Thursday, February 25, 2021

How Soon We Adjust

      They're calling for a high of 44°F today.  I looked out into a wan -- indeed, anemic -- sunrise over heaps of still-melting snow, puddles and patches of mud and thought, "Meh.  Maybe I won't go anywhere today."

      I probably will anyway -- but there's a lot of laundry to get done first.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Grilled A Couple Of Steaks

      Our local grocer had nice-looking New York Strips, USDA Prime, on sale for a low, low $15.99 a pound -- about as cheap I have seen them over the last year.  And the weather wasn't bad today; it cooled off a little in the afternoon, but it was dropping from a high of 59°F or more.

      So I grilled.  The usual accompaniments, a nice green salad with tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers and Castelvetrano olives plus baked potatoes.  I made a side dish or steak topping with mushrooms, sweet peppers and shishito peppers in a little butter, and let it bubble away in a small pot on the grill as the steaks cooked.

      It's better than nearly a foot of snow!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Pessimist?

      The TV weatherman this noon has been billing today as "The Best Weather Day Of The Year." 

      Not, I hope, of the entire year.  But after 2020, I'm not willing to take that for granted.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Vacation

      This is a vacation week for me and I may be a little less active online than usual.  Not going anywhere and no big projects planned.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Texas Power Failures -- The Home Game

      Everyone from politicians to TV pundits to bloggers to your annoying neighbor on social media has taken their favorite bugbear and tried to pin the widespread power failures in Texas on it.

     There's a very succinct 2016 report from the Feds on risks to the power grid in Texas; read it for yourself and think what you would have done differently based on that information.

      "It was the Green New Deal!"  No, that thing is just a pipe dream, mostly from people who never threaded or soldered pipes.

      "It was eeeeevil capitalism!" -- The same wickedness that heats and lights your house,* then.  And the same evil that is presently losing money hand over fist in Texas, having hosed itself at almost every level: not enough products to sell and a damaged distribution system: kinda self-punishing, and that's before we get to the public-relations disaster part.  And it's a regulated industry; Texas may have dodged Federal oversight by having a self-contained electrical grid -- the state is slightly larger than the entire United Kingdom, after all -- but that doesn't mean they're unwatched: Meet the PUCT.

      "It was wind and solar!"  Nope; wind and solar outperformed predictions in the snow/ice and cold -- but that's nine percent of the electrical supply in Texas.  Enough to notice, sure, but not what pushed things over the edge or enough to stop it happening. (Other sources cite "wind" or "renewable" energy at 10% of the total in Texas, but that's as high as I've seen.)

      "It was a lack of weatherization," probably -- and one of the weak points was way back in the chain at the natural gas supply.  That stuff is pretty wet (one reason why bakers prefer electric ovens to gas ones) and apparently there are a number of ways to get tripped up by unexpected cold weather when you're handling large volumes of natural gas.  Another likely gotcha is that most peaking plants rely on copious amounts of water, mostly drawn from wells.  Ever had a well freeze?  I have, and one way it happens is to let the well sit idle in the cold -- for example, like at a peaking plant between peak demand times.  And so on.  Power companies aren't vertically integrated the way they once were; the outfit that generates the power you use is likely not the same as the one that runs it to your house -- and the company they buy gas or oil (or, yes, coal†) from is independent, too.  That means responsibility and long-range planning is diffused, as well -- and it's less easy to plan for low-probability events when you don't have any reason to get an overview of the whole system. 

      The question that's going to keep utilities and regulators -- and insurance underwriters -- up nights has multiple parts:  "How can we keep this from happening again (and not go broke preventing it)," "How likely is this to happen again," and "Who can we blame?"  Don't look for any consensus on the last one.  I'm hoping for an impartial report but my hopes aren't high.
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* Arguably, my house is lit by capitalism but not heated by it: the local gas company is a "public trust," a kind of non-profit that takes in revenue but is barred from turning a profit.  If they have a unexpectedly good year, they issue credits to customers, but generally they put any overage back into infrastructure.  Is it a capitalist enterprise or not?  The rich guys who set it up got what they wanted, gas laid to their homes and factories at a price they were happy to pay, and their investment returned over time -- and the rest of us benefited.  The Founders and Framers considered religion a "Public Utility," i.e. a net benefit to society, without thinking the government ought to run it or caring if it made any money.
† A rarely-sung virtue of coal is that it's not terribly efficient, and the older a coal-burner design is, the more wasted heat it produces.  That's terrible if you are after wringing every last erg from the stuff, but it means a big old coal plant, shoving lumps of coal into the fires by brute force and heating up the whole power plant whether needed or not, is fairly immune to the cold.  I am reminded of this every winter by my chilly basement and outside walls: the constant fire in the original coal furnace would have heated the basement up toasty warm, and excess heat would have flowed up inside the walls and out beneath the eaves like a Roman hypocaust.  The modern gas furnace does nothing of the sort -- and by Code and for safety's sake, cannot supply heated air to the basement.  On the other hand, I'm not constantly wiping off a layer of fine, dark soot or having to feed the fire (or mind the Iron Fireman).  Progress!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Hot Cereal, Part II

      Yesterday's post about hot cereal vs. toaster pastries received a number of comments, suggestions and memories.

      One commenter suggested Maypo.  I was never a fan.  I don't know why; I like maple flavor.  Maybe it's time to give it another try.

      In my childhood, the big breakfast treat was Coco Wheats, then produced in Warsaw, Indiana by Little Crow Foods,* latter snapped up by MOM Brands, who were themselves et by the Post cereal empire not long afterward -- but you can still get Coco Wheats and they're still good.  Now that I am more-or-less grown up, I'm not sure I'd want that much chocolate every morning for a week.  My siblings and I ate them with milk, enough to produce a pretty soupy mix. 

      MOM Brands was better known by its earlier name, the Malt-O-Meal Company.  I've never had Malt-O-Meal but it sounds interesting.

      I have waxed rhapsodic about good, old-fashioned oatmeal before.  Not the instant, I prefer the real, cook-for-five-minutes stuff.  I like it plain, made with water and with a bit of sugar.  My Mom served it with a dollop of butter, but I never warmed to that, or milk, either.

      I liked Ralston hot cereal, when I could get it.  It seems difficult to find now in less than bunkhouse-sized quantities.

      A commenter suggested a brand I'd never heard of, Cream Of The West!  No, it's not made of old Conestoga canvas, hand-rolls and cow horns, it's a toasted-wheat cereal and looks like it would be tasty.

      What else is out there?  The Cream Of Wheat people went on to make Cream of All Kinds Of Grains, and I'm pretty sure Cream of Rice is still around.  (One of my Dad's occasional breakfasts was cold cooked rice with milk and sugar; he liked unsalted popcorn the same way.  Both were treats from his Great Depression childhood).

      What other hot cereals were there, and which are still around?
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* I'd like to point out that there was very little crow -- indeed, none -- in any of their products.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Toaster Pastry vs. Hot Cereal

      There's a childhood treat in my breakfast bowl this morning: a hot cereal that isn't oatmeal.  Let us call it Cream of A Grain Used In Bread.

     I take mine with sugar, as much as a couple of teaspoons, and whil enjoying it, I wondered: is this any better for me than what we'd better call a Toaster Pastry?

     4.2 grams of sugar in a teaspoon -- let's say I went wild, and there are 9 grams of sugar in my cereal.

     Tabular charts aren't so easy in a hurry in Blogger, so this will be a bit rough:
     Cream of A Grain, one cup:
     133 calories
     4 grams of protein
     1 gram of fiber
     0.5 grams of fat
     No sodium unless you add a pinch of salt to the water, which I don't.
     9 grams of sugar, because I have a sweet tooth

     Toaster Pastry, two:
     420 calories
     2 grams of protein
     about 1 gram of fiber
     16 grams of fat
     380 grams of sodium
     24 grams of sugar

     Last time I looked, the dieticians and doctors were still arguing about dietary fats (and the French were still confounding them), but none of 'em thought a high salt intake or more calories than you needed was a good idea.  Likewise, less sugar is better -- and the hot cereal was plenty sweet enough for me.  Porridge wins!

     Makes me happy that I like the stuff.  Not because it makes me feel all virtuous, or even, really, because it is healthy (unless you're avoiding carbohydrates).  Nope, because it's tasty and warm on a cold morning, and reminds me of good childhood memories.

*  *  *

     On the other hand, perhaps I need to look into those OTC mental-alertness pills: while looking up nutritional information, I picked up the box of Cream of Weeds, tipped it to see the label and wandered from the kitchen to the office, reading it and unknowingly leaving a trail of processed grain as I walked.  Turned back, felt the gritty crunch underfoot and realized I had quite a mess to sweep up.  Words may have been said.

     It could be worse -- the mathematician Hilbert once asked a colleague if his wife was as cheap as Hilbert's.

     His colleague was taken aback.  "What on earth do you mean?"

     "Only this morning," Hilbert told him, "and quite by accident, I discovered my wife does not serve me an egg for breakfast.  I have no idea how long this has been going on."

     I should maybe do less with numbers at breakfast time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Still Debunking

      Why I still try, I don't know.  The fantasy brigade is still hammering away at their dead horse of a jiggered election, so why not?

      One of the more impressive-looking claims cites "Benford's Law," a bit of numerological pareidolia that crops up in many -- but not all -- collections of related numbers that cover a wide range and approximate log-law distribution.  It's a pattern, nothing more; it's not like gravitation or pi.  But if your data meet the criteria, it's a way of checking to see if the books may have been cooked.  On the other hand, you may have had a bad day at dice.

      Applying this to U. S. elections at the county level, though, breaks the necessary assumptions for Benford's Law to applyIt's not a useful analytical tool.

      So, nope, still looks to me like your guy lost fair and square and the other guy won by not being him, a result that tracks Presidential approval ratings pretty closely.

      Wanna win the Presidency?  Have money.  Have a party organization behind you -- and be sufficiently less of an asshole in public perception than the person you're running against.  It worked in 2016.  It worked in 2020.  It'll work in 2024, too -- and don't doubt for a minute that Joe Biden and the Democrat hopefuls in line behind him know it.

      This is not an approach that gets you buoyed into the White House on the shoulders of a cheering crowd of your fans.  Don't look for any Ronald Reagan or Franklin D. Roosevelt type victories.  Anyone dreaming of Dick Nixon in 1972 or LBJ in 1964 landslides had better think again -- but it'll win.

      Whining and wanting to make it didn't happen didn't get the Dems anywhere in 2017.  It won't help the GOP in 2021, either.  I'd like to radiate Olympian detachment as a member of neither party, but the fact is that I rely on both parties being in the game and not moping on the sidelines or chasing figments of their imaginations.  Things get more screwed up, more quickly, when there's no debate in Congress.  The Senate is balanced to fingertip sensitivity right now -- if Senators of both parties are willing to pay attention to what's in front of them.

      Hey, I get it, you just loved Mr. Trump.  You really, really loved him.*  And at the polls in 2020, a narrow majority of your fellow Americans did not.  Get over it.
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* I thought the 2020 Presidential election was a choice between cold, lumpy mashed potatoes in a bowl and cold, lumpy mashed potatoes in a dirty ashtray.  But I'm notoriously sour on the people we hire to shake hands with kings.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"No, You Do It Next."

      Huck and Holden, the giant tomcats of Roseholme Cottage, are at the living room window, where I drew the heavy curtains shut last night in anticipation of subzero temperatures.  It's been going on for several minutes now: They huddle up, and then one or the other moves a curtain aside far enough to stick his head past it, touch his nose to the windowpane, realize it is bitterly cold, and back out.  Another conference follows, and one or the other cats makes one more try. 

      Maybe it won't be so cold this time? 

      It will be, cats.  It will be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Snowed In!

      Anyway, as good as.  If I absolutely had to, I could probably get out, but it would be slow and awkward and once I reached the main road, there would no shortage of drivers who were, shall we say, foolish.

     Ain't gonna do it.  There's nearly a foot of snow on the ground.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Well, Winter....

      If you live in the U.S., you either already have nasty winter weather, or you're about to, and for the overwhelming majority of us, it is in the form of snow and/or ice.

      Snow here, a bit overnight, more later this morning, and a whole lot more this afternoon and tonight.  While I am hoping to hang back and avoid the worst of it, in order to do that, I'm going to have to get some work done in the the time before the bulk of the storm hits, and stand ready to brave it later if necessary.

      The reasons Midwesterners retire to warmer climates are becoming more and more clear to me as I grow older.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Saturday, February 13, 2021

And Yet The Glittering Lie Appeals More Than Dull, Gray Truth

      Yesterday's post drew comments.  Partisan comments, for all that I stuck to general principles.  I was going to just let them sit in the queue, but they rile me and I was never one to shy away from yelling at clouds.  Or what the heck, losing friends; popularity has never meant anything at all to me.

     So here goes, both barrels, no filter:

Yesterday, from "Carteach:"
     "What happens when the elected officeholders manage to rig the system to the point they no longer need worry about keeping their jobs no matter what they do to the citizens?"

     Okay, hell, let's run with that hypothesis: let us posit the system has done been rigged.  Even in states where the election apparatus is wholly under the control of elected and appointed Republicans, the Democrats have secretly seized the reins of power and can dial up the results they want as easily as one, two three....  Now tell me what kind of insane supervillains get themselves in a position to control elections -- and fail to give themselves commanding control of the legislature?   There were more than enough seats up for grabs in the Senate to get a two-thirds majority, and yet instead that body sits at 50/50, balanced on a knife-edge of a single defection from the party line (or, for the Dems, a tie).

     Nope, sorry.  Didn't wash when the Republican government of Georgia ran and checked their own elections and the incumbent Republican President lost.  It didn't wash when the Trump administration's own appointees in a position to know reported there was no manipulation or fraud in the 2020 elections.  Former President Donald John Trump and his campaign helpers spent months before the election sowing doubt about the honesty and fairness of it, then spent months after the election reaping that same doubt -- and it is fiction through and through.  Oh, it's fiction they are doing a very good job of selling, especially if you have no faith in our system of government, but it's simply a lie.  The professionals in his own Administration said as much, and were dinged for it.  The utterly pragmatic Senator Mitch McConnell said as much and got himself unfriended by the then-President. 

     I spent a lot of time looking into this calumny and every single claim that had any foundation at all in reality turned out to be a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation, or a misstatement that was later refuted by provable, solid facts.  Elections in the the United States of America are decentralized, run in large part by amateur, part-time labor and underpaid, honest civil servants who are barely able to keep up with the demands of the job, let alone run some kind of large-scale scam.  Mr. Trump is pleased to undermine public faith in the veracity of our elections to soothe his own ego.  He's 74; he has considerable resources.  He won't have to live with the consequences.  You and I will.  Our families will.  Are you willing to throw them into the fire to please a man with a well-established history of counterfactual running off at the mouth to suit his own ends?


12 hours ago, from "B"
     "You are correct. But we no longer have elections we can count on. SO that part id s off the table. THe rest of your statement above stands on it's own merits, however."

     We can indeed count on our elections, as I have shown above.  Again, what kind of inept baddies get control of election results and fail to give themselves a commanding majority in the legislature?  If their goal was "get Trump" and smash him flat, they fell far short of it.  Are you truly going to claim these master manipulators, with tentacles deep into the election machinery in a sufficient number of states -- even Republican-dominated states -- to control the outcome just forgot to hand themselves a Senate supermajority?   It's just about certain Mr. Trump's going to waltz away from the current Senate trial untouched -- to the great disappointment of most Congressional Democrats.  If they're so all-fired powerful, how come they can't manage to fully master the Senate?

      Downticket Republicans did very well in the 2020 elections.  If the elections were some kind of covert Democrat coup, it was bungled, and badly. 

      The simpler hypothesis is that Mr. Trump lost in 2020 for the same reason Ms. Clinton lost in 2016:  state-by-state, a majority of Americans didn't want them to be President.  Possibly a slim majority, but that's how it works.

      You play along with Mr. Trump's baseless undermining of credence in our elections at considerable peril to yourself, your fellow citizens and to their posterity.  If you were really concerned about our elections, you'd volunteer to be a pollworker.  Most cities and states are chronically short-handed -- if you think the system's rotten, go have a look for yourself.  I can tell you right now, the system's Peter-principled.  There are barely enough sufficiently competent people to get the work done, let alone try to cook the books.


4 hours ago, "Mark Matis" wrote:
     "They have already destroyed the soap box. They have now destroyed the ballot box with the massive fraud. So what does THAT leave??? Ask Ashlii Babbit if she thinks THEY will refuse to use the cartridge box..."

     Let me take that point by point:

     "...[D]estroyed the soap box?"  Really?  What a private business does along those lines is up to the private business; last time I looked,  you could still preach on the streetcorners, Gab was still running, the NRA's magazines as well as National Review and The Nation were still around and had a web presence.  Having freedom of speech does not oblige anyone to provide you with a hall to speak in; you'll have to go about that the same way Aimee Semple McPherson, Robert Green Ingersoll and Ayn Rand did.  Mr. Trump got himself kicked off Twitter and Facebook for rabble-rousing, pure and simple.  Let me suggest that's something we all should refrain from using someone else's megaphone to do.

   "They have now destroyed the ballot box with the massive fraud."  Asked and answered.  To date, no one has provided even one shred of proof that such a thing happened and there are multiple reasons to doubt that it did, starting with Mr. Trump losing in states where the GOP is in majority in the state government, as well as the wins of downticket Republican candidates.  Elections in the United States are honestly and fairly run -- and you can volunteer and find that out for yourself.  I'm told the Election Day refreshments are free, or they were before the coronavirus pandemic screwed things up and they will be again.

     "Ask Ashlii Babbit if she thinks THEY will refuse to use the cartridge box..."  Oh, I have been just waiting for this to come up.  Here, let me set the scene: a mob has burst in.  They are trying to break into legislative chambers.  Policemen/armsmen are on the other side, guns drawn and aimed, their posture clearly indicating readiness to shoot.  The mob smashed a window -- and the first person to try climbing through is shot dead.

     You bring a violent mob to my house -- or have one show up at yours -- and the first one of them to attempt hauling themselves through a broken window will most assuredly get shot, and the act will be deemed justified when it comes before the courts. 

     Ms. Babbit chose her death.  She died a criminal.  What, you believe the people charged with the physical security of our Capitol building are obliged to knuckle under to a mob?  That a military veteran shoving through a window in a locked door leading to the House chambers at the head of a mob does not constitute a credible threat to the Congresspeople and others sheltering in that room?

     Might does not make right.  A mob does not outweigh a duly elected assembly of Senators and Representatives, and a good many Americans have died to ensure that principle.


     I'm an anarchist.  I understand that governments are not inevitable, that they are merely arbitrary structures that most of us play along with* and quite flimsy.  I also understand that a majority of the people around me rely on that flimsy structure.  I must not break it without an overwhelming -- and overwhelmingly obvious -- reason, and neither should you.  Mr. Trump's pique at losing an election falls far short of that standard, and playing along with his self-serving falsehoods does enormous harm to our culture and our country.  The people who have done so should hang their heads in shame.
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* That's that nifty concept, "government with the consent of the governed."  You may have heard of it before.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Draw The Wrong Lines Now, Pay For It Later

      I still believe and maintain that any mob that breaks into, trashes and burns out a police station, any mob that bursts en masse into a government building and puts elected officials and employees to flight, or commits similar acts in a modern free country is an enemy of civilization.  They're my enemies; I don't care about their politics or whose name (if anyone's) is on their banners.  Do it in the name of Marx or Rand, do it for Jefferson, Jesus or Allah or just because you hate everything or don't like Mondays; I don't care what the excuse is, I care about actions and results.

      Unhappy with how things are?  This is a free country.  We have soap boxes and the Internet.  We have elections and we have political party organizations that are crying for workers.  We have people running unopposed for School Boards and City Councils.  You can march, wave signs and chant all you like.  (Yes, in many cities you will have to get a parade permit first.  Don't like that?  Yasgur's farm is just down the road, or one enough like it.)

      But breaking and burning and putting people in fear for their lives?  That's barbarism.  That's warfare.  And when all sides do it, cheered on by their supporters, what you get is what France got, where still-uninhabitable scars from WW I snake through the lovely countryside, where farmers are lucky to plow up century-buried bombs rather than setting them off.  You get what the former Yugoslavia got: wreckage, poverty and tragedy.  If you don't like the way things are now, you'll like them a lot less after that.

      You can help maintain civilization or you can help tear it down.  That's the real dividing line.  On one side of it, there's freedom of expression, free elections, soap, water and plentiful food; there's a diversity of media and all manner of ongoing arguments; there are problems but lots of people are working to make things better.  On the other side, the ultimate end is squalor, destruction, starvation and death, and arguments are quite definitively settled with brute force; things only get worse. 

      Which way do you want to go?  Rah-rah nonsense and blood, or civilization?  Those are the real choices.

      Civilizations prosper when we make elected officeholders worry about keeping their jobs.  Civilizations falter and fall when we make the fools, statesmen, flakes and philosophers we elect fear for their lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Today I Learned....

      Today I Learned that Herr Fahrenheit's initials were "G.D."  I also learned it's 20 degrees G. D. Fahrenheit outside right now.

      All of this learning came about when Tam asked Alexa, "What's the temperature fondly Fahrenheit outside?" and was rewarded with a short biographical sketch of the physicist and scientific instrument maker.

      ...It turns out that Alfred Bester's brilliant short story Fondly Fahrenheit was produced as one episode of the NBC Sunday Showcase anthology series in 1960 (as Murder and the Android.).  It was well received by critics and SF fans at the time -- and no, there doesn't appear to be a surviving videotape (the series was shot on early color tape) or kinescope.  At least the short story is widely anthologized, and you can read it any time you'd like.  Robert Silverberg writes highly of it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

I Was Glued To The Television Yesterday

      Not literally!  --But if you haven't seen the attorney who showed up for a Zoom-conducted trial with a cat filter he was unaware of, you have missed some first-rate video entertainment.

      There was something else on TV yesterday, too, and plenty more to follow this week.  It looks like everyone's made up their mind about that proceeding already, so I'm sticking with the cat filter for now.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Bangers And Mash Now; Latkes Later

     Okay, technically, they're not exactly latkes.  They're mashed-potato pancakes.  That isn't where this story starts anyway.

     Yesterday when I left for work, I was nearing the back of the pantry for supper food.  "the back" means mostly canned meat, canned vegetables and a little fresh -- I had a couple potatoes, an onion, some celery and carrots.  Monday or Tuesday mornings have been my once-a-week shopping days through most of the pandemic, a big change from my former near-daily visits.

      Then I remembered -- when I made slow-simmered beef stew on Sunday, I'd thawed some cased sausage, two Irish bangers and one hot Italian, and ended up only adding the hot Italian* when I realized how much stew beef was in it already.  So there were two flavorful banger sausages† ready to go.

     It's a straight line from "bangers" to "bangers and mash," fairly standard UK pub fare, or so I'm told, usually served with onion gravy and "mushy peas."  Instead of peas, I had canned flat green beans, which I like and Tam will endure, and the gravy, oh well.

     So dinner was sorted.  When I got home, I started the sausage, discovered I had three big potatoes (and held one in reserve) and decided to try microwaving the spuds.  Stuck them with a fork, put them in a Pyrex bowl and gave 'em the usual 3:30 and turn for 3:30 more, quartered them and nuked them for another few minutes.  Then a little butter, salt, stirring with a sharp knife and then a big fork, the latter while adding milk‡, and they were indistinguishable from the stovetop version.

      The sausages were cooking while I was conducting the Great Mashed Potato Experiment.  I like to start them in the skillet, get a little color on the sausage, and then add a little water; cook it down, turn them and do the same, then add a bit more water and cover, turning and adding water until done.  The liquid picked up a lot of color and flavor, of course, and with the potatoes down and resting, covered, in the oven, inspiration struck.

     Or maybe it was just the spice cabinet door.  I'd left the green beans (remember them?) in a covered pan over low heat, with a little dried parsley and a dash of onion powder so they wouldn't get too lonely.  Onion powder...

     It's not the most subtle thing on the spice shelf.  It's got a good, honest onion flavor, though. The sausages were done; I added a bit more water, fished the bangers out and set them on a plate in the oven next to the mashed tatties to get acquainted. Added little onion powder to the pan, a little less garlic powder, some dried chives, and left it to bubble.  Flour gravy was out, but a teaspoon of corn starch dissolved in cold water with a couple of dashes each of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce made an excellent thickener; I mixed it, added and simmered the gravy 'til it was thick enough, tasting and adding a little more onion powder.

     Served with a heap of mashed potatoes nestled in the curve of the sausage, gravy puddled in the potatoes and across the banger, with a small bowl of green beans on the side, it was as nice a dinner as anyone could want, and about 40 minutes from cold stove to plate.

*  *  *

      After dinner, there were left-over mashed potatoes.  Two big baking potatoes makes a lot of mashed!  About two cups worth.  I bagged it and put it in the fridge, thinking about breakfast.  This morning I was still thinking about it, so I put the leftovers to work.

     Mashed potato pancakes are deceptively simple.  Get them wrong and they'll fall apart!  Two cups of mashed potatoes plus a couple of well-beaten eggs, a couple of teaspoons of flour and "sufficient" salt will do the trick -- I'd like to be able to tell you how much salt because that helps hold them together, but I'm still guessing.  A quarter of a teaspoon?  What I added from the shaker worked but a little more would not have hurt the flavor.

     You just mix it all to get a thick batter and plop it by the heaping tablespoonful into a lightly-greased skillet over medium heat; fry for three or more minutes until it slides easily onto a spatula, flip, smash flat, and give it at least three minutes more before turning.  It's done when both sides look done. I added some dehydrated chives to the mixture.  Good with hot sauce, sour cream or applesauce, depending on your preference.  If you add grated potato, you'll be close to latkes.  Or reibekuchen.  Or rösti.  Or hash browns -- it all depends on how much grated potatoes are in the mix, and how willing you are to rules-lawyer the definitions.  Maybe it's aloo tikki or boxty!  The underlying rule?  Fried potatoes are good!  And in any country I know of where people eat potatoes, they've invented some kind of fried potato cakes.
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* This is a nice trick to add a little depth and complexity to soups or stews. If it's cased, squeeze it out into a skillet, brown it, drain it, and add it to the stew.  I sauteed some small sweet-pepper rings in the spicy grease, and drained an added them, too, a bit of color and extra zing.
 
† These are named after the originals, inexpensive sausages with a high proportion of filler to meat -- and a lot of spices to make up for the lack.  They tended to split open with a "bang" when fried up.  Modern ones have plenty of meat -- and plenty of seasoning, rich and complex.
 
‡ Speaking of pantry staples, the individual-sized boxes of shelf-storable UHT milk can be bought by the dozen and last six months or more.  My Mom used to keep powdered milk around and recommended it to me, but modern powdered milk doesn't last well once the box is opened up.  UHT milk works at least as well and is a great alternative if you don't routinely use much milk

Monday, February 08, 2021

About Comments

      Not every comment submitted gets published.  I had to start doing that because of spam -- and an excess of partisan whining and supposedly-tough talk.

      Here's the deal: this is my blog.  If you want a platform for playing "gotcha" games with politicians over trivia -- slips of the tongue, simple mistakes, etc. --  or if you want to thunder and bluster about X, Y or Z being "the last straw" (especially if you have a known history of striking a pose and then slinking away), or if you want to make threats of violence, my comments section is not the place to do so.  Such things will not be published.  Sometimes people write comments of this kind in a jocular, light-hearted frame of mind -- but if that does not come across in your words, they're not going to to make it past the screening process.

      References that are too obscure can delay publication.  I have to go look them up and try to figure out what you meant by them.

      Calling public figures, living or recently-deceased politicians especially, by disparaging nicknames is generally a non-starter here.  You want to show disrespect?  Take it as given that I don't respect any of them and doubt that you do, and that it therefore behooves both of us to be clear and specific about who and what bugs you or me about them. 

      If you want to be a howling yahoo, do so on your own blog.  This one's mine and we're all just as nice as pie when we point out the bad polices and poor decisions of idiots-in-office -- this stuff is a matter of public record and if you wouldn't be comfortable explaining it to your grandmother at the Thanksgiving dinner table or a prosecutor in open court, don't write it here.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Super Event Sunday

      I spent the day doing laundry and catching up on household projects -- additional lighting in the dining room/library, an iPad and smartphone "parking spot" for Tam's widgets (drawing available on request) and so on.

      Now I'm watching Tam watch commercials during the football championship.  See, I'm pretty jaded, but she still enjoys them, and so it works out for everyone.

     Also, the wrong team is winning.  As is so often the case.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Insight Sighted

      Few things make me as unreasonably angry as the suggestion that my anger might, in fact, not be entirely reasonable.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Gonna Be Cold

      We're in for a week of low temperatures well below freezing, with occasional bouts of sleet, freezing rain, or snow.  It is as if winter, having suddenly realized it's only got six weeks left, has decided it had better get its licks in while it can.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Common Ground At Last!

      Yes, here it is, only Thursday, and the one thing we can all agree on is that people in this country have gone nuts.

      Who, how many and and in what way -- don't ask.  That territory's full of land mines.  Take what comfort you can in the sure and certain knowledge that you and those around you can reach consensus that it's crazy out there, and don't dig any further.

      Maybe people will get less crazy as time goes on.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

History, Hors(e)tory

      Tamara likes to point out that America's long experiment in representative government was started by "a bunch of gentleman farmers LARPing Republican Rome."
 
      On my more pessimistic days, I sometimes fear we're more like Imperial Rome, with Nero or Caligula in the driver's seat -- and then I remember: Caligula put his entire horse in the legislature, and so far, we have only managed to elect the back half of horses.

      Small comfort, perhaps, but better than nothing.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

"Just You Wait, 'enry 'iggins, Just You Wait"

      When I create the People's Republic of Bobbi, every elected office-holder and every candidate will be required to take a quiz on current affairs every week, possibly Monday morning.  It would cover what happened and perhaps public reactions to events.

     There wouldn't be any passing or failing; there wouldn't be rewards for the best scores or punishment for low scores.  Not from the government.  But the scores would be published in every newspaper and on every news site.  If some state or district or the nation as whole elected a nitwit, we'd all know.  And making fun of them would be protected activity.

     It wouldn't solve every problem, but we'd all have a better idea where to look for solutions.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Snow Day? No Day.

      We're hardly snowed in, but there's an inch of fresh, powdery snow over a half-inch of ice outside.  The main roads are said to be mostly fine.  The lesser-traveled ones, not so much.  Not even close.