries have an article posted about the dangers of voting for the lesser of two evils....pretty much the situation we are facing with this election and the differences between the Democrats and Republicans. You can read it there.

Here is the thing. We have to acknowledge that the current system is corrupt—both parties are poisoned by big money, big banks and big corporations. When you look at the money required to run for President today it says it all. Morality and ideals are not really a part of  today's political reality. As liberals and progressives we are in a war and when you are at war you have to think and act strategically. In our current situation it would be a colossal strategic failure to allow the GOP to regain control of the White House.  Regardless of how we do it we have to prevent Romney from getting to the White House. Romney as President would be a catastrophe for the elderly and the poor not to mention the middle class. There are lives at stake here and millions of them. If I was strategically allowed to vote my moral conscience I would probably vote for Jill Stein but it would be a strategic disaster. The strategic vote in our current situation is for President Obama as it is the least negative vote with respect to the lives of most Americans and especially the poor and regular working folks. Someday we may become a truly enlightened society where we can carry our morals to the polls but we aren't anywhere close.

Monday, October 15, 2012

No Morning Paper

One of the rituals in my life is a nice quiet read of the morning paper (Atlanta-Journal Constitution) and a nice strong cup of coffee. Everyday for 30 plus years, with very, very few exceptions, my paper was waiting for me in the driveway and almost always by 6am. A note inserted in the paper yesterday morning by the carrier announced that this would be the last paper delivered by an AJC carrier and that home delivery has been outsourced to a third party. The inaugural day of this new service today was greeted with no paper, even now, after 8am. Not happy and I have already fired off an email to the paper's "customer care" and reported the missed delivery and my dissatisfaction. The AJC is probably going to find a few other angry customers this morning and discover that outsourcing such a core piece of your business and one that has an immediate and lasting effect on your customer satisfaction is a huge mistake and I mean huge!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Garden Failure

I had a heavy week at work but I did get a little time the other day to work in the garden. I decided to dig sweet potatoes. The tops were so nice and full even with the deer grazing that I was sure of a good crop. Wrong. Seems as though while I was admiring the luxuriant growth of the tops some small critter, maybe a chipmunk or two was busily tunneling through the patch and feasting on my potatoes. Out of a forty foot row of plants I got only about twenty potatoes...all the rest were half eaten. What should have been about two bushels of potatoes was a double handful. I has a sad as that is the second year in a row where I got nothing to speak of out of the sweet potato patch. On the plus side I did harvest a mountain of peppers which I am trying to dispose of.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

John Lennon

John Lennon would have been 72 years old today. His murder in New York way back on December 8th, 1980 was/is one of the so-called time markers in my life. The world has been a lesser place since he left. It is only appropriate that the lyrics for "Imagine" get remembered today as well.

"Imagine"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

No Religion

There is a new report out that indicates that for the first time Protestants aren't the majority of Americans. The report from Pew shows that 1 in 5 Americans say they  have "no religion".

From what I've read in the AJC and on Huffingtion Post the coverage seems to indicate that atheism and agnosticism are ascendant but I think what this really means is that fewer people, especially the younger population, see the need for formal religion as a crutch when it comes to their self identity.
People, and again the younger folks, are being exposed to different ideas about what it means to be human and what our place is in the great scheme of things. They are beginning to see that spirituality, to use a word, engenders more than what traditional, formal religions offer. Rigid rules and structure are at odds with what many are experiencing in their actual lives. The increased exposure of Eastern thought/philosophy, mysticism, and paganism have given people greater resources when it comes to shaping their beliefs.

Myriad aspects of modern life can no longer be strictly dealt with by whacking them with the Bible. The reality of today doesn't fit comfortably in the rigid rules demanded by Christian traditional religion. More and more people are seeing the value of a philosophy or self awareness built around the peaceful traditions of Buddhism, Shamanism and Paganism. These philosophies are rooted in the natural flow of life and dance to the rhythms of nature, human love and interaction instead of denying the reality of the world. The end result being that they blend or harmonize far better with the way the world really works.

People aren't losing their "religion" so much as they are growing out of it.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Tube Steaked Out

Big "Flea Fling" today and as I said I was on again this year to do the hot dogs. Sold a couple over a hundred and it was definitely the caramelized onions that did the trick. I think next year I am going to go Italian street food and do sausage, onions and peppers on a hard bun instead. People would be willing to pay real money for that.  I was a little disturbed by the fact that they only charged a buck fifty for my efforts. Good Nathan's dogs and caramelized Vidalia onions....should have been at least a buck more.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Dumb as a Fox

In retrospect it seems that President Obama was wise in not using the 47% gaffe during the debate as a cudgel. He apparently suspected that Rmoney would already be expecting it and have a tested response at the ready. Instead of giving Mitt a huge audience for his mea culpa Mitt has to use it on the Hannity show last night to a much, much smaller audience.

Apple-Onion Stir Fry

Since it is fall and the leeks and the onions in the garden should be ready to start harvesting and it is also apple season I thought it might be nice to offer a recipe that uses both. This recipe is from Tassajara and their brilliant cookbook from way back in 1973. For those not familiar with Tassajara it is a now a world famous Zen study center near San Francisco and while it is most famous in cooking circles for its Bread Book its cookbook is a very nice vegetarian guide to cooking. Like many aspects of Zen it is not so much a cookbook as a it is a guidebook. The recipes are not for you to follow but to test, reinvent and create from. It explains a lot and tells you some of the things to look out for but it also leaves you plenty of room for discovery and things to discover on your own. As it says on the back cover:

 "Blessings. You are on your own. Together with everything."

Apple-Onion Stir Fry

You'll need some onions or leeks or some of each, apples, raisins or brown sugar or honey, vinegar or lemon juice, butter or oil, salt and pepper. That's it.

Slice the onions and/or leeks and slice or chunk the apples. About the same amount of each. Saute the onions/leeks in a small amount of oil or butter until they are golden brown or almost caramelized which should take about 10 -15 minutes. Add the apples and raisins(as many as you want, they are for sweetness or you can use brown sugar or honey), season mildly with vinegar or lemon juice, cover, and steam until the apples have softened a bit but not too long. Season with salt and pepper.

This is a nice warming dish and great for a cool fall day. If you cook it down a bit more then you can use it as a spread on some nice toasted whole meal bread.

No there are no exact measurements....if you are cooking for two then make enough for two or if you are cooking for 10 make enough for 10.

This recipe is adapted from the book Tassajara Cooking copyright 1973 by the Zeb Center, San Francisco

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Food and Cooking Are It

When I look at what links bring people to the blog it is almost always a post about food. I should just shut up about politics, zen, geek and science things and post food stuff. Just looking at tonight it has been pickled cherry peppers and peppers stuffed with feta. Next week it will be Tuscan Bean Soup or some other recipe. Whatever.

Unprocessed Challenge

I don't know how many of you took the challenge to eat only unprocessed food during the month of October but if you did then I would like to hear from you. So far I am sticking with it though I must admit that it is not too far off my normal diet. Seems like I am getting more that my fair share of evening shifts lately so cooking has been rather constrained as a result. I've actually only cooked one evening meal this week and that was rather simple, Chopped sirloin from White Oak Pastures(grass fed, local), cottage fries(with homegrown potatoes), and homegrown butter peas(frozen earlier in the year). Basic victuals or rough grub as my late father would have said.

If you didn't take the challenge consider picking up on it now...a great time of year to try homemade soups and slow roasted or braised things. Also remember that going unprocessed, beside being good for you, is a way to eat good food cheaply. Yes, it does take a bit of time to prepare but the results are worth it and we're not talking all day here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Homemade Peanut Butter

With another recall of peanut butter in the works it is probably a good idea to consider making your own at home. You can make it  in a jiffy even if you start with raw peanuts and roast or fry your own. It's really easy if you start with already roasted nuts. Michael Ruhlman has a new post up showing how he does it using raw nuts and frying. Once you make your own you'll discover how easy it is and save a ton of money to boot. All you really need are peanuts(or cashews or almonds or filberts or  any nut) and a food processor and few minutes.

Going to Miss It

Gotta work tonight so I am going to miss the debate live. I'm going to have my Nexus 7 with me just in case I get a chance to sneak a peek. I'm scheduled for the pro register and it is usually pretty quiet at night so I may....regardless I have it scheduled to record so I can see it when I get home.

I honestly don't think it will make much difference and I just don't think Rmoney is capable of changing his stripes at this late date. All the pressure is on the Mittster and people have realized that there is no substance to his campaign. The President is a known entity and can point to the accomplishments he has made in spite of the insane opposition of the GOP.

Never forget that their number one objective was to make him a one term president and it looks like they are going to fail at that as well.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Rainy Monday

It's raining here in the Northern burbs of Atlanta and it is making for a lazy day. I don't have to go to work until 5p so I have the day to do whatever. The new beds/boxes in the greenhouse need thinning already. (I told you the proper potting soil would make a big difference.) There is also a lot of new guitar stuff to try and get under my belt as well so that will take a few hours minimum. I'm trying to do at least 2 hours a day on the guitar and it is starting to pay off. The new PRS guitar is much easier to play than the El Cheapo I had so 2 hours goes by pretty quick. I also think I am going to blow off the gym today and just be a slug.

The big annual Historical Society "Flea Fling" for the Hembree Farm preservation is coming up the 6th so I also have to start thinking about my contribution to the bake sale. I usually do a couple of batches of biscotti which go over pretty well. Last year I did cranberry/almond and chocolate but this year I think it will be pistachio and maybe apricot....we'll see. I am also on the hook to be the hot dog vendor all day so I have to gather up all the stuff for that as well. I grill them over charcoal and have grilled onions for a garnish and they seem to be popular. Before I agree to do the dogs I insist that we use all beef dogs with natural casings so at least they are a little cut above the usual offering. Nothing ruins a tube steak faster than one of those mushy skinless wieners.

Off to murder some baby pants. Everybody play nice.

In case anyone cares I found a cool German guitar site that focuses on the blues. One of the nifty things on there is a midi generator that allows you to create 12 bar backing tracks in any key and with various rhythms and stuff. Nice for practicing.