Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

2013 is just around the corner...hard to believe. Seems like only yesterday when even the year 2000 seemed ages away. Going to be a quiet little evening for Madam and I. We don't usually make a big deal out of New Years Eve. I have 4 nice little lamb cutlets that are marinating in fresh rosemary, garlic and olive oil that I'll toss on a hot Hibachi a bit later and some asparagus and new potatoes to roast. We probably will be in bed and sound asleep when the new year rolls in.
I do have three whole days off to catch up on all the stuff that is waiting. I got the Julia Child biography "Dearie" for Christmas and I have two more books on the Nexus to read. Finally got around to watching Dark Night last night on DVD....didn't really think it was all that good. Also watched Beasts of the Southern Wild and it wasn't a super movie either. I'll see if Netflix has anything worthwhile for tonight but I doubt it.

Anyhoo....everybody have a great new year and we'll see you in 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lose The Pricey Coffee

So Much for Starbucks

from the Starbuck's CEO
In the spirit of the Holiday season and the Starbucks tradition of bringing people together, we have a unique opportunity to unite and take action on an incredibly important topic. As many of you know, our elected officials in Washington D.C. have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt. You can learn more about this impending crisis at

Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity—and I believe a responsibility—to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue. This week through December 28, partners in our Washington D.C. area stores are writing “Come Together” on customers’ cups.

I, personally, think this is way out of line for a public company. I have a good friend who is a store manager here in the Atlanta burbs and I would be interested to hear her take on this. For some reason I have always seemed to work for right wingers and I have been very careful not to spew too much of hippie pinko stuff and even though most of my bosses knew I was a dirty hippie socialist whatever they didn't make a big deal out of it probably because I didn't make a lot of noise.

Regardless, and even though I don't visit there often I guess I won't be patronizing Starbucks anymore. I really only drink one good strong cup a day anyway and that I make myself from fresh ground free trade organic French roasted bean and it beats the hell out of anything you can get at Starbucks.Not to mention that for little more than the price of a couple of double tall latte I can buy a whole can of my beans from Trader Joe's.

Like I said in a post a while back; "Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in." and I am making an extra effort to live by my words.

Boxing Day

How was everyone's Christmas? I hope Santa did well. Today is Boxing Day in the UK and pretty much all of what was the British Empire so maybe you will get a few farthings from the poor box today to help you with the Visa or AX bill that is due soon.
Back to work for me but it is a short day. 8 til noon in the garden center. Madam is throwing a little luncheon for her buddies so I will be out of the way for that today. I'll finish putting my new dual fuel smoker(propane/wood/charcoal) that Santa brought this afternoon...I was thwarted by the weather and couldn't use it for the ribs yesterday. Madam seems to think her new kiln is neat. It's a used Skutt and I got a really good deal(new they run 4K$ but I got this one for $350 from a couple that have to move out of state) and it has been barely used. It is an older model without all the fancy electronics but it will do the job.
Off to work....everyone try and recover.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas

Even though it is going to be a wet Christmas around these parts I want to wish all my electronic friends (both real and imagined) a very Happy Christmas and wonderful New Year. Going to be rather quiet in the Monk house this year but we will have Mini Monk and clan over on Christmas Day. My plan to smoke ribs for the occasion is going to have to be slightly adjusted but we'll get it done in spite of the rain.

Again, thanks for being here on occasion and have a very Merry Christmas. I'll try and do a little better at content in the coming year. Now I have to go bake some pumpkin and pecan pies.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Enabling Transformation

I haven't weighed in on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary yet. I've been about to post something everyday since last week but somehow never felt sufficiently sure I was adding anything to the conversation. I have been reading though and something is abundantly clear, beyond the fact that there are some truly stupid people making suggestions and explaining why and how something like this could happen.  What is clear is that people are searching for" THE ANSWER". People seem to believe that we can have some magic single solution like taking a pill for a headache.

One of the most important lessons of Zen is that there is not one solitary path to enlightenment or the proper way. Every seeker must find their own way on their own terms. The lessons of Zen can point out the general direction and illuminate errors but they cannot lead you there.  There is no single "right" way.

There are a multitude of societal problems that enabled this and the other tragedies. We instinctively know that there is no "THE ANSWER" . There is no single answer that, by itself, will stop  mass slayings and the other atrocities we seem to witness day in and day out.  There is no simple solution for the millions of deadly weapons in the country just like there is no simple answer to 20% of American children going to bed hungry at night. We have to understand and internalize the fact that in order to change anything we will require myriad answers and tugging on dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of the strands that weave through the universe.

I am not so bold enough to suggest that I even have a clue as to what to do, which strings to pull, but I do understand one thing. Not one of us, as an individual, can make a significant change happen within society as a whole. We, individually, don't have that kind of power. The only power we truly possess is the power to change ourselves. That means that if we want to see change in our society the change needs to begin within ourselves. If we want the collective to move in a different direction or what we see as a more positive direction then we, as individuals, need to move in that direction. If enough of us move in a positive direction and change, then society will be changed as well.  A society and its behavior reflect that of its constituents. Period.

So, you might ask, what is the positive direction? We can start by rejecting violence as an answer and this includes war as a form of diplomacy. We can reject the "Screw you I got mine" mentality.  We can reject unfairness and incivility. We need to embrace diversity and inclusion. We need to recognize the sanctity of life in all its forms. We need to understand that we are on a small spaceship with limited resources and that if we don't carefully nuture it and our relationship with it we will perish. We need to grasp that what happens to the least of us happens to all of us.  That's just a start and the list is long but you get the gist.

Finally, we must recognize that what we seek is transformation from where we are to where we want to be. It won't happen quickly and the vision may and probably will change as it evolves. The important thing is that it be positive and that it evolves. Lastly and most importantly, we can't wait for someone else to begin this transformation. We can't wait for someone else to show us the way. If we look to ourselves we already know which direction to head.

I need to move toward the goal and you need to move toward the goal. If we each don't personally and fully embody the change we need and want, then the transformation will not happen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Positive Thoughts

Our friend Steve Bates over at Yellow Doggerel Democrat is having some surgery associated with his long suffering foot issues. Everyone send him some good vibes and a wish for a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tempus Fugit

Can't believe it has been 6 days since  I posted anything here. Way too much work and other stuff consuming my time. Madam's Christmas present required a day and a half of electrical work. Needed to run a 60 amp line and plug across the basement. That means 6 AWG wire and all the asssociated headaches of such heavy stuff. Got it done and tested today, so that's out of the way. I just hope she is pleased. I won't reveal what it is since she sometimes stops by here.
Off again to work this afternoon but another day off tomorrow and maybe I will having something interesting to talk about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Close Call

That was a close call!   Almost made 12/12/12 memorable for another reason.

A newfound asteroid gave Earth a close shave early today, zipping between our planet and the moon just two days after astronomers first spotted it.
The near-Earth asteroid 2012 XE54, which was discovered Sunday (Dec. 9), came within 140,000 miles (230,000 kilometers) of our planet at about 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT) Tuesday (Dec. 11), researchers said. For comparison, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 240,000 miles or so (386,000 km).
Astronomers estimate that 2012 XE54 is about 120 feet (36 meters) wide — big enough to cause substantial damage if it slams into Earth someday. An object of similar size flattened 800 square miles (2,000 square km) of forest when it exploded above Siberia's Podkamennaya Tunguska River in 1908.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Night Time

Here is a link to NASA and some really neat pictures and animations of the earth at night.

Cinnamon Bread

The cinnamon bread turned out pretty nice as you can see. It was dessert tonight after a very nice pulled pork, roasted tangerine carrots, butter peas from the garden and home canned apple sauce. Nice thick slice toasted a bit with good Kerry Gold Irish butter. This recipe is nice in that it is not too sweet and the full flavor of the cinnamon comes through. You don't really notice the dash of cayenne in the filling but it definitely adds something. I'll do this again.

I nearly messed it up though. I had it all rolled and in the bread pan when I noticed the box of raisins on the counter....duh. Out of the pan, unroll and add raisins. That will remind me not to ignore the first rule of cooking and that is a proper mis en place. If I had measured out the raisins and had them on the counter with the rest of the ingredients I would have saved myself an awkward evolution. No harm done but a good lesson.

Again, the recipe is from Stephanie Stiavetti, who writes The Culinary Life blog via Mark Ruhlman.


Finally! Two straight days off. I worked 39 hours last week which is way more than I need or want. I've told them to cut me back to something in the 24 hour range but so far no dice. Anyhow, going to chill today and maybe bake some cinnamon bread from a new recipe posted over at Ruhlman's place. Looks like a winner and something similar to what I have done on my own which is to move some of the cinnamon out of the filling and into the actual bread. It's a guest post by Stephanie Stiavetti, who writes The Culinary Life blog. Yeah, I know it's actually not made from whole grain and it has some sugar but it does have half the sugar of most such recipes but somehow I feel the need and it is almost the holidays and I really have been pretty good...Madam has gone through two panettone since they first appeared at Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago and I have had just one little bite.

Speaking of the season....I can't tell you how tired I am of Christmas music. I feel like I have been listening to it continuously for weeks which isn't far from the truth. It would be different if they actually played some good music but the loop that plays in the store just repeats the same crappy songs in various renditions over and over. Nothing innovative or non-elevator. What's even worse is you find yourself, in horror,  humming along with the 300th repeat of Rudolph and Frosty and we won't even get into I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. I've offered my CD of the 3 tenors doing Christmas but....

Well, I'm off to get some raisins for my bread and while I am at it I'll stop by the Publix(they actually still have a real live butcher) and get me a small Boston butt(pork shoulder) that I can slow cook today(300F for 4-5 hours) and we'll celebrate the days off with some nice pulled pork. If you haven't noticed, more and more chain grocers are doing away with having an actual butcher and buying all the meat pre-wrapped from some big packer somewhere. If it isn't in the case and you want a special cut...sorry. I should add that Whole Foods, at least here) still has proper butchers and don't stare at you with a blank look when you ask for something non-standard. Reminds me of the time I had to shop at Wally World (I was trapped in my home town visiting Mom) and went looking for blue cheese(any blue cheese) and the cheese department manager didn't know what I was talking about. Lemme outa here!

Everybody have a great day and maybe I'll be back with something interesting.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Checking In

I know I have been absent lately but I plead life and stuff. I found this at Boing Boing and it just resonated.

Oh! I sold just shy of 100 Christmas trees today.

One more thing. We are rapidly approaching the last time we will be able to have an alliterative date. 12/12/12 is the last time it will ever be possible.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Shortcuts

Believe it or not I have another off day(after a brutal 6a to 3p yesterday). Managed to get in a guitar lesson which is the first in 3 weeks. I'm making progress but it is becoming evident that I am going to have to get deeper into the musical theory than I thought. This is especially true since I am focusing on the blues which uses a lot of the fret board. The key to moving around on the fret board is using the different patterns of the pentatonic scale(for the most part) and maintaining the same key. I have the patterns pretty well nailed(it's not automatic as I have to think about it but it is coming along). My problem is that any given pattern of notes for the one of the "boxes" can be either major or minor and that drives where the next box starts and how you transition and what chords will harmonize. Today my teacher shared the trick of finding your way around in this mess. Major pinkie! In the first "box" the pinkie hits the last note of the scale and that note is the major key and the first finger hits the second to the last note of the scale and denotes the minor scale. Revelation! For example, the A major scale is the same as the F # minor scale. Since all the "boxes" share notes in the transitions you can figure where to go pretty easily. It will take practice and a lot of repetition but I think I have it now.

Well, that was boring for all you not trying to learn guitar so I won't go into how to play effective blues you have to learn how and when to mix major and minor and why you have to bring in notes that aren't even part of the scale at certain times. Exciting stuff no? I keep thinking that all these old time blues boys didn't know all this stuff but knew what sounded right then again maybe they did.

Do What You Can

I've been terribly busy lately and in one way that is a good thing. I have been too busy to dwell upon on the bad news, especially about the environment. The shit storm is heading for us fast. 2011 saw green house gas emissions reach its highest point in history. Closer measurement has shown that the worlds oceans are rising twice as fast as predicted and there is  more bad news after more bad news and no one seems to have any inclination to do anything about it.  Wait a minute you say...what about all the Priuses and the compact fluorescent bulbs, and CFC free hairspray and deodorant and stuff. It is there and it is helping but it is nothing compared to the sheer volume of greenhouse emissions coming from the U.S. and other developed and developing countries. Spend anytime reading around and you will be overwhelmed with the bad news...well it is bad news if you are mostly conscious which appears to leave a lot of people in this country out of the picture especially the so-called leadership. Happily, most of the folks who visit here seem to be in the minority in that they actually are aware of the humongous bag of crap that we are in and thus here is the message...

CHILL! Focus on your own universe. Take care of your own heart and mind and the hearts and minds of those around you. The news coming at those of us that are even marginally attuned to the rhythms of the universe is tragic and disheartening and is a sure-fire path to psycho-emotional burnout.  Each of us has limited energy and capacity. As much as our desire and compassion pulls us into the maelstrom of our planet's problems, sickness, torture, abuse, and pollution we must, at some point, pull back and resist. Even as we see the inevitable death of our earth happen before our eyes we must remind ourselves of our limits.  As much as we might desire the power to affect it, the karma of the universe is not ours to rectify. Our responsibility is to our own karma and to some extent the karma of those we are closet to and love. If you spread your energy too far afield and try to embrace the anger, suffering, violence and pain of our dying planet you will self destruct and in doing so fail to address what you actually have the power to control and that is yourself.

The hard truth is that if each of us did what is right, truly right, for ourselves and our loved ones. If each of us focused on the purity of our local universe and lives, the problems of our planet would solve themselves. We would make the correct decisions for our environment even if it meant foregoing some of the niceties of modern life. We would reject consumerism for what it is...disaster. We would reject the idea of war and with it would go the vast wasted resources that go with it. We would turn and recognize our Mother Earth as our partner instead of adversary and we would grasp our small bit of the web of life and make it whole and as each bit is healed the whole is healed.

Staying focused on what you can control and actually have the power to control is not easy. The distractions of modern life and cries of pain and suffering coming from the rest of the world and even from the planet itself are difficult to resist. We shouldn't ignore them but should put them in their proper place in our worldview. We shouldn't, however, allow them to pull us away from our focus on getting our own bit of the universe sorted. If we, by effort or chance, happen to get ourselves and our loved ones properly balanced and have energy to spare we can widen our boundaries and share our successes with the rest of the universe.

It is not selfish to center yourself on what you can control and make right and hope that the balance and correctness spread from your center.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Back To Normal

Our UK friends left yesterday so it is back to normal around here. I finally have a day off and it is raining...what's new.
The tragedy in Bangladesh is big in the news and while it is the newest it is just the latest. There have been others and there will be more. A lot of people don't really think much about how they spend their money on things they actually need like clothes and food but you really should. Not just about whether it looks good or is a good price but where it came from. Every time you whip out the plastic or a handful of cash you are voting for the kind of world you want to live in. If you shop at Wal-Mart or other big discounter for clothes made in the sweatshops around the world you are voting yes on continuing the tragedies that will always come when dollars trump human life. Getting a bargain is no crime but every time you spend/vote you should consciously understand what you are doing. The same goes for the food you buy. If you knowingly buy products full of chemicals or from inhumane sources you are voting to continue the same. Every dollar is a vote and you have the choice of voting for the dark side or the light side.
We all need to stretch our money and make decisions about when and where to spend it but if we maintain an awareness of what we are voting for then the tendency will be to move in the right direction. We may forced by circumstances to buy the cheaper thing but the universe will know the right of it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Could Go Wrong?

In the continuing effort to enable our UK friends to enjoy their holiday in the US there will be a chili dinner tonight in attempt to wind down from the tryptophan laden meal yesterday (which was brilliant, if I do say so myself). Madam has invited our good friends (openly gay and very nice young ladies), a couple, long time friends who are staunch Republicans as well as Scientologists, a nice GOP/Libertarian couple (Yankees to boot) and of course our English friends and ourselves (me being the DFH, pinko, socialist, Buddhist, Wiccan at the table). What could go wrong? It will be interesting to say the least.

Speaking of interesting....I had two older gentleman check out in the garden center the other day and it was obvious as they approached that, as they say (weren't from around these parts), and were a couple. I also noted on their approach a French/English phrase book in their basket. I was so happy to be able to greet them in French and handle the transaction, even in my poor French, and they both seemed delighted to find someone who could manage a few phrases and questions in French. It made the hours I've spent brushing up on my French worthwhile. It really brightened my day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still The Tour Guide

Between work days we are still hosting our friends from the UK. Yesterday was a matinee at the local theater of a Taffeta Christmas and then dinner at a newish restaurant here in Roswell, Table and Main. Very good meal but a little pricey. Couple of hundred clams for the four of us.

Today was a trek to Sweet Water Creek State Park for a hike along the trails to the ruins of the old Manchester Cotton Mill. About 3 and a half miles through the woods and along the rocky creek bank. Slightly overcast but shirtsleeve weather and a very nice walk. The Manchester Mill was burned, as was the Roswell Mill here in town, by Union troops as they captured Atlanta. Sherman wanted all such infrastructure destroyed. All the workers from here and there were put on trains and sent to Kentucky for the duration of the war with most never returning.

Tonight is steak on the grill night and tomorrow and the next day I have to work full shifts.Then, of course, is the traditional festival of gluttony known as Thanksgiving which I will do with all the standard stuff. Kosher brined turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, etc. etc. and don't forget the pumpkin pies.

Everyone have a great holiday if I don't get back to you here. One good thing is I don't have to work on Black Friday! Thanks Goddess!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wally World Is A Bad, Bad Place

Those of you that have been visiting here for anytime know how I feel about Wal-Mart. I don't shop there and discourage anyone I know from shopping there. They are a bad, bad company. There is a post up at Crooks and Liars that gives a glimpse of how bad they actually are.

For those of you who say that you have to shop at Wally World to take advantage of the low prices you should really take a hard look at how much the "low prices" and accompanying low wages actually cost you in increased taxes. Just sayin'.

Yeah, yeah I work part time for Home Depot which in a lot of ways isn't much different from Wal-Mart in their personnel practices. I'm in the same boat as the 1.4 million Wal-Mart workers in that I need the job for health insurance what I don't have in common is that I don't need the job to eat or keep a roof over my head.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Not Time Enough

House guests from the UK are here so free time to blog and such is very limited. Couple that with very nearly full time hours, at you know where, makes it especially difficult. So far we have had a dinner party Wednesday night for 8 (spaghetti with meat balls). Last night was a Mexican adventure with brisket tamales and chicken ancho chile tamales (from a local maker which are very good) and a new experience for the Brits. Even though I work 12p to 715p today I have baked cod and a local shrimp cocktail for starters on the plan. It will be a rush to get it done for a reasonable dinner hour.
On my shopping expedition this morning for the cod and shrimp to Whole Foods(AKA Harry's Farmers Market) I was surprised to see that they had New York strips for $7.99 a pound so that's the menu for some night in the near future.
The cut trees arrived yesterday at the HD so that nightmare will begin today. We will sell thousands before Xmas. Yesterdays shipment was only two trailer trucks so it is only the first of several. Lots of extra work involved.
Anyhow, just checking in here and now I have to try and get an hour's worth of guitar practice in before I head off to work. It is, however, a beautiful day to be in the garden center. About 60F for the high temperature and clear blue skies. Lovely!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thank You

To all my veterans I want to say thank you for your service and sacrifice. I would also like to apologize for, in many cases, the lack of support you have received from your fellow citizens and government after doing your duty. While there is much progress there is still a lot to be done to make you whole. Nearly 17% of the homeless in this country are veterans and many find themselves in this situation due disabilities suffered as a result of their service. It is shameful and tragic.

I would add that I was very surprised that yesterday after a full shift at Home Depot and checking out hundreds of customer that, in spite of the prominent patch on my apron that denotes that I am a veteran, not one person thanked me for my service. While that may sound prideful and I guess in a way it is as I am proud of my 8 years in uniform, it is really indicative of how many seem to take our service for granted. What is really shameful is that these are the very same people who will be the first to shout out in protest over any perceived denigration of their rights that so many have sacrificed to preserve.

Anyhow, if you happen to know or meet a veteran today make a point to thank them for their service.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Quiet, Too Quiet

I know it has been a little quiet around these parts lately and I have no excuse but too say I need some sleep and down time. I'm working almost a full time schedule(not enough to force them to offer me full time benefits, of course) but way more than I would like. Couple this with my workout schedule, guitar practice and lessons and getting ready for an extended visit from our UK friends and I just seem to be running out of time.
Anyhow, I have the day off today before I have to work the entire weekend and our friends arrive on Monday evening and there is still stuff to do. I am off to the gym and then tackle my list of chores.

Creeping Socialism

It is absolutely hilarious to read about all these people that are so upset about the reelection of our Kenyan, socialist, Muslim president that they are threatening to move to Canada or Australia. Boy are they going to be in for a shock if they ever grow enough to actually do it.


Another word for sour grapes. I worked yesterday and I couldn't count the number of people that I checked out that had some disgruntled comment about the election...a lot of pissed off people. I just smiled as I have found out it is best to just let them simmer. I don't like to upset their fragile alternate reality so I don't mention how much better things are now than when President Obama took office. They wouldn't listen anyway.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Not Too Bad

Madam and I were at the polls before they opened but so were a lot of other people. Still it only took a little over an hour to get it done. The big snag was getting your ID verified before issuing a ballot. There were always a few free machines available but the line for verification snaked all around. Best guess was that 75% of the time to vote was spent getting verified.

Cold and rainy here in the Northern Atlanta burbs today but it doesn't appear to be stopping people from getting out. Beside my vote for The President and against Tom Price I voted no on Amendment 1 which would create a state commission to create charter schools. The millions of dollars of outside money that poured into the state to support it was enough for me to be against it. To spend that kind of money means somebody thinks that they will make a lot more if they can water down the public education system with charter schools.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Almost Over

Well, I missed the early voting here in my county mainly because the lone voting place offered is very inconvenient and the last time Madam and I voted early it was a very painful process that required hours and hours. My actual polling place is just around the corner and if it weren't for the trees I could see it and there is actually a polling place next door but mine is 500 yards further. I'll get there for the opening and hopefully get out quickly as I have to be at work at noon.

No surprises when it comes to my choices though I am excited to vote against the Mittster and even more so against Tom Price. Voting here in the deeply red state of Georgia is frustrating but I persevere. It does make one feel, somehow, a bit proud to know you are probably the only one in line at the polls to be voting for Obama and against Price.

If you, as I, haven't voted yet please go out and vote for Obama and against the GOP slimeball in your local district.

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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Great Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Here is the next installment on soups for the fall and winter. There are at least a million recipes for tomato soup around and I have tried a good portion of them as I love a good bowl of tomato soup. There are very few people who won't agree that tomato soup (even the Campbell's version from my childhood) along with a good grilled cheese sandwich is not high in the pantheon of true comfort foods. While there are lots of good recipes there is one that really stands out and that is Ina Garten's  Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. If I have the time it is my go-to version since I first discovered it. This is some great soup made with three pounds of  roasted plum tomatoes and finished with an amazing 4 cups of chopped fresh basil leaves. This recipe does take a couple of hours but it keeps well and even freezes well. You can make it on the weekend and enjoy it all week long. And yes, it goes fine with grilled cheese.

If you want a special treat with this soup try topping some good bread with grated Parmigiano-Regiano and running it under the broiler until the cheese bubbles. It's so good it hurts. Don't forget a crisp white wine.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not To Worry - Plenty of Bacon

In spite of what you may have read on the "toobs" lately about a global shortage of bacon, there won't be. Prices will rise due to the increased cost of feed(mostly corn) due the drought in the Midwest but that is all. In fact, if a lot of CAFO operators decide to cut their losses and slaughter early and reduce production we may see a short increase in supply and a temporary decrease in prices. In the long run however, there will be plenty of bacon but it will cost you more.

Speaking of bacon...I just read that it is calculated that children in the U.S. consume 7 TRILLION calories a year in sweetened soft drinks. All those calories gotta go somewhere.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy Peasy Butternut Squash Soup

It's now officially fall and I am going to try and share some recipes for good fall/winter soups that are easy for even an inexperienced cooks. Even if they are easy doesn't mean they have to be bland or just a homemade version of canned or boxed soup. The goal is for soup with intense flavor but that doesn't take hours of kitchen time or a lot of specialized technique and equipment or has a ton of ingredients. One or two main ingredients are all we should need to produce a great soup.  Today we are going to go for an old favorite Creamy  Butternut Squash Soup.
Many of the recipes you come across for butternut squash soup call for roasting the squash in the oven to reduce  moisture and concentrate its flavor and produce some caramelization. Roasting the squash produces a great soup and I do it myself when I have the time but sometimes you just don't have the time or the inclination to heat up the oven and give the squash 45 minutes of time in the oven. You can still produce a soup quickly and with less hassle by using the microwave to precook the squash. What you lose in caramelization and flavor concentration using the microwave you can gain back in how you prepare the soup. The trick is to take the precooked squash and caramelize it in a big Dutch oven or other large pot and then deglaze the pot to capture the fond (brown stuff). This saves a bunch of time and you don't miss out on the added flavor of the oven roasting.  I've chosen to make this version vegetarian but you can substitute low sodium chicken broth for the vegetable broth with no problem.


 2 1/2 - 3 pounds butternut squash , peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 7 - 8 cups)
 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped leek or onion or shallots. (I grow a lot of leeks and I prefer them in soups because of their milder flavor but onions are fine here)
  2 - 3 TBSP  unsalted butter or use extra virgin olive oil (butter is my choice as it help with the browning and if you don't have unsalted butter use salted for goodness sake)
 4 cups vegetable broth (I like the Swanson's low sodium in the box but by all means use home made if you have it)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 dried bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 Tsp of dried thyme
Pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce- whatever
1 or 2 cups water( if you have extra stock use it instead of the water if you like but the box o' stock has only 4 cups in it)


    1. Place the cut up squash in a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap (cling film for you Brits), cover, and microwave for about 15 minutes or until paring knife peirces easily through the squash. It sometimes speeds up things if you stir the squash about halfway through the cooking. After cooking you need to transfer the very hot squash to a colander set into a bowl(to catch the cooking liquid) and let it drain on the side for 5 or 10 minutes. Don't throw away the liquid that comes out of the squash! 
    2. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat melt the butter until it foams and then add the squash, leek, and 1 teaspoon salt. Now you are going to recreate the caramelization that you lost from not oven roasting the squash.  Cook the mixture , stirring occasionally, and the squash will begin to break down and a brown fond(brown stuff) will form on the bottom of the pan. All told, this should take about 12 - 15 minutes. We want it browned but not black.
    3. Add 2 cups of broth and  deglaze or scrape  the bottom of the pot to loosen and dissolve fond; once you have all the fond dissolved you can add the rest of the broth (2 cups) as well as the rest of the ingredients including the liquid that drained off the squash but only add about a cup of the water at this point. Crank up the heat and bring this to a simmer and then lower to medium and cook until the onions or leeks are tender which should take no more than 10 minutes or so. 
    4. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs( if you used fresh thyme) and using either an immersion blender(my choice) or a regular blender process the soup until it is smooth and velvety. If using a regular blender you will have to do this in batches. Never fill a blender with hot liquid more than half full. Put it all back into the pot and bring back to a simmer. Now you can adjust the thickness (using up to a  cup water) to the desired consistency.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.


It is nice to put a dollop of sour cream or my favorite, Greek yogurt on top of each bowl. A few  croutons add some crunch and even better thinly sliced shallots that have been caramelized to a crisp. This recipe make 6 nice servings and what is even better it keeps in the fridge for a few days like a dream. You can make this a couple of days in advance and just reheat it when ready to serve.

Enjoy! and note that there are really just 3 ingredients- squash, leek or onions and stock. One more that you know how to do this you also just learned how to make pumpkin soup, acorn squash soup, delicata squash soup or any other winter squash soup.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Real Dirt- Making Your Own Potting Soil

This post is only for those of you who garden somewhat seriously. It's getting harder and harder to find good potting soil. In their efforts to make it cheaply the major providers like Miracle-Gro and Scott's (actually the same company) are using more and more cheap organic products like finely ground pine bark to stretch their product. While pine bark is not, in itself, that bad and actually does help loosen soil it isn't the best of growing mediums all by itself.  A lot of these "potting soils" are also enriched with chemical fertilizers which makes them a no no for us organic types.

The best and most economical alternative is to make your own potting soil and it is ridiculously easy. Here is the formula I use and it seems to work for me as a potting medium and a seed starting medium.

1 part sphagnum peat moss
1 part vermiculite or perlite(I use vermiculite)
1/4 part earth worm castings

All of these ingredients are usually available at a good garden center though don't look for them at places such as Home Depot or Lowe's. I mean a real garden center.

You can usually find the peat moss in bales and the easiest size to work with for me is 2.2 cubic foot one. Vermiculite normally comes in 2 or 4 cubic foot bags and the earth worm castings come in 1 cubic foot bags. This is convenient since you can mix one bale of peat with one bag(2 cu.ft.) of vermiculite and a bag of earthworm castings and you have a great potting mix that will turn out cheaper than buying the already mixed stuff. If you want to extend your mix you can add a couple of 1.5 cubic bags of organic potting soil(which is going to be about 50-60% pine bark). That's your choice. Another benefit of making your own is it can almost be considered sterile and there is much less chance of disease or weed seed in it than with commercial stuff.

I mention all this because I spent the afternoon yesterday fixing my laziness. I was in a hurry and pressed for time and I wanted to get my greenhouse boxes planted a couple of weeks ago for my winter salad stuff. I cheated and used organic potting mix from Home Depot (Scott's). I got some germination but everything just stalled and then croaked. I spent the afternoon yesterday making a batch of my own potting soil and dumping the store bought stuff and replanting all the greenhouse beds....that'll teach me.

Check That Link Before You Click

If you are like me you get a lot of spam in the inbox even though, like me, you have filters in place. Most of it is just crap but there are some that are dangerous if you click on the included link. Here is an example posted by a friend on Facebook. The bottom line is to use the tools  we have available such as "whois" and do some research before you click away and for Goddess' sake don't give any personal information to one of these "mystery" links

My friend got an email offering some "work at home" offer containing the link: (Warning: Don't click on this link)

 This may look like something at MSNBC with some update information tagged to the domain but it is not, it is actually another website that who knows what is going to do to you or your system. The actual address(domain name) is actually the COM-SEPT-2012.US part and not the full string that includes the msnbc. This address is actually a website on some godaddy server somewhere owned by who knows who. (The registrar is a James Richardson in Burbank????)

You need to watch for this type of misdirection in link addresses. The real domain is going to be the last two parts on the link (before any /’s), …xxx.nnn, in this case it is the COM-SEPT-2012.US. If you go to network solutions web site, 

and plug the domain name in the Search all WHOIS Records you will get info on the person or company that registered the domain. You should also note that the registrant may not have given his or her real name.

Just pay attention and don't just click away before you know where it will take you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lazy Sunday

Yesterday was a grueling day at work. I was alone in the garden center for most of the day and it was continuous and I mean non-stop. What's worse is the "lot guy" didn't show up and that means I was on the hook to find someone else to load pine straw and mulch or do it myself when there wasn't a line at my register(which wasn't often). Yesterday also happened to be Everybody in Roswell Go to Home Depot and Buy a Lot of Pine Straw Day). I don't know exactly how much was sold but the best part of a trailer load disappeared and a trailer load is about 700 bales. Needless to say I could feel it this morning and so I decided that I needed to chill.

I did manage to make a "lazy Susan" for Madam to put under her huge doll house for the Christmas display so it now will rotate and you can view all sides. I watered and did a little grocery shopping and even managed to get two good hours in on the guitar and am pleased with the results...I just hope teach is on Thursday.

Felt the need for comfort food today so I decided an old fashioned pot roast was in order... it is braising away now in the oven and has filled the house with that heavenly smell. I'll put the carrots, onions, and celery in in a bit and let them roast for 45 minutes and then put in the potatoes. We should be enjoying it in a couple of hours. Nothing fancy, just browned the chuck roast(well salted and peppered) in some olive oil, deglazed with some red wine and then covered the roast with beef stock and a pint of crushed tomatoes(home canned), 5 cloves of garlic, three bay leaves and a tablespoon or so of dried thyme. Braise for 2 hours in a 325 oven then add the carrots, onions and celery, oh! and remove the bay leaves. Another 45 minutes then the  add potatoes for another 45 minutes and you have and old fashioned pot roast. I'm going to be happy.

Did I mentioned that I treated myself to a nice big (750ml) bottle of Duvel the other day while I was at Trader Joe's. I am enjoying it now and if you haven't tried the Belgian Trappist ales then you are missing something great. Yes, it is a bit strong (8.5%) but nicely balanced and a clear, clean taste. And yes, I will finish the bottle in short order. I only treat myself once or twice a year and no, there is no guilt.

Off to add the veges to the pot. Hope you are enjoying your Sunday...I am.

A True Gentleman

I was reading about this morning and with all the stories about Rmoney and his misadventures as well as  his duplicity something triggered a memory of a bit of Virginia history. John Walker Wayland was a Virginian and while he spent many years teaching, his true interest was in genealogy and especially Virginia history. Oddly, he is most remembered by a short piece he wrote for  a contest in The Baltimore Sun for the best definition of a true gentleman. "The True Gentleman" won and since has been adopted as the creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
This is something I think the Mittster needs to read and understand. It probably wouldn't hurt Paul Ryan to give it a going over as well.

"The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe."

- John Walter Wayland. Virginia, 1899

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nearly Fall

The Autumnal Equinox is at 10:49 am today here in Atlanta so it will be officially fall in just a couple of hours. We've already been having some great fall weather with highs in the mid 80's and nice cool open! I have to be at work at 11:15 but I am scheduled to be in the garden and should get to spend a nice day outside...could be a lot worse.

I've actually gotten some fall work done in the garden and get some fall planting done. So far just spinach and kale but more to come.

Everybody enjoy your first day of fall and the beginning of soup season. I made my first fall soup the other day. A nice rich tomato and vegetable broth full of cannelini beans and fresh kale. Very nice. What's going to be your first soup of the season?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Harsh Light of Truth

It is no secret around these parts that have not nor ever will be a big fan of Mitt Romney but I didn't hate him. I just wasn't a big fan of his duplicitous nature and chameleon like politics. The latest revelation that he actually loathes half of America because we aren't uber wealthy and privileged is no surprise, at least to me, and shouldn't be to anyone else that can walk and chew gum at the same time. What we all knew is now just confirmed.

Just so we know who the loathed 47% are: 17% are people like me who are collecting our earned Social Security, 13% aer students, and people with disabilities or with incomes so low that they don't make enough to pay any Federal Income Tax (though they pay sales, gas and other taxes). The other 70% are people that do pay payroll taxes but wind up owing no tax due to exemptions. Not exactly a bunch of freeloaders.

Monday, September 17, 2012

October Unprocessed

You'll notice a new badge on the right for October Unprocessed. Click on the badge to link to the site and accept the challenge to eat no processed foods in October. I kicked the processed food thing about a year ago, thanks in part to Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food,  and while I also eliminated white flour and sugar(and artificial sweeteners) it has made a huge difference in my life.

Fifty pounds lighter, feel better, have more energy...all good stuff. Yes, I am also exercising regularly but the food is the key.

There are probably thousands of different "definitions" of "processed" food. I like to keep it simple.

If the food is something that you can make or someone with reasonable cooking skills can make in a home kitchen  from whole food such as fresh vegetables, dried foods, naturally preserved foods or sustainably raised meat and/or wild caught fish then you can consider it unprocessed. If it meets these criteria, even if you don't make it yourself it is probably OK.

Be wary, however, of things with a label or in a can or box or bottle. There is a good chance it is processed if it has a label. Read the label to be sure. If it has an ingredient that you don't keep in your kitchen or that you can't buy at the store or that you can't pronounce it is processed. If it has more than five ingredients then it is also probably processed. Just remember Michael Pollan's rule:

"If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food then it probably isn't."

Lastly, real food, unprocessed food tastes better in addition to being better for you and if nothing else matters then go for the taste of real food. As a bonus eating real food will save you on your grocery bills as well.

As for the "white flour" and sugar thing. Both are simple carbohydrates and and as such hit the blood stream quickly causing insulin to spike and insulin is what make the body store food as fat. If you don't have enough insulin or it is poorly metabolized (insulin resistance) then the excess glucose in your blood causes all kinds of problems especially nerve damage. Not a good thing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Perfect Fried Egg

The New York Times and Spanish chef José Andrés shared this pictorial guide to frying a perfect egg. “My whole life, I have been trying to cook an egg in the right way,” said Andrés.

I learned this method in Cyprus and it really does produce a damn near perfect fried egg. If you are nice I might share how to cook a perfect scrambled egg. I love eggs and take their cooking very seriously.

Mustang Bobby Has a Big Birthday Tomorrow

Go over to BBWW and wish Bobby a great 60th birthday(tomorrow). He is one of my daily reads and is a real asset to the intertubes. It is a milestone after all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cervelle de Canut

I haven't posted anything cooking related in a while and have a few minutes before I head off to work. I thought of this today while doing my French lesson and it is something I fell in love with while I was working in Lyon. Since Cervelle de Canut literally translates to "brains of the silk weaver" there is a good chance that this concoction originated in Lyon as it was the silk capital of Europe for a long time. This stuff is addictive but oh so good and I shall make a batch tomorrow.

Cervelle de Canut

1-1/2 cups fromage blanc (traditional)
  or fresh whole-milk ricotta (drained for an hour or so)
or a mixture of Greek style yogurt and cream cheese
or just plain Greek yogurt drained as well
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
1 clove finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 This makes enough for 6 servings or so but like I said it is very good and goes down very well with a little great French bread and some nice red wine. A Cote du Rhone would be appropriate.

Mix  all this together and let the flavors blend for a couple of hours in the fridge. You can adjust the thickness of the final product with a bit of milk. In Lyon it is typically served with toast and boiled potatoes but it is good just with fresh veges as a dip or as a salad dressing with bitter greens like arugula or frisse.

I actually think I prefer the drained Greek yogurt version but I am a yogurt person and actually the cheese is just a vehicle to get all the herbs and garlic into your mouth.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Real Lesson

I had my first guitar lesson with a real live teacher yesterday(for my birthday) and I must say it makes a difference. I've been trying to use books and cd's but I haven't really been progressing that much....I might actually learn to play blues guitar at some point. The teacher is a pro and it shows.

Winter Garden?

Getting some scary news from the climate folks. Seems the record setting Arctic ice melt is/has initiated a more intense arctic feedback loop adding more and more heat into the system. The more ice that disappears exposes more darker ocean water which absorbs more solar energy and increases the ice melt even more. The injection of all this additional energy is going to affect the weather in the U.S. and Europe this coming winter and it looks like it going to be a wild one. Whether it shows up as more extreme weather events or just a warmer winter (or both) is anyone's guess.

Some perspective:
On August 26, Arctic sea ice extent broke the record low set in 2007, and it has continued to decline since, dropping below 1.5 million square miles. That represents a 45 percent reduction in the area covered by sea ice compared to the 1980s and 1990s, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and may be unprecedented in human history. The extent of sea ice that melted so far this year is equivalent to the size of Canada and Alaska combined.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


I know better but I didn't mention that it was Cookie Jills birthday today as well as Bernie Sanders and last but not least Star Trek's, which debuted in 1966 on my 17th birthday. So...Happy Birthday to everyone!!

Not Enough Beer For Oktoberfest

I'm sorry to report the tragic news that there may not be enough beer at Oktoberfest. There is plenty of beer available at the brewery's but there is a huge shortage of bottles and casks. This is bad news on a planetary scale. While I haven't been to Oktoberfest(Munich) in a number of years I can't imagine a shortage of beer. I will note that I have been to the Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia recently and while it can't compare to Munich it is a hoot. Good beer, good food and a lot of good fun. Lots of live German bands( maybe not German per se but playing German music....polka). I think most of them are from Wisconsin. Anyhoo...a great bit of fun in the Georgia mountains in the fall.

Armageddon or Something

Surely this signifies the beginning of the "end times". This is a real product and available for a limited time. I'm a geddin' out of  here!


Another Year

Sixty-three today and I have to work....bummer. The only good thing is I am scheduled for the garden so at least I'll be out with the flowers and stuff. On the down side, rumor has it that the CEO, Frank Blake is going to visit the store. Management will be crazy  and running around trying to make nice for the boss. It is really sort of irritating. Day to day the store looks ok but there are many things that could easily sharpen it up with minimal effort. These only seem to be important if some VIP is due.

If I were the VIP my visits would never be announced....I want to see the way things are everyday...VIP or no. Home Depot seems to believe forewarning of VIP tours is the right thing but maybe only because the VIP's don't want to be embarrassed and it makes them feel more important knowing that people are scrambling in preparation for their visit. Well, that's the only reason that makes sense to me.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Well, it was a stem winder for sure. The "Big Dawg" reminded everyone of why he is such a formidable political opponent.  For almost an hour, He reminded voters of the challenges Obama faced upon arriving at the White House in 2009 and what President Obama has done to put the economy back on the track to recovery. One of the key points was the difference in private sector job growth between the Democrats and Republicans over the last 50 years. ThinkProgress has a neat graphic of disparity.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I stayed up and watched the whole DNCC thing last night and I am glad I did. The FLOTUS's speech was a show stopper and the rest of the speakers were on target as well. It was a well  oiled and focused event. Everyone on message.
While Michelle's speech was very, very good it all boils down to get out the vote. Yes, things aren't as good as we had hoped this far along but change is hard and we have to be patient.
I am a little worried that there hasn't been enough focus on the constant GOP efforts to make the economy as bad as possible as their only real weapon against President Obama and I think its needs to be highlighted often and loudly.
I'll at least watch the Big Dog's speech tonight and probably more.
I am encouraged by the focus I am seeing.

On another note...I have three straight days off but it is raining off and on so my intent to get some serious garden work done has hit the skids. I might just have to chill and charge instead.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon and Labor Day

Everyone have a great blue moon today the next one won't be for awhile. Everybody have a great Labor day weekend and careful with the fire. Me? I have to work all weekend and what's worse I'm scheduled for returns today and tomorrow. Uggh! At least I am back in the garden on Sunday and Monday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

All They Got Left

No I am not watching the GOP goings on in Tampa. I'm getting enough contamination from the Internet stuff I am reading. Exposure to this crap is soul searing and the crazy can become so common that it begins to seem normal. A very dangerous situation.

Besides I have no desire to see the "Lord of Lies" and his evil minion. If his minion's speech last night wasn't the be all end all of continuous lying then tonight's acceptance speech will be.

For a good idea of what Rmoney should say tonight I highly recommend Mr. Charles Pierce.

I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Speaking of Wagons

I meant to mention this a few weeks ago but it slipped away. I tried a new vodka called Tito's. It's an American vodka made from corn and it is micro distilled in the only legal distillery in Texas. Austin to be exact. This is a very good vodka and it has won a lot of awards. It is an excellent value compared to the ultra vodkas and even though it is distilled from corn it is more reminiscent of a true Russian vodka than one of the ultra refined ones like Belvedere or Grey Goose which both are closer to pure methanol than good vodka. One of the reasons Tito's is so nice is that it is only distilled 6 times and retains some character from the grain. Most of the highly distilled vodka's (read expensive) are distilled many more times and have lost a lot of character and therefore resemble an industrial solvent rather than a  good spirit.

If you are a vodka drinker and especially if you drink it over ice with maybe a bit of lime like me then this booze is worth a try.

Falling Off The Wagon

I fell/jumped off the wagon this morning. Buttermilk biscuits with country ham, apple butter and blueberry jam and lots of Kerry Gold Irish butter. It's been months and months since I had a biscuit and I woke up with a bad case of "need a biscuit" this morning...It's over now and it will be months before I have another....though the four or five left over are going to need some serious banishing. The chipmunks like biscuits and pancakes so maybe that's a solution.

In The Dust Forever

The loss of Neil Armstrong is a great loss for mankind but his footprints in the dust on the moon will be there forever. Maybe some day another man or woman will be able to put their footprint in the dust beside his and replant the flag next to the marker left by Armstrong and Aldrin. That is, if we are lucky.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

They're Laughing At US

NYTimes Opinionator Blog

On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.

Let’s take a quick tour of the crazies in the House. Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body.

If you follow the link and read the post you will become mightily depressed so make sure there are no sharp objects within reach and have someone lock up all but one bottle of whiskey.

Sew, Reap, Rinse, Repeat

Nothing but sad stories about the dairy farmers in drought ridden Missouri. They’re praying for help from God, and begging for help from the government, but because of Republicans like Todd Akin in the house who are blocking the farm bill there is no relief in sight.

I feel for these farmers but you also have to admit that they continue to vote for dick heads like Todd Akin and this is what you get. You make your bed and all that.

Traitorous FAUX News

Traitorous is the only word that comes to mind. As you may know one of the SEALs that took out Osama Bin Laden has written a book about the raid. He wrote it under a pseudonym to protect his identity but Fox news learned his real name and outed him yesterday. And now, not surprisingly, web sites all over that are affiliated with Al Qaeda are threatening his life.

The Rethugs just can't stand it that the President managed to reel in OBL when their boy couldn't and Rmoney has even said that he wouldn't have tried to get him. This is just another yellow bellied attempt by the GOP via FAUX news to undermine a major Obama accomplishment.

Way to go Faux, you have endangered the life of a Navy SEAL and his family, an American hero. The rooster crows again.

Heads Via Hearts

I don’t often recommend books. I am going to do so now and tell everyone that publishes a blog or a twitter stream that they should read this book: Climate blogger( Joe Romm’s Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.

This book is for anyone who cares about why science doesn’t get through to the public should read it. Abyone who wants to add some additional depth and power to their writing should read it. Anyone who wants to understand the rhetorical tricks that are used by the manipulators and how to defend against them should read it.

It's a treatise on the neglected art of rhetoric, the techniques utilized by Shakespeare, Lincoln, and the writers of the King James Bible.   As Romm points out in the book, modern neuroscience now confirms what the poets always knew about getting to people’s heads through their hearts.

As Joe mentions several times in the book, President Obama, while a very good speaker, has not fully utilized the tools of rhetoric in his speech and also not used these same tools to deflect and counter the rhetorical tricks coming from the other side.

It's not a long book but it is fascinating as Joe points out the various methods and how they have been used by some of the greatest speakers such as Winston Churchhill, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wretched Writers

It is time once again for the results of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. My favorite of the bunch,  of course from the pun category is ....

Though they were merely strangers on a train, as she looked North by Northwest though the rear window, Marnie knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the trouble with Harry was that he was a psycho – his left and right hand middle fingers (formerly extended in the birds position) were menacingly twisting a rope in the form of a noose; certain of her impending death as surely as she could dial M for Murder, she was overcome by intense vertigo. — Amy Torchinsky, Greensboro, NC
There is, as always, some good stuff there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Definition of Insane

I haven't weighed in on the creep from Misery "legitimate rape" brouhaha but I would add that this brings us to another viable definition of insanity....If you have a vagina and vote Republican you are insane.

The thing is that while you may not have any concerns about rape or unwanted pregnancy and maybe you would never even consider an abortion for yourself...and that's fine. However, the GOP has now added a plank to their platform that would eliminate the option of an abortion even in the case of rape or incest and even to the possibility of sacrificing a woman's life rather than end a pregnancy. I personally believe that abortion should be a last resort but by the same token it is not my decision to make and not the government's either. It is a woman's choice and decision between her, her physician and possibly the father. No one else should have a say and it is woman who has the final say. End of discussion.

So, while you may not have a direct interest in whether abortion is a woman's choice or not there are millions of women who will be negatively affected if this extreme position taken by the GOP is enabled and you will be indirectly affected whether you like it or not because the GOP has just taken away a huge piece of your personal freedom and that's the freedom to determine what happens to your body and life.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Winter Vegetables

It's only the middle of August but it is time to be thinking about the winter veges. I got all my greenhouse growing boxes set up with new soil and planted with spinach, wild and not wild arugula and red kale. I'll get the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts started in the next few days as well.  It's hard to get ready for winter when it is still in the upper 80's out but its time.

Off to work in a few and scheduled for the garden center so it shouldn't be too busy an afternoon and night. Just in case I am taking my Nexus 7 with a book (Language Intelligence) that I got off Amazon today. It is about the lost skill of rhetoric and how you can improve your communication by adopting some of the age old wisdom of proper rhetoric. I've just burned through the first couple of chapters but it looks worthwhile.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Unicorns Are Real

I know so because there are at least six references to them in the Bible. So there. If the Jesus botherers can justify their hate of gays, blacks, Muslims and anyone else that is not exactly like their image of what a Christian should be using selected scripture and if they can excuse their angst over such things as sex and  booze then it is perfectly acceptable to use scripture to prove the  existence of unicorns  .

h/t to here 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wasted Time

So jury duty is over. It all ended in a mistrial when one of the jury couldn't be convinced that there was not enough evidence to convict. We actually spent all day today trying to convince this one juror that there wasn't any evidence worthy of sending the 20 year girl defendant to prison for. The state just didn't have it all together. We failed as the woman was irrational and wanted a guilty  verdict. It took the rest of us jurors about an hour to conclude that the evidence wasn't there and the rest of the day was spent on the one holdout. So anyway, from a justice perspective it was a wasted three days for me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So I got picked for a jury and I have to make another trip downtown to the courthouse again tomorrow and probably again Thursday. Criminal case of multiple ADW. Should only go for a couple of days but  the PTB's at HD weren't happy when I stopped in this evening to tell them I would miss my shifts tomorrow and Thursday. The only bright spot is that I don't have to report until 930a. It takes me about an hour and a half to get to the courthouse via  the train and a short walk so if I am out of here by 730a tomorrow I should be good. Today, in order to be there by 8a I got rolling by 530a and I was a bit early.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Worked all weekend but the weather was very nice and I was out in the garden center so overall not too bad. Been to the gym this morning and after a bit of guitar practice and a French lesson I will go out an mow the very long grass. I bought two Pimsleur language courses from Amazon. One to brush up on my French which is very degraded and Latin American Spanish so I may be able to understand a little of what so many of the customers speak at Home Depot. Also there is a large Hispanic population here in Roswell and it would be nice to at least say hello and whatever. I've only just started the French but I like the progress so far and I think the methodology of the Pimsleur course is the best I've come across.

On the down side I have a jury summons for tomorrow but I am on the standby list and will call tonight to find out if I actually have to appear. I really don't mind the usually wasted day sitting around the Fulton county courthouse but the early morning trip downtown to appear at 8a is a real PIA. I've got my Nexus 7 and Ipod all charged(yeah I know I can put the music on the Nexus but I just haven't gotten round to it.) so I will have plenty to keep me occupied. I don't remember if the courthouse has wireless but it sure would be nice.

 I also don't think I mentioned that I upgraded my phone from the HTC Inspire to the new HTC One X. I was seriously considering the new Samsung Galaxy III S but after comparing specs and actually holding and playing with both the HTC user interface (Sense) won out. They both have the same Snapdragon Quad processor and Android version(Ice Cream Sandwich) and a lot of the same features such as NFC and Bluetooth etc. I also like the construction and appearance of the HTC over the Samsung. So far I am more than happy with the choice ( and yes I also know I can put the music on the phone as well). It didn't hurt that the list on the phone is in the $500 range but AT&T was offering it for $99 with a contract.