Sunday, December 26, 2010

Everybody knows the Germans make good stuff

I love the line in that Shamwow video where the pitchman says, "Everybody knows the Germans make good stuff," because even though it's arguably contentious with respect to a particular product like a wiping rag, there is an element of truth in it. Germans are renowned for craftsmanship. They were making precision instruments as early as any country. And one need only take a trip to Germany to see how dedicated they are to order and the following of rules and laws.

So it seems fair to assume that when Germans made and used good thermometers as early as anybody, and that their clerks were as meticulous as any in recording the data.

This fellow takes that concept and runs with it, giving a graph of German temperature records since 1750. Talk about an inconvenient truth. How can the world be warming if Germany hasn't been warming for the last 260 years?

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the folks at NASA have been "adjusting" the temperature records continuously in order to produce scary headlines claiming that recent years have been warmer than 1934, whose raw temperatures are the warmest on record.

Friday, December 24, 2010

An interesting video about progress

The video at this Cato Institute page is a bit long at 78 minutes; but the interesting part is Matt Ridley's ten or so minute talk and then the first ten or so minutes of questions that follow the fellow who gets up to comment on Ridley's talk.

In any event it's worth seeing since Ridley's take on why we live better than our ancestors is somewhat novel and very persuasive. I may have to break my rule and buy his book at some point. Or perhaps I'll do a really novel thing and check his book out of the library. For some reason I'm very open to getting audio books at the library; but I can't remember when I checked out an actual reading book.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This article made me think of Mom

Mom was liberal to the core (in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt New Deal sense and also the anti-war sense), although she rarely talked about politics. But despite, or perhaps because of that, she despised the Kennedys. It was Aunt Mary who regularly used the term "whoremasters" in referring to politicians; but the fact is that the Kennedys (Jack, Bobby, Teddy and many of their politically involved children) really were whoremasters, as well as thorough cynics who considered themselves above the laws pertaining to ordinary people even as they loudly trumpeted their supposed love for the little people to attain and hold public offices.

Mom would have loved this article and commented on it. After which Aunt Mary would have delivered her classic line, "They're all whoremasters." Then they would have laughed together at the very best sort of joke, the bitter joke that simply states the real, though crazy, truth of things.

Congratulations and thanks to the Tea Partiers

The new Tea Party backed congressmen and women who were elected last month won't take office until January 20th; but the effects of the Tea Party effort have already been felt in Washington.

Today the Democrats gave up on passing a new $1 Trillion dollar pork barrel bill in the lame duck session of congress. And, on other side of the coin, the Democrats failed in their attempt to pass a massive tax increase when the lame duck congress extended for two years almost all of the lower tax rates that have been in effect for the past nine years.

Elections have consequences, and in this case the Tea Party uprising that helped defeat so many long entrenched big spending congressmen and senators has already done a lot of good by forcing the politicians in Washington to realize that they can be defeated if they get too far out of line.

This doesn't mean we can afford to become complacent. We need to keep up the pressure to ensure that the new congress which convenes in January takes action to actually slow the pace of increase in government spending overall and to cut back spending on things the government now does which make no sense.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Alan Sorkin wailed away,
On his blog the other day,
'Cause Sarah Palin shot a moose,
Or was it Rudolph on the loose,
While hunting up Alaska way.

Mr. Priss procures his meat,
When Bambi he's of a mind to eat,
From someone who a cleaver wields,
Behind a screen at the Fresh Fields.
His hands are clean; but he's effete,
And his cluelessness is hard to beat.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The few, the proud, the Santa Marines

Many are called but few are frozen.

Warning, the marching song has a funny line that may stray just a bit over the line for prissy folks; but I'm certain the Supreme Court would rule that, taken as a whole, this video has redeeming social value.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter is here

The past three or four days have made it clear that winter is here. Cold, cloudy and blustery. Downright miserable most of the time.

I'm glad I got the fig tree well wrapped last week. I'm pretty proud of that wrapping job. The thing actually looks rather neat out there with the green bucket on its head. Tomorrow or Friday I need to get a bunch of leaf mulch from down by the maple tree to stack around the base of the fig in order to keep its roots from freezing.

I'm also glad I have plenty of really prime wood stockpiled this year. Thus far I've been burning mostly trashy stuff since it hasn't been all that cold; but temperatures are getting to where I need to burn the good hardwood. I have plenty of apple, cherry, mulberry and walnut stored up.

In other news: we have two herons hanging around down by the creek pretty much all the time. It's hard to believe those lanky birds can keep themselves warm enough around here during the depths of the winter; but they certainly do.

And in still other news: Rick the bowhunter came by the other week and introduced his fiance, who is also a bow hunter. The two of them have been hunting regularly on the property. I hope they take out a half dozen of Bambi's relatives. Our usual cross bow hunter has not appeared so it may be he has finally gone to the great hunting ground in the sky. He's had cancer for the past couple of years.

Global Warming Delegates sign a petition to ban water

Priceless. Some college students went down to the big global warming convention and government paid vacation thing in Cancun and pulled the same sort of trick Penn and Teller did at a gathering of ignorant hippies.

These fellows asked delegates at the international climate science gathering to sign a petition banning Dihydrogen Monoxide, which is, of course H2O or water. The best part was that they got them to sign it at a water cooler.

In addition they got a bunch of delegates to sign a petition urging the UN to cripple the US economy and gut our Gross Domestic Product by 6%; but that doesn't surprise me at all since the whole global warming scam is about crippling the rich world and extorting lots of money that the global warming folks can feed off of.

You can watch the short video here.

I'm hoping they will post the names of the folks who signed those petitions on the internet along with their government position titles and their supposed credentials.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ravioli and stuffed olives for a bunch of people

I mentioned the other day that Linda found Aunt Mary's recipe for a whole lot of meat ravioli after Angela and I semi-finalized the mad plan for December 19th.

Here it is:

For the Dough:
5 pounds flour
8 extra large eggs
12 oz warm water
Knead approx 20 minutes
Roll out dough into tube and cut into slices
Press slices flat and dust flour on both sides
Run through pasta machine first on 1 and then on second to last slot
Put in meat, fold over and shape

For the meat filling:
8 pounds of cooked chicken and pork total weight
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup cheese
4 cups chicken broth
4 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tblsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1tsp parsley
Grind pork and chicken mixture together and fill pasta

(The recipes for the dough and filling are next to one another on a card, so I assume the meat mixture is designed to fill the amount of rolled dough that the dough recipe will produce. Assuming it's a recipe for about 200 ravioli that would mean about a half ounce of meat in each ravioli.)

On the back of the same card is a recipe for cheese filling:
1 pound of ricotta
Cheese to taste
1 egg
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbl bread crumbs
Mix together and fill pasta

(Clearly the Ricotta recipe is not in proportion to the dough recipe, so my guess is that she wrote that on the back of the card for reference and it isn't meant to be used with the 5 pound dough recipe.

On the other hand Angela remembers the old time dinners consisting of fried meat ravioli, boiled meat ravioli with cheese and cinnamon, and then boiled cheese ravioli with gravy. So perhaps this is a recipe card for those occasions. But even that doesn't explain the problematic proportions since 1 pound of ricotta filling would not have made enough cheese ravioli with the sauce for the dinners for 15 or so that they used to have, even on the assumption that we had already eaten fried and white meat ravioli..

We'll learn the truth on December 19th. I'm figuring we'll do fifteen pounds of flour for dough and then fill with 16 pounds of meat and 8 pounds of cheese so as to end up with about 600 ravioli.

In addition we're going to do six times the following recipe for stuffed olives that Angela sent me so as to end up with about 450 olives:

2 1/2 lbs spanish olives (about 30 olives to the pound)
1 1/2 lbs ground veal and pork
3 eggs
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp parsley
2 tbsp romano cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp bread crumb

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Foods you enjoyed as a kid never taste exactly as you remember them; but sometimes you can get pretty close.

Today we made footballs according to the by guess and by gosh method. Using the old hand cranked grinder we ground up about a pound and half of leftover turkey (both white and dark meat) along with about the same amount of cooked Swiss Chard. Then we added about an ounce or so of grated Locatelli, about a teaspoon each of salt and garlic powder, and about a half teaspoon of pepper. I mixed that all up well, Alex and I tasted it for flavor, and then I formed it into footballs about two inches in diameter at the equator. I floured, egged, and breaded those; and then deep fried them.

Excellent! We ate them with mashed potatoes, leftover turkey gravy and swiss chard saute'd with garlic.

Now the question is whether they actually were different from Mom's because she used frozen spinach and we used the last picking of Swiss Chard from the garden (leaves only - the stems are now pithy); or whether 62 year old taste buds don't work exactly the same as 10 year old ones.

Either way they were very fine indeed. A very fine way to dispose of leftover turkey without having to suffer the taste of leftover turkey.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter is a comin'

The signs are now too numerous to avoid that winter is on its way. I just picked the last Swiss Chard in the garden. The last five of the tomatoes I picked green in early October are almost fully ripe and will probably be used up within a couple of days. And virtually all of the leaves are down on the lawn except for those on the stubborn Sweetgums, and those on the Post Oak, the tatters of which won't fall until they're replaced by new leaves in the Spring.

Also, the price of olive oil has risen quite smartly to its late Fall, Winter and Spring level in the market. Having carefully observed the annual trends in that market for several years I invested heavily in olive oil futures during the late Summer and early Fall. As of now I have an unrealized 50% gross return on investment. My ROI is even higher on an annualized basis.

In other news: I've learned that bamboo, in addition to its many other uses, makes excellent kindling for the woodstove.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gnocchi or Cavatelli

I've often wondered why Mom always said she was making "cavadeellie" from leftover mashed potatoes when we were kids, since actually she was making gnocchi. Not that I knew it at the time. I don't think I ever heard the word "gnocchi" until some time in the 1970's or 1980's, when Mom, paradoxically, had started making actual cavatelli, with ricotta instead of potatoes.

Anyway, today I made gnocchi from some leftover mashed potatoes. They went down just like Mom's old cavadeelies, but not so elegantly. Mine were all shapes and sizes. It turns out to be hard to get them nice and uniform. Mom and Aunt Mary no doubt had those little mocking smiles on their faces if they were looking down this afternoon when I was struggling with that dough.

In other news: Sam and Don and I went down to Norfolk last weekend to take a tour of the Enterprise. It was good to see and walk around the old ship again, especially because, just by chance, the Ensign who served as guide for the group we joined is the Assistant First Lieutenant and thus happens to hold the same job title that I had back in the day (after I had spent a year as a Division Officer and more or less knew which end of the ship was the bow and which was the stern).

His job function is hugely different from mine since he got his commission via OCS after rising to First Class Bosun's Mate as an enlisted man, so he actually knows a lot about the management of the anchors, the mooring winches, the ship's boats and such, and he actually functions as the Ship's Chief Bosun. I was more or less the administrative assistant to the First Lieutenant, helping with paperwork that required an officer's signature and overseeing the department watch bill and duty assignments and such so the young department yeoman wouldn't be bullied too much by the petty officers. In port the job took me a couple of hours a day in the office, plus a couple of hour long walking around tours to check the various department spaces and go over stuff with the Division Officers.

Underway I was on a one in three rotation on the bridge; so the department management function was a duck in to the office and do a couple of hours of paperwork every couple of days sort of thing; and I did wandering tours of the department spaces on the way to and from bridge watches.

It was good to stand up there on the bridge and go back mentally to those heady days when the captain left the bridge and trusted me in charge out there, back when Enterprise was still "the largest warship in the history of the world," as he put it to me when he qualified me as Officer of the Deck. Heady days. The 1MC box next to the Captain's chair still connects to all those innumerable watch stations throughout the ship that could call in the middle of the night to report a problem or an emergency.

Mostly, even an actual emergency could wait on a decision for the few moments it took to call and wake up the captain in his sea cabin so you could explain the situation to him and get orders that you would merely pass along for action. But occasionally there would be an emergency that couldn't wait, one that needed orders right now; and you informed the captain after you had actions in train to put things right.

Then to, every so often there would be a merchant ship that was clearly in a privileged situation that suddenly and inexplicably changed course and put you in a situation where you had to maneuver right now to avoid a collision, and inform the captain only after you had given the necessary helm and/or engine orders, while the ship was already in process of making the unexpected change in course or speed. It was very gratifying when he merely gave you a "very well" over the phone after you had reported on what you had done, or when he came out in his bath robe, looked around and listened to what you were up to for a few minutes, or perhaps asked a couple of questions, and then quietly left the bridge to go back to his cabin.

One thing I noticed is that they've cluttered up the windows on the bridge with a whole lot of electronic equipment that was not there in 1971 and 1972. Back in those days we figured the course and speed for flight operations with a circular slide rule, and we kept track of nearby ships and did maneuvering board solutions for collision avoidance by hand on plotting sheets. They have special dedicated computers with touch screens for that stuff now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

Today is Armistice Day, or at least it used to be Armistice Day. It used to commemorate the truce, or armistice, that finally ended World War I, which used to be called The Great War, before World War II, which started a bit more than twenty years later, proved that it wasn't so uniquely great at all. And certainly proved that it wasn't The War to End All Wars, another one of its names.

Armistice Day was quite a thing for those Doughboys who had, until the truce that took effect at 11:00 AM on November 11th in 1918 ended the killing, crouched in their trenches and dugouts waiting for the random artillery shell with their name on it, or for the order to go "over the top" and charge into the machine gun fire.

Such artillery! And such an unimaginable volume of fire! A volume of fire such as had never been imagined in the quaint world before 1914. More than eight hundred thousand artillery rounds were fired in one battle toward the end of the war, with the guns on the allied side averaging one for every eight yards of front. The poor Germans, their economy struggling by that point, had only one artillery piece for each 25 yards of their front.

It all seems so quaint now. After all, it occurred more than 90 years ago. Long enough ago for Armistice Day to have been morphed into Veteran's Day and long ago enough so that the original reason November 11th was seen as a notable day has been all but forgotten.

I'm thinking on this in part because Sam and Don and I visited the Fredericksburg Battlefield National Monument on Sunday on our way back home after touring the USS Enterprise on Saturday. Fredericksburg, because it was a Civil War battlefield, is on a scale one can grasp. One can walk a one mile loop trail there and see all of the area on which the most furious part of the fighting occurred. One can stand in the sunken road, which is overall barely longer than the 1000 foot length of the Enterprise, and look down the slope onto the several acres where the Union Army, insanely trying to advance against a perfect defensive position, lost something like 10,000 men in a day, most of them killed within an area smaller than the four and a half acre flight deck of the Enterprise.

Artillery played an important role in the battle of Fredericksburg because of how perfect the defensive ground was for the Confederates. The Confederate artillery officer in charge of the nine guns on Marye's Heights right behind the sunken road assured Robert E. Lee before the battle that, "a chicken could not live on that field." He was a being a bit boastful about his artillery, but only a bit. His artillery, firing like giant shotguns at point blank range; but most of the killing was actually done by the several thousand Confederate troops lined up shoulder to shoulder a couple of ranks deep in the sunken road who fired something like 100 rounds each over the course of the day into the dense packed Union troops that kept madly trying to advance uphill over the open ground.

The deep irony is that those Union troops were never intended to attack up toward Marye's Heights. Burnside, the General commanding on the Union Side, only intended them to advance toward the heights as a diversion to pin down some of Lee's troops while others of his troops attacked a more vulnerable point on another part of the battlefield. The attack on Marye's Heights was all a big misunderstanding.

Just like the War to End All Wars, which was expected by all parties to be over in a few months when it started in 1914.

Update: Naturally I wrote the above and thought about it being Veterans Day; and then I proceeded to go to the post office to send some mail, and I was surprised to find the windows closed. All other government offices are also no doubt closed, and the banks, I guess. Banks, of course, have been so heavily regulated by government since the 1930's that they were probably all but ordered to close for Veterans Day.

Veterans Day is just another day for most of us, even us Veterans. But the fact that holidays are becoming meaningless, including a rant about one of my favorite pet peeves, is a post for another day.

Update 2: Here's a short clip of actual World War I combat footage that I got at the Optimistic Conservative Blog, which is always interesting even though she writes much of her best stuff for Commentary Magazine's site and she's apparently not allowed to also post that stuff on her own site. Opticon has an excellent post about Veterans Day, and she quoted In Flanders Fields, which I was thinking about when I wrote the post above.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hopefully you're not suffering from torschlusspanik

I deliberated about whether to share this word I just found, because it seems to me that I've very rarely suffered from torschlusspanik; but I'm mildly suffering from it now that I've found the word and reflected a bit on its meaning.

I recall telling Alex, on the beach in North Carolina when he was about thirteen or fourteen years old, that he should glory in the day because, "It doesn't get any better than this."

The sad fact is that's the the plain truth, at nearly any time and at almost all times.

But enough of brooding. Clearly it's time to perk up my spirits by watching and listening to this.

Update: I wonder if there is a name for the class of words, each of which, by the very fact of learning and reflecting on its meaning, is a bummer.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A great video

The next time you hear some idiot commentator or politician talk about the decline of civility in politics remember this video which shows you how viciouslyThomas Jefferson and John Adams attacked one another back when politicians were more polite.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Beach

We've been back for four days now, huddling by the wood stove, staring out at the nearly bare Sugar Maple, Boxwood and Persimmons, and watching the leaves fall, fall, fall, from the Red Maples.

Last week we travelled down to spend a couple of days at the Luna Sea Motel in Cocoa Beach, where we walked on the clean, pleasant beach in high 80's temperatures and waded a bit in the mid 70's water. While we were there we visited The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral for a pleasant and interesting few hours, seeing the technological marvels our country is capable of creating when it isn't wallowing in hyperlegalism and self doubt. The Saturn Five Moon rocket, lying on it's side, now enclosed in a vast museum a couple of hundred yards long with a fifty or sixty foot high ceiling, is impossible to adequately describe. A thirty six story skyscraper that once lifted itself off the ground and flew, it's payload eventually reaching a speed of 25,000 miles per hour. You have to see it.

You can no longer go up close and walk around the giant crawler tractor that transports the assembled rockets, or the vast vehicle assembly building, as I could when I was visited there many years ago, before the 9/11 attack that so changed the nature of security at any sort of government installation. But the crawler is still amazing from a distance as pick up trucks parked near it provide some sense of scale. The vehicle assembly building, seen from a half mile or so away, is not nearly as impressive, even if you realize that the medium sized flag painted way up there on it's side is bigger than a pro basketball court. Besides the bus and walking tours the center also has a very good 3D IMAX movie about the Hubble Telescope. There are some awesome 3D scenes of the astronauts spacewalking to repair the telescope in orbit.

Cocoa Beach itself is a relatively undistinguished beachfront town, although you have to grant that they have it landscaped and planted pretty nicely. They also have it very clean and pleasant despite the empty storefronts in relatively new looking shopping centers that show it was no stranger to the huge overbuilding of commercial space in some parts of the country. I suspect there are also a lot of empty condos available there for attractive prices; but as I mentioned they are clearly going to a lot of trouble to keep the town desirable looking.

Linda was especially taken with the big surfer statues in front of Ron Jon Surf Shop which is quite an eye catching store. And we both liked the very good food at Rubio's Cuban restaurant, a little place, and at the Florida Seafood House, a much bigger place. Cocoa Beach is well worth a visit for the sun, surf and endless beach. The prices were also very nice although that may have been a function of it being the off season.

After Cocoa Beach we headed over to The Villages for a four night stay with Jas and Kathy in their new house in the kingdom of pickle ball, pinochle, pools golf carts, dancing and crossword puzzles. More on that next time.

In other news: The other day all of President Barack Obama's many enemies, for that's how he very clearly characterized everyone who doesn't agree with him last week, got together and delivered termination notices to a whole bunch of his political cronies. Taking back the House of Representatives from the lefties and achieving a better balance in the Senate are, of course, only the first necessary steps; but it is good to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we must keep the feet of all the newly elected Republicans to the fire to ensure that they don't get the Washington disease that spreads so easily to newly elected members of the political class.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Counting presidents

Today I went down to Blue Bell to attend a rally in support of Pat Toomey who's running for a U.S. Senate seat. Toomey's running against Joe Sestak, who has gained some distinction by managing to advocate positions that are actually to the left of those espoused by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Sestak has been a disaster as a member of the House of Representatives, and he would be a worse disaster as a member of the Senate.

Pat Toomey, of course, spoke at the event, as did Rudy Giuliani who was here to endorse him and campaign for him. They're both very impressive public speakers, as you would imagine. At that level of politics there is seldom room for a candidate who can't give an excellent speech in person to a medium or large crowd. And there is absolutely no room for someone who can't impress a small crowd, impress them a lot.

I've only attended one other political rally in my life, and I went to that one as, ahem, a gentleman of the press rather than as a partisan. It happened that in 1992 I was writing an article and an opinion column each week for The Collegeville Independent and the newspaper got me a press pass to a campaign speech given by President George H.W. Bush at the Uniform Tube factory in Collegeville. Jimmy Stewart, the editor of the Collegeville Independent and I were in the front row of the press section for that speech along with reporters from other local papers. Reporters from the national press were in the second and third rows. Someday I'll find a copy of the rather quirky article I wrote about the event and transcribe it here. Suffice it to say that George H.W. Bush gave a great speech that day. He was not as good a public speaker as President Clinton who beat him in that election; but he gave the most impressive speech I've ever seen in person, and I've seen a lot of corporate speakers.

But that's not what I want to write about today. Today I want to mention that George H.W. Bush (the first President Bush) is the only president I've ever seen in the flesh. I've watched a lot of political speechers on TV; but, as I mentioned, I've never been a big one for going to political events.

The other night during our walk I learned that Linda has also only seen one president in person. In her case it was President Richard Nixon, who gave a brief speech in Hawaii when Admiral John S. McCain Jr. (Senator John McCain's father) retired from the navy in 1972.

All of this got me to wondering who I might know who has seen a lot of presidents; and that led me to call my uncle Bert DeAngelis a few hours ago. I knew that Uncle Bert had been involved in local politics, as a Republican Committeeman, for many years; so I suspected he had seen a few presidents in person and I was not disappointed. It turns out he's been a Republican Committeman for 51 years, so he's naturally attended a lot of political events. But even before he became a committeeman he was attending political events.

He saw President Harry Truman when Truman came to Bridgeport to give a speech. Bert said Truman was presented with a bolt of cloth from a local factory that was to be used in making him a new suit. And he saw President John F. Kennedy when Kennedy came to Norristown to give a speech while he was campaigning for the presidency against Richard Nixon in 1960. Nixon gave a speech in Norristown on the same day; but Uncle Bert went to the Kennedy speech, so he never saw Nixon. Incidently, Uncle Bert mentioned that he voted for Adlai Stevenson when he ran against Dwight Eisenhower, and he voted for Kennedy. So, like Ronald Reagan, Uncle Bert was a liberal in his youth, before he became older and wiser.

But liberal and conservative are relative, of course. Today Truman, Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson would not be welcome in the Democratic Party. Going further than that, those three men could not have imagined how far left the Democratic Party would move and has moved in the past forty years.

But back to Uncle Bert. In addition to Presidents Truman and Kennedy, he also has seen Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. So in the course of his life he's seen five presidents in the flesh.

Leave a comment if you have ever seen a president in person. It doesn't have to be while they were president.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fried green tomatoes

A couple of years ago in Florida, while walking through the Market at Marion with Jas and Al, I bought a serving of boiled peanuts from one of the vendors. I quickly learned that folks who eat those things willingly must have acquired a taste for them during very hardscrabble childhoods. I threw away most of the little bag of them. They have no flavor and an unpleasant mushy consistency.

Yesterday I learned that fried green tomatoes have the opposite problem, at least when fried with only a simple corn meal coating. They're too tangy and taste almost like a pickle. Linda and I finished the six slices I fried; but I think the corn meal coating recipe is one for the failed file. Perhaps I'll try making them with a regular flour egg and bread crumb coating before my supply of green tomatoes runs out.

In other news, there was a raccoon on our patio last night after Linda went to bed. This is news because I've only seen raccoons four or five times in the 25 or so years we've lived in this house. They must be remarkably reclusive beasts. We've seen foxes much more often.

In yet other news, the sugar maple tree is now at the very height of its color. It's lost more leaves than usual for this early in the fall, perhaps because of the drought we had earlier; but it surely is still a magnificent looking tree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Into the tunnel

It's getting cold around here. Yesterday, for the first time, I lit the woodstove during the day when it became clear that the sun would not emerge to warm up the house. And we're now down to a pitifully small selection of remaining ripe tomatoes from the garden. Later today I think I'll go down and gather the reasonable sized green ones. I expect we'll be getting our first frost any day now. There's also a picking of Swiss Chard down there.

I'm happy to report that the good guys appear to have triumphed once and for all over the naysayers at Wikipedia. The entry for Xenopus now correctly states that African Clawed Frogs can live into their twenties. There was a period a few years ago when I went back and forth several times with a denier at the site who refused to let my editing of that page stand. In the course of checking on the matter recently I found that at least two others have reported on their own long lived Xenopuses (Xenopi?) on the web.

Assuming those web sites are to be believed, William the Frog lived to be 21 years old and the unnamed frog at Downend School lived to 30 years old before dying in 2001. My Xenopus is now about 23 or 24 years old so he (or she - I remain too lazy to check on the matter) may now be the oldest in the world. At the least my frog appears to be the oldest one in the world that is memorialized on the web.

For the record he's still quite spry and active over there in his bowl, still quite capable of moving the rocks around and splashing noisily to get attention when he hasn't been fed for a while. And he's still possessed of plenty of energy and will to present a problem when it's time to put him back into the bowl after I change his water. One of these days I need to give him the run of the house again to see how high and far he can jump.

On to other business. I've been rereading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels over the past few weeks. And the other day I came across his assertion that Admiral William Mitchell of the Royal Navy had not only started his career as an enlisted man but had moreover managed to rise in rank after having been flogged around the fleet for desertion. According to the words O'Brian puts into the mouth of Captain Aubrey, Mitchell was an impressed man at the beginning of his career and he deserted his ship multiple times in order to continue a liaison with a young lady ashore. After having been several times been recaptured and punished with moderate floggings by his captain he decided to go the sea lawyer route and demand, as was his right, a court martial. Big mistake! The court martial board turned out to be a bloody minded one that decided to make an example of him in order to deter others. He was sentenced to receive five hundred lashes in a boat that was rowed from ship to ship so the sailors of the whole fleet could view his punishment.

The Wikipedia entry confirms that Vice Admiral Mitchell originally joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman; but it casts doubt on the flogging around the fleet story, saying that no official records exist of that event and that it's only provenance is a story told several years after his death. It remains potentially true however, because according to Wiki a whole chunk of Royal Navy records covering the early years of Mitchell's career are missing.

This interested me because when I served in USS Enterprise from 1970 to 1972 my boss was Lieutenant Commander Jack Henrizi, who said he was (at that time) the most senior unrestricted line officer in the navy who had started his career as an enlisted man. As I recall Commander Henrizi was careful to mention that he had worked his way up to Chief Petty Officer before becoming a commissioned officer; so it may be that there was a more senior grade officer who had started as seaman and then had immediately (more or less) been recommended for Officer Candidate School on the basis of test scores or such.

Jack Henrizi was nn interesting man with quite an extensive and colorful vocabulary. I vivedly remember the chewing out he gave me and the Fourth Division officer after the party pavilion at Subic Bay Naval Base somehow came to be burned to the ground during a joint party we had convinced him to let us hold for the nearly one hundred men of our two deck divisions, much against his better judgement. That was some party. And Commander Henrizi was some stand up guy. He took the whole brunt of reporting the incident to Captain Peterson, who never mentioned the matter to me or Mike Murphy even though he saw us every day on the bridge when we stood OOD watches.

Shortly after he retired from the navy in about 1974 or so Commander Henrizi was killed by a drunk driver who lost control of his car and came across the center lane of an expressway in California.

Update: I'm not the only one in the world with too much time on his hands. Behold - sheep fireworks - The nighttime sheep game of pong is neat, but you have to watch to the end to see the fireworks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Signs and portents

I haven't been paying attention to the astronomy websites recently so it took Alex's mentioning it for me to realize that Jupiter is not only very bright in the sky right now but it's actually brighter than it has been since 1968. Checking a couple of astronomy websites just now I found that Jupiter will reach opposition tonight (September 21st) at midnight. "Opposition" is when an outer planet is closest to Earth. Jupiter comes into opposition with Earth about every 13 months (as Earth catches up with Jupiter since it goes around the Sun much quicker). This is an especially close opposition because Jupiter is just now getting toward the closest it ever comes to the Sun in it's oval orbit.

So, if you want to see Jupiter shining brighter than you will see it for a very long time, go out after 9:00 PM or so and look in the Southeastern sky anytime over the next few weeks. Because Jupiter is so far away it's brightness won't change very fast as it moves away from it's closest approach.

Keep this in perspective. Jupiter will seem to be a very bright star (brighter than anything else that's ever in the sky except the Sun, the Moon and Venus); but it will not be anywhere near as bright as the Moon. As an added treat, tomorrow (September 22nd) the full moon will be very close to Jupiter in the sky, and, as an added treat Uranus (I just learned at will be even closer to Jupiter than the Moon will be (just above it in the sky). If you have a good pair of binoculars this is one of the (very few) easy times to find Uranus since it's so close to Jupiter in the sky.

Enough of astronomy stuff. I have a lot of other stuff to write about our trip up to the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts this past weekend; but I'm typing this on our old home computer because my laptop is acting up and I'm not very patient when writing at this computer, so I'll just present the highlights:

We spent a good bit of time with Alex and Christina, of course. And we met an Indian fellow who is now an Australian. The Indian fellow wore a bad wig; but he was interesting because he's at Harvard right now finishing up his second Ph. D. in International Relations, specializing in the Law of War. I found it surprising that he seemed to be so lacking in technical knowledge about nuclear weapons technology even though nuclear proliferation is a big deal in International Relations, perhaps the biggest deal of all in the long run.

At church on Sunday with Alex and Christina we met a soon to be Harvard Professor of BioPhysics and his wife. If we hadn't talked to them I would have guessed them both to be high school students of perhaps college freshmen. Increasingly everybody under about forty looks like a child to me. They were really nice folks.

We stayed at a nice bed and breakfast place in Cambridge called the Bed and Muffin. Go figure, the place laid out a workable continental style breakfast; but surprisingly there were no muffins. It should perhaps more accurately be named the Bed and No Muffin.

If Seinfeld was still doing his show he could make a nice half hour comedy about that, and the Australian Indian fellow with the bad wig, and the stereotypical New England Liberal woman who was at the no muffin breakfast when we met him. To help us understand where in the world he was from he mentioned that we might have heard of Crocodile Dundee. She in her turn (or perhaps it was her husband) mentioned Rupert Murdoch after breathlessly relating that she thinks Sarah Palin may be becoming less popular with all but the Fox News set. I thought about mentioning that Linda and I watch Bill O'Reilly fairly regularly; but I didn't want to court the risk of having the woman drop dead of apoplexy.

After taking leave of Alex and Christina on Sunday afternoon we drove to western Massachusetts where we had a very nice walk around Stockbridge which is a very picturesque town that happens to have the tallest wood framed church steeple in New England, or so it claims. It was a pretty tall steeple, if a bit warped, on top of a very large United Church of Christ built in the 1880's. The church, all made of wood, badly needs scraping and painting. I'll bet that's going to be a very expensive job.

After staying at a Super 8 motel in Stockbridge, which did have muffins as part of it's continental breakfast, we headed off to tour Naum Keag, a large summer cottage built by a lawyer named Choate who led the successful fight against the first attempt to implement an Income Tax in the 1911 or so. According to the tour guide this Choate correctly predicted that the original Income Tax would be ruled unconstitutional and that a constitutional amendment would be necessary to implement an income tax. That amendment, the 19th was eventually passed and ratified in 1919 (I think). A valuable man. If it hadn't been for Choate and his holding back of the "progressive" tide, the country might well be ten more years advanced toward a state of utter perdition.

Choate built a modest little 49 room summer cottage with his law earnings. After he died his daughter spent the next forty or so years spending her inheritance on very nice gardens around it. An interesting place, sort of a time capsule of upper upper middle class life in the Gilded Age when the glitterati summered in the Berkshires to get away from the heat of the cities.

According to the tour guide, Choate's oldest son died of apoplexy when he was in his late teens. He was home from college for the summer and mentioned one evening at dinner that he had a headache. Fifteen minutes later he was dead. Choate's second son attended a couple of years of college and then went off his rocker and ended up institutionalized for the rest of his life. His oldest daughter died of some sort of intestinal problem in her late 20's.

Linda wonders if the maiden daughter, the tour guide called her Miss Mabel, poisoned her three older siblings to get the house. If so Miss Mabel missed on the youngest son, who lived to go on and have a law career himself, according to the tour guide. Maybe Miss Mabel could never get him to try her muffins.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Heading into the tunnel

I'm trying to understand why the upstairs thermometer is reading 70.3 and the downstairs thermostat is reading 71. That seems a curious situation. Perhaps the heat given off by the refrigerator is slightly raising the downstairs temperature. Or it may be that the upstairs radiated away more heat overnight while it was serving to insulate the downstairs.

I'm thinking on this subject because we're clearly approaching the turnover point where we have to turn on the heat and/or begin running the woodstove. We usually resist that until the night-time fall in temperature gets the house down into the low 60's. At this time of year a battle is going on. The sun is now travelling low enough in the sky to shine half way into the dining living rooms under the overhangs, which raises the daytime temperature into the high 70's on a calm day. Later, as the sun travels still lower, it will be capable of raising the temperatures into the 80's during the day; but the steady drop of outside night-time temperatures results in more and more heat radiated away.

Yesterday I had a semi-competent seeming chimney sweep here to check and clean out the flue. I also had him install a new stainless steel chimney cap to replace the one that blew off twice during it's twenty or so years of service. The screw clamps that are designed to secure the new cap onto the top of the chimney don't look very robust to me; but he assured me that he'll replace the cap if it blows off and he wrote that as a guarantee on his very reasonable bill.

Meanwhile, the squirrels are plentiful and very busy, carrying black walnuts thither and yon to bury them. Yesterday one of those squirrels left a chewed acorn on the patio bench, which was somewhat of a surprise. The nearby trees include black oaks, pin oaks and one solitary post oak none of which produced many acorns this year. That acorn may have been one of the last of his hoarded stock from last year's banner crop, or he may have gotten it from the woods across the creek where there is an overcup oak. That latter shouldn't be the case since I understand that all oak species talk to one another with chemical signals and come to an agreement on whether to produce acorns in any given year. I need to go across the creek and see if any of the oaks over there have produced acorns.

Those squirrels had better be careful out there. This year I've seen more middle sized hawks near the house than ever before. A few weeks ago two juvenile Cooper's Hawks (I think), were working together clumsily to try to catch a squirrel that had hidden under the back door landing. They failed in that case, and at one point the squirrel even turned the tables and ran out to startle one of them and drive it off; but I bet those two have learned a thing or two about squirrel hunting in the past few weeks. And, if there are juvenile Cooper's Hawks about, their parents must also be around.

In other news, I cleaned out the frog's bowl last week and found him surprisingly frisky and agile for a 24 or 25 year old. It was downright difficult to collect him from the sink and get him back into the bowl after I scrubbed off his rocks and changed the water. I was tempted to give him the run of the house for a couple of hours to see if he can still broad jump as far as he used to; but I resisted the temptation. There are too many ways he can cause trouble by hiding under furniture and such.

How does he stay in shape living in that little bowl? Is he doing isometric exercises while he appears to be placidly hanging out under his rocks? He occasionally gets into a mood and moves the rocks around quite vigorously but not often enough to qualify as an exercise program.

Moving on to consider news of the wider world, I read that the stork has delivered 43 new baby Komodo Dragons to the Los Angeles Zoo. Cute little 6 inch long tykes they are; but the one being held by the zoo curator has much longer claws than my frog, and, of course, he has teeth which the frog thankfully lacks.

The zoo news set me to wondering how many reptile afficionados across the country have managed to import baby Komodo Dragons as pets. And how many of them are going to turn those cute little babies loose in a few years after they've grown into not so cute five or six foot long drooling beasties.

A couple of months ago Linda and I watched a Discovery Channel show that claimed there are now estimated to be a hundred thousand or more Burmese Pythons in Florida some of them growing quite large. I imagine a big enough python will eat a Komodo Dragon if given the chance; and I'm sure that works the other way around as well. Both of them, I'm sure, will quite happily eat a jogger; but I doubt that a python could catch one of those, unless it got very lucky.

Ah, the great circle of life.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where were all these chipmunks when we were growing up?

Linda suggested that the chipmunks are especially plentiful this year because last year the oaks produced a bumper crop of acorns. Whatever the reason the little guys are seemingly everywhere. Each wood pile has one, there's one under the front steps, and there's one using each downspout as a runway to the roof. Yet I don't remember ever seeing a chipmunk as a kid.

Surely Jippon would have quickly dispatched any that came within reach; but Jippon was almost always tied up to his wire run in the back yard. Why weren't there any at the front of the house where he couldn't get at them?

Meanwhile the flock of geese is finally getting around to harvesting the seed heads of the tall grass down toward the sugar maple. It looks like there are three adults and about ten youngsters. We haven't seen geese all that much this year. Their nests must have been carefully hidden away from the pond.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Man caused disasters

Like most politicians, the ones in Greece have been spending like drunken sailors for decades. And besides stealing or spending every penny of current taxes they collect, the Greek politicians have been buying votes with promises of future pensions and benefits that everybody knew were way beyond reasonable and affordable.

So a couple of weeks ago the world woke up and suddenly nobody with any sense wanted to loan the Greek government more money by buying its bonds. But that doesn't mean the drunken party is quite over in Greece. For this week American and German and French and British politicians decided to fund one last burst of Ouzo soaked revelry for the Greeks.

I can almost understand why the Kraut and Frog and Limey politicians have decided to send almost a trillion dollars to the Greek politicians. For one thing they were stupid enough to give the Greek politicians a sort of license to print Euros or at least issue bonds denominated in Euros. And, for those of you who don't know, Euros are the new fangled paper money that all the Europeans use, so if the Greek bonds go bust all the Euro denominated bonds may go bust. For another thing, the Greeks are now part of the European Union, so if the Greek government stops paying welfare to all the lazy and deadbeat Greeks those Greeks can just move to France or Germany or England and sign up for welfare there.

This has, of course, raised some difficult questions for politicians all over Europe. The Germans, for instance, are asking their politicians why they have to work and pay taxes until they are in their late 60's before they can retire while their politicians are sending money to Greece, where even the people who actually do work are allowed to retire and start collecting pensions at 55 years old.

But enough about the Krauts and Frogs and Limeys. The truth is that I really don't give a darn about how they spend their money. If they want to send money to Greece that's their business.

What I want to know is why our politicians have also decided to send money to bail out the Greeks when their problems are completely the result of their own foolishness. Don't get me wrong here. I have nothing against Greeks. I've liked all the Greeks that I've ever met and I was going to Greek restaurants in Chicago well before John Belushi made Greeks cool.

The Greeks have a beautiful country over there and, unlike the Krauts and the Limeys, they know how to cook. But it makes no sense for politicians to send my tax dollars to Greeks who get to live the easy life in world renowned vacation spots like Santorini and Rhodes and Mykonos and Corfu while I have to slave like a dog in cold and rainy Pennsylvania.

Novertheless President Barack Obama, and Senators Nancy Pelosi and Chris Dodd, and Representative Barney Frank and their pals have decided to send $50 Billion of my money and your money to Greece so the scam over there can continue for a little while longer. For, make no mistake, the Greek welfare state model of paying people for not working is not sustainable. Socialism appears to work fine until you run out of other people's money. And it's not just Greece that's running on debt. Italy and Spain are not far behind. We'll be hearing from them for bailouts within a couple of years. And France, Germany, the U.K. and we ourselves are not a whole lot of years behind them. Ponzi schemes eventually end.

But lets talk about Greece for the monent. I just checked and learned that there are about 11 million Greeks who are still in Greece. So, by my calculations, our corrupt politicians just sent almost $500 per Greek to their corrupt politicians so they can do what's necessary to quiet down the folks in the streets of Athens and such. With cheap Ouzo selling for about $10 bucks a quart that means you, the American taxpayer, are buying each Greek 50 quarts of booze which should keep the streets of Athens pretty well anesthetized for at least a couple of months. With the addition of the German and French and British money the Greeks will probably remain quiet for a few years.

The deluge has been put off for now.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's windy out there

Linda is in the kitchen making chicken stir fry as low fat penance for eating a Bridie and a Scotch Egg at the Phoenixville Irish festival. The Bridie was ground meat filling inside puff pastry, the whole thing about as long and fat as an eight inch roll. The Scotch Egg was some sort of sausage meat molded around half a hard boiled egg and then breaded and deep fried. Linda let me take a little bite of each. The Bridie I would call pretty decent; but the Scotch Egg probably explains why most Scots emigrated when they could.

I ate Fish and Chips and then about half of a Funnel Cake for dessert. While we were eating we ran into a British woman and her husband who were also getting Fish and Chips. The woman looked like the Queen Mother when she was about eighty or so. She said she has been in the U.S. for several years. A nice lady; but like most Brits she talked funny.

The Irish festival was interesting; but I'm not sure Phoenixville drew the crowd it was hoping for, perhaps because it was partly cloudy and surprisingly windy. The wind was probably gusting up toward forty miles per hour. And it still is gusting very strongly. I just got back from walking the paths over on the other side of the creek with my pole clipper. There were many small branches broken off the trees, and a few big ones. Oddly enough the biggest broken off branch is from a Red Maple while there are no branches broken off the Silver Maples. And it's the Silver Maple that is supposed to be the fragile one. Go figure. It's one of those mysteries; like the fact that Scots wrap their eggs in sausage meat and play bagpipes while Brits talk funny and look like the Queen Mother.

Not that I'm down on bagpipes. They had a bagpipe band down in Phoenixville that wasn't half bad; although I wondered if the bagpipers were a little chilly under their kilts, what with the wind. And I wondered why there were Scottish bagpipers and a Scottish food vendor at an Irish festival. You would have thought there would be an Irish food vendor; but maybe the Irish in Ireland did something even more questionable with their eggs, assuming they had eggs to go with their potatoes. Irish Stew and Corned Beef and Cabbage are pretty much the only Irish food items I can think of except for those those cinnamon dusted Irish Potato things that they sell around Saint Patty's Day. But come to think of it I've only ever bought those Irish Potato things at the Jewish Deli up in Fort Washington, so maybe they aren't even Irish.

While we were walking around the Irish festival we ran into Rich, who regularly dances with a woman named Monica up at the Ballroom on High in Pottstown. He was there specifically to catch the performance of Charlie Zahm, whom Linda and I once heard at one of the The Joyful Noise performances that used to be held at a couple of the local churches. We learned that Rich and Monica travel all the way from the Fort Washington area to Pottstown to go to the ballroom.

Very interesting, especially when coupled with the fact that we ran into Bob and Grace at the Norristown Arts Festival the other week and learned that Bob travels all the way from Norristown by bus to go to the ballroom. Given the relatively small number of regulars we've gotten to know at the ballroom our recent proclivity to bump into them at festivals is surprising. We've met an average of one and a half ballroom people and one Brit at each festival so far this year. Curious.

Talking about statistics, I've been keeping track of how much meld partners supply during each hand at our weekly pinochle games. We've always repeated as a rule of thumb that you should count on your partner for two meld when deciding whether and how much to bid. I want to see whether that rule bears out in practice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The case of the mysterious Rubbermaid

Since Easter we've had a nine cup Rubbermaid food container hanging around the house. Someone left it here; and we've been surprised no one's said anything because it's clearly a top of the line sort of model. Unfortunately it doesn't fit in well with our motley collection of such stuff, so I can't just put it in the mix.

So there it sits, on top of the refrigerator, waiting for Linda to puzzle out who its owner is. She suspects that Alex is somehow involved in getting it to our house; but she's not sure whether it came from Boston or whether Alex and Christina were given some food in it which they brought back to our house from Easter dinner at John A's house.

Meanwhile, I'm now more than one third of the way through my twelve step smoking cessation program. Since May first I've been having only eight cigarettes per day. Contrary to Jas's cynical comment on the phone a month or so ago I haven't cheated on the program even once since New Year's Day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Giants walked the earth in those days

I'm thinking about work. Specifically I'm thinking how lucky I was that I didn't end up crippled from trying to handle the 100 pound sacks of potatoes that Harry set me to unloading when I first started working for him at about 12 years old. Those potato sacks were stacked about head high to me. Fortunately there were only two ranks of them at the front of the truck, stacked bricks and mortar fashion. Some potatoes got bruised after I learned that there was no way I could handle those sacks on my shoulder the way I had seen Harry do. I tried the best I could to slow the descent of the higher stacked bags and ended up slowly dragging each to the end of the truck where I was again presented with a rank on bags almost head high once I climbed down. It took me several hours to unload probably thirty bags of potatoes.

Now that I'm thinking about this I'm realizing that I can't ever remember encountering hundred pound sacks of potatoes again. It just may be that Harry was getting old enough by then to doubt his ability to handle them. And it may be that he was paying attention to how I was unloading them; although I don't remember him checking on me. I've always thought I could easily have been dead under one of those sacks for most of a day before being discovered.

This came to mind again today, for I was thinking about it the other day in another context, because I'm listening to a Larry McMurtry book about Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley. McMurtry is skeptical about a lot of Buffalo Bill's yarns, such as his claim that he killed an Indian at eleven years old while defending himself during a raid on a cattle drive he was working; but he seems pretty certain that the man was telling the simple truth about starting work at eleven years old. And McMurty mentions that his father and his several uncles were all handling more or less full responsibility for work on his grandfather's ranch by eleven years old in the early 1900's.

One of the things Buffalo Bill certainly did at eleven years old, according to McMurtry, was to singlehandedly take a small herd of twenty or so cattle to an army outpost thirty five miles away from Leavenworth Kansas, presumably after he had proven himself reliable at delivering messages on mule back within several miles of town. And that was at a time, the 1860's, when there were still at least some untamed Indians still to be found in Kansas, if only in the form of occasional raiding parties from wilder regions west of there. I've been trying to put myself into the mind of an eleven year old responsible for those cattle during what had to be at least one overnight, knowing that there might well be Indians about, even if that was unlikely.

Giants walked the earth in former days.

The other day I was reviewing the various sorts of work I've done over the course of my life in the context of finishing up a stint at one of the more boring sorts of work I've ever endured. And I promised myself I would make a list, so here goes.

-Unloaded 100 pound sacks of potatoes from a truck, possibly the most dangerous job I've ever done if you discount jobs that have involved driving.
-Waited on customers at the fruit and produce market.
-Sorted endless tomatoes into greens, pinks and ripes, and resorted them again and again and again, after unloading a tractor trailer load of boxes of them. I still remember the ugh factor of encountering a rotten one, seemingly always by surprise. This may have been one of the more useful early jobs I ever did. You have to learn to achieve a sort of out of body zen state to mentally survive sorting tomatoes for 12 hours.
-Unloaded most of a tractor trailer load of watermelons over the course of two days between waiting on customers at the market. I did that before reading Chairman Mao's phrase, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
-Helped more or less at a paper mill on the night shift, when I wasn't napping in the bin of paper scraps because the regular workers didn't consider me much help. I took away and still retain amazement at the the balletic artistry the lead guy exhibited as he threaded the first run of pulp through the big machine's almost quarter mile long run of rollers. I also remember the size of the cockroaches down in the level under the machine, where mushy paper pulp was almost a foot deep, and where I had to go once because I dropped a tool down there.
-Machined endless strangely shaped fiberglass wheels with brass bushings whose purpose I still can't imagine. One of my jobs was to help the foreman muscle a 55 gallon drum of brass shavings into his pickup truck every few days. Evidently he could hide taking the brass; but he couldn't hide using one of the union guys to help him load them after the shift end.
-Did public opinion polling of Job Corps dropouts in the projects in Chicago. It was hard for that company to find literate people willing to put on a jacket and tie and walk into the projects to question Job Corps dropouts so the job paid what I thought was a pretty good hourly rate; but I didn't know the half of it at the beginning. It turned out that achieving two completed interviews was considered reasonable quota for a 40 hour week. My supervisor berated me for turning in five interviews with my 40 hour time sheet that first week, and she had me correct the error by filling out a second time sheet under a variant of my name. I never made that mistake again and I became much more efficient at getting interviews as I learned the ropes. That job ended up paying an effective hourly rate that was astronomical. But it did have associated expences. After the first week I paid a fraternity brother to drive me and keep the car running so he could help with a fast getaway if necessary or at least report my disappearance to the police. But I never had so much as a really scary encounter during the course of doing a hundred or so of those interviews.
-Counted shoppers emerging from a supermarket and noted how many bags of groceries they had. For quality control purposes I was part of a two man team with a fraternity brother. We customarily started the day with a gallon of wine in my car facing the entrance to a supermarket and we ended the day recording very suspect numbers; but the market research company loved our work. Put not your faith in data unless you gather it yourself.
-Chauffered for a very wealthy family. I learned about pecking orders since I was at the very bottom of the chauffer one since I drove a Chevy station wagon. The black guy at the top of that pecking order was responsible for one of those 1920's cars with the separate compartment for the chauffer, something out of a movie. Plus he had an actual uniform and hat. I say he was responsible for the car because he never actually seemed to drive it. He only dusted it with a soft cloth. His Mrs. Gotrocks employer never went out.

Well, that's enough for now. I haven't even gotten to the Navy yet. I'll think on this jobs business again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The chicks are in the mail

I went to the post office this morning to mail off Stephen King's novel The Stand to an eager Amazon book buyer and learned that you can send live chicks via overnight mail. The guy in front of me in line received a box of them. Who woulda thunk it? I didn't actually ask if other kinds of livestock can be mailed; but I suspect this means that if someone should be of a mind to send a bunny rabbit to Hatfield Packing, for instance, they can simply box it up and ship it overnight via the post office.

But enough of livestock. I have to report on the current state of Norristown, which Linda and I visited on Saturday when they were holding a street fair to celebrate their designation of Dekalb Street as an Arts Avenue. While there we had a pretty decent lunch in a little Mexican restaurant at the corner of Airy and Dekalb. And we watched a performance of the Ballet Foklorico De Mexico in a big tent they had set up next to the county jail. And we took the opportunity to check out the old Lutheran Church that's between Airy and Main to see what the Copts have been doing with it. We also stopped in to see Saint Patricio's Church to check whether there have been any more changes since we were there a few years ago for an Irish corned beef.

Norristown when I was growing up seemed to be mostly Italians and Irish and Blacks, but there must have been some Germans skulking around since they had a Lutheran Church. Now the town seems to be mostly Blacks and Mexicans and, surprisingly, Coptic Egyptians; but there is still a marker from the Italian past on Dekalb Street. Al R told me to check for it, and sure enough it's still there, although perhaps it's not as old as he thinks.

LaRoma Pizzeria is still at Marshall and Dekalb; but it's menu says that it's only been the "Home of Fresh Dough Pizza since 1960." In 1960 Al would have been 14 years old.

While we were down in Norristown we ran into Bob and Grace from the ballroom, of all people. It turns out that Bob lives on Buttonwood Street and he's been mostly getting to the Ballroom on High in Pottstown by bus. Small world that it is Bob's son came to meet up while we were talking to him and Grace and we learned that Bob's son recently started in Sam's department at Mascaro.

I was going to write about the slaughter of the innocents; but I've got to run now. I Need to make a salad to go with the pork enchiladas and corn bread that I'm making for dinner. Maybe tomorrow I'll write about the slaughter of the innocents.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Aargh! She's over there messing with the soup

Linda is working at home today, so things are pretty tense around here. Earlier she somehow found time to come down from the computer room to kibbitz while I was measuring the water and now she's over there gratuitously stirring the soup, which I just stirred. If I don't stay nearby she will surely return and again try to ruin the delicate balance of flavors by skimming off the tiny bit of oil that has leached out of the pepperoni. As it is, despite my grouching she insisted on changing the burner setting.

This wouldn't be important except that my split pea soup is worthy of world renown due to the decades of patient experimentation I've put into its development. The only reason it isn't better known is that I've never considered the world worthy of the recipe, so I've followed the advice in the Sermon on the Mount.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pulling through

The other night Linda and I got a surprise at Sam and Deb's when they described how funny a comedian at their golf club was. What got our attention was that Sam and Deb had never heard of a pullthrough parking spot. That surprised us because we've been joking between ourselves about the luxury of finding a pullthrough spot for years.

So I put a question on facebook to see what others thought of when presented with the idea of finding a "pullthrough." Don A thought of a pullthrough at a bank or a fast food place. Sandy H thought of a place to turn around. Marianne mentioned specific pullthrough spots for big things like RVs and trucks.

After seeing that I did a google search and found that there is a facebook page for people who love pullthrough spots and that page has something like 128 fans.!/pages/I-3-pull-through-parking-spots/110710052284415

But at the pullthrough spot facebook page I found that most of its fans appear to be young people. And it's not young people who need pullthrough spots. Young people can still turn their heads around to see, so they should only take parking spots require them to back out. It's us old geezers who need the pullthrough spots. I'm no fan of big government but it seems to me that young people should not be allowed to use or block pullthrough spots. We need a law that restricts the use of pullthrough spots to stiff necked geezers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't trust the media. . . but you knew that.

The Tea Party people held a rally in Searchlight Nevada on Saturday. CNN's anchor woman showed no pictures of the crowd but basically dismissed the event as a flop, saying that only "hundreds of people, at least dozens of people" were there.

Here are some pictures of the crowd and the highway leading to the event. The security firm handling the crowd control estimated 30,000 people. Other estimates ranged from 9,000 to 14,000 attendees. And those numbers didn't take into account the fact that there was a massive traffic jam on the road headed to the event, so many people never even got there.

Why would CNN anchorwoman Fredricka Whitfield get the number so wrong? Why indeed?

If you want to see the entire CNN transcript it is here.