Sunday, November 10, 2019

Oh! These most important first few primaries! Number Two

Oh my! Oh my! I hear the pundits talk about the political landscape. And most explicitly, the upcoming primary season; they talk about the important momentum following the early contests... Please indulge me as I laugh so hard that milk come out of my nose.
We are supposed to consider the results of the Iowa Caucus [Caustic?] where less than 0.3 % of the voters in the United States of America "vote" (the definition of "voting" being attending a tent carnival where you are given free food and entertainment) for one candidate or another, and it turns out to be almost 200 votes more than those folks who "chose" candidate #2 ? And then, the media will declaim that Candidate #1 was the "winner" because he/she garnered almost 02 % more "votes" than candidates #3 and #4 got combined??? Ah, but I digress.  The most important part of the whole thing is who can eat a corndog and not look stupid.
Next we're supposed to pay attention to Nevada (a beautiful state, I love to visit it), but it's hardly a microcosm of America.  The only thing it has going for it is its diverse ethnicity.  But then again, the vast majority of that faction is employed in the gambling "industry".  Then there's New Hampshire, another beautiful state; one that has a total population equal to about half that of a City like Saint Louis (you know where that is right)? The first polls to close have about ten voters…  And their opinions are really, really relevant to the future leadership of the federal government and appointments to the Supreme Court and all the wars we're fighting around the globe? Right? Yes, they are, but how much? How much?  Then there's South Carolina... I won't waste my time or yours repeating my opinion of the relevance of the opinions of the people of South Carolina about anything.  After all, Lindsey Graham.  See:

So here we are, trying to choose an opponent to run against the current resident of the White House.  But the system of choosing that opponent seems to be just a little nuts. If a better mix of the American demographic was represented, if a larger portion of the population got into the process a little earlier; it might be OK. As it is, it's crazy. If we allow a few zealots from the Bible Belt, organizers from Sin City, a tiny group of folks from one tiny state, and then, the really, really, out of touch fundamentalists from South Carolina to define the all important "momentum" of the all important first leg up of that process... Well, then we've really got a stupid system.

Garbage in, garbage out,   A Priori Errors are impossible to correct later on....
And really; because someone ran a good campaign and got lots of donation$; that ensures that they will govern wisely?  Really?  Gordon Sondland is a competent ambassador because he gave DonDon a million buck$?        Right.

Monday, September 2, 2019

And is a better word

 I keep hearing people pose the following kinds of questions:

Is Trump stupid or ignorant?

Is he just irrational or in the throes of dementia?

Does he say stupid things on purpose, or does he just not know the difference?

Is he racist, or calculating?

Is he gas-lighting, or serious until he gets caught?  Does he make jokes or can’t he tell the difference?

Is he cruel, or does he mistakenly think cruelty serves his purposes?

My question is:

Why do we think we have to use

“OR” rather than “AND”?

Insert “and” into these questions; it is always the better word.

You can spend your time trying to determine a rational reason why Jeffery Dahmer ate people; I’ll not try to apply rational logic to Donald Trump.

There is no there, there.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

More Appalachian Living

Bimbo, Bambi, and Clueless.  These are the names of this year’s lovely spotted fawns that gambol about in our “meadow”.  The meadow is a ¼ acre area that I keep clear for my septic system.  It isn’t a lawn.

We live on a tract of land that borders the George Washington National Forest and our part might kindly described as “Scruffy Appalachian Forest”.  Our land may be scruffy, but Chris and I are hardly Snuffy Smiff and Loweezy.  We actually get up from snozzin’ by the stump and plant ornamentals and flowers to brighten our view.  Still, we grow almost all our vegetables in a fenced garden and we don’t do much “cityfied” stuff like shop in town and eat in restaurants.  In addition to our vegetables, me and my brother (when he was alive) killed, butchered, and ate quite a number of deer from this home place.  Often, they were harvested from within 200 feet of the house and garden.

Back in the 1990’s, there was a terrible over population of white tailed deer in our area.  They ate a browse line in the forest and in those inevitable bad years when the acorns didn’t fall, they ate just about everything they could reach.  Horticulturalists will tell you that deer don’t eat peonies, euonymus, and myrtle.  Forget that.

Well, the number of deer hunters has dropped by about 50% over the last few years and the deer are coming back gangbusters.  And now that I’ve not been hunting, it’s summer and I’m busy, the three fawns are eating everything and I can’t even get their attention.  I yell, wave my arms, tell them I’ll eat them, run at them (well, “run” is a relative term for me at this point).  But they just walk off a few paces, turn and look at me like I’m demented.  I can’t get them to care about my agenda at all.

Well the zucchinis are way, way ahead of me and so every day a few monsters end up on the compost pile.  They get eaten every night (we have a game cam).  So I guess that it’s all my fault.

Forget truth, beauty, justice and love; happiness comes from having someone to blame.  And if you can rationally and honestly, blame yourself; you should always be ecstatic.  I’m so happy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Chef Tell, tell me how

Chef Tell, a Swiss chef on TV years ago taught Chris and me some wonderful recipes.  He used to say: "Very zimple, very eazy.".  I've come up with number of recipes myself that are very simple and very easy, 

right up to a point.  

Our favorite Tell was his quick potato pancake recipe:

one pound raw potato
one egg
some onion, oil, salt, pepper, 
baking powder and 1 oz. flour.
Grind in the food processor and fry.

Now, I'll give you one:

One and half pound chicken breast stips
pounded with tenderizer.  Black pepper.
one oz. vinegar, butter, soy sauce, and honey
Steam till white; flip and fry open
till the rue is caramelized.

Super eazy!  But if you purchase American chicken, it comes in a styrofoam tray, covered with a plastic sheet and nestled on top of a Tampax like pad of acetate fiber
on another sheet of plastic.  China no longer takes anything but the purest of plastic waste for recycling.  We are all now throwing millions of tons of stuff into the landfills that we used to (at least think) were be reused.

I have no idea of what to do with this packaging! All the plastic is non-recyclable, and the acetate fiber becomes infused with chicken blood and body fluids.

There is no good way to dispose of this poultry packaging.  Leave it out in the sun and it never dries.  Raccoons will find it and spread it all over the place.  It stinks with that disgusting cadaverine death smell.  I can't compost it; I don't have garbage pick up so I'm supposed to keep it somewhere for a month between trips to the dump (and who thinks that the landfill is a good place for something like this)?  

I mentioned this problem in the past: 

Our American demand for convenience is a huge part of the problem of sustainability for planet Earth.  We all have to take responsibility, and we have to vote with our wallets in order to force sustainable practices from our suppliers.  Waste is a huge problem.  Stupid
convenience is making it far worse.

I can't imagine why I can't buy chicken in a better package. Not visually attractive enough?  OH! God! I saw some blood!?

Next time I'll give you the "Mother Bolgiano's Beans" recipe.

I had a couple of guys propose marriage to me based on it, and that was way back before acceptance of LGBTQ as an OK thing.

Very zimple very eazy.  Just Tell me what to do with the"waste".

Monday, July 22, 2019

32 19 80

On this afternoon, July 22, 2019, I've hand killed and counted 32 Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica), 19 bean beetle larvae and adults (Epilachna varivestis) and 80 squash bugs, mostly eggs and early instars (Anasa spp.).  There are a few things that I take some pride in and this karma destroying talent is one of them. 

Earlier in the year I had my white potatoes popping up.  Flea beetles (Alticini which is a part of the subfamily Galerucinae), are much much smaller and much more difficult to smush, still I tallied 2692 confirmed kills during the months of April, May and early June.  You have to be quick and you have to feel them between your fingers as you roll and smush them.  If you open to look, they're gone.  When the summer heat picks up and the white potatoes go down, I always plant my sweet potatoes in the same row.  I'll have to dig it all up so why not?  So I stop "harvesting" flea beetles in June.

The Japanese beetles attack my raspberries, filberts and primroses (which are volunteers which I only have because they attract lots of beetles and thus as I kill the beetles, protect the good stuff).  Japanese beetles are really easy to "hand pick".  I have a yogurt container with soapy water in it and if you just hold the container beneath the critters, you can easily brush them into the water.  They don't fly well and their strategy to escape danger is to let go and fall straight down. They drown.

The bean beetles come in at least three kinds (genera? families? - there are way too many beetles).  The joke at the expense of the creationists is that God was way too fond of beetles.  Terry Pratchett imagines a God of creation who when stressed, runs off and makes another beetle to calm his nerves.  Creating the universe is a very stressful enterprise.  Anyway, the good news about the bean beetle larvae is that they are very bright yellow and fairly easy to see (if you have a strong back and can bend down and look for them on the undersides of the bean leaves where 95% of them hide out).  Big bean beetles and larvae (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) and little bean beetle larvae; you don't have to pick them, you just smush them between two fingers.

The squash bugs are true bugs (bug is a scientific term for Hemipteran insects).  The larvae are very small black to gray creatures that don't move too fast and are easily smushable.  The eggs are a bright shiny amber in nicely arranged honeycomb patches, about 20 to 30 eggs per deposit.  I don't try to crush these, they're fairly hard so I usually just tear out the thumb sized patch of leaf they're on and drop it into my soapy water.  Zucchini squash have huge leaves and don't miss a torn hole or two.

I've always been a counter.  I recall the character in the book; The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan.  He always counted.  I can't shovel snow or plant beans, or walk down the stairs without counting.  Plus, I count each and every adult, larva, and egg I remove from my plants.  I track those numbers.  If you don't know what is going on, you don't know whether or not you're staying ahead of reproduction by the plant eaters.

I have toyed with a metric that measures the impact of organisms that I kill.  I've used the number 20 for any "double decker" pair that I smush in the act of coitus,  10 for a single adult (50:50 that it is a female with fertilized eggs), and one for larvae and eggs.  I believe that this system is valid, but counting three or four species with three categories and holding the numbers in my head confuses me when it's hot in the garden.  Plus I've not been successful in learning the number of eggs laid by flea beetle females.

My tally up to today:

2695 flea beetles
1170 Japanese beetles
425 bean beetles
152 squash bugs

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What used to be normal, isn't any more

I live in the Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia.  Our Air Force and Navy like to practice their defensive maneuvers in our area.  They fly a variety of planes among our mountains and valleys executing dramatic ascents, descents, and sharp turns.  This has been going on for decades.

About the year 2000, I wrote a letter to then Virginia Senator John Warner about a huge C-130 cargo plane that had disappeared behind the 1,500 foot hill in front of my home (which is at about 1,400 feet ASL).  The valley floor beneath the plane is 1,200 feet ASL; the rear stabilizer on the plane is about 70 feet high.

Three members of our armed forces responded to my query to Senator Warner.  All three assured me that it wasn't their airplane.

I concluded that it had been the Russians.

Now when I hear the jets, I look up and wonder if Donald Trump has started World War Three.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Arctic Circle Golf

Years ago, my wife and I were driving north on the
highway out of Fairbanks, Alaska that eventually
goes to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Wildlife Preserve 
inevitably crossing the Arctic Circle
which is well marked and is ofcourse
an iconic stopping point for tourists.
We arrived there at an hour when we knew we
should stop and sleep.  I won’t say stop for
the night because it was sunshine 24/7 on 
that date in early July.  The campsites were
obvious even though this was not an officially
designated campground and we found a place to
put our tent up out of view of the few other
people who were there.  We went for a walk to
check out how many neighbors we’d have for the
Alaska has plenty of gnarly weather, so smart travelers
are sure to have good rain suits; jackets and pants
are a must.  I had purchased a good set for the
trip and before leaving home in Virginia, had recently 
worn it to play golf in a "tournament" the week
before we left for Alaska.  I happened to
have a single golf ball and a courtesy "gold" tee
in my pocket. Chris and I were walking on the vehicle
tracks (don’t call them roads) through the head
high alders occasionally spying a truck or an
SUV.  Then we came around a bend and saw a Japanese
gentleman practicing his golf swing.  He had his
clubs and his bag out and he was hitting “air drives”
with his big club.  
We waved to him and started to return to our camp when
I felt the ball in my pocket.  I turned around, walked up
to him and handed him the ball and the golden tee.
I didn’t know if he spoke English, so I just said:

              “This is for you.”
We turned around and walked away, I told Chris not
to look back in case he decided to hit the ball off into
the brush.  didn’t want to make him nervous or
intrude on his solitude.  

I often wonder what he may have told his family and
friends about this when he got home.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sour Dough Starter

Care and feeding of 130-year-old sour dough (well, it was 100 years old in 1974 when I got it).
We keep about a cup of our sour dough starter in the refrigerator in a sealed 24 oz. yogurt container  (just a pinhole in the top). Since the yeast is anaerobic, it doesn’t need to “breathe air” but of course, if left sealed for too long, it would eventually suffocate by carbon dioxide from respiration. IT’S ALIVE! We’ve left the starter sealed in the refrigerator for as long as six weeks without apparent damage (if your starter is getting old, pour the gray liquid off the top, waste some starter and add fresh flour and water). It’s better to feed it more often than that. Once a week is best.
We usually feed the starter on a weekly basis by simply making sour dough pancakes each Sunday morning. I start the evening before by mixing the approximately one cup of starter with about a cup of white unbleached flour and enough tap water to form a thick batter.  Half of this batter is returned to the refrigerator in its container.   For your pancakes, it’s at this point that you can add more warm water and flour, whole wheat or buckwheat, etc. You can experiment with the thickness of the batter, but remember that it will grow and become slightly wetter/less viscous overnight so you need a fairly large bowl with a good cover. Also, in the morning, you’ll be adding the moisture in an egg and some honey and oil so if you like thick pancakes that rise, you’ll need to make the batter thicker than what you want for the final product. It has a bit of a “personality” and turns out a little different each time (plus, I never measure anything). Thicker batter rises more than thin. The correct overnight temperature is important: 75 to 80 degrees is good (I used to have a range with pilot lights, that was perfect in the winter, now I sometimes slightly warm the oven and leave it closed up in there overnight).   I cover the pancake batter with something that maintains high humidity. Otherwise, you get a dried “skin” on the top of the batter). The longer it sits the sourer it gets. For pancakes, in the morning I add:

1 warm egg   1 tablespoon honey   1 tablespoon oil    1/4 teaspoon salt     mix well

Cover and return to warm spot. In an hour or so I ladle it onto a hot dry griddle for pancakes.
Or if you’re just making bread, leave out the egg.  Add enough flour of your choice and warm water for the right kneading consistency.  Follow a bread recipe as to kneading time, temperature, punch down and baking.  Whole wheat flour rises less than white, buck wheat even less.  I use a bread machine.

I have found that 10 minutes of hand kneading helps me get my unmeasured moisture level right.  I sometimes have to add a little flour as the machine mixes everything and eyeball the consistency, or a little butter if it gets heavy and dry.  Dough that is too wet falls, too dry cracks, so slit the top just prior to the baking cycle.  This works for us, but like the pancakes, the bread has personality, and seems to turn out more or less sour, light or dense, according to some internal inscrutable will of its own...  The point is to maintain the starter in plain flour and don’t add the “other stuff” until you’re making bread or pancakes or paper mache (I can’t spell French), or whatever.