Saturday, February 28, 2009

A frog is a cat is a chimp is a boy

Don A, who's down in Florida enjoying the sun and warmth, sent me this link that points up yet another injustice in the tax system. After reading the article linked to below I'm infuriated that the government gave us a tax break for all those years when Alex was at home; but it has given us nothing, nothing in the way of a tax break for all the years that I've lavished care and attention and yes, love, on our little frog. All those years of cleaning out his little bowl every few weeks whether it needed it or not, all those years of hand feeding him his nutritious pellets, all those years of talking to him so he wouldn't be lonely, all those years of explaining why his past conduct made it impossible to consider allowing him the pleasure of entertaining another nice buxom tadpole in his bowl, all those years of psychologically counselling him to rebuild his little ego after he heard Linda suggest that he be put out on the ice.

All that expense and all that time and love lavished on him and not one little bit of a tax break from the government to help. Oh, the humanity!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scott Adams hasn't lost his edge

The Dilbert comic strip for today is good, but the one for yesterday (Feb 25) is priceless.

Speaking of edges, the poor fellow who is the subject of the link below either got drunk and forgot where he buried his toolbox or else was snuck up on and chomped by a sabre tooth tiger while he was bent over admiring his tool collection.

I'm remembering the way Grandpop carefully used his knife to scrape the dirt off his shovel after working in the garden in Trooper, and the time Cappy saw the jumble in my toolbox and strongly disapproved of my cavalier way of just tossing the tools in there. Tools used to be expensive; now they're so cheap we can barely imagine what life was like before they were common. I'm listening to Ken Follett's new book about the middle ages and have been reminded that the peasants then used wooden shovels. Even a shovel very carefully carved of oak or ash must have been a might inefficient tool next to a metal shovel.

It's a good exercise to go out every so often and cut down a twelve inch or so in diameter tree with an ax that you haven't very carefully sharpened. Then remember that any ax you may now have is almost surely heavier and made of better steel than the sort of ax a homesteader would have used a couple of hundred years ago to clear his land with - and those guys weren't felling puny little 12 inch trees. Don't even try to fell a two or three foot in diameter tree, even a softwood, with an ax unless you have a paramedic standing by with a defibrillator. There are still a few groups of slash and burn stone age people, even today, who don't have metal tools. They don't even try to fell large trees; they girdle them to kill them and then farm around them until they fall naturally.

This is not meant as a metaphor for life in the time of Obama

Jonah Goldberg of National Review finds all of the best time wasters. This is a great one. It's well worth while to run the two minute youtube video at the end. Note that after he painted the ice crevice very few people walked "into" it. Almost all of them walk around it.

The third comment is great too - "How many bankers do you suppose it would take to fill it up?"

And - Jonah also linked to a neat site where you can easily justify wasting time while making up for all that education you missed back when you were enjoying yourself in college and taking easy courses instead of signing up for tough courses. This site offers free college lecture courses on all subjects. Abraham Lincoln taught himself law soley from books and it served him pretty well all the way up to his bad decision to go to the theater that night. You can learn as much as any PhD in almost any subject you want for free at this site.

Finally, I always expect a high bullshit and dishonesty quotient in political speeches but President Obama went way over the limit the other night when he claimed that he'll pay for his huge spending increases by raising taxes only on the two percent of people earning over $250,000. As it turns Obama can't get the money for his increased spending from those two percent of the people even if he totally confiscates all of their income. The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting and informative article on this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oligarchy, Democracy, Constitutional Republic

Don A, who may or may not be down in Florida, sent me this and I found it interesting.

I don't fully buy the use it makes of Rome as an example of governmental evolution; but this is an interesting way of presenting the attributes, benefits and disadvantages of the various types of governmental systems available, especially for people who think we live in a democracy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

So what if your retirement account is shot to hell

This old geezer has the clear answer for any financial problems you may have in retirement. Just don't retire.,0,322083.story

And, just to show that I'm bighearted, here's an article Sam should study carefully before we go to Florida in early May. It may help him avoid the disgrace of losing to me at golf. Last year he saved his honor by one stroke.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This guy knows how to write a resume

Optimistic people are the ones who understand that when life gives you lemons it's better to make lemonade than to whine about it. I've probably read, or at least skimmed through, at least fifty thousand resumes in my life. I doubt I've ever seen a resume that more aptly turns a liability into an asset. I'd contact this guy and interview him for an entrepreneurial job in a minute.

Hat tip to National Review's Jonah Goldberg who pointed me at it on The Corner.

Update: An anonymous commenter suggested sending this fellow to Washington to work. I can't see doing that. He's much too valuable, and certainly too honest, to waste on Washington.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Echoes of Mom

I was just out in the woods wearing one of the two green Farm Credit Bureau knitted pullover caps that Mom got for me at least thirty years ago. Those knitted caps have gotten more and more ratty over the years; but I've found it impossible to replace them. Mom herself made me a new knitted cap in the 90's in an attempt to replace them; but it proved inferior because she made it only single thickness. Those Farm Credit ones are double thickness. There's a small but significant chance that one day Linda will need to send the 911 people to find me in the woods where I'll be lying under a felled tree like Mr. Colwell's dog. If such an event occurs in the winter the ambulance attendants may first spot the bright green of one of those Farm Credit Bureau caps.

On Saturday evening I met a couple, Leon and Betsy, at the Valentine's Day Dance up at the Ballroom on High who live in Silverdale, which was the site of the Farm Credit Office where Mom worked after they closed the Trooper office.

Last Thursday, Jas and Kathy and I played Scrabble using Mom's swivelling deluxe board with the little ridges that prevent the letter tiles from moving around. Naturally we talked about how Mom would give that forceful arm pump of hers when she put down a high scoring word and especially when she won a game.

Mom was very serious about Scrabble, playing it like a contact sport with very definite rules and very definite protocols of courtesy. Her "Gimme the letter bag!" could carry a real edge, especially when she was losing. And there was almost no better way for me to get a rise out of her at a family dinner than by mentioning just loudly enough for her to hear that I first beat her and Pop at the game when I was nine; which was untrue, but too good not to claim occasionally so Mom could exclaim "You did not!"

Then Marianne reminded me of another of Mom's characteristic reactions after dinner last night over at Sam and Deb's. She was talking about impressive Scrabble words. I was too modest to remind her of the time in Stone Harbor when I told her to look up "Galleass" as I started to put down all seven of my letters to connect the top center triple word block with the "s" that Mom had started a word with on the top right triple word block. The best part was that Mom didn't exclaim "Son of a Bitch!" until after Marianne read out the definition. The truth is that I told Marianne to look it up because I wasn't a hundred percent sure of the spelling; but having Mom tacitly admit by her delay in reacting that she didn't know the word made the moment priceless, even before I reached for the bag and realized that the game was over because there were no more letters.

Scrabble and Mom memories don't get much better than that.

The most humble Presidential headstone

Mark Steyn pointed to his post of a while ago which detailed his trip to see the most humble Presidential headstone.

“We draw our presidents from the people,” said Coolidge. “I came from them. I wish to be one of them again.”

As an aside I should point out that John Derbyshire made excellent use of Silent Cal's ghost in his novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, which may well be the most original usage of a presidential persona in a book. I have the book available to lend is anyone is interested.

And, if you were born in the last thirty years here's Kethryn Jean Lopez with a three minute youtube primer that will painlessly teach you more U.S. history than you learned in school. If you were born before 1979 it will make you laugh.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A great headline for a picture

"The couple in happier times, before Hassan removed his wife's head."

No word on what he did with her head. Maybe he had one of his other wives cook it up for him with some fava beans.

Mark Steyn also penned a great headline for his post on National Review's blog The Corner - "Headless body in gutless press." Steyn wonders why this member of the "Religion of Peace" didn't get as much newspaper publicity when he beheaded his wife as he got when he founded a TV station devoted to showing how moderate, reasonable and non-violent Muslims are.

Update: It just gets better and better. The Council on American Islamic Relations gave this fellow an award in 2007. In fairness I have to note that their's no evidence he was carrying his wife's head in a bowling ball bag when they gave him the award. A tip of the hat to Greg Pollowitz of National Review, who posted the link to this picture on The Corner.

No word on wether the Archbishop of Canterbury has beheaded his wife, or wether he thinks that beheading one's wife should be legal under the sort of Sharia law he advocates.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This explains your feelings of loss

Bluftooni found the perfect youtube video to explain the legitimate feelings of loss which are being experienced by those who are really suffering due to the popping of the housing bubble.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Adios Comcast! Direct TV seems to work fine

The two technicians who eventually showed up got our new Direct TV service installed and running in fairly expeditious fashion. From what we've seen so far there are some advantages over Comcast and some disadvantages, most specifically that our level of installation lacks the on demand function that we liked on Comcast. On the other hand I like the picture in picture feature showing the current channel when you're consulting the guide. As to the threat that we may occasionally lose service during snowstorms or tsunamis or nuclear attacks, I'm very confident that we have enough books in this house to occupy us for years.

On a related subject, it was a pleasure seeing the amazement on the technicians' faces when I told them that we do indeed only have one TV and it is not an HD TV. If I were to give young people one piece of advice in life it would be to have at most one TV in the house. First off it will save you on buying TVs, secondly it will save you on cable service charges, and finally it will prevent your brain from liquifying quite as fast as it will if you have multiple TVs.

And then we come to the greatest pleasure of all; calling Comcast this morning to cancel their service. Comcast has been utterly rapacious in raising its rates on continuing customers over the past few years. I find it amazing that they don't realize how deeply annoying it is for them to offer a special deal when you call to cancel.

As it turns out though, even their special emergency grovel and do anything to save the departing customer deal was still not as good as the deal Verizon and Direct TV gave us for the full package of phone, TV and internet.

Here's a business idea Comcast. Charge all customers the same price with variation only for the levels of service. Changing service providers is a real hassle for us, and no doubt for you as well. Perhaps people wouldn't do it so often if they had even a faint sense that you were treating them reasonably.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Direct TV, The Big E's Hood Ornament and Seaman Recruit Johnson

I'm waiting here for the Direct TV guys or gals to come and install their satellite dish, hoping that the ones assigned to come here haven't been blown off a roof on one of their previous calls. The wind is positively raging out there. I wouldn't be surprised if it's gusting to sixty miles an hour as the weather people warned.

We used to restrict access to the flight deck on the Enterprise when winds over the deck exceeded 50 miles an hour, not an uncommon thing if we were steaming to get somewhere at twenty-five or thirty knots. At those kinds of wind speeds there was a real risk that an eddy would pick up a light sailor and fling him over the side. Not a good thing, even if he could swim and he was seen to go overboard. The flight deck was about sixty feet off the water.

At lower wind speeds we were often treated to the sight of a tall slim black sailor who liked to. . . Wow! I just saw a tree down by the pond break about ten feet off the ground and fall. That tree is about fourteen or sixteen inches in diameter, but it may have been weakened by rot. It's been dying and I've been thinking of cutting it for firewood for a couple of years. That's the first time I've ever witnessed the fall of a tree that I didn't cut myself or watch a neighbor cut.

I watched our neighbor on the right hand side as you go out the driveway fell an almost twenty four inch in diameter tree onto his house one day a few years ago. He didn't look like he knew what he was doing, and I almost went over to talk with him about the danger; but I didn't know him, so I figured it was best to keep quiet. He was lucky that the top of the trunk of that tree was rotted almost through because that caused the top to break off when it hit the house. If that top hadn't broken off it would have done a lot more damage. A two foot in diameter tree that's maybe eighty feet tall weighs a lot.

Anyway, that slim black guy on the Enterprise liked to position himself in the very center of the flight deck at the bow like a hood ornament. He would lean forward into the wind like a ski jumper. I never saw him from deck level but many was the hour that I glanced at him periodically from the bridge, wondering what was going on in his mind. When we were steaming up along the coast of South American toward San Francisco after going around the Horn he used to be out there much of the day almost every day that it was sunny.

Later, when we steamed across the Pacific he was again out there almost every sunny day, to the point where it was a standing joke for his status to be passed along to me when I relieved the Deck, and for me to report it on to my relief, along with course and speed, any expected changes of course or speed, any new standing order, any unusual conditions and such.

"The ship's hood ornament is in position and maintaining an approximately thirty degree lean into the forty knots of wind over the deck. The Captain is aware of his status." That's what I reported if the Captain had been on the bridge to personally observed the fellow during my watch as was usually the case. If the Captain hadn't been on the bridge I would tell my relief that "his status has not been reported to the Captain."

Captain Peterson used to glance at the hood ornament with his binoculars from time to time when he was reading message traffic or doing paperwork up in his chair on the Port wing of the bridge on such quiet days. The reason we knew for sure that the hood ornament's habit was okay was because the Captain had seen him and said nothing. And he wasn't the least bit shy about mentioning his preferences if he saw something he wanted changed. He had, for instance, given some very explicit direct orders the day we both noticed Seaman Recruit Johnson being escorted off the flight deck.

Johnson was still ambling around, obliviously taking pictures, quite a while after I had had the word passed over the 1MC for all nonessential personnel to stand clear of the flight deck. The Captain noticed Johnson from up in his chair. My Junior Officer of the Watch had the Conn and there was nothing except our escorts anywhere around the horizon; so I was free to quietly and discretely watch Johnson from a position a few feet behind the Captain's sea chair, hoping that he would get below before he was noticed by anyone else except the flight deck personnel who were assembling to do a FOD walkdown.

Very shortly thereafter Seaman Recruit Johnson was personally escorted to the bridge by the Chief Master at Arms and a Flight Deck Boatswain's Mate Chief after I informed the Captain that there was no reason to pass the word for his Division Officer to report to the Bridge since I was his Division Officer. Johnson was well meaning and willing, and more or less harmless; but he was also easily the dullest knife in my 50 man Deck Division, which was saying a lot. Captain Peterson merely grunted very meaningfully after I informed him of those facts in the appropriate technical human relations and supervisory terms.

A bit later Captain Peterson, who could become a bit volatile at times when provoked, had a surprisingly calm and quiet personal chat with Johnson, who had surely been coached by the Chief Master at Arms to properly request permission before entering the Bridge and whose chambray shirt was fully tucked fully into his pants, clear evidence of coaching. He was somewhat winded from his hasty several deck climb up to the Bridge. The two chiefs were less winded than Johnson; but they were a bit red-faced as they waited with me on the Starboard wing of the Bridge for the Captain to finish with Johnson. None of us would have been altogether surprised if the Captain had summarily ordered his Marine Adjutant to shoot Johnson right then and there; but as I said, the conversation stayed very calm; and it ended quite peacefully with Johnson marching over in an almost military fashion to report that the Captain wanted to talk to the Chief Master at Arms.

While we waited for the Captain to finish with the Master at Arms Johnson told me that the Captain had mostly asked him questions and talked with him about his home town, and why he joined the Navy, and how he liked the Navy and why he had been on the flight deck. Johnson also reported that the Captain had said he thought Johnson could be a real asset on the Mess Decks. He had also counselled Johnson that he really must make a special effort to listen up when announcements were made over the general announcing system, especially when he was on the flight deck or the hangar deck.

After Johnson and the Cheif Master at Arms left the bridge the Captain had a pointed little chat with me. Seaman Recruit Johnson, the Captain told me, was to be sent TAD to work with the mess cooks; but that would not to change the fact that he would remain a part of my division and thus my special responsibility. I was to meet with him briefly at regular intervals for counselling.

Thus it was that I got to know Seaman Recruit Johnson as well as I got to know any of the sailors in my Division. I met briefly with with him every couple of weeks for the remainder of the time I served in Enterprise; and I passed on the counselling duty to the Ensign who relieved me as Second Division Officer. If Johnson has continuously re-upped in the Navy for the past thirty- seven years he may still be mustering with the Second Division of the Deck Department; and he may still be being sent, every day, to do temporary duty assisting the mess cooks. He turned out to like that duty since he liked to eat and there were always sailors passing through the mess decks at all hours of the day and night to talk to.

As far as I'm aware Johnson got into no further trouble in the Navy except for the time when he was fingered as the sailor who almost surely opened a large valve in the salt water washdown piping system which he had no business touching. That earned me an invitation to briefly visit with the Engineering Officer in Main Control after a damage control party traced out the entire piping run and figured out why certain things happened which were not supposed to happen when the system was tested.

I had a somewhat intense counselling session with Johnson after that incident in which he admitted in his whipped puppy dog way that he "might" have turned the valve handle a little "to see what it did." He and I then walked the entirety of the area where he worked in the forward crews mess compartment looking at and talking briefly about every valve, switch and control that didn't have a lock on it. I extracted a very solemn promise from him that he would never again so much as touch a valve, a switch or a control without direct orders from a petty officer, and that further he would promptly report any such touching to me immediately. I warned him that the next time he came to my attention for any reason except muster and our regular little counselling sessions, I would take him up to the Bridge to see the Captain. I had no idea what sort of duty the Captain might assign him to in such an eventuality, I told him; but I was sure it would not be something pleasant like helping out on the mess decks.

From time to time thereafter Johnson would report to me that he had been required to touched a valve in the course of cleaning or painting or such, and I would have him lead me to the valve so I could inspect it and make him explicitly say that the valve wheel had not moved so much as a millimeter during the course of his touching it. Once when the valve involved was part of the aviation gasoline piping system I had Main Control send up a damage control technician to check the valve setting after thinking about it a bit despite Johnson's assurance that he had not turned the valve but had only polished it's brass nameplate as instructed; but I didn't let Johnson know that I doubted his word.

I never learned what division the hood ornament sailor was in. On the Bridge we suspected he was an aviation bosun's mate or some such in the air group from the fact that he had so much free time when aircraft weren't being moved around. He always left the flight deck before we passed the word for nonessential personnel to stand clear of the flight deck due to heavy winds. And he never lost his balance and fell over that I saw or heard of. He used to lean amazingly far forward at times.

Update 3:30 PM: On the other hand former Seaman Recruit Johnson may now be working for Direct TV. So far I've received about seven calls from their dispatcher asking me if their technician has arrived and I've received four calls from two different technicians assuring me that they're on their way; but there has as yet been no sign of either or any technician.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We have a winner!

A fellow named Leon, the Sheriff of Richland County, South Carolina has conclusively won the title of World's Greatest Jackass. I'm not going to list the last name that the magazines and newspapers have been giving for him because jackasses don't have last names.

Sheriff Leon has now parlayed that picture of Michael Phelps smoking a bong into eight arrests, and he appears very willing to continue his crusade.

If someone slaps him smartly upside the head with a two by four to get his attention they would not be guilty of assault. At most they would be guilty of disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals.

People are being murdered, Congress is spending hundreds of billions, Geese are flying into the air intakes of jet planes; and half the news media in the country are spending their time on the fact that Michael Phelps went out and had a little fun after spending fifteen years of his life training and working more intensively every day than Sheriff Leon has ever worked a day in his life.

Come to think of it, hitting Sheriff Leon upside the head with a two by four would be a waste of effort. He's hopeless, entirely too stupid to pull a cart or carry a pack load. Somebody ought to walk him out back behind the barn and put him out of his misery.


I'm happy to see that the Congresscritters are addressing the the nation's most pressing needs with this new stimulus package. Hopefully, The Villages will get in on some of the boodle to replace its rental fleet of gasoline powered golf carts. I've found that the annoying noise of a gasoline golf cart engine makes it hard for me to maintain a perfect sense of driving around in a dream when I'm down there.

Throw another shrimp on the barbie

Back in the old, old, days the big men of the tribe used to react to problems by placating the gods. When the rains failed, or when there was too much rain, or when the tribe was faced with some other sort of disaster the big men would have their goons grab a virgin, or two or three, and throw them into the volcano where they believed, or professed to believe, that the gods lived. They did this to soothe the worries of the tribe. And, of course, they did it to preserve their own positions of power and prestige.

In these more enlightened times the big men no longer throw virgins on the barbie. Instead they burn great quantities of your money as their answer to worries on the part of the great herd of the common people. Deep down almost everybody knows that burning great quantities of money will have no more effect on the problems than burning virgins would; but it makes people feel better to see the government "doing something." And, of course, it dampens down the urge on the part of the common people to put the blame for problems where it belongs.

Last fall fifty plus percent of the American people very properly rose up and kicked out the tired old Republican administration that dithered while our current economic problems developed. But they failed to toss out the Congressional Democrats who were every bit as responsible, and perhaps even more responsible, for the problems.

In October, to placate the economic gods, the then Republican President and the Democratic Congress made a midnight rush deal to burn 700 Billion Dollars. Half of that money has already been burnt up with virtually nothing to show for it except for allowing incompetent bankers to party on for a few more months. Ironically, the very same politicians who voted to burn up that money are now the loudest in complaining that the money is going to banks that were and are run by incompetents. The other day the President proposed that the incompetent executives who ran their banks into the ground should be limited to no more than $500,000 a year in compensation. That, of course, begged the question of why those incompetent executives are still in charge of the banks.

And now, the new Democratic President and those same Democratic Congressmen who voted for the last big virgin burning are running around saying that it's urgent that they act quickly to burn up another 900 Billion Dollars. The Democrats in Congress who are fueling up the great big barbie on which to burn the $900 Billion are the very same Democrats who did a very great deal toward creating the economic problems by fueling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with unlimited money to pour into the mortgage markets and by requiring Fannie and Freddie and the other banks to make loans to people who could not afford to repay those loans.

So, thus far they've burned up about $700 Billion, and shortly they will start burning up another $900 Billion. By the time they're done these two rounds of virgin sacrifices they will have burned up about $5,300 for every man, woman and child in the country. Think about that, they could have sent out checks for over $5,000 to you and every other person in the country. They could have sent $20,000 to every family of four; but instead they decided to burn the money.

They will tell you that "The Treasury" is providing the money they've been burning and the further money they plan to burn; but there are only two ways "the Treasury" can lay its hands on Benjamins to throw onto the barbie. It has to borrow the money, in which case somewhere down the road you're going to be taxed to pay that money back. Or it can print the money, in which case somewhere not very far down the road you're going to find out that inflation has reduced even further the value of your retirement money.

Once the Benjamins are burned up they're gone, just like those virgins.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stop the xenophobic mass murderers in Scotland

Who is to say Red Squirrels are better than Gray Squirrels? They're both skinny little rat like things.

And another thing - how can the world ever get along when the English insist on spelling things wrong? The crayon in the Crayola box was "gray" not "grey."

And yet another thing - all manner of European vermin were introduced into North America, so it's only fitting that tough American gray squirrels managed to make their way over to England where they have been kicking ass on their red cousins.

And a final thing - I bought my last ever pack of cigarettes a little while ago. I'm only allowed five butts today. I'm feeling about the way Cujo did when he first started noticing how tasty looking the legs of the children seemed. Along about the day after tomorrow I'll be ready to go over there to Scotland and bite the heads off as many gray squirrels as they want.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I just put the Plum Duff on to steam for this afternoon's dinner with Dory and Phil. I'm making it in honor of Captain Aubrey and Doctor Maturin. It's their favorite ending to a meal. Linda rejected my suggestion of Lobscouse as the main course for today's dinner or we would have a complete old British Navy feast. I suspect that Linda will be getting Lobscouse for dinner one night this week or next week.

I'm about one week into withdrawal after finishing all 6,528 pages of Patrick O"Brian's twenty-One novel series. It's hard to believ that I averaged almost 200 pages per day; but the novels were very gripping. Taken as a whole they are very arguably the "best historical novels ever written," as that one reviewer asserted. Reading them in sequence was a rare treat and one day I'll return to them with a good world map at hand. They're well worth rereading.

But now I'm suffering withdrawal pangs. Over the past few days I read The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey; but it was a poor substitute. And now I've started Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg; but it doesn't have the same gripping quality as the Aubrey/Maturin series. I may pull out some of the old standbys and reread them as a palliative. I haven't read Shogun or The Winds of War or Shibumi for quite a while.

I'm also beginning to suffer withdrawal pangs as a result of my new and final smoking cessation plan. I'll only have seven cigarettes today. Tomorrow I get six cigarettes. By this time next week I'll be smoke free. I'll go on the patch at that point; but it would be a good idea to keep your distance from me for a while.

Linda should probably hold her tongue if she doesn't like the Lobscouse.

Update: The Plum Duff came out very good, especially with the Amber Sauce that Betty Crocker helpfully suggested. Betty's looking pretty good, even sexy, if you haven't noticed. Back when I was a kid she looked motherly. It's surprising how one's perspective changes over the years.

Anyway, the Plum Duff and the Amber Sauce were actually pretty easy to make. The main hassle is the three hours that the pudding has to steam. I used the recipe you can find by searching for Plum Pudding on the Gold Medal Flour website, mostly because all the British recipes called for Suet and the only place I could find Suet in the supermarket was in the bird seed cakes in the pet aisle. I briefly considered melting down one of the bird seed cakes and straining out the seeds but decided not to go there.

Captain Aubrey and Doctor Maturin ate Plum Duff that was made with "slush" that the ship's cook skimmed from the cauldron where he cooked the crew's Salt Pork in the galley. He was required to turn over some of the slush to the crew, who used the slush to grease blocks; but the cook was protective of it because he got to sell the saved up barrels of slush at the end of a cruise.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why spend $87 Million on a new icebreaker

The so called "stimulus bill" put together by Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic cronies includes $87 million for a new icebreaker. But why in the world would they want to waste money on an icebreaking ship?

Those same Democrats kneel down and kiss Al Gore flippers everytime he waddles into Congress to testify. And Al Gore has told us many times that we need a hugely expensive and cumbersome (not to mention delightfully susceptible to corruption) carbon trading scheme because global warming is going to cause all the ice in the arctic to melt.

I would think that true believers in global warming would want to put a healthy budget for sunscreen and ice makers into the stimulus bill instead of wasting money on an icebreaker that won't have any ice to break.

Incidently, President Obama's team has provided a helpful tool for planning meetings to discuss the nearly $1,000,000,000,000 (I'm pretty sure I have the number of zeros correct, but I could be wrong) that he and Nancy Pelosi want to blow on icebreakers and condoms and community organizers and other critical needs. I'm thinking of becoming a community organizer by scheduling a beer and bratwurst lunch to bring together folks to discuss how we can snarf up some of the loot because I couldn't find any meetings scheduled for the Collegeville area.

Fairness, The Lodi and Zaberers

Back in the 1950's and very early 1960's our annual "vacation" was a day at the beach in Atlantic City. We changed clothes for bathing suits at The Lodi. Then our mothers would stake out a spot somewhere on the hundred yard deep beach between the Steel Pier and the Million Dollar Pier. The lighter skinned among us, like Sam, would acquire a near case of sun poisoning since we stayed on the beach from about ten in the morning to four or five in the afternoon. There were sandwiches and sodas to enjoy for a brief lunch; but we kids spent almost the entire day in the water or getting thoroughly sanded at the water's edge.

Life doesn't get any better than a perfect day at the shore at ten or twelve years old. Heating up out on the sand, cooling yourself in the water, testing yourself against the waves. Wondering if there really are sharks out there. So hungry by two or so that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes like Ambrosia. So exhausted by four that the back seat of the car is as restful as the womb. The shore at ten or twelve years old is as near to heaven as any of us ever get here on Earth.

Pop, and the rest of the fathers, escorted us to the beach and got us all set up. They had no time for the beach. For they had to spend the day working, carefully investing in the horses at the Atlantic City Raceway. After the last race they came to get us.

In good years, when one or a couple of the Redpeppers hit big at the track, we went to Zaberers where the big winners treated the whole crowd to dinner. In so-so years we ate a much less expensive meal at The Lodi. If you've been to Maggiano's or Buca de Beppe you can easily visualize those meals because The Lodi served family style; huge platters of appetizers, huge bowls of soup, huge platters of just like home made ravioli, lasagne, spaghetti, meat balls, veal parmesan, etc. served until nobody could eat another bite. There was no problem sleeping in the back seat of the car during the long drive home up Black Horse Pike and Ridge Avenue after a meal consisting of fifteen or twenty meat ravioli plus at least some of everything else.

Zaberers was a much more formal type place. There you ordered individual meals with the prices almost no object; although Matty got a dirty look from Uncle Froggy for ordering lobster one time. He got the lobster though. Doc, who was paying that year, laughed about it and said something about it being only right that kids should get a taste of the good life. But, as I said, we only ate at Zaberers in exceptional years, maybe twice or three times, when Doc or one of the boys hit really big at the track.

I'm reminded of this because the fuel for those meals at Zaberers was the general sense among the Redpeppers, a band of brothers from the East End of Norristown who became teammates on a very short-lived semi-pro baseball team that they formed in the late 1930's, that at least some of any instance of good fortune (Bona Fortuna) had to be shared.

The Redpeppers did the same sort of sharing when one of them hit the daily number or when one of them hit big on a long shot horse - those were the days before some unsung genius invented the trifecta - but still there would occasionally be one of the boys who would hit ten bucks on a thirty to one shot. Doc, especially was a long shot bettor, a very scientific bettor, carefully studying the racing sheets until he had a good prospect and then even going to the track to observe the horse before putting ten or twenty, or even a hundred, down on it, spending the rest of the day placing a disciplined two dollar bet on one of the horses in each of the other races just to maintain interest. Pop always said that Doc was the only horse bettor he ever knew who beat the odds on the horses; and Pop knew a lot of horse bettors, a lot. He knew pretty well every horse bettor in Norristown.

I'm reminded of all this because I came across the article I've linked to below on which is the best general purpose reading site on the web that I've ever found. I don't agree with this guy that the special sense of fairness he writes about is unique to the so called Anglosphere because, after all, Pop and his buddies were only products of the Anglosphere on the surface. Underneath they were actually still more or less Italians, at least in those days, even though they all spoke English as their native language. Most of them could understand Italian from exposure to their parents; but they never or seldom spoke it. They wanted to fit into the general run of Americans. Their wives, for some reason, were much more open about understanding and speaking Italian, which may say something about women being less conformist than men; but that's a subject for another day.

And, since I've mentioned that The Redpeppers were a band of brothers, here, by chance is another article that's near the top of the site. It's about the battle where that phrase was coined, at least in the version Shakespeare told of it - putting these words in Henry V's mouth. "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. . ."

As a bonus it's my theory (and I'm sure that of others much more learned) that the development of the English peasant into a longbowman by virtue of required archery practice by most of the peasant men every Sunday was critical to the existence and evolution of the egalitarian institutions that developed earlier in the Anglosphere than in other societies in the modern age. You're never again gonna keep 'em quite so firmly in their place once they've learned that any one of them, pressed too far, can kill any one of the armored knights who are their "lords" using weapons they're more or less capable of making themselves.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The zoos need to think creatively

Suddenly the news is filled with zoo directors angling for a bundle of the boodle that Washington is getting ready to hand out. The zoo caretakers claim they aren't taking in enough revenue to properly care for their animals.

Linda had a worthy idea on that subject. If the zoos have too many animals to take care of with their current revenues why don't they auction off the right to hunt some of the animals? There are many hunters out there who would be glad to relieve them of the need to feed a lion, or a tiger, or an elephant or two.

My thought is that the zoos should auction off the chance to hunt in the enclosures with spears like the Maasai do. Whenever some loonie jumps into the enclosure with the lions or the bears it makes national news even if the guy only gets his arm or leg a bit chewed up. Imagine what the television rights would sell for if a zoo were to let someone into a lion enclosure dressed in a loincloth and carrying one of those Maasai spears.

The TV audience for the first hunt would rival that which watched the Superbowl.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another thing to remember as April 15th approaches

It turns out that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a piker when it comes to cheating on his income taxes. Geithner only cheated to the tune of a mere $48,000 or so. Now we learn that Tom Daschle, President Barry's nominee to manage the hundreds of billions of dollars that is spewed out by the Health Education and Welfare Department honey pot cheated to the tune of over $150,000. At first Daschle tried to make it seem that he was "only" guilty of not reporting the use of a company car and driver that was provided for him by a special friend who no doubt did that for purely selfless purposes; but now we learn that Daschle also didn't report $83,000 of cash income that he was given for "consulting services."

Change we can believe in. . . income taxes are optional, reporting cash income is optional.