Thursday, March 31, 2022


      Picadillo is a south-of-the-border dish with Mexican and Cuban variations and who knows what others (I'd like to find out.)  I made it for dinner last night; my version is very close to this one, adding canned chilis and a couple of chopped-up pickled piparra peppers to the mixture of ground beef, chorizo, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, sliced green olives and raisins.  (I left out the vinegar and shifted the spices a little; dukkah carries the cumin and cinnamon/clove notes well, with some parsley and basil chiming in.)

      It had been a couple of years since the last batch.  Some versions are made with diced potatoes; mine is served over rice (or, for Tam, not).  It's a very thick stew, as suited to a plate as a bowl, with a complex flavor, salt, sweet, hot and spicy, and you can make it as hot or as mild as you'd like.

      Last night was a good night for chili, with the weather turning from warm to a rainy chill.  This was even better.  It's worth trying!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Simple Solution

      With the growing popularity of "they" as a singular pronoun, many of us older people have a little trouble getting comfortable with it -- even though it is very useful for those times when you can't tell (too far away, too few clues, wearing an old-fashioned diving suit, whatever) or don't care if someone should get the pink pronoun or the blue one.

      I now assume that everyone I meet either has spiders living in their hair or a mouse in their shirt pocket or both, and, voila, "they" now fits the situation with grace and elan.

      And as a bonus, they're now much more interesting.  What kind of spider suits that individual's personality?  That citizen in the corner, talking to themselves -- are they whispering to their pocket mouse?  What's it saying back to them? The ill-dressed person staring into space while industriously pinky-excavating their ear: have the baby spiders just hatched in there?

      It's really quite fascinating.

      (Several comments lead me to clarify that I am talking about the use of "they" as a singular pronoun in the language.  While this shows up as far back as Shakespeare, until recently, it was uncommon.  As for actual persons using the pronoun to refer to themselves, it's not my job to police the appearance or civil behavior of others and it would be, in my opinion, rude to try.  Language, on the other hand, is the water I swim in. YMMV.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Weighing In On The Latest Big Issue

      I'm sure you'd all love to know my deep, meaningful insights on the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing.


Monday, March 28, 2022


      Yesterday, I drove over to look after my hospitalized friend's three black cats.  She has more (and more colorful), but the most sociable ones are being looked after in the house of another friend while these have stayed home.

      Her hospital stay was unexpectedly lengthened, so all of this has been very much after-the-fact.

      I fed the cats and checked up on them.  One cat hides from me and I don't know all of her locations; she wasn't in either of the usual spots, but that's not uncommon.  In the basement rec room, there's one who hides behind the washer/dryer and watches me warily, and he did so.  The other cat kind of likes me; he sleeps under an armchair, and if I lift the flap of upholstery at the front, he comes out and wants to play.  That's just what he did.  Eventually, the behind-the-washer cat came out and watched us.  He's done that a few times.  He still doesn't trust me, but he doesn't want to miss out on the fun. 

      After that, it was time to clean the litterboxes, rec room and upstairs.  She uses clumping litter, so it's not too bad; I wear a mask to block the dust.  Noticing the cats had been tracking litter from one of the upstairs boxes, I swept up the excess and then got out the vacuum cleaner to pick the last traces.

      As soon as I turned the vacuum on, two cats -- two! -- practically levitated from behind the furniture, hit the floor running and vanished down the hall.  One was the shy little black cat.  The other one was a big gray cat with white paws that I have not seen in several weeks of feeding and cleaning up after these cats.

      I texted my friend, DO YOU HAVE A GRAY CAT WITH WHITE PAWS?  Sure enough, she texted back that a very timid fellow had eluded the round-up and she had been worried about him.  He's probably the cat who keeps opening cabinet doors, too.

      So I guess I have been looking after four cats.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

And Now...

      Progress has been made: I have replaced untidy heaps of papers with a much neater stack of boxes.

      It's something.

Saturday, March 26, 2022


      I haven't posted anything today because I have been busy,  It's the most wheel-spinning task I know, a problem I make for myself: I have been sorting out the vast mass of stuff, mostly bills and mail, that covers my desk and spills over into untidy stacks.

      It doesn't help that I don't have much of a filing system.  I try to file paid bills in twelve-slot folder, one per year, and usually succeed, but past that--  Things accumulate.  There is a place for most of them, but it's a lot of work to put them there, especially once the stacks get in the way of opening file drawers.

      So I am working it through the hard way, with a series of labeled cardboard boxes -- including one marked "shred."  Anything that doesn't already have a box gets set aside in its own pile, and if more than a few things end up in that pile, I start a new box.

      The next step is to pick a box and sort it, throwing away as much as possible.  And then on to the next.  It's not fun, but it has to be done.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Feeling Ill, Plus A Blast From The Past

      Yesterday, I spent much of the day with a digestive upset.  It was the kind of thing that will take one's attention right off world affairs.  Frantically hoping you'll get down the hall in time to avert personal disaster overrides wondering what kinds of large-scale disasters various world leaders are dreaming up.

      Nevertheless, in all the distraction I chanced on passing mention of something that sounded like an echo of the old Cold War, the kind of pernicious nonsense that teeters on the brink of farce, lacking only a sense of humor to push it over.  Surely it was just an editorialist's effort at historical perspective?

      This morning, I looked it up and no, it isn't.  The bulging brains* at Democratic Socialists of America are blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on (wait for it, wait for it...) Western imperialism!  Yes, they're lined up with Mr. Trump in wanting the U.S. out of NATO, and convinced everything will all work out for the best if the West just lies back and lets that nice Mr. Stalin, er, Putin do whatever he wants.

      History teaches lessons, but it doesn't care if we learn.

      As for me, a breakfast of a bagel and rose-flavored yogurt (I joke that it's "soap-flavored" but it's actually delicious, and they still don't list the flavor on their website) may help put things right, if past experience is any guide.

      When it comes to DSA, I don't think yogurt's going to help.  While mainstream politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, ever sensitive to the shifting winds of public opinion, have lined up in support of Ukraine and put the blame squarely on the man who set the invasion in motion and broke the peace, their fringes have only become even fringier.  Some writers have called pointing this out "hippie-punching," but it's hardly so violent.  More like laughing at them.  Hold any opinion you like, it's a free country -- unlike Russia, whose leader seems hell-bent of rebuilding an empire even if all he ends up with is rubble. 
* By which I mean "neo-Tankies."  Blaming eeeevil Western imperialists was old stuff by the mid 1970s and age hasn't made it any more plausible.  Most disco songs have held up better.  

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Confirming Supremes

      The modern confirmation process for Supreme Court Justices ensures that every successful nominee will have two attributes: phenomenal bladder control and a truly outstanding ability to endure overbearing questioners.  This is probably not what the Framers were after with the "advise and consent" clause, but they're good skills for sitting on the highest court nevertheless.

      In the most recent set of hearings, even some of the Senators who were supporters of the proposed new member of the Court were over-the-top dramatic.  The entire spectacle of Senatorial posturing was embarrassing to witness.*

      It's useful to remember that nobody puts their name up for consideration for the job of Supreme Court Justice unless they're a Constitutional Law geek, and that no matter what you think of any of them or what you believe to be their judicial philosophy, they're just one voice among nine.  Once a Justice has been on the court a while and it fully sinks in that they cannot be fired, they tend to buckle down and do the hard work of figuring cases out rather than following the prevailing winds of partisan ideology.  That's no guarantee you will agree with their decision, but at least they're thinking things through.

      You'd be hard-pressed to find more than a corporal's guard of U. S. Senators of whom the same could be said; possibly not even enough for a round of euchre.
* Which is why comments arguing "But the other party was super-mean to the previous Administration's nominees and it's so unfair," will not be published.  Yes.  Yes, they were (and I wrote unfavorably about it); and when the shoe was on the other foot before that, there was unfairness and discourtesy in the other direction.  You don't get to whine about the other side when your side plays the same game, no matter which side you're on.  As you go back in time, the rancor does get less; Supreme Court confirmation hearings used to involve a lot less "gotcha" questioning and playing to the cameras.  We used to wait until Justices were on the Court before loathing them, but that's not how it has worked for well over a decade.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


      In a recent speech, Dmitry Medvedev, one of the Kremlin's high-up muckety-mucks, warned the West that Russia's existence was  an absolute necessity.  If Russia were to collapse, he warned, there would be a half-dozen smaller struggling states in its place, all armed with nuclear weapons.*

      Yeah, let's have a look a that.  It already happened once: the USSR collapsed, and former constituent states of the USSR (and maybe even a few Warsaw Pact countries) were left holding a portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal.  Most of those small countries dropped the nuclear hot potato just as soon as they could figure out who to hand it to that wasn't going to light the fuse; a few took some convincing, but the problem with a nuclear-armed nation the size of, say, Texas or smaller is that the larger nuclear powers can wipe them out with a couple of hits.  Gone.  Damage a big country can absorb, however painfully, removes the smaller ones from the map.  There's no percentage in it.

      I fret that a desperate Vladimir Putin might do something horrible.  As the war in Ukraine continues to bog down, there's no telling what he might try to seize back the initiative.  But threatening that the world needs Russia in order to keep the peace?  Please.  Russia's already broken the peace.  The only question is how terribly far the Russian government is willing to go to keep it broken.
* This is part of the ongoing official paranoid line in Russia that "the West" -- NATO, the EU, whatever -- is out to get them. Why?  I don't know, but it's been an easy notion to sell there as far back as Imperial Russia.  It's nonsense.  One more big, screwed-up country with a lousy economy and a dispirited populace is the last thing the West, or any other part of the planet, needs.  A prosperous Russia, fully engaged in world markets, duking it out over petroleum sales and technology, would be a good thing.  If the current war sputters and dies (and it may), The West is going to have to run two Marshall Plans, one for Ukraine and another to rebuild Russia.  Maybe they'll both do as well with it as Germany did with their second chance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Hand Guy

      It was the same doctor I'd seen before; he isn't retiring until June.  He has the easy manner of a man who has seen -- and fixed! -- just about everything in his line of work.

      My finger woes are pretty routine, swelling and glitches in the tendons that move fingers and the little sheaths in which the tendons are supposed to glide smoothly.  It's like the cable-operated brakes and shifter on a modern bicycle.  Think how that might run with a handful of coarse sand in the works.  That's what happens to my fingers.

      The appointment was for a follow-up on my right thumb (so far, so good) but the doctor was happy to look at my problematic pinky.  He got X-rays to check for arthritis or other problems, and once that had shown nothing unexpected, the affected finger got washed, numbed and shot up with a corticosteroid.  There's quite a lot of pressure and I was stuck with a "dead" finger for the rest of the day,* but it already feels better this morning, despite lingering soreness at the injection site.  As a late-in-life touch-typist (who still cheats), I miss that finger when it's not working.  Perhaps now I'll have better luck hitting the "' key when I want it, instead of the :; key.
* This is a little scary with a pinky finger or toe.  It's terribly easy to get into trouble through mild clumsiness.  I found that out more than once when recovering from my broken knee, and it eventually cured me of crutching around the house barefoot or in open-toed sandals.  Yes, the littlest-piggy toe is not supposed to bend in that direction, and about all the doctor (or you, by the third time) can do is bend it back and buddy-tape it to the next toe while it heals.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Magical Gas-Price Knob

      It doesn't exist.  The President of the United States -- any President -- has no direct control over gasoline and oil prices.  Oh, they can release some from the Strategic Reserve (the oil equivalent of government cheese); they can signal greater or lesser friendliness to the oil industry, and that nearly always divides neatly along party lines.  But prices are driven by global production (OPEC being a huge player, and a friend to no one but itself) and global demand, with Red China being the biggest net importer of oil.  Domestic production and demand affects price, of course; but it's not the only driver and can be swamped by external factors.  And we're driving more these days; with the pandemic in decline, more people are traveling, business has picked up and we're burning more gas and oil.

      Want cheap gas?  Hope that OPEC gets hungrier for dollars and China continues their draconian COVID-19 lockdowns as the more-infectious Omicron variant tears through that country.  Hope the war in Ukraine is brought to a swift end; while boycotts of Russian petroleum have some effect on price, I strongly suspect the tendency of countries to increase military fuel reserves when war is in the air has considerable impact, too.

      But don't look for any magical Presidential gas-price powers.  They don't exist.  Presidents love to take credit when prices are low and evade blame when they are high, but it's like Buster Keaton expertly creating the impression he is starting or stopping a freight train by sheer muscle power: no matter how convincing it looks, that's not how things really work.  Correlation is not causation.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

It's Useless Knowledge

      In the heyday of network radio, NBC's Master Control setup was a technical marvel -- but it looked nothing at all like most Master Control systems of its time, and bears only a superficial resemblance to later systems.  And the engineers mainly just set it up for the next event; the NBC booth announcers actually pushed the button to switch from a show in one studio to a remote or a different studio (or even from Chicago or the West Coast).  They tore it all out when they rebuilt network HQ for television.

      Here it is in 1933:
No pressure, but...remember, the whole country's listening.
      After a lot of digging, I finally found a description of the system, starting on page 22 here.  It's interesting indeed, with 48 (!) different studios and patchable off-site sources feeding eight "busses" that can, in turn, be assigned to any of fourteen outgoing lines.  In the 1930s, NBC was feeding up to five different networks (Red and Blue* were the big ones, Orange and Gold were mostly West coast and at least one smaller regional or special-purpose networks), two owned-and-operated AM stations in New York, plus NBC's own shortwave and experimental FM transmitters.

      There was nothing else like it at the time or later.  Other than possibly a panel or two, there's not a bit of it left, either, and most if not all of the people built who built and ran it are gone.  So figuring out how it worked, even in broad outline, is an interesting challenge. 

      I guess it will come in handy if I ever fall into a time machine.
* NBC Blue eventually was spun off and became ABC.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Eye Report

      So far, so good.  Vision in my right eye appears substantially improved.  The left is, at least, no worse than it was.

      Though the procedure is very short, I found it stressful.  Both days resulted in my sleeping for a long time afterward, though yesterday I had to force myself to clean litterboxes for my friend's cats (and flood my eyes with eyedrops immediately afterward) before I could give in to the urge to sleep for twelve hours.  Was it the medical procedure itself, having to be around strangers for several hours (and without a speck of makeup or hairspray!  Yes, such is my vanity.  Or insecurity) or both?  I don't know.

      Next up, dealing with the hand specialist -- a new one, since the doctor I liked so much has retired.  Same practice, though, so I am hopeful the new guy will have a similar friendly attitude.

Friday, March 18, 2022

I'm Afraid To Look It Up

      As a longtime space buff and SF fan, I thought I knew what an "asteroid" was.  Then I saw this entry on a list of explainers at the eye surgeon's office, and--  Well, I just couldn't bring myself to ask.

     Especially after I asked for a replacement "Nolan chart"* mug, having dropped and broken the one they gave me after the initial cataract surgery.  That would be the mug with a Snellen Chart on one side of it and their logo on the other.
* I propose adding a third axis to the actual Nolan chart for "nuttiness," ranging from a high of "total bugnuts" to "sane" with "normal eccentricity" at the center.  I'm sure we'd all like to think that nobody in our own personal corner of the chart would max out on nuttery, but....  Ahem.  Look around yourself, wherever you are.

One Lens Fixed, One To Go

      Yesterday's laser surgery was scary but bearable.  A lot of measuring and checking my vision beforehand, a little more after, and a degree of light-sensitivity that I do not enjoy.

      Mostly, the experience was emotionally draining.  Once I got home and sat a spell, Tam talked me into going over to Half Liter for a nice St. Patrick's Day dinner  (late lunch?  Early supper?), after which I returned home and crawled into bed, where I remained, mostly asleep, for the next fourteen hours.

      And now today, I have to do it all over again.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Off To The Eye Surgeon

      They're going to defog my implanted cataract-replacement lenses over the next two days.  The process uses a laser.

      I am apprehensive.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

PDS, China Meets Omicron, WW III Summer

      An unpublished commenter complained about yesterday's links (despite my warning), "I'm not sure how useful that article was except as an illustration of Trump Derangement Syndrome."

      It's an interesting take, but recognizing the actual shortcomings and missteps (etc.) of a President and his Administration isn't Presidential Derangement Syndrome, not even when you express a very harsh view.  TDS is simply the second most recent example of PDS, in which Presidents are held to be simultaneously stupid/crazy and criminal masterminds, dangerous loose cannons and puppets of whichever boogeyman is the closest fit (choice of George Soros or the Koch Brothers most recently, though China and Russia are up-and-coming on the PDS Top 40), and alleged to be planning the most outrageously polarizing acts imaginable.  With PDS, one sees not the actual man holding the job but a distorted cartoon and (unhinged-sounding, if the President in question is Your Guy) speculation plays a major part while glaring contradictions are ignored.

      I dislike PDS, and strive to judge Presidents by their actual behavior, openly-expressed policies and verifiable public statements.  This is not nearly as much fun and often leaves me unpopularly defending the incumbent unless they get seriously out of line, but it has the advantage of being firmly grounded in reality and inculcating far less panic.  YMMV.
*  *  *
      China seems to be getting hit hard by the latest subvariant of Omicron; their policy of strict isolation once cases have been discovered is faltering against the more-infectious strain and it turns out the home-grown Chinese vaccine is particularly ineffective against Omicron.  This comes at a time when that country's rulers are having to think hard about who they want as best friends, the neighboring (and increasingly isolated) autocracy or the free world where all that lovely money for manufactured goods comes from.  Time for Xi and company* to think hard -- and to remember the free world's vaccines and dollars (or euros) are holding up well.  Russia's, not so much.

      It's just one more bit of pressure that, for once, may do some good for global geopolitics.
*  *  *
      With all that, I still think we have some Summer to look forward to, and Spring as well.  Autumn?  That's way farther ahead than I will speculate.

      What spins up in China may yet come here, and we'll find out the hard way if America's fairly robust acquired and vaccine-created immunity to Omicron will hold up against the subvariant (early numbers look good but I trust nothing about this damn bug).

      What brews up in Ukraine may yet spread.  A lot of the experts think Ukraine has a good chance of running out Russia's clock, as men and materiel run short for the invading army and their home economy falls apart under widespread sanctions.  I hope so -- but a defiant Soviet Union hung on for seventy years despite large scale shunning, horrifying privation and bloody internal unrest.  Their history from 1917 through the end of WW II is a sobering reminder of how much damage that country can absorb.  I hope the experts are right.  Putin is no Lenin -- or Stalin -- and the country he rules over is better educated, more politically engaged and less willing to do without than the early USSR.  My best guess is the war in Ukraine has months of simmering left -- and months of heart-rending damage to innocent people.  Things may take a turn for the worse or they may get better and either way, there's nothing I can do about it.

      Another Spring is pushing through the mud out there, and I intend to enjoy as much of it as I can.
* Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, and so on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Some Straight Talk About The War

      This guy has some useful stuff to say.  Some of it may be tough to hear if you're still holding on to the notion that President Trump was generally harmless, but read it anyway.  There's a lot to chew on.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Happy Pi Day!

      Really, you'd think it would be the 22nd of July, but I guess that's Ancient Times Pi Day.  Somewhere, I have a T-shirt for this and if I am lucky, I'll be able to find it for today.

      In an unrelated note, I'd like to thank the anonymous benefactor who left us a nice old film camera and a high-end resistance decade box made by General Radio.

Sunday, March 13, 2022


      I have been looking after a friend's three cats while she's busy with an unexpected thing.  For obvious reasons, I'm not going to say who or give too many details.  I go feed them once a day -- it's not a long drive -- change their litter as necessary, keep the water dish fresh and so on.

      They're shy.  At first, I only saw one and her rarely, perched atop a big  entertainment center where she can hide behind a trim section and look down at me, goggle-eyed with fear.  After a few days, I discovered another cat had taken up residence in the basement, behind the washer and dryer.  He feels safe there, and doesn't trust me a bit.  He's apparently coming out for food and water when I'm not around. But the third cat was a a mystery.

      Every so often, I'd hear a collar bell jingle,  Eventually, I followed the sound to an open closet and found a cat who was happy to sniff my hand and came out to smooth against my ankles before returning to his spot.  A day or two later, I heard the jingle from under a wing chair in a rec room mostly given over to the cats and their toys.  The third cat emerged from hiding when I said hello, wanted to be petted, and brought toys over while I did the litter.  He's lonely.  I spent as much time with him as I could and continue to do so whenever he decides to make himself visible.  He's as well-behaved and friendly a cat as I have met in a long time.

      They're good cats.  I don't know if the other two will ever decide to trust me but I hope they will.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Good Book For Worrisome Times

      With the war in Ukraine, and Russia making tough talk, there's a book you need to know about, Dean Ing's Pulling Through, which contains information on coping with the aftermath of someone dropping The Bomb.

      The late Dean Ing being who he was, he presents the information first in a novella and then in a collection of factual essays and useful reprints.

      That book, along with plastic sheeting, duct tape, filter material and some odds and ends will at least get you through the months after a "wet firecracker" situation.  But I can't just put in an Amazon link, because the book is out of print.  The prices I'm seeing at the big online used book sellers are...high.  The good news is that most of the same information (and more) can be found in Ing's all-fact book The Chernobyl Syndrome...And How To Survive It, which is a little more available and at better prices.  I couldn't find my copy to verify just how much duplication there is, though, which is why I have ordered another. 

      Amazon, Alibris and ABE Books are your friends in finding out of print books.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Routine Vet Visit

      Holden Wu is off to the doctor today, which he dislikes so much that they usually prescribe a mild anti-anxiety drug.  Skipped it this time and the vet suggested we stock it for next time.  He doesn't panic, but he is made very sad by car trips; I think he worries he will be left behind.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Aging Is A Torturer

      Aging is a torturer.  We don't pay a lot of attention until it comes for us; its victims are just part of the scenery, seen but not noticed, grandparents, bosses, aunts, uncles, parents, classmates and then surprise, oh, surprise!  It comes for us.

      At first, it only takes a little at a time, the keen edge from eyesight, the ability to pick out voices in a crowd; reading vision falters and we pick up reading glasses or add bifocals with a nervous laugh.

      Then it comes with back pain, teeth that fail, broken bones that heal but are never quite right.  Hair goes to silver -- or goes away, at least on your head; elsewhere it sprouts in new and unwanted places.

      The torturer's been after my hands for awhile now.  Before the pandemic, the bottom knuckle of the, er, "social signalling" finger* of my left hand swelled up, hurt, turned hot and got glitchy.  The pain and heat faded; it's working smoothly enough.  But the swelling remains.  My right thumb has problems, a tendon issue called "trigger finger" that adds pain and a hitch in motion.  Twice it's acted up, twice a shot has freed it up.  The third time will require surgery.  Now the pinky finger of my right hand is twisting; I wake up with it curled tight and it opens with a painful pop, a little less flexible.

      Numb toes, sore knees, uncertain balance.  The torturer may disrupt our digestion, afflict us with tinnitus, take our memory.  Piece after piece after piece.

      I have to admit, I'm scared.
* Sometimes known as the "driving finger."  You need your right hand to work the horn and steer, after all.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Just Sad

      Watching the war news and reading speculation -- it's sad.  Overwhelming.  And it's still mostly pawn moves at this point.

      If things keep on as they have, Russia -- Putin -- is going to get frustrated and do something especially ugly.  Just what, I don't know.  His options are limited.  And that's more worrying than if he did have working precision bombs suited to high-altitude drops, or significantly more and better artillery.

      Ukraine's defense has been remarkably successful, considering the lopsided numbers.  But the clock is ticking and if "war" is a given, the opposite of a "short victorious war" is a long, nasty quagmire, not a protracted peace.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

War, What Is It Good For?

      War has always been terrible, especially for the people directly involved -- soldiers, civilians in the zone of conflict.

      In the 1960s and 70s, it had become fashionable to blame "the Generals," the military men at the top (and yes, they were all men), usually depicted as stupid and/or war-mongering types, echoing stereotypes from the First World War of officers heedlessly expending soldier's lives to move the battle line a few feet forward.

      But the top military brass don't decide when to wage wars; their job is to figure out how to wage them.  Modern command staff in modern countries are keenly aware of the cost in materiel and men's (and, increasingly, women's) lives and limbs.

      The culprits are those smiling bastards in nice suits, sitting in climate-controlled offices hundreds if not thousands of miles from the action, looking at colorful lines on a map.  They're never going to have actual blood on their hands, never going to drive a tank through smoking wreckage that was once a  neighborhood or huddle behind a broken wall as the other side's tanks trundle past, never going to hear artillery fire, bombs fall, advance towards the pop and crack of rifles or look over, startled, as one of their fellows is hit by a sniper.  Lines on a map, spheres of influence, regions of control, that's all they see; not scared kids with their grandmother, waiting at the station for a train to safety that may never arrive.

      Wars are started by the initiation of force.  One side or the other throws out the first bomb, fires the first shot. People bleed and scream and die.  Up to that point, it's just normal conflict and competition; it's a phase change when loaded bombers fly and tanks roll, solid to liquid, liquid to gas.

      So the next glib talker who spews lines at me about Soros and Putin, CIA, FSB and culture-wars gibberish, will be lucky if all he gets is laughed at.  While Ukraine's government and civil rights were not as shiny a model of modern wonderfulness as one might hope, Russia's is clearly, drastically worse in every way.  Don't take my word for it, look it up.  Use last year's references, or the year before, or even earlier.  Ukraine has been moving towards a more free society, away from a centrally-controlled economy and Russia is headed the other way.

      Russia's invasion of a neighboring country is indefensible.  Oh, it's not our dog in that fight now, just as it wasn't when they grabbed the Crimean peninsula seven years ago and got away with it.  Now, having had a nibble, they're after the whole hog.  It's not proving as easy as Vladimir Putin expected and he may do something drastic if it keeps getting worse.

      Making excuses for his actions is indefensible.  I don't care what kind of handwavium you're smoking.  It's time to put down the bong and grow up.

      (Title song, here.)

Monday, March 07, 2022

Cooking The Roast

      A photo-essay, told in reverse order.  (All photos by Tamara Keel.)
Ready to plate!  The apple and turnip has cooked down into a thick, dark, partially caramelized sauce, savory with a hint of sweet and a hint of heat.

Shitake mushrooms added for the last hour of cooking.  They had a little truffle salt on them.

Onion, carrot, celery and potato got about ninety minutes of cooking time.

Turnip, peeled, diced and sprinkled with dukkah spice mix and some smoked paprika.  Added about a half hour after starting the meat.

Started with a peeled tart apple, cut into rings and chunks, and put in the bottom of the pan before adding the pork, which had been soaking in a mixture of white and balsamic vinegar and soy sauce with garlic, ginger, za'atar and black pepper for a few hours.  I poured the remaining marinade over it before putting the pan on indirect heat -- no coals directly underneath -- for three hours.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Saturday Dinner

      A large pork roast ("Boston Butt") simmered for three hours in a closed pan over indirect heat on the grill, in a bed of diced apple and turnip with carrot, celery, red onion, potato and shitake mushroms added for the last hour: Delicious!

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Nice Weather

      It's a day for the grill.  I have a large pork roast and some ideas.

Friday, March 04, 2022

Busy Again

      Helping with the neighbor's cats.  More later, maybe.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Still Watching

      Oh, Gil Scott-Heron, you sweet summer child.  You'd laugh yourself sick over who's fighting.  The Revolutions are all over the television -- and The Man threw out the first tanks.

     And I'm finding I can neither watch for long nor look away.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Okay, Still Not Real Happy

      But here's where we are: I expect World War Three has already started.  Nobody's called it yet and we're just at the "one nation attempts expansion by warfare" stage.  It's still getting itself sorted out into teams and who knows?  It might yet fizzle.

      Past history tells me that's not the way to bet.  Leaders of violently expansionist nations don't get what Nero got as often as we might wish, if ever.

      We're in a time of choosing sides.  Readers of history would do well to remember Charles Lindbergh and the older "America First" movement he was associated with.  To be sure, "Lucky Lindy" eventually saw the light -- but he was not allowed to enlist, never permitted anywhere near the European Theater of Operations and only saw air combat in the Pacific by arriving as a consultant and doing some of his consulting from the pilot's seat.

      The Lusitania is nowhere near leaving port, let alone being sunk; there's nothing ominous droning towards Pearl Harbor.  But water runs downhill and it eventually reaches the bottom.

      I hope we're lucky this time.  Dam lucky.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Yeah, Still Not

      Just not dealing with it. Politics, pandemics, economics and European war, it totals up to more than I can bear.

      Let's talk about grease separators, instead!  I own one, a big two-cup job, that I haven't had much use for.  A lot of the time, it's easier to pour the grease off while browning and add broth or tomato sauce after, taking my chances with what residue remains.

      Over the weekend, I made a big pot of oxtail and beef shank stew.  Very tasty and I was able to let it simmer for hours.  But it's so greasy, even if you pour off the fat while browning the meat.  The grease separator caught my attention and, well, of course.

      Using the grease separator while cooking -- and cooking with much more than two cups of broth -- is an imperfect process but it still works well: ladle out a couple of cups of broth, let it settle, and either add the grease-free broth back to the pot or put it in another container while you reload the separator, and then pour the defatted broth back in.  The end result loses nothing for flavor and is far less greasy.  A couple of iterations removed sufficient grease that after freezing for the next day, there was almost no grease at the top of the frozen stew when I took it out to thaw.

      Why did I wait so long to try this?

      Oh, one more note: there are few things more satisfying than fishing a big oxtail out of the pot and having the meat fall off in shreds as it clears the surface.  Almost no trimming required.  And I started with nearly-frozen meat.