Saturday, October 31, 2009

Speaking of Scary

If you have a few minutes and want to really give yourself a scare this Halloween then read Matt Taibbi 's piece on the true story of how Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were brought down and how utterly corrupt the players on Wall Street really are. He doesn't leave out President Obama's financial team either. It's a fairly long article but worth the few minutes it will take to read it.

Scared the hell out of me.

The Devil is in the Candy

It is raining again, not a continuous downpour but constant drizzle with occasional downpours so between the steps of baking the weekly sourdough I am cruising around the net. Steve Benen has an interesting bit today in his weekly "This Week in God" post.

In a truly bizarre piece, CBN published fears from Kimberly Daniels about Halloween, which, I assure you, was not a parody.

During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed. A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure ... During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.

The CBN piece, which was eventually removed from the site out of embarrassment, went on to say, "While the lukewarm and ignorant think of these customs as 'just harmless fun,' the vortexes of hell are releasing new assignments against souls. Witches take pride in laughing at the ignorance of natural men (those who ignore the spirit realm).... The danger of Halloween is not in the scary things we see but in the secret, wicked, cruel activities that go on behind the scenes." These "scary things" include, according to the article, "orgies between animals and humans," "animal and human sacrifices," and "sacrificing babies to shed innocent blood."

I guess the main question we have to answer is whether the demons inhabit every piece of candy or whether they have 'favorites'. If I was a demon I am pretty sure I would lean toward certain candies over others. I would have to say I would go for Almond Joy or Mounds over lets say a Milkyway or a Twix bar over a PayDay. I'm pretty fond of Nestle's Crunch, however. Then again, some of the older treats are nice too, like MaryJane and Bit o' Honey. It would be a tough choice. Are there enough demons to inhabit every piece or is some just missed for lack of participation? If there are more demons than candy are there candy possession fights? As to the witches praying and dedicating over all the candy...does Hershey's and M&M Mars have witches on staff or do they just bring them in for the Halloween season?

Definitely some questions around the whole demonic candy possession scenario.

If you were a demon and had to possess some candy which would it be?

Friday, October 30, 2009

About Time TASER Use is Questioned

I haven't posted much about TASERS other than to say I think they are unnecessary and used entirely too much in the course of normal police work. The truth is that they scare me to death. There is story after story of people who haven't committed a crime and just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time being brutally tortured and electrocuted when it is completely unnecessary to protect others or the police. Finally, we have some encourging news on the legal front. I personally think that TASERS have no place in day to day policing and I think a police officer having one is just asking for the use of excessive and potentially deadly force. The Atlanta appeals court has ruled on this Taser casualty in Florida:

(CN) – The 11th Circuit rebuked Orlando officers for Tasering an unarmed man eight to 12 times in two minutes, causing his death. Judge Stanley Marcus said the repeated shocks were “grossly disproportionate to any threat posed and unreasonable under the circumstances.”

According to an eyewitness, Anthony Carl Oliver Sr. flagged down officer Lori Fiorino from a grassy median. She allegedly pulled out her Taser gun and asked him what was wrong. “They’re shooting at me,” he told her, and pointed across the street.

Fiorino tried to calm him down, and later said he had been “very fidgety.”

The witness said Oliver wasn’t belligerent and threatened or cursed at the officer.

Fiorino called for backup, and she and responding officer David Burk considered taking Oliver in for a psychiatric evaluation, because they thought he might be mentally unstable.

When Burk tried to get Oliver to cross the street, Oliver “struggled and pulled away from him,” according to the ruling.

Without warning, Fiorino Tasered him in the stomach, bringing him to the ground. Once the five-second pulse wore off, she Tasered him again. The witness said Oliver never got up after the first Tasering, and never hit, punched, kicked or threatened the officers.

Oliver, who was lying on the hot asphalt, allegedly screamed that it was “too hot.” Fioriono said she may have Tasered Oliver 11 or 12 times, explaining that she kept pulling the trigger until he stayed on the ground. Her Taser log showed eight times in two minutes, with each shock lasting five seconds.

After officers handcuffed Oliver, he began foaming at the mouth, according to Fiorino. She said she was unable to remove all the Taser prongs from his body.

Paramedics put him on a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance, where he began to have a seizure. He was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital, a result of “being struck by a Taser,” according to a forensic pathologist.

Amy Shirley Oliver filed suit on behalf of Oliver’s estate, claiming the officers’ use of excessive force had killed him.

Fiorino and Burk asked the district court to dismiss the case on the basis of qualified immunity, but the district court refused.

The Atlanta-based appeals court affirmed.

“The justification for the repeated use of Taser force, at least beyond an initial Taser shock, was minimal,” Judge Marcus wrote.

Oliver was not accused or suspected of any crime, posed no immediate threat to officers or others, did not act belligerently, was not trying to flee, and was “largely compliant and cooperative with officers,” Marcus noted.

“We agreed with the district court’s determination that the force employed was so utterly disproportionate to the level of force reasonably necessary that any reasonable officer would have recognized that his actions were unlawful,” the court concluded.

This is just one case where the officers went to the extreme but it could open the way for more courts to examine the circumstances around the use of TASERS indiscriminately by some police.

Bottle Tree

Mini Monk has unveiled her latest creation and it is pretty cool. It's called the "Whomping Willow" since the friend she made it for is a big Potter fan. And no I didn't supply the bottles!

A Crack In the Wall?

Or the crack widens:
Consumer spending plunged in September by the largest amount in nine months, reflecting the end of the government's Cash for Clunkers auto sales program. Incomes, the fuel for future spending, were flat.

While the government reported that the overall economy grew in the July-September period, signaling the end of the worst recession in seven decades, the weakness in spending and incomes as the quarter ended underscores the fragility of the recovery.
As I said yesterday, this bit of data seems to show just how much government intervention helped keep the U.S. economy afloat during the 3rd quarter. The American economy is built on consumer spending and it reflects some 70% of it. With so many living on much reduced incomes or just living off what little savings they have managed to accrue I don't expect the 4th quarter to show any improvement and fully expect it to worsen.

We are seeing the legacy of Bush\Cheney play itself out in spades. President Obama inherited a huge mess and I really don't think a large number of Americans realize how big a mess it really is. Even more troubling is the realization that Republicans and Democrats both are guilty helping to create the mess and that GOP is doing everything it can to kill any chance of a quick recovery. It's gonna get uglier.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The economy grew in the third quarter:

For the first time in a year, the United States economy grew, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. But even if a recovery is technically in the offing, job seekers likely will not begin to feel the benefits for months to come.

Gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the three months ending in September, a significant spike from a relatively shrunken base. The economy had contracted at annual rates of 0.7 percent and 6.4 percent in the second and first quarters of this year, respectively.

Robust government spending, exports, consumer spending — buoyed by auto purchases Congress’s now-expired cash-for-clunkers program — and housing helped finally push the measure into positive territory. Spending on consumer durable goods like cars shot up an astounding 22.3 percent at an annual rate, compared to a decrease of 23.3 percent the previous quarter.

Of course, there were also another 530,000 new claims for unemployment filed and I am wondering just how much we can expect GDP to rise with so many out of work. We'll just have to see how much of this 'gowth' was due to one time deals and lowered payroll costs. I am still of the opinion that we are going to have a 'double dipper' where the GDP goes back negative. I hope I am wrong.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Thousand Worms

Just got my package of 1000 red worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. They have been deposited in their nest and are getting settled...I was sure you guys wanted to know. BTW that is a lot of worms!

What Needs to Be Done in the U.S.

Once again the U.S. is late to the game. The UK and EU are taking the lead in addressing some of the root causes of the financial meltdown and we are still playing patty cake. The Dutch led the way, though pushed by the EU, with the break up of ING and now this. It is time for the same thing to begin happening in the U.S. The 'too big to fail' lie has been proven wrong and it is time we got back to a system where competition is a vital part of the everyday financial world.
The European Union will today approve the split of Northern Rock into two sections, a "good", profitable, bank with no bad debt, and a "bad" bank. Ministers will begin exploring sale options at the start of next year when the split happens and a deal could be finalised before the general election. The remaining "bad" bank will remain in state hands for the time being although sales of "tranches" of the more risky mortgages it holds will be explored in the longer term.

The Lloyds and RBS sell-offs will follow over the next three to five years and will be supervised by UK Financial Investments, the government body set up to oversee taxpayers' investment in the banks.

The Government is understood to have made clear that existing larger operators will be banned from participating in the sales.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Micky D's in Keflavik

McDonald's is closing all of its stores in Iceland saying that it can't maintain competitiveness. The thing is, most of their competitors buy local beef and veges and McDonald's flies all their crap in. The people of Iceland probably don't realize how lucky they are...then again maybe they do.

Meatless Mondays

Surprise, surprise. The effort at meatless Mondays in the Baltimore school system is not making the meat industry very happy. Funny thing is their main argument is that not having meat on Mondays is depriving the children of necessary protein. The school system is substituting beans and cheese for meat on Mondays and they are also saving money by doing so. The news is even worse...the kids like the vegan chili and other meatless dishes that are being offered. Bummer.

Missing The Airport?

I need to ask one my pilot acquaintances about this but I was wondering how the Northwest Airline pilots were able to overfly the airport even if they were busy with something else or even sleeping. I was under the, apparently false, impression that almost all modern passenger aircraft pretty much flew airport to airport on 'autopilot' including the post climb out and initial descent into the destination airport. One would think that the autopilot would have at least initiated the descent into MSP and alerted the pilots of the fact. Must be I'm misinformed about the the role the autopilot plays today.

Just Stuff

What ho? I am a little late getting started this morning (well late to the computer anyway). I tried to get my hour and a half walk in before the rain started and failed miserably. I was bright enough to take a 'brolly' but I still got plenty damp. Lucky us, we have flash flood warnings again today but only for today and it should 'brighten' again tomorrow. It will still be enough rain to keep my out of the garden for another 5 or 6 days and another delay before I can get the garlic in. Oh well.

I don't know if I mentioned that my neighbors had some serious flooding in their basement during all the heavy rains and today the folks delivered the third giant dumpster. They have been hauling stuff out and filling the huge skids for weeks. They must have had stuff stacked floor to ceiling to be able to fill up that many dumpsters and they also have a big 'pod' thing which I assume has stuff not ruined by the water. Yesterday I heard the sound of jack hammers coming from there so it looks like they have a crew doing something to fix the water problem. It must be costing them a bundle and they don't even live there anymore as they moved to a new place sometime last year.

I came up with a new way to fix acorn squash last night and for you squash lovers it is worth relaying. Just cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. You may have to trim a little slice off the bottom so that they will sit flat on your baking pan. Fill the cavity with applesauce, a pat of butter and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and a dash of salt. Bake for about an hour in a 350F oven or until they are tender. Very nice. I have done the same with seedless grapes instead of the applesauce and it is nice too.

Speaking of veges(h/t Jill at La Vida Locavore). There is a new report out from the Center for a Livable Future called "Protein 101: Dispelling the Myth Surrounding Meatless Meals." I've gotten some pointed remarks from friends about my shift to a more fruit and vegetable centric diet which I am sure vegans get all the time. They are convinced of the great American myth that meat = protein and that if you are not eating meat everyday you will die from a lack of protein. As the title indicates, the report offers plenty of ammo to rebut the myth. It is really sad that most Americans are so badly misinformed about the protein available in vegetables. Just adding more beans to your diet will pretty much take care of protein needs not to mention fiber. 1 cup of chickpeas has 14.5g of protein, 1 cup of black beans has 15.25g of protein, and 1 cup of pinto beans has 15.4g of protein. Throw in some grains and you can bring even more protein to the party, 1 cup of brown rice has 4.5g of protein and 1 cup of uncooked oats has 26.76g protein. I also eat cheese, eggs and yogurt so I am not hurting for protein and yes I still have the occasional piece of fish or chicken and even pork(yay bacon!).

The first phase of the health care reform battle is over but there are many battles left to be fought. I can't say I am very satisfied with the product, so far, but there is hope that as momentum builds and more people understand the real issues, instead of the teabagger crap, that we'll see more positive developments. I must say this initial skirmish has really pointed out how screwed up and corrupt the Senate really is.

One more food thing. This month's issue of Saveur reviewed some new baking cookbooks and one they mention is Jim Lahey's new baking book. Jim and his Sullivan Street Bakery in New York are famous for the no knead bread recipe that was published in the Times a couple of years ago. I finally tried it and it does, in fact, make a marvelous bread without having to knead. It is airy and full of nice holes and has a great chewy crust. It is definitely the simplest bread recipe anywhere. If you have a cast iron 4-5 qt Dutch oven with a lid which is the only 'specialized' equipment needed, then you can make great bread with no fuss. I'll be baking this again.

That's all and I need another cup of tea. Golden Sencha thank you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I've Got Worms!

I finally found the plans for a feed through, continuous vermi-composter. I have been looking around for quite awhile and finally found it at the web site for Klickitat County Oregon(of all places) in their recycling center. If you are interested, here is the link.

A 'wormery' was the last thing in my organic gardening effort that had eluded me, mostly because of cost. There are a lot of 'wormeries' for sale but the nice continuous varieties are hundreds of dollars. I got all of the materials I needed to build my own for under $30 at Lowe's. 3 Rubbermaid 10 gallon storage 'Roughtotes', 1 8 foot 1x2 piece of cedar lath and 16 1x11/4 wood screws. I already had some screening.

So I have been busy drilling holes and making my own 'wormery'. I even went to the bait shop and bought some red wigglers but I will have to order some more as the bait shop is $4.50 for 25 worms and I need a few hundred. I'll get a load from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm for $20 for a 1000.

I finish it up today and get the first worms to work. What fun!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mostly Bad Fish News

If you are a fish eater you should be very concerned with the state of the world's fisheries. Marion rounds up the latest fish news and not much of it is very encouraging.

It’s too little too late for fish policy, alas, but the EU is trying. It is asking for comment on its Green Paper on Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. If the Green Paper is too much to tackle, try the Citizens’ Summary. It explains why it’s so important to urge the EU to make sustainability a priority in fish policies.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has a new report out on The State of Seafood. Fisheries are at a turning point, it says, and we must act now, or goodbye fish.

And the Seafood Choices Alliance publishes a webletter, Afishionado. Its latest issue deals with the effects of climate change on fish migration, invasive species, and ocean acidification.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Attacking the Roots

Back in the days(last year) when companies paid my company rather healthy sums of money to have me help them solve problems with logistics and inventory I was known as a systemic problem solver. I took a holistic view of the processes and attempted to identify root causes and efforts that were not adding value. I was usually successful and the problems were most often small things that in and of themselves were minor but synergized into something that created a significant problem.

It seems that the President has decided this approach has value.

With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News. President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.
The wingnut noise machine and its enablers such as Limbaugh, Beck, and FAUX news and the money behind them can, as separate entities, be ignored without too much pain. Collectively however they are causing irreparable harm to the country in a way that far exceeds their individual merit. It is about time someone started calling them out and pointing to their lies and hatred of what is best about our country. Good for Obama. Let's keep it up.

Loud Minority

You really have to ask yourself why the GOP(translation=wingnut right) is given so much media coverage and why the mainstream media give anything they say any credence.
Just yesterday the Washington Post/ABC News poll came out showing "Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983."

While I wonder why anyone would care what Newt Gingrich has to say on any subject but he immediately jumped on the poll...
"Well, it tells me first of all that the poll's almost certainly wrong. It's fundamentally different from Rasmussen. It's fundamentally different from Zogby. It's fundamentally different from Gallup. It's a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats."
To beg the point even further as to why anyone would care what Newt had to say, everything he says is patently false. The latest CBS News poll found 22% identify themselves as Republicans. The latest AP poll found 21%. Ipsos/McClatchy put the number at 19%. Gallup had the highest total for the GOP, at 27%, but the Pew Forum study had it at 23%, while NBC/WSJ found 18%.

Surprisingly, when you average those together, you find out that about 21% of the public are self-identified Republicans.

I understand the concept of 'loyal opposition' but you just have to wonder why the media (FAUX news excluded) are giving so much time and credence to a party that represents only one fifth of the nation. What's even more amazing is that you don't even have to listen to them to know what their output will be...

"If it's good for America and good for the average American then we're against it and oh yeah, Obama is a socialist Kenyan who hates white people and is going to take away your guns."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hard Sayings

My grandfather used to used the phrase "hard sayings" when referring to things that you would rather not hear but should. As usual, Joe Bageant has some 'hard sayings'. It's a worthwhile read and it is painful because if you are honest with yourself, you will know that what he is saying is pretty much spot on.

Hard Pretzels are Easy Too

Here is the process for hard pretzels. As you can see the recipe is almost identical as for the soft ones only no shortening. This recipe makes a nice firm, crunchy pretzel that will keep for a week or longer in an airtight container and with these you don't have to worry about the baking soda bath though there is a bath.

For the pretzels you'll need:

1 3/4 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or white sugar if you don't have brown
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast(not the fast rise kind)
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
1 large whole egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

you'll also need

Vegetable or olive oil, for pan
a pan of boiling Water
Kosher or pretzel salt for sprinkling

I am assuming you have a stand mixer but if you don't this is all easily done by hand...just a
little harder.

Combine the warm water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top and whisk to combine. Allow this mixture to sit for 5 or 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to
foam. Add the flour and salt and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well
combined. Turn off the mixer and let the flour soak up all the moisture or hydrate for 10-15
minutes. On medium speed knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the
bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. If you are doing this by hand this will probably take about
10 minutes of kneading.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with olive or vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately an hour or so until the dough has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature this can be shorter or longer but what you are looking for is the doubling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 4 half sheet pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside. If you don't have that many pans you can do this in two batches of even four. Just keep any unused dough covered so that it won't dry out while it is waiting.

Place enough water into a large pan( a roaster works well here) to come 1/3 of the way up the
sides of the pan and bring to a boil over high heat.

While your water is coming to a boil turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and
divide into about 1-ounce pieces, you should wind up with about 36 pieces. You can accomplish this without weighing by halving the dough then halving the halves to wind up with quarters. Divide each quarter into three and then each third into three again. Roll out each piece of dough into a 14 to 15-inch long stick using both hands to gently press and roll back and forth while spreading the hands. Remember when you used to make snakes from clay...same deal. At this point you can leave the sticks as sticks or form a traditional pretzel shape by forming a U with the dough, crossing the ends and sticking the ends down to the bottom of the know what a pretzel looks like.

Place the sticks or formed pretzels on the sheet pans, 1/4-inch apart.

Now you need to give the pretzels a quick little bath. Gently place 6 to 8 pretzels(if you made traditional pretzel shapes then go with 3 or 4 ) at a time into the water for 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels back to the sheet pan, brush with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the kosher or pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown in color and hard, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

These will store in an airtight container for at least 1 week or maybe longer...but they usually
won't last that long.

Soft Pretzels are a Snap

OK, here is the first installment of a salty snack you can make at home. If you have kiddies
around this is a lot of fun for them as well. Even if they don't come out right the first time
the investment in materials is very small but even if the pretzels turn out misshapen and ugly
they will still taste good. There are two ways to make a pretzel, hard or soft, and the recipes
are very similar. In this post we will do the soft ones and in a later post we'll do hard. Soft
pretzels have a little butter or shortening to help keep them soft and they are not baked as
long. For hard pretzels you lose the butter and bake them longer and in a slower oven. The soft
pretzels have the step of an alkali bath which makes the smooth skin like a bagel. The hard ones
are still parboiled but we skip the alkali(baking soda). Let's make pretzels.

You'll need for the pretzels:

1 1/2 cups warm (110-115F) water(if it feels warm but not hot to the touch you're there, you
don't need a thermometer)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar(if you don't have brown sugar you can use white sugar)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast(not the instant fast rise)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or to be exact, 22 ounces ( I always use King Arthur A/P since

it is a little higher in protein that most A/P flours and it makes the pretzels a little
more chewy)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted( you can substitute olive or vegetable oil for the
butter if you feel the need)
Vegetable or olive oil for the pan

For the alkali bath:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

For the wash:
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
coarse kosher salt for the outside or if you have it pretzel salt

I am assuming you have a stand mixer like a big Kitchen Aid but if you don't you can do this all
by's just a little harder.

Mix the water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top and then whisk to combine. Let this mixture to sit for 5 or 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam a little. This is known as proofing the yeast.

Add the kosher salt, flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed
until well combined. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes so that the
flour can fully absorb the water(hydrate). On medium speed knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, this should take about 5 minutes. If you are doing this by hand you will have to knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until it is smooth and bounces back when poked with your finger.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, clean the bowl and then oil it
well with olive oil(or vegetable oil). Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Put the bowl somewhere out of drafts and let it rise or proof for about an hour or until the
dough has doubled in size. If it is really cool in the kitchen then this may take a little longer
or if it is very warm a little shorter. The doubling is the key.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush the paper with vegetable or olive oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or big

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 8 equal
pieces.The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough in half, cut the halves in half and then
cut the quarters in half. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. This is the only part
that gives inexperienced pretzel makers a little trouble but if you remember way back to when you made snakes out of clay then it's pretty much the same process. With the dough on the board just start in the center and while applying a little pressure with both hands roll the dough back and forth while spreading the hands away from each other. You'll repeat the rolling/spreading motion a few times before your 'snake' gets to the 24 inches. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. You know what a pretzel looks like. Place each formed pretzel onto the parchment-lined baking pan or sheet while you do the rest.

Once you have all of the ropes made you'll need to give them their alkali bath. The sooner you
do this after rolling them out the 'tighter' they will be. Delaying the bath will allow the
pretzels to rise a little and make for a 'fluffier' product. Try it different ways and see which
you prefer. Place the pretzels into the boiling baking soda water water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds,
no longer. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the baking pan(s).

After all of the pretzels have had their bath you brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten
egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the kosher or pretzel salt. Into the oven they go
and bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling
rack for at least 5 minutes before you stuff them into your face. I like mine with Gulden's Spicy
Brown mustard but plain old yellow mustard is completely acceptable.

If you are not a baker I know some of this sounds a bit complicated but it really is easy and the
results are worth it. On a cold winter's day when you are housebound and looking for something to do, this is a good little project with a tasty reward and like I said before, if you have kids
around they will have a blast though you do need to watch the younger ones around the boiling
water bath part and maybe let an adult do this step.

These are never as good as they are fresh out of the oven but if you have any to store then they
will keep for a few days in a zip bag. You can put them in a warm oven for a few minutes to
freshen them up but they will lose something. Unless there is only one person in the house left
overs aren't usually a problem.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Vegetarian Spiders?

This is interesting...

A spider that dines almost exclusively on plants has been described by scientists.

It is the first-known predominantly vegetarian spider; all of the other known 40,000 spider species are thought to be mainly carnivorous.

Bagheera kiplingi, which is found in Central America and Mexico, bucks the meat-eating trend by feasting on acacia plants.

The research is published in the journal Current Biology.

One More Thing

I should have added to the previous post that there is nothing for sale in the grocery prepared food/frozen entree/salted snack section that you can't make yourself and make it better and cheaper and just to prove it I will be posting some recipes/methods in the future to show you how to do it. Granted some are not quite as easy as throwing a bag of microwave popcorn in the machine or sliding a frozen pizza into the oven but all are easily mastered.

If you have something that you buy prepared but would like to know how to make on your own if for no other reason than the satisfaction of at least trying it then let me know. One think I don't typically do is deep fry things but it is not that I can't( and yes I have a deep fat fryer) but good oil such as peanut or canola is expensive in the quantities needed for such cooking and deep fried foods aren't especially healthy. I will admit that I love good french fries or a well done onion ring and even the occasional piece of fried chicken...I just don't cook them as a rule. There are exceptions such as fried green tomatoes and hush puppies which are shallow cooked.

So if you want to know how to make your favorite snack or frozen entree at home and from scratch just let me know and I will do my best to accommodate. I do not supply plastic containers or cardboard boxes or other land fill but other than that I am game to give it a try. Feel free to try an stump me.

More on Our Food Spending

One of the comments to the previous post was that I worry too much. Maybe I do but it just strikes me as completely insane that Americans spend so much of their food budget on such things as salty snacks, carbonated beverages and frozen entrees.

I like an occasional chip or pretzel and I buy them on occasion though I can't remember the last carbonated drink I had. I don't buy frozen entrees because they are crap and expensive. Cooking from scratch is much cheaper and much more rewarding with the added bonus of controlling exactly what is in my food. The people that are spending so much on frozen meals are really missing an opportunity to improve their diet, reducing their food costs and adding an opportunity for a little creativity and fun into their meals.

I understand the pressures of time and the need for convenience in the modern world of two people working but a little creativity and knowledge plus some basic kitchen skills can put a meal on the table as quickly as you can thaw a frozen meal. There is nothing wrong with most frozen vegetables as a resource as they are almost always picked and frozen at the peak of freshness and if you check you will find that they are hugely less expensive than a 'frozen entree'. I noted the other day that virtually every store brand of frozen vegetable at Kroger was 88 cents! (Yes, I bought frozen green peas, lima beans, pearl onions and butter peas). Each package is enough for four servings and for the two of us that's two meals so that's a meal with two veges for under a buck. Having things in the fridge that keep well like fresh carrots, celery, onions, potatoes allows you to put together quick meals that are cheap and nutritious without having to pay for an expensive frozen entree. I will add that when you start adding meat protein to each meal you start to run up the cost greatly so the American habit of meat with every meal is a gotcha but you will also note that meat is not even on the top ten list of where we are spending our grocery dollar. The fact that the huge amount of meat that most Americans eat still doesn't hit the top ten is cause for another post on its own.

So the deal is that the list points out that Americans are spending a lot of money on prepared foods that they don't have to and that if we just stopped and considered how much we could improve our diets and pocketbooks with very little effort in the kitchen we would all be better off. /soapbox

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eating Shit

The old adage that you are what you eat is, I think, a pretty good summation of the situation. We have a lot of problems in this country right now from health care to unemployment and even the education of our children but what we are putting on our plates is a whole different thing. It is something that we, as individuals, have complete control over. So...the following list of the top 10 items sold at grocery stores for the year(52 weeks) ending June 14, 2009 is really troubling. Ranked by dollar sales we spent our food money on...

1. Carbonated beverages
2. Milk
3. Fresh bread and rolls
4. Beer/Ale/Hard cider
5. Salty snacks
6. Natural cheese (whatever that opposed to unnatural cheese?)
7. Frozen dinners/entrees
8. Cold cereal
9. Wine
10. Cigarettes


Nothing healthy like fruits and vegetables or even meat. Yeah milk is number two but on balance that's just weird. Wouldn't you think produce would rank in the top ten? No flour or rice. Do you think Frozen dinners/entrees includes frozen pizza or "tater tots"? The thing is that when I think back to my experiences of shopping the markets in Europe(mostly France) the only things on this list are bread, cheese and wine. We need to do some serious thinking about the American diet. It's no wonder we have a health crisis in the country.

h/t Jill at La Vida Locavore

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Missed Fall

Somehow fall bypassed us this year. It was 45F this morning in Atlanta and the forecast says it might reach 50 today. Tonight we have a forecast of 32F. That's about 20 degrees below the average for this time of year. We shouldn't have these temperatures until late November or early December. Doesn't bode well for the winter garden. I haven't checked this morning but my peas still weren't peeking through yesterday and it wasn't for lack of rain!

Tomorrow is Madam's birthday so I am making her favorite today...creme caramel. She became addicted when she was with her parents in Greece as a girl. When they first arrived they lived for awhile in the Pentelican Hotel in Athens and evidently every night they ate in the hotel dining room she had lamb chops and a creme caramel for pudding. I offered lamb chops as well but she declined so I don't know what else will be for her birthday dinner.

Gray and cold so not much going on outside today so we'll just muck about around here. I'll make the creme caramel and get a batch of bread going but that's about it. I hope everyone has a great weekend and if you are having your first attack of old man winter, like we are, then stay warm.

Edited for spelling...Madam caught my 'peaking' instead of 'peeking' (That's why she is the book proofreader/editor and not me)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Childhood Wilderness

The blogger downstreamer pointed out an article in the New York Review of Books by Michael Chabon. Michael writes about the loss of childhood freedom in his essay, Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood:

“The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.”

The essay really hit home and triggered a cascade of memories from my childhood. I was fortunate to grow up, for the most part, in small towns with easy access to strips of woods with streams and even real honest-to-god forests with all the trimmings like deer, raccoon, possum and all the rest. I was even fortunate enough to live for a few years on the sea shore with all the delights and opportunities it brought.

In those days, especially in the summer, we were not allowed to stay indoors, weather permitting. After breakfast we were ordered outside "to play" and we did. My parents were not alone in the effort to get us out from underfoot and every other boy in the neighborhood was under the same admonishment to "go out and play". Somehow we all managed to hook up first thing in the morning and set out on our adventures for the day. We ranged far and wide, usually on our bikes but many times on foot through the woods. We would follow the creeks, sometimes for miles, just to see where they went. Some days we would be content just to try and dam up the creek and make our own swimming hole. Sometimes it would be building a fort out of found material and pretend we were defending it from unknown but dangerous enemies. On many occasions we would discover a house under construction and after getting permission from the builders collect the wood scraps and bent nails to make boats, race cars or tree forts. If we were really lucky we would be allowed to collect the little round metal 'coins' the electricians had removed from the electrical boxes being installed...wealth beyond all dreams. Sometimes we would report back home for lunch but mostly one mom would be selected to feed the lot peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or best of all, hot dogs. There were many days when our parents wouldn't see us until dinner time and only for long enough to gobble down supper and be back out for games under the street lights or lightning bugs or just hanging out with the occasional rock thrown at the bats that fed under the lights. It was always well after dark before we would be called for our baths and bed. I think little boys in summer invented the bath tub ring as our day of barefoot adventures in usually nothing but a pair of cotton shorts allowed us to collect a wonderful patina of dirt and grime. Somehow the Ivory soap managed to get most of it off but leave it on the walls of the tub in a great greasy circle that was testament to a day in the wilderness.

It is sad that the freedoms that many of us enjoyed as kids won't be enjoyed by today's children. Those seemingly endless hours of 'doing stuff' and exploring the world had a definite positive impact on who I am today and I am glad to be reminded of it. Not all of it was perfect and fun, as there was the occasional fight, or scrape or even a broken bone. I can still vividly recall the game of mumbly peg when I look at the long scar on my left ring finger today but on balance it was all glorious.

Quick Apple Tart

My favorite 'pudding' is an apple tart. I will gladly forgo anything else if there is an apple tart available. I make them often and a nice little apple tart can be very quick to make. This method is very simple and uses a premade crust but is reminiscent of the little tarts you get in the bakeries in France. Simple and tasty with a crisp crust and the flavor of the apples the number one flavor with no spices getting in the way.

You'll need two large Granny Smith apples
One store bought pie crust ( They come two to a package and you just unroll them... I like the Pillsbury ones but they are made with lard so you if you have a problem with that either find a pre-made one with vege shortening or make your own.)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch bits.
2 - 3 tablespoons apricot jam or jelly warmed in the microwave

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

I usually use a piece of parchment and line a pizza pan but you can use whatever you want. I would recommend that the pan have a lip since there is a chance of a little apple juice leaking during baking.
Roll out the pie crust on the parchment.
Peel and Cut the apples in half lengthwise and core (I usually use a melon baller because it make a neat round hole)
Slice the apples about a eighth of an inch thick and arrange them around the crust just barely overlapping (see the picture). Sprinkle evenly with the 1/3 cup of sugar and dot evenly with small bits of the butter. Slide into the hot oven on the middle rack and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are brown on the edges and the edge of the crust is fairly dark. You might rotate the tart halfway through baking just to make sure the crust cooks evenly. Remove from the oven and immediately brush the warm tart with the warmed apricot jelly. This gives it a nice gloss and actually enhances the apple flavor.

Serve immediately or at room temp. This tart is never as good as when it is freshly out of the oven. Some Trader Joe's French Vanilla ice cream is always nice.
This is a quick little dessert but it is actually quite elegant and surprisingly delicious. This tart will serve 6 or me.


I feel so bad for Rush. Losing the opportunity to be a part owner in an NFL team because he is such a racist asshole. I wonder how it feels to be told by a bunch of rich white assholes that you can't join their asshole games because you are a racist rich white asshole.

Sometimes the wheel just takes a while to turn.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A River Runs Through It

Updated below:

Well, we had another 3 - 4 inches of rain yesterday and the garden has suffered once again. I had managed to find a spot that was dry enough to till and put in my late fall crop of peas (sugar snaps and green peas). The rain washed out about a quarter of the 40 feet of sugar snaps and about 10 percent of the 100 feet of regular green peas. There is also a lot of very good soil moved down the garden. There is not much of a grade but enough. It doesn't help that all of the area west and north of the garden is much higher so all of that water comes my way as well. The ground is still saturated from the rains earlier so nothing to do but run off and down hill.

I am now faced with the question of whether to get the shovel and put on my muckers and try and dig a ditch in the mud to try and direct tomorrow's forecasted heavy rain around the garden. It will be an all day job but I am not sure I can take any more erosion. I have already lost years worth of soil building so I am leaning that direction. Not only are we forecast for heavy rain tomorrow but lighter rains through the rest of the week. Aaargh!

The folks in parts of California are expecting heavy rains as well and if they are in areas of recent burning then they are facing mudslides and flooding as well. Everybody stay as dry and safe as you can.

Update: Ok, now there is a 100' ditch running across the garden east to west with several feeder ditches here and there. Water is running as the ground is completely saturated. I should be ready for the heavy rain tomorrow and for the rest of the week. There is also a sore back and a blister.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chicken Three Ways

It's a cool rainy morning here in Atlanta and such weather brings the thought of comfort food. I am cooking a big pot of Roman beans today but it just so happens that one of the regulars here, Jim DeRosa, has bought himself a brand new Dutch oven and he has asked me for a recipe for cooking a chicken.

It was late last night when I saw his request so I had to wait until this morning to reply. Chicken in a Dutch oven can be as simple or as complicated as you wish but it is a wonderful way to cook a chicken and depending on the age of your bird it allows for adjusting the cooking time without the danger of getting a dry tasteless chicken. If you have an old bird then a little longer in the oven does the trick.

The problem I have is picking a 'best' recipe but I have settled on 3 which always turn out luscious and they run from simple to complex. All three are considered classics and everyone has their own variations. Here are my takes on Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Chicken Cacciatore, and Coq au Vin. If I had a chicken it would be one of these today instead of beans. Not that there is anything wrong with beans!

Let's start with the simple one:

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer 3 - 4 pounds cut into 10 pieces(2 legs,2 thighs, two wings and two breasts cut in half) or you can use 4 thighs and two breast halves cut in half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme or a tablespoon of dried but fresh is best
40 peeled cloves garlic (don't short on the garlic because you think it is too much)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put all of the chicken pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with two tablespoons of olive oil sprinkle with the with salt and pepper and toss to cover. Coat the bottom of the Dutch oven with more olive oil and in two batches brown the chicken on both sides over high heat. Once the second batch is browned add back in the first batch of browned chicken and remove from heat. Add the half cup of olive oil, the thyme, and garlic cloves. Put the cover on the pan and put it in the 350 degree oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 or 10 minutes, and serve.

It sounds like a lot of garlic(and it is) but the slow cooking mellows it out and it is sweet and delicious. Try taking the roasted cloves and spreading them like butter on fresh bread.

Note: I sometimes add a cup of dry white wine at the beginning just for something different but with or without, it is good.

Chicken Cacciatore

You'll need:

Flour, to coat chicken
2 (2 - 3 pound or one 3 - 4 pound) chickens, cut into 8 pieces with the breasts cut in half
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
10 to 12 ounces cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced(you can use the white button mushrooms if you want but the cremini add a lot more flavor)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup dry white wine
1 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with their juice, crushed or just use crushed tomatoes( if you can find San Marzano tomatoes I recommend them)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or less if you don't like spicy
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
6- 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and dredge in flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add the chicken in batches and fry until golden brown on all sides. When all the chicken has been cooked, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until it just barely starts to brown--careful not to burn it. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes, until they release most of their liquid. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute a couple of minutes.

Add the wine, chicken broth, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt, oregano and tomato paste. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or an hour. Alternately, you can put the covered pot in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Stir in the fresh basil just before serving. If you need to, this pot will rest in a 200 degree oven for an hour with no problem.

This dish is meant to be eaten with pasta and actually is better when it is made one day and reheated the second.

Coq Au Vin

You'll need:

4 ounces pancetta, diced ( you can use bacon but it will give the dish a smoky flavor that is not traditional)
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths or you can do the 4 thighs and two breast halves cut in half thing if you don't cut up chickens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy (optional)
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy or Cabernet(the dish is from the Burgundy region of France so Burgundy is the best choice
1 cup chicken stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs or a level tablespoon of dried but try and use fresh
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 oz. frozen small whole onions
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced(you can use the white ones if that's all you have)
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the pancetta(or bacon) and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

While your pancetta cooks, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and liberally sprinkle with the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once the bacon is removed, brown the chicken on both sides in batches. This should take about about 5 minutes per batch. You are not trying to cook the chicken at this point just brown it so make sure your pan is nice and hot. Remove each batch of chicken to the plate with the pancetta and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the Cognac(if using and make sure to pour it into a separate container before adding as pouring a flammable liquid like brandy from the bottle into a pan on the fire is a big, big no no) then put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 45 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove over low heat.

Now we just need to add the finishing touches. First, you'll need to thicken the stew and the best way to do that is with a buerre manie which is simply 1 tablespoon of softened butter 1 and a half tablespoons flour mashed together to form a paste. Just stir this paste into the stew and it will do the job. Now you add the frozen onions. Finally, in a medium saute pan, in the last tablespoon of butter saute the mushrooms over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until they've browned. Add these to the stew and bring the pot to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Check your seasoning and adjust, if needed, and serve. This dish will wait in a 200 degree oven with no trouble if needed but not more than an hour.

This seems like a lot of work but it is really worth the little bit of effort. This works great with egg noodles, mashed potatoes or pan roasted potatoes.

Friday, October 09, 2009

King Who?

The NAACP does a press release on President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace In it they mention just about everybody that has won the prize including Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore but don't mention Marin Luther King Jr. What's with that?

Winds of Change

I've been reading around and it seems the idea that President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize is because he is not George W. Bush is predominant. That, in fact, might not be too far off the mark but I think it goes a little deeper.

I might not have been surprised if he had received it a little later in his presidency but I think a lot of people fail to realize that much, if not most, of the world looked upon the reign of "W" as a very dark time in American history. In spite of the constant railings by the wingnuttia, the rest of the world saw the Bush presidency for what it truly was, a time when the greatest power on earth was the cause of a global destabilization and in many ways a maverick nation that actually bordered on lawlessness. It was a scary time for many people around the world and a scary time for many of us as well.

Regardless of the hyperbolic attacks that are virtually unending from the right and in spite of the fears of some of us supporters that we haven't gotten the 'change' we need and want, Obama is beginning to change the way it works. While I will be the first to say that I am not happy with the hesitant and sometimes imperfect start to this presidency, President Obama has started turning the American state in a different direction. I think possibly that we have been so numbed by the last 8 years of American history that we are having trouble seeing any change in the wind. I believe what the Nobel committee is saying is that while what may seem like a meager start from an American perspective is actually a profound change in the way American fits into its role as the most powerful nation in the world and that they are immensely encouraged and relieved that we have found our path again. While we are far from out of the woods we at least have a compass and a direction.

The damage done to our country over the last 8 years is apparent everywhere you look and the efforts to rectify all the myriad ills inflicted upon us and the world in the name of a "New American Century" and "compassionate conservatism" are massively difficult. Let's hope the Nobel committee's faith in our new leader and direction he leads us in justified.

Moon Crash

I got up early to watch NASA crash into the moon but it wasn't that spectacular. I was hoping to see the actual impact from the follower spacecraft. Maybe when the data is processed in a few hours we'll get some better pictures. It is cool that there is an actual NASA channel available either via the PC and internet or on Direct TV.

Obama Wins the Nobel Prize

Uh Oh! Get the popcorn going. This is going to drive the right wing absolutely bonkers. I can see the usual suspects foaming at the mouth.

From the New York Times:
OSLO (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Friday won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.

The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play."

We are going to hear the Nobel Prize discounted....because it has lost all meaning since they gave it to Jimmy Carter and Al Gore.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone say that this was the real reason Obama went to Copenhagen last week even though Denmark has nothing to do with the Nobel Prize...but whatever is was Scandinavia.

This is going to be fun to watch.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Windows Nightmare?

I was reading an article in the WSJ about the new Windows 7 operating system and it sounded pretty good until I came to the upgrading from XP paragraph. If this is true then it is likely I will be on XP for a long time.

XP owners, the biggest body of Windows users [...] have to wipe out their hard disks after backing up their files elsewhere, then install Windows 7, then restore their personal files, then re-install all their programs from the original CDs or downloaded installer files. Then, they have to install all the patches and upgrades to those programs from over the years.

If the article is accurate then the only way many of us using XP will get Windows 7 is with a new PC. Except for making it impossible to upgrade it sounds pretty good.

NO is the Answer if You are a Republican

If perchance some Republican voter reads this blog they could explain to me the underlying logic in voting against a measure like this one. I would think that any reasonably sane person would think it would pass unanimously. I mean what rationale could there be for not letting rape victims have their day in court?

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Franken's measure simply allows victims of rape and discrimination to have their day in court. That's all. What is so hard and worrisome about that? Evidently there is some hidden deviousness here because Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) had the gall to accuse Franken of pushing a "political attack directed at Halliburton". WTF?

There is some good news, and it is that Franken's measure passed the Senate, 68 to 30.

There is some bad news however, and that is, 30 Senate Republicans -- 75% of the entire Republican Senate caucus -- voted against the Franken measure. What possible rationale could three-quarters of the Republican Senate caucus have for voting against this? If there is some saving grace it should be noted that at 10 GOP Senators voted for the amendment including all 4 of the female GOP Senators. I guess that's something.

This particular vote points out something that should give all of us pause and especially the Dems in Congress. The Democrats and President Obama are constantly prostituting their progressive agenda in search of the "bipartisan" solution. If this vote, on something so obviously legitimate and necessary, to give rape victims who work for U.S.-subsidized defense contractors a day in court, still has 30 out of 40 Republican senators saying "No" then the idea that the current Democratic majority will be able to reach constructive and progressive compromises with the GOP minority is quite clearly insane. It isn't going to happen no matter what compromises are made. The Republicans are against anything and everything. It doesn't matter if it makes sense or is right, the GOP is against it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

High Risk Foods

The Center For Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has issued a new PDF report of the 10 riskiest foods regulated by the FDA. Note that this list is only for the foods that are regulated by the FDA ( produce, seafood, dairy, and shell eggs) and since the FDA doesn't regulate meat (that's the USDA) ground beef isn't included and it is surely the riskiest of foods. Note also that this is ranked by frequency of food borne illness and since more leafy greens are consumed more often, it heads the list. Actually, on an odds basis you are probably taking a greater risk eating a raw oyster than a salad.

Here's the list:

1. Leafy greens
2. Eggs
3. Tuna
4. Oysters
5. Potatoes
6. Cheese
7. Ice cream
8. Tomatoes
9. Sprouts
10. Berries

Many of these foods are delicate, hard to wash, and often consumed raw (sprouts, berries, tomatoes and leafy greens).

Some interesting facts: More than half the egg incidents occurred in restaurants "and other food establishments" and in prisons!

More than 70% of tomato outbreaks were linked to restaurants, as were 40% of potato outbreaks (often to potato salad).

How can you reduce your risk? You can never eliminate all the risk but you can pay attention. Try and buy locally produced food or grow your own. Don't buy prewashed and bagged greens. Don't eat eggs or products with mayonnaise in restaurants (tuna, chicken, potato or egg salad come to mind). Try cooking more at home where you can control the food and if you must eat out avoid raw stuff(salads). As I said above ground beef is not on the list since it is not regulated by the FDA but you should avoid it like the plague. IF you do use it then cook it well done. The best practice is to grind your own.

H/T Jill at La Vida Locavore

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Not Getting Picked

Well, I didn't get selected for a jury but it was a hell of a long day. I got selected into the pool of potential jurors for a big malpractice case (a baby was not diagnosed with bacterial meningitis quickly enough to avoid the complications of brain damage, blindness and othe bad things and a young female doctor was being blamed for not instantly diagnosing it in a 8 week old). I would not have been a very good juror for the plaintiff since I believe that doctors are held to a higher and unreasonable standard in many cases. People forget that they are human and can make mistakes. They put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. That doesn't mean I don't believe there aren't cases of malpractice but I would set the burden of proof pretty high and surely higher than is normal is these cases. What happened to this little baby was a tragedy and he has my sympathy but to accuse a young doctor of malpractice for not diagnosing it instantly would be a real stretch for me.
Anyhow, the judge estimated that the trial would run a couple of weeks and judging from the time it took to select 12 jurors (all day and into the night) I am glad the plaintiff's attorney asked me questions he did. My answers contained most of what I said above plus a short rant on the state of health care and insane levels of award for pain and suffering in many of these cases. He is looking for millions for the plaintiff and didn't want someone like me on a jury.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Ground Beef is a Bad Thing

I know it is convenient and cheap and actually a good source of protein. It is high in fat which is bad but it is also high in E.Coli which is even worse. If you insist of having a burger or chili or meat sauce or whatever and you need to have some ground beef then grind it yourself from whole cuts of meat. It is hugely safer and you know what is in what you are eating. Find the cheapest cuts of not ground beef and grind it up in your food processor or with two cleavers. Whatever. There is a reason it is cheaper than whole cuts of beef. Remember the immortal words of Robert Heinlein....TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch). It applies to buying dead animal products and pretty much everything else in the grocery.

Post Flea Fling

The Historical Society made a little money and everyone had a good time. There was a lot of stuff unsold which went to charity. Not sure the revenue was worth all the work by so many but they now have more than they did.

In spite of the sore muscles from all the tent erecting and taking down and lifting and carrying I got a little more cleanup done in the garden today. Still a lot of work to do before I can even get the peas planted and it might be a little late.

I have jury duty tomorrow. I am really not looking forward to the commute into downtown Atlanta for the 8am appearance at the court house. I never get picked and it just means sitting there until mid afternoon when they dismiss you. I did get called into a jury pool once but I didn't get selected. So it is out of here by 6am to catch the train into downtown and a day of hanging about. Got a book. Needless to say it will be quiet around here unless I decide to blog from the Crackberry which is painful.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tent City and Fleas

Everything around here is on hold for the "Great Flea Fling" which is the Historical Society's money raising effort for restoring the old Hembree farm house. Mini Monk came this morning after her shift at the firehouse and helped put up tents. We managed eight but they are like wrestling dead elephants and hence very tiring. Tomorrow is the big day and they have gathered a lot of 'fleas' from members and friends and an awful lot of books. All the grant money they had hoped for has dried up due to the economy so they are scraping the bottom of the barrel for the funds necessary to do the restoration. It took almost everything to have the old house moved and a new foundation built. You can't just hire any old carpenter to do the work as you have to have someone knowledgeable about restoration and they aren't cheap. One of the biggest costs is going to be rebuilding the two fireplaces and chimneys. All the stone from the originals was saved but it will be a very expensive proposition.

I did get in the garden yesterday and dug all the sweet potatoes. Pretty good harvest considering the small amount planted but even the 40'x4' row was hard work. As a kid I used to consider digging potatoes a lot of fun but I wasn't driving the fork in those days. All us kids did was pick up the potatoes when they were unearthed and it was kind of like an Easter egg hunt and you got to get as dirty as you wanted.

Just waiting around for the call that the last two tents have been delivered and I will go back and do those two. the farm is just about two miles down the road so I decided to come home and goof off instead of hang around and wait.