Tuesday, August 29, 2023

I Keep Looking At The News

     I keep looking at the news and deciding to weigh out rather than weighing in.  There's not much humor in it, and anyone who cares to look can find a wide array of reporting, analysis and opinion.

     There are deep, serious issues in play and my usual tropes of a Legislative branch myopically obsessed with dreaming up splashy legislation-for-the-sake-of-legislation that will fade away in committee, the Presidency as the worst job in the world (which it is) and a muddled, self-contradictory Judicial branch (except when it does something I approve) are mere cardboard cutouts, amusing paper dolls.  It's not paper-doll time.  Such laughs as are to be found in politics these days are often too cruel, too cheap or too hyper-partisan for my taste.

     The United States was supposed to have Federal politics you could mostly ignore.  It was snicker-worthy a lot of the time.  That has slipped, badly.  Poking fun at it feels too much like picking on someone with a broken leg.

     Dear National Politics, Please Get Well Soon.  I miss being able to rub Jell-o in your hair, make fun of your fashion choices and mock you for general fecklessness.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Busy, Busy

     I spent the weekend on household chores and fiction writing, including the monthly meeting of the Indianapolis chapter of what was originally a mystery writer's group.

     One of the other members pointed out an anthology looking for stories, and took the time to make sure I was well aware of it.  He thinks my work might suit the editors.  We'll see -- I've got the setting and a few characters and I'm working on the plot.

     It's certainly better than fretting over current events.

     Another better thing (or things) are the "Stephanie Plum" novels by Janet Evanovitch.  Stephanie's a remarkably inept novice bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey.  Her misadventures fill multiple volumes, her flouting of the Garden State's draconian firearms laws is staggering, and yet somehow it all works out.  Mostly.  The novels are well-written, well-plotted and hilariously unlikely, the highest grade of "junk food" and I say that with the greatest respect, having spent most of my life reading things my teachers didn't think were worthwhile.  Stephanie Plum is the irresponsible, Jersey-girl sibling of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone.  Kinsey is a former cop; Stephanie was the lingerie buyer for a local department store until it was merged with a larger chain.  Kinsey's an orphan; Stephanie's family are the kind of people who who prompt acquaintances to tell her, "You didn't turn out too bad, considering."

Friday, August 25, 2023

Dominating The News

     It's become more and more common, and it can be contentious: a great deal of hot air dominates the news cycle, leads off every newscast, experts hammering away at the effects and causes, and touting their own theories about what may happen next--

     I've mostly tried to avoid it, but I have to face the reality.  This August heat wave has been bad.

     What, you thought I was on about something else?  Yeah, well, Canada (plus parts of Alaska and the U. S. Pacific Northwest) is on fire and the rest of us are melting.  I'll worry more about other stuff when we get past that.

     As luck (good or bad) would have it, we may get a break from the heat and humidity this weekend.  Canada will still be burning.  And I may give the rest of the news the weekend off, too.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Or Maybe Today

     My hours, the garage's workload and Tam's long-planned afternoon watching the local minor-league baseball team* in person and with a good camera in hand combined to make it impossible to get my car yesterday.

     Logistics today are proving unusually complicated.  We both have cars at the shop, so either someone walks (fifteen or twenty minutes and with long stretches lacking sidewalks along a busy street) or we take the remaining vehicle (stuck driver's-side window, no AC), pick up one car, take it home and repeat the process with the other car.  It'll be awkward either way and outdoors is already like a sauna.

     But they got my air-conditioning running and if all goes as planned, I'll have my car back today.
* Victory Field, where the Indianapolis Indians play, is one of the finest ballparks in the AAA league, so nice that Baltimore has taken to watching their Orioles very, very closely ever since it opened.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Maybe Today

     I might get air-conditioning in my car today.  I haven't had any yet this year.

     It wasn't that much of a problem.  It's a Lexus: it's got a good filter on the outside air intake, the fan blows a lot of air and interior turbulence isn't too bad with the windows down.  Air conditioning didn't used to be standard on cars and most of the cars I have owned didn't have it.*

     But with the recent extreme heat and high humidity, that hasn't been enough.  I was going to take it in a couple of weeks ago, but got busy at work.  This week, though, it had to happen.  The garage we've been using does walk-ins for AC recharges.  I went over yesterday and they were booked up, but promised to look at it today, probably this afternoon.

     So Tam and I will drop off my car this morning and I'll get a ride to work.  If a recharge is all it needs, I may have it back as soon as tomorrow.
* At least one of the cars that did probably should not have. In the late 1970s, I owned a 1970 Toyota Corona, a tiny four-door sedan with wheelbase, engine and transmission (etc.) based on the MGB, unbeknownst to me at the time.  Toyota changed the engine block to aluminum and tidied up a few things like the quirky carbs and Heath Robinson emission control plumbing, but they're siblings.  It was a nice little car, but a previous owner had installed a Sear aftermarket air conditioner and that was asking a lot of the 1800 cc four-cylinder engine.  You had to practice power management: get the car up to at least 45 mph in fourth gear before you turned the AC on, and shut it off before downshifting.  Otherwise you weren't going to have much fun.  The car had nearly succumbed to body rust and been sneakily fiberglassed before I bought it, and finished rusting while I owned it, but I still miss it.  Handled with care, it was a treat to drive.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023


     People who have had near-death experiences often report being told, "Go towards the light."

     Okay; this somehow makes intuitive sense to most of us.

     But what if it's a bug-zapper?  There you are, gone from the physical world, and whatever's left is drawn like a moth to the light and -- ZAP! You're no longer a problem for the Universe.

     H. P. Lovecraft and those late-night TV commercials make a weird mix.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Thing About Mattresses

     Mattresses, pillows -- sleep hardware (plushware?) of that sort is at a high level of development, but here's the thing: with the possible exception of the air pump and controller in those "pick your firmness" mattresses, there's not much to them.  The pieces and parts are basic: fabric or plastic, cotton batting or various kinds of plastic or latex foam, and spring wire.  Valves, fittings and heaters for waterbed mattresses, pumps and filters for air-support.

     Every five dollars you pay for a mattress buys perhaps five cents of materials, 25 cents of labor* and fifty cents of know-how and advertising.  Don't underestimate the cleverness and innovation that goes into designing a modern mattress: good ones are very good and even the cheap ones are well above what you could get a hundred years ago.  And don't ignore the salesmanship, either: a mattress or a pillow is a pedestrian necessity, and yet it rates specialist shops and plenty of advertising, usually with comfort highlighted and most often an engaging spokesperson.

     I was listening to NPR news while doing the dishes the other day -- actual news doesn't vary that much from BBC to Fox and Alexa's got a good bundle of NPR newscast, local weather and some in-depth reporting, usually "Up First" or "Planet Money" -- and they do run ads, of the restrained, talky, public radio type.  Lo and behold, they've got a sponsor hawking mattresses, with a positive-talking company owner extolling the product's virtues.  I snickered.  Yes, NPR has their own version of the My Pillow guy, probably in a tweet sports jacket with patches on the elbows.

     I'm not here to run down either of their product lines.  You get what you pay for, and while we probably pay more than most mattresses and pillows are worth, pricing is linked to quality and tends to be affordable.  (I still miss the factory-direct outfit I bought from when I lived in a college town. Their sales volume was enormous and prices were accordingly low.†)   But it is a business that relies more on sizzle than steak to get you to pick their brand.  There aren't that many ways to get a comfortable night's sleep.

     So when a mattress guy or a pillow guy starts talking politics, trying to sell you on a point of view?  Take it with a big, fat grain of salt.  He's a master of salesmanship, so good he sells himself on whatever he's pushing.  You're not going to come away from that transaction with anything to sleep on, no matter what channel or network he's on.  If there's a nickel's worth of substance in whatever politics he wants you to spend five bucks on, look out the window for flying pigs.
* If it was made in the U. S.  Elsewhere, the work doesn't pay as well.
† I may miss being able to buy an actual futon even more.  That's the thick, simple Japanese-style mattress, not the frame it sits on. A futon works well in the home-made platform bed I sleep on, and at a price that let me replace them every couple of years.  But they've just about vanished around here, other than low-end ones sold with the couch-convertible frames.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

It's Not That I Have Nothing To Say

     It's just that I don't think it'll do any good to say it.  I'm watching current events play out, waiting to see how bad things get.

     Can't we all just get along?  Survey says...maybe.

     Man, the tenterhooks business must be going great.  Maybe we should replace the eye in the pyramid and Novus ordo seclorum on paper money with the Magic 8-Ball displaying "Indications Unclear."  Is our cœptis still anuited? Damifiknow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Found 'Em

     The drain openings in the sunroof hatch well were obvious.  A little compressed air seemed to help, and some water-bottle testing on both sides resulted in water running out the underside end.

     The passenger side one was a little blocked at  first and cleared up, so I'm hoping that will cure the problem -- that, and making sure the sunroof is closed.  The controls are strange to me, a pair of spring-loaded, three-position, center-neutral "slide" and "tilt" controls that don't seem to have a positive hatch-shut setting: run them to the end and the hatch does tricky tilt-and-lift moves instead of stopping.  Time to read the manual.  Perhaps I'm missing something.  (Note to Lexus: Please don't design airlock controls.)

     Time and again, I've found that questioning my assumptions and checking the verifiable physical evidence and original documentation leads to a solution.  I'm sure there's a wider lesson there, but I'll leave it for readers to work out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

And Then, Late Yesterday...

     No.  I'm not going to write about it this morning.  If you want to stay out of court, don't break the law.  Don't try to skirt the law, either, no matter how special a genius you think you are.  If you get a speeding ticket, pay it.  This applies to you, me, Presidents (both former and serving) and their offspring, and everyone in between.  It's as simple as that.

     Me, I'm fighting water in my car.  I went to leave for work yesterday and there was water all over the front passenger seat and floor, dripping from the sunroof.  It appears a blocked drain is the most likely culprit.  There's one on each side inside the sunroof surround, with what amount to downspouts hidden in the A-pillars.  Couldn't do much about it yesterday, what with it raining all day and me working.  Maybe today, along with work.

     Went down to the basement late yesterday night and found two inches of water on the floor at the drain.  That's sadly normal for the floor drain when we get heavy rain: high water levels in the semi-combined sewer/storm drain closes the backflow preventer, which sticks, and then a day of the air conditioner and dehumidifier running starts to fill the basement.  I spent some time plunging it until it cleared but I need to remember to run a bucket of warm water down that drain.  Maybe vinegar.

     Soaked one pair of trainers swabbing out the car in the rain and one pair of house slippers plunging the drain.

Monday, August 14, 2023

A Special Kind Of...Something

     My joke about a low-priced, low-paying hair-care chain brought out a particular kind of comment, linking a possible return of the coronavirus to pandemic status to the re-election of Donald Trump.

     Right. First off, that would be the Donald Trump whose Administration fostered "Project Warp Speed," that resulted in the availability of effective vaccines in record time and fast-tracked the development of genuine antivirals.  While fringe elements of his party went haring off after all manner of quack medicine, the Federal government buckled down and did good work.  Since then, the fringes have taken over the GOP and there's been a lot of selective forgetting.

     Second, a quick check finds 7.7 million deaths worldwide from the pandemic, 1.1 million of them in the United States.

     Somebody'd better explain to me how either Presidential negligence -- which didn't create the virus and, unusually, didn't dominate the response -- or a vast, shadowy conspiracy of  "them" managed to kill off over seven million people in order to prevent the reelection of a deeply divisive U. S. President who had about 50/50 odds of winning reelection before the coronavirus pandemic struck.  And if the latter, how come it is the governments of, say, Europe and UK, with over two million dead and a long history of successful espionage operations, didn't hunt down the perps with extreme prejudice?

     Nope, look, I'm sorry; no matter how happy you are in Wackyland, it won't wash.  It doesn't add up.  The coronravirus pandemic was just as real as the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic, and barring a nasty mutation that spikes the rate up to pandemic levels again, it's going to be just as endemic and dangerous as the flu has been ever since, mitigated by the vaccines and antivirals we've developed.  It was not created to "get" Mr. Trump, and while he and his party talked all manner of BS while the pandemic raged, when it came to action, the Feds did pretty well under his watch in terms of actual efforts and results.  Could they have done more, faster?  Probably.  And they could have talked way less smack.  But they muddled through, just like 1918-20.  Stop pretending it was anything more (or less) than another bad pandemic.  Humanity gets hit with 'em every so often; them's the odds.

     Viruses don't vote.  People with brainworms do, and I guess we'll see how that works out in 2024.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Clark Savage, Jr. The Third?

     A few days ago, I learned to my delight that a couple of the original adventures of 1930 pulp hero Doc Savage were turned into a series of radio plays on NPR in the mid-1980s.  I hunted them down online, and a couple of episodes in, they're pretty good.  Producer Roger Rittner has a genuine feel for classic radio drama.  He and modern-day pulp writer Will Murray did a fine job with the scripts and the casting was good.

     Doc (Clark Savage, Jr.) was a remarkable example of physical fitness and agility, but he was also a "general specialist,*" holding degrees in (and practicing) medicine, mathematics and all of the "hard sciences."  There was nothing he didn't do well -- except, perhaps, deal with emotion.  The combination worked better than you might expect.

     I was doing dishes yesterday and wanted something to listen to.  I'd already run through a couple of newscasts, so I asked the robot, "Alexa, play Doc Savage."

     She -- it -- responded with "PLAYING MUSIC BY DOC SAVAGE," and launched into some heavy-beat electronic music.  The first was instrumental; the next one added some futuristic rap lyrics.

     Apparently, Alexa can't find the radio plays. 

     I went looking for the artist who recorded the music this morning and there's not a sign of him or them.  A folkish UK act appears to have used the name, too.

     So I'm left wondering.  WTH, Clark?  Got bored with fighting crime?  Decided to pick up one more career?

     I'll be superamalgamated if I know.
* Doc's creator, ex-telegrapher Lester Dent, was a bit larger than life himself.  Well over six feet tall, as his career progressed, he became a ham radio operator, private pilot, yachtsman, photographer, amateur chemist, gadgeteer, inventor and all-around Robert A. Heinlein hero.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Looks Like The Pandemic Is Over...

     Great Clips is advertising on television again!  They are to hairstyling what Henry Ford was to automobiles, for better or worse.  It's a sign of confidence on the part of provider, stylists and customers alike.

     Me, I still keep waiting for the benighted bug to drop the other shoe -- but it hasn't fallen yet, and I'm all in favor of making hay while the sun shines.  Maybe it'll play out like the big influenza epidemic; that's a pretty good bet, if you're not a pessimist.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Tell 'Em A Story

     Tuesday night, I did something completely out of character: I got up in front of a group of twenty or thirty people and read a story I had written.  Out loud.

     It wasn't my idea.  Some months back, a "flash fiction" story I had written won second prize in a local contest.  Flash is under a thousand words and generally centers on a single image or emotion.  My story was set on a farm in a near future that's gone badly sideways, and then....  But I won't give it away here.

     The local writer's organization that ran the contest has returned to in-person meetings in recent months -- writers are a reclusive lot, but eventually even the loneliest river figures out it'd better find the sea or just dry up -- and they had decided to have the editors of their magazine do readings at the August meeting.  Once they ran through all the editors willing to speak into a  microphone with a live audience (funny thing, people do not just line up, eager to do so), they were still a little short, even after sneaking in a couple of genuine non-editor poets, so they asked the contest winners.  I'm not sure about the guy who came in first (and deserved to), but the third-place finisher and Yours Truly agreed.

     So there I was Tuesday night, sitting in an aisle seat in the next-to-last row, listening to well-read poetry,* and some that struggled with the PA system, and a first-rate short essay and--  My turn.

     I'd timed the thing.  Six and a half minutes.  I rewrote it to make the mechanics more linear: you want people to know who's got what line in dialog, so neat tricks like, "'I'm not so sure,' she said, 'if this is a good way to indicate a pause when reading aloud,'" don't work as well and you use actor's tricks instead, attributing the speaker at the beginning and actually playing the pause when you read the line.  Because my story has two characters, presumably husband and wife, I went through and highlighted their lines in different colors, and let my tone and cadence change just a little when I read them.

     And what do you know?  It worked!  I even got a laugh of recognition at the right point, when one of the characters realizes things have gone even more strangely wrong than he expected.

     Performing like that, I get a feeling of being "beside myself," watching the performance play out; I looked at the audience, but I'm not sure how much I saw them.  But I didn't faint or pick my nose, so I think it went all right.

     It was a far cry from my experience on the radio years ago, reading a sixty-second supermarket commercial or a fifteen-second weather forecast into a microphone, alone in a room with an unknown number of listeners on the far side of the transmitter.  And it was not nearly so terrible a thing as I had feared.
* The challenge of poetry is that unless the poet's an absolute genius, you're probably not going to read the poem with the same rhythm and flow as the poet wrote it, and even more so if you read it silently.  It's good to go hear the words as the poet heard them, and I say that as someone who is no huge fan of poetry: a good poem is a gift but good poets are rare.  I'm pleased to report the meeting organizer had managed to find good ones.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

On Stories

     Sharing stories is how we understand the world around us.  Stories are how we interpret the past and anticipate the future.

     Anyone in power who commands, "This story cannot be told," or "That book must not be read" is not just banning a book or an idea.  They're trying to control what you think and how you think about it.

     People often confuse someone saying, "I don't agree with that story," or even, "That story is a lie.  Here's the truth,"* with censorship.  But there's a difference.

     There's a difference between words and actions, too.  J. Average Citizen griping, "That book should be burned," is not the same as rounding up all the copies of it they can find and heaving the books into the fire.  A bookstore deciding not to sell a book, a commercial website kicking out a user for bad behavior? That's not censorship.
* Sometimes it really is the truth, too.  Sometimes it really, really isn't.  Caveat emptor!

Monday, August 07, 2023

If Any Publicity Is Good Publicity

     One Presidential candidate is getting heaps and tons and piles and hours of free airtime.  Sure, other than on those outlets already firmly in his camp, it's all negative, but does that matter?  You can't open a newspaper, turn on a news-ish TV channel or look at an online news or opinion site without seeing the guy's name.

     I don't think the American electorate is so pinheaded and shallow that mere media saturation will move the needle -- because we're also stubborn.  But polls keep showing likely voters in near balance and the two most probable candidates have roughly equal -- and awful -- disapproval ratings.  At this point, you'd have to be a fool to bet on the outcome of the 2024 Presidential election, yet we're all obliged to.

     Welcome to the future.  It's stupid.

     P.S.: still no flying cars.  Still no cheap fusion power.  Still no Lunar Hilton.  And the Mars Colony guy appears to have decided it's more fun to dink around on social media instead.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Weekend Roast

     There was a good chance of dry weather on Saturday, so Friday night, I picked up the ingredients for beef pot roast along with a no-effort supper.

     Friday was awful.  Three -- or was it four? -- weeks ago, I was starting a long stint of vacation relief downtown when I discovered the air-conditioning in my car had conked out.  There was no good way to get it fixed while working a relatively inflexible schedule unless I handed my elderly Lexus mini-SUV -- and my pocketbook! -- over to the dealer, so I've been white-knuckling through it.  On Friday, I had to drive from our downtown location the the North Campus as the later-afternoon rush hour was beginning.  The heat and humidity made crawling along with the early departees especially wretched.

     After work, I wasn't going to cook.  Hauling myself through the grocery was effort enough.  Their deli had supper: a rotisserie chicken, vinegar-based coleslaw (my favorite kind!) and Greek farro-chickpea salad.*  The butcher shop had Choice-grade chuck roast for not too much and I went basic on the vegetables: celery, carrot, red onion, potato and fresh corn on the cob. I picked up some porcini mushrooms, too.

     Friday dinner was fine.  The grocery does justice to their cooked chicken and their best deli sides are creditable.

      Saturday was another hot day, but it doesn't take much time to cut up kindling and build a charcoal fire.  While I suspect any middle-school-aged kid from the parts of the world where charcoal stoves are the norm would snicker at how slow I am, I managed with a couple of sticks of kindling, a broken-up shake, a page of newspaper and one (1) match and had well-started coals in the time it took to sprinkle a little Worcestershire on the roast, add coarse salt and pepper, get out the roasting pan, lay a couple of forks in the bottom, go outside and rake the coals flat, make a gap in the middle, set the grill bars in place, load the roast into the pan and put it on the grill.  I added three bay leaves on the meat for luck.

     The chuck roast was 2.8 pounds.  I set a timer for three hours.

     I let it cook for a half hour while I washed and cut up the potato, put some rosemary on it and got three good-sized onion flowers from our gone-wild garlic chives,  I washed them and laid them on top of the roast among the bay leaves.  (Yes, onion flowers: edible, tasty, strongly oniony.  Raw ones make a pretty garnish.)  While I was outside, I picked a half-cup of tomatoes from the garden, two yellow pear tomatoes and the rest tiny cherry tomatoes.

     Carrots and a couple stalks of celery followed, cut into big-bite sections, and the onion was next.  There was room for one ear of corn cut into four short sections, so I added it with about an hour to go.  I added two more ears of corn to the grill, wrapped in two layers of foil with a pat of butter to keep them happy.

     Meanwhile, I had mushrooms and tomatoes. I'd been thinking about putt the tomatoes with the roast, but changed my mind.  A little butter in the grill saucepan, with alternating layers of sliced mushrooms and quartered tomatoes, with generous amounts of Italian-mix seasoning and a little more butter on top along with a couple of Piparra peppers, chopped.  I covered it and set it in a corner of the grill.

     When the timer went off, my thermometer confirmed the meat was done.  It was tender enough that it almost fell apart!  Veggies and broth were tasty, and the short cobs of corn were outstanding.  The chuck roast had lots of flavor.  The mushroom and tomatoes dish had cooked down to a a wonderful sauce loaded with mushrooms.

     And the last hour of cooking, it rained off and on.  So much for the forecast.  My aluminum foil rain hood protected the closed grill.
* The basic combination is widespread around the Mediterranean: cooked farro (grains of wheat), cooked garbanzo beans, black olives, feta or similar cheese, raisins, greens and a mild dressing.  Count it as bread, cheese and vegetable, and it's a light meal in and of itself.  You'd think some punster would tilt the ingredients in a slightly Egyptian direction and serve up Pharoah farro salad, but no.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Telegram From Planet Dull

     Had a commenter the other day refer to my cooking as "experiments" and express the hope that I "won't poison my renter."

     Look, mister, I'm sorry if your Mom raised you on boxed mac'n'cheese, bologna sandwiches on white bread and box-mix pizza, supplemented by Mickey Dee and The Colonel, but there's nothing particularly experimental about my cooking, and normal, ordinary supermarket vegetables aren't random weeds.  Turnips, rutabaga, beets, parsnips, fennel and celery root have been eaten and enjoyed by millions of people for thousands and thousands or years.  Likewise rice, blackeyed peas, crowder peas, green and red kidney beans, pinto and black beans, garbanzos, lima and butter beans and so on. This stuff is food.  Shishito peppers are a little new in most U. S. markets, but bell and banana peppers, chilis and poblanos aren't.  Radishes and leeks have been around since almost forever -- diakons or "watermelon radish" (red on the inside!) is still uncommon.  Kale and other greens are as old as the hills!

     I grew up eating a lot of it.  We grew kohlrabi, snap peas, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, radishes, cabbage, various kinds of tomatoes and melons and more in our own garden.  In the winter, we enjoyed an assortment of canned, frozen and dried vegetables along with the supermarket's fresh stuff.  (Mixed-bean soup made from many different kinds of dried beans plus some strong ham, simmered for hours and served with chopped fresh onion and celery is a winter treat not to be missed!)

     Mom cooked a variety of meat -- various cuts of beef and pork, ham, chicken, turkey (at the holidays) and so on.  At least once, my parents got together with friends and bought an entire side of beef, had it butchered, divvied up the results and stocked the freezer for months.  Several times a year, my Mom made a delicious clear-broth beef stew that neither my sister nor I have ever quite duplicated, and she could turn out chicken and noodles that would float you the the dinner table by sheer force of the aroma.

     There were always cookbooks in the kitchen, and my mother liked to try new foods and encouraged us to do so as well. 

     I'm proud of my cooking, and it is deliberately a little intuitive.  I'm especially proud of being able to cook well over coals.  I've been doing that since I was of junior high school age -- when my family would go on vacation, Mom preferred her Coleman (white gas) or, later, LP stove but I did most of the campfire cookery.

     How and what I prepare and the ingredients I use are about as ordinary as you can find.  They're not very processed.  Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression and WW II, and in large families without large incomes.  As children, they ate mostly fresh, unprocessed food whenever it was available, and when they started their own family, they fed their own kids the same things.*  It was not health-nut stuff; bacon and eggs was our usual breakfast and there was plenty of red meat on the dinner menus.  But it was often fresh, there were nearly always two different vegetables to go with the meat and they preferred whole-grain bread (Roman Meal, which has about vanished) or home-made white bread to the squishy supermarket version.  Other starches like rice or potatoes were counted the same as bread, not as side veggies.  Highly processed snacks were discouraged and highly-processed sides and main dishes (corned beef hash!) were rare treats.  Mom did like those dinner rolls you buy ready to pop from the can and bake for Sunday dinner: they're a real time saver.  And did we ever have Sunday dinners!  It was a late lunch after church, a large and fancy meal.  Sunday supper was often no more than a late-evening snack.

     To judge by what the supermarkets around here stock, my notion of plain old regular food is pretty mainstream -- or at least it is for people who get most of their meals at the grocery instead of from restaurants.
* Both of their families had vegetable gardens and their own chickens well before WW II rationing.  Mom's family raised goats for milk and meat; Dad's always had a milk cow.  I don't know if Mom's family kept bees, but she took it up in middle age and did well, using honey in place of sugar in many recipes.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Previous Sunday Dinner

     It was pork roast last Sunday, and I went with "sibling vegetables."  I gave the pork the usual overnight marinade -- balsamic vinegar, soy, a little cider vinegar, plus some garlic and ginger.  The next afternoon, I took it out, gave it a little coarse salt and curry powder and started it in a covered pan on the grill.  I set a timer for three hours.  After twenty minutes or a little more, I added the first set of vegetables.

     They're not closely related but they look alike: an apple and a turnip, peeled and cut in chunks, plus a potato, washed, not peeled and similarly cut up.  The apple and turnip got a little garam masala and the potato got some smoked paprika.

     The next set are siblings: a couple of big parsnips, lightly peeled and sliced, plus a generous handful of baby carrots.  Parsnips are the grown-up version of carrots, with a complex, spicy flavor.

     I followed those with cousins: celery and a fennel bulb (both cut into fork-friendly sections), plus a fennel frond for luck.

     By then, the pan was about full.  I got most of a red onion in and ignored that pan for the rest of the cooking time.  I washed and cut up an assortment of fancy mushrooms, putting them in a grill-top saucepan with more fennel fronds and the rest of the onion, then washed a de-silked a couple of ears of sweet corn.  They got a pat of butter and generous sprinkling of "Mexican street corn" seasoning before I wrapped them up in two layers of aluminum foil and added them to the grill.  By then the grill area was just about full.

     All that takes time.  The grill still had an hour to go, so I did dishes and set up TV trays -- and then realized there was a nice crop of little cherry tomatoes in the garden.

     My little "weed tomatoes" (most of the plants are volunteers returning from last year) are prolific.  They ripen fast and go overripe quickly.  Use 'em or lose 'em!  No larger than marbles, so it's pretty fast to pick the red ones, wash therm, slice them and apply salt and pepper or mixed Italian seasoning.  They get better if you give them a few minutes to sit, so I put them out of the way while I checked the meat, brought in the pans and corn, and set to putting together dinner plates.  It was a feast!

     Leftover mushrooms got put in with the leftover pork roast, and with some sauteed carrot, onion and celery to add some crunch, the remainder made a nice stew later in the week.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

And About Dammned Time, Too

     The news broke yesterday: Former President Donald Trump has been charged over his -- in my opinion, not to mention the grand jury's -- criminal actions in connection with his attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, including the 6 Jan 2021 insurrection.

     If you're a committed fan of Mr. Trump, this is a bell without a clapper.  You're going to ignore the details of the indictment and keep on sharing memes inappropriately comparing the ex-President to Moses, Jesus and heroic archetypes, depicting the elderly, overweight, small-handed and balding man as well-muscled and stalwart.  Never mind that the one time he was given a chance to stand up for his country, he mysteriously developed bone spurs and dodged mandatory military service, bone spurs which have never troubled him since.

     For everyone else, CNN has published an "annotated" version of the indictment, which reproduces all 45 pages of the charges against Mr. Trump with CNN's opinion of what they mean next to it (handily in a different font), so you can see if they're barking up the right tree.  Read the indictment, no matter what you think of the news network's notions.

     Is this prosecution politically motivated?  You're darned right it is -- like the Civil War was politically motivated.  As the indictment sets out in detail, Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators worked to undermine and destroy the Constitutional and legislative mechanisms by which the United States selects Presidents.  His is the kind of politics that shatters governments and wrecks countries, and he must be held to account for it.

     Will this change the course of the 2024 Presidential race?  I doubt it.  Donald Trump has a lock on the Republican nomination at this point and he would even if he was indisputably found guilty and locked away in the the deepest, dankest cell of the  Federal ADMAX prison in Florence, CO.  But I hope it will show that the price of playing games with the normal process of electing Presidents, of staging an autogolpe, is too high for another try.

     Of course, one possibility is that the various trials proceed, Mr. Trump is found guilty in one or more, finishes his campaign from prison, wins, manages to be sworn in behind bars and attempts to pardon himself.  That would probably end up before the Supreme Court and I'm not seeing any decision possible that doesn't lead to trouble.  More likely is that Mr. Trump will prolong his various court cases and appeal any losses, hoping to stay out of jail, win the Presidency and self-pardon; if he does, this leads back to the Supreme Court as before.  So those are ugly outcomes, long before any worries over his campaign promises of vengeance.

     Interesting times.  How I long for boredom.  But can boredom win elections?