Archive for October, 2013

Reconstructed Oatmeal with Pears

October 31, 2013

Rachel Ray is famous for deconstructing familiar foodstuffs into new food experiences. She’ll take a classic sausage & rice-stuffed pepper recipe, and deconstruct it into a bed of rice with chopped pepper and sausage crumble topping, or turn a broad noodle lasagna into a narrow noodle pasta plate smothered in lasagna sauce. Recently, Sydney Oland  over at the Serious Eats website had a recipe that looked like RR had produced it herself — oatmeal pancake topped with pears and pecans. What kind of a dish might that have been deconstructed from, and is it possible to reconstruct something similar?

This is quite a departure from my usual no extra work approach to breakfast oatmeal. What fascinates me about it is that it fits right in with a mathematical/statistical technique I’ve used professionally, called Reconstructability Analysis. In RA, you take a collection of data, with many variables, and use information theory to produce a collection of simpler data sets, models, and examine which model best describes the original data. The simpler model is never as good as the original, of course, but in some cases you can perform significant simplification without losing too much predictive power. Let’s see if that will work in the kitchen.

Suppose we take our oatmeal pancake dataset and reconstruct it into a standard oatmeal dish, with embedded pears and pecans? The original recipe called for braising the pears and pecans separately, but we don’t have time for that. Besides, it would dirty another pot. Let’s just dice up a pear, or part of one, and fry it in our usual oatmeal pot. Fresh Anjou pears harvested along the Willamette yesterday and FedEx’d to our doorstep this morning are the best, but cracking a can of Bartletts will probably work just as well. We’ll compromise on a somewhat overripe Bartlett pear that we got from Safeway. The pecans can be chopped and stuck in the toaster oven for later stirrings-in. If you wanted to save on electricity, you could fry up the pears and pecans together in your oatmeal pot (that’s what I did here), add the oatmeal and liquid, give it a stir, and be on your way. Thicken the oatmeal with Wondra instead of potato flakes and you have the full pancake experience, minus the baking powder. As for the liquid, I’m not sure. Plain water might work. Apple juice wants too much of itself and tastes too tart when cooked down without sugar. Maybe adding a tablespoon of maple syrup to plain water will get the effect we’re after.

Experiment 1

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of diced pear, tablespoon of chopped pecans,  one cup of water with one tablespoon of pancake syrup, salt to taste and Wondra flour to thicken.  Fry the pears and pecans in butter in the oatmeal pot. Add the water and syrup and oatmeal, oh my, when the pears are soft, and cook for another 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Pretty good, in a standard oatmeal sort of way. The pear chunks cooked down to pear-sauce. The nuts seemed to give up their flavor and were just inoffensive crunchy things. The oatmeal itself was creamy/buttery tasting. It needed salt, and more syrup. I am going to try it again tomorrow, adding the pecans and pear-parts at the last minute.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of diced pear, tablespoon of chopped roasted pecans,  one cup of water with two tablespoon of pancake syrup, salt to taste and potato flakes to thicken.   Add the syrup at the start, Cook for another 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the pears and nuts at the end and thicken with the flakes if you think you need it.

Results: I’ve decided I don’t like chopped nuts in my oatmeal. They don’t add anything, and they make you chew stuff that otherwise doesn’t need much chewing. Pears were more noticable this time. The residual heat (and extreme ripeness) took some of the crunch off them, but I always knew when I had some on my spoon. The lack of butter was very noticable — bad for flavor, good for calories. Overall it was OK, but not OK enough for me to spend a lot of time in the pear aisle.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 28, 2013

Garden Report for 131028

The weather this week was beautiful. Highs in the low 60’s, lows in the low-but-not-freezing 30’s. Cloudy/foggy mornings. Sunny afternoons. West of the mountains they’re under a monster high pressure inversion layer, and that’s driving our weather. Too bad I’m in class or meetings or conferences or workshops or interviews or luncheons.

Forgot about the carrots. They were at the north end of Section 4, under the blueberries. I figured I’d best dig them now, before they freeze to the ground.  Got 15 of them. Five were 2oz monsters (bigger than my thumb!) and the rest were small. I’ll probably let that area go into blueberries or strawberries or asparagus next year.

Otherwise, just fiddling with the winter preps: cleaning up the residue, digging over the garden, hanging up the covers, trimming back the hops (and disposing of them so the dogs don’t get poisoned).  I’m waiting for the asparagus to brown out before cutting them back and mulching with the leaves that haven’t fallen yet.

UPDATE: Did I say hadn’t fallen? Our traditional Sunday night windstorm (sustained 40kt, gusts to 60), just brought everything down. Fortunately, I spent part of Sunday afternoon clearing off the deck.

Cheesy Oats

October 24, 2013

And now for something completely cheesy. Westminster brand William and Kate Royal Addition Cheddar, an unabashed attempt to commercially exploit the birth of little George Alexander Louis Windsor. And what better day to review it on than the day before St. Crispin’s Day.

By Appointment to Safeway Stores, Inc.

By Appointment to Safeway Stores, Inc.

It’s actually a quite nice white cheddar, not too sharp and a little crumbly. What makes all cheddars suitable for oatmeal is the fact that they melt nicely.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Quite nice, in an aristocratic weekend-in-the-ancestral-home sort of way. I can see this being served with strong tea, kedgeree, and possibly laverbread. I can hardly wait to see what the next birth brings.

Rating: *****

Truth-Teller Clapper

October 23, 2013

denies reports of NSA spying on France.

I wouldn’t lie to you. I mean, it’s not like you were Congress.

Support your non-local Democrat …

October 21, 2013

…and your local non-Democrat.

We have a deeply divided political system right now. Part of that is due to gerrymandering — drawing political districts so the opposing party has an overwhelming majority in a very few districts and a powerless minority everywhere else. Part of it is due to self-selection — we tend to live with like-minded people, except when we don’t. The result is an overwhelming majority of safe seats, where the only threat to the incumbent is from the lunatic fringe. As the latest debacle in Congress shows, the lunatics are winning.

What can be done to fix this? That is, what can be done to ensure that (a) there’s enough diversity at the state and national level to ensure that political compromise is possible, and (b) to ensure that politicians we elect aren’t from the lunatic fringe of whatever party we’re talking about?

Let’s start with the primaries. David Brin has an interesting proposal — if you are a gerrymandered minority (Democrat in a deep red district, Republican in a bright blue one), simply register as a member of the majority party, and vote for the most centrist of the contestants. Admittedly, this may require you to choose between Attila-the-Hun and Timūr-the-Lame, but it does give you an effective choice, better than the one you have now. If there are enough moderates in your district, you should be able to keep the fringe politicians from gaining a toehold.

On the other hand, suppose you live in Washington*, or Iowa, states which use the caucus system? Influencing a caucus means spending far too much time in smoke-filled rooms with people you want to sit two stools away from at the diner. There’s not a lot you can do about local politics in that case, so your next option is to find the nearest political district that’s considered a toss-up, and send money.  Political scientist L.J.Sabato at University of Virgina has a list of competitive House seats for 2014. If you’re a Democrat, find a contest that’s a toss-up, or better yet, one that has a vulnerable Republican, and send the Democratic challenger a check. You know the Koch Brothers are doing the same for the other side. The Examiner has another list, of vulnerable Republicans. Here’s a Google query that might help.

*Correction. Washington state uses a “top two” primary system where the top two vote getters advance to the general election, whatever their party. Preliminary party support for candidates is still determined by caucus.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned 2013

October 20, 2013

General
1. Think about the fertilization schedule. I may have done too much too late, and promoted too much foliage growth at the expense of vegetables
2. Better date tracking. Put harvest dates in as well as planting dates. Too much stuff was lost because I didn’t pay attention
3. Get more Ca into the soil, everybody needed it

Yard Crops
1. Happy with the hops. Get six more to fill in and extend. Buy early and bring along in an indoor container for a month before planting out

2. Make better use of the ground cover zone for squash. This year I did squash in containers, and they didn’t do well, due to crimping of the vine going over the edge. The ones planted directly in the soil did better. Have to cut way back on the ground cover, and remember to move the planting spots around each year.

Containers
1. Plant long beans and lemon cucumbers earlier

2. Happy with the miniature cucumbers. Nothing else worked out

3. Look for a bigger cherry tomato for the hanging containers. S-100s are OK but we’d like something more substantive

4. Better labeling. This year the labels were buried by the supplemental potting soil. Write on the container. By the time it’s covered with writing it will be time to dump it

Keyhole Garden
1. Take out the KHG kneeholes. Don’t really need them, and it makes watering awkward — too much stuff runs down the steps. Plus, I lose some planting real estate

2. Better slug control. I didn’t find any at night, but I would early in the morning. Diatomaceous earth only works on dry soil. Consider some form of slugbane.

3. Redesign the covers. They work, but they’re heavy

Review of Last Year’s Plans (keyed to original numbers)
1. squash numbers about right, but production was poor
2. Squash/tomato pairing worked
3. Planted lots instead of fewer. Production was poor
4. Early start helped, but I think the weather didn’t cooperate. Try again even earlier
5. Still getting blossom-end rot
6. No fix so far. Even big tomatoes were in the 2oz range
7. Still need a more formal watering plan

8. MJ doesn’t like the wrinkly heirlooms ’cause they’re so hard to cut
9. labeling still needs work
10. giving up on corn
11. greenhouse covers worked well
12. no change

This Year’s Plan
Section 1
Peas and beans and greens

Section 2
Tomatoes and Squash. Plant bigger varietals of tomatoes. Plant mostly summer squash and 8-ball squash. Maybe a Delicata. Rest of the winter squash go in the yard

Section 3
Brassicae. Plant lots earlier.

The Schedule

Move everything up about two weeks
mid Feb – Start seeds indoors
mid April (60 days later) – Transplant
early July (70 days) – early varieties ripen
late July (90 days) – late varieties ripen

Tom Foley

October 19, 2013

Former Speaker of the House, Tom Foley has died, at 84. I was just starting on my Ph.D. studies, and Spokane was not yet on my radar (although I had friends there) the year he was voted out of office. I was amazed at how dumb a move that was on the part of the voters of Spokane. Whatever party he was from, he was the Speaker of the flipping House! Did the voters think they were voting on a new Speaker for Spokane? I am amazed that Spokane didn’t lose Fairchild AFB during the 1995 BRAC negotiations.

And what did they get as a result? George Nethercutt, a political hack who broke his promise on term limits (which is what helped him oust Foley) and conned the voters into letting him serve for ten years.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2013

October 18, 2013

Add three more to the list. I couldn’t finish the first episode of either of the first two, but I did what the anisensei all say to do — I watched the first three minutes before dropping the series. None of the reviews I’ve read since have changed my mind.

My Mental Choices…: Boy is haunted by a voice that forces him to choose between two stupid options (ForEx: A: eat the discarded porn mag B: sniff the discarded porn mag) and presumably uses this affliction to impress all the girls in his harem.

Samurai Flamenco: Wannabe superhero gets in fights with drunks, gets superhero suit set on fire, ends up naked in an alley. Not necessarily in that order.

I am not totally against stupid. Stupid has its place in anime.* Then again, there’s stupid and stupid. Life is too short. I’d rather go watch HOTD reruns.

Strike the Blood: Teen becomes supervamp, fights demons with the aid of a Lion King Org middle-schooler with no fashion sense.**

No, I'm not color-blind. Why do you ask?

No, I’m not color-blind. Why do you ask?

Too, too, melodramatic, and when not being TTM, was filled with useless expository lumps, and when not exposiating was just plain overwrought. I lasted through 2.75 eps before my wroughtmeter pegged.

——————————————

*There are friends of mine who would say that sentence is missing a comma

**I mean red plaid panties with blue plaid school uniform belt skirt? Did her parents teach her nothing? Ah,  right, she’s an orphan, raised by lions to kill supervamps.

Cheesy Oats

October 17, 2013

Continuing our search for the best oatmeal/cheese paring, we come to Tillamook Garlic White Cheddar Cheese. What’s not to like? It’s from the land where the sun don’t shine. It’s garlic, and you know what Jay Rosenber said “It’s difficult, but not impossible, to misuse garlic.” Well, Tillamook has pulled it off. The cheese is too strongly garlic, and I say this as someone who went to college thirty miles from Gilroy, CA, and who likes garlic. So, if you can’t eat it on crackers, what’s next? Dog treats? Oatmeal? Oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one quarter cup Tillamook Garlic White Cheddar Cheese,  two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of beef broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Dog treats.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 14, 2013

Garden Report for 131013

I left the container tomatoes wrapped up for a week, and uncovered them Sunday afternoon. No change. Tomatoes that were orangish going in, were orangish coming out. I suspect it’s just been too cool for them.

We have a bunch of cold clear nights coming up, with minimums down to 33F, which is reallyreally close to 32F, with highs that are all below 60F. So in between crashing on projects on the computer, I harvested everything. I know I’m supposed to pull up the whole plant and hang it somewhere warm, but when I got into the master bathroom MJ said she didn’t really want that, for some reason. What’s the harm? I mean, she hangs her underthings there.

So I have about half a basket of almost entirely green tomatoes. 12 pounds, total. I left the big-cherry-sized ones go, so all of them are over an ounce, but none of them are over about five. Average size for the season is just over two ounces. Total tomato take was just under 50lb, compared with last years’ just over 100lb. Counting the pumpkins (which is still kindof cheating), we got 117lbs of foodstuffs. I don’t think I’ve spent as much as $120 on the garden this year, but I’m sure it was over $60.

Here’s the final tally:

Week
Ending
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
lb
10/14
This Week
Tomato 100+ 192 ~2 333 47
Summer 10 2.0
8-Ball 4 7.6
Crown 2 5.5
Cuke 5 3.0
Beets 22 1.4
Delicata 3 6.0
Corn 18 3.3
Pumpkin 2 (41)
Final Total 76lb

They miss the Soviet Union

October 12, 2013

This news story about Major General Michael Carey and Vice Admiral Tim Giardina being fired got me to thinking about nuclear strike forces, then and now.

Back in the day, there was SAC, the Strategic Air Command. They controlled the Air Force’s stock of strategic nuclear weapons, which meant most of them. Bomber, and later, missile crews sat alert 24/7. Airborne command posts stayed airborne 24/7.

SAC took its job seriously. Before going on alert, crews took a nuclear weapons control test, and the only acceptable score was 100%. Anything less and the crew, the training officer, and the wing commander, might find themselves being flown down to numbered air force headquarters to explain to a general officer why they shouldn’t be fired. The second commander of SAC, and the man who shaped it into the elite force it became, was General Curtis LeMay. He is famous for saying “I can’t tell the difference between bad luck and bad management”. In LeMay’s day, If a SAC crew crashed a bomber, the wing commander was automatically fired and replaced with a new one. If a second bomber crashed the next day, the new wing commander was also fired. When SAC opened up its ‘Northern Teir’ bases, in North Dakota and Montana and Wyoming (to move them away from Soviet missile submarines), LeMay refused to relax readiness requirements, even in the face of blizzards and seriously sub-zero windchills on the flight lines, because he was worried that if he let standards slip, there’d be no bottom.

SAC felt it had to do this because the Soviet Union was our declared enemy (that’s a politically incorrect word, so we’d say adversary, or the competition, but everybody knew the e-word). The USSR had the ability to destroy the US completely, if it launched first. Flight time over the pole was 30min. Flight time from offshore SSBNs was as little as 15minutes. SAC had to be able to get enough bombers airborne in that amount of time to ensure the counter-destruction of the USSR. That was deterrence.

At the same time, they had to have absolute and total control of all the thousands of nuclear warheads in their inventory. In SAC, you had to know where every weapon was at all times. There were rigid rules about what could and couldn’t be done with them (plug a test pad into a bomb to see if it was still calibrated and you’d end up on report for using a live weapon as a test device). Everything around the weapon was a no-lone zone, where two weapons-qualified people were needed to pull a sheet of canvas over a weapon. The human reliability program saw to the psychological health of all SAC weaponeers. One young officer was pulled from missile duty and reassigned, because he asked for dynamic tension exercises he could do while buried in the ground on silo alert for a week, to keep from getting antsy. SAC doesn’t want antsy people near weapons. Theoretically, such reassignment doesn’t impact career prospects, except without crew experience his chances of becoming a commander were slim.

To get a flavor of what SAC was like in the early ’60’s, go find a copy of “Gathering of Eagles”, a typically Hollywood melodrama portrait starring that most manly of men, Rock Hudson. Despite its flaws, it still manages to capture some of the atmosphere of a SAC base.

And then, it all changed.

The Soviet Union went away. Russia lost a good many of its missile silos and bomber bases to newly independent states. Both sides stood down their alert forces, and both agreed to zero out the targetting information in the missile guidance packages, so that an accidental launch wouldn’t start a war. Both sides started reducing the size of their arsenals.  Russia remained a competitor, but was no longer an active enemy. It soon became obvious that nobody cared any more. Remember 2007, when the B-52 bomber crew flew from Minot, ND to Barksdale, LA, not noticing that two nuclear missiles were still on board?

SAC was gutted, with the remnants becoming part of Strategic Command, a command with the detail-oriented requirements of old, but without the compelling adrenalin rush that justified the absolute and total dedication to those details. SAC wanted anal-retentive warriors. SC wants anal retentives. What they’ve got, is anal retentives with a loose grip.

The problem is, it’s hard to maintain that level of commitment to the goal, when the goal is something like be kindof available in the unlikely event that somebody wants to blow up the world, or maybe just one town. The USSR gave the US nuclear force a reason for being. Right now, they don’t have that kind of a reason, and it shows.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2013

October 11, 2013

The Fall anime season has started, and I’m wasting time seeing what might appeal. So far, not a lot.

Nagi No Asukara (凪のあすから), Nagi’s Tomorrow, is about children of the sea forced to go to school on land. Gorgeous graphics, OK animation, total ignorance of the laws of fluid dynamics. Just because you can live and breathe there, doesn’t mean you can walk the same way, or cook stew in a pot. Obviously, they’ve never heard of a Reynolds number. The rest is all clash of cultures and coming-of-age angst of middle schoolers, not something I feel like watching right now.

Infinite Stratos 2 Typical high school harem show. Transformer suits only girls can operate, except that the clueless male protagonist [insert your name here] is the only boy in the world who can do it. First episode was fun because they packed everything from maid/butler to shower scenes to the beach trip in one ep. Still, ya seen one, etc…

Walkure Romanze (ワルキューレ ロマンツェ), Valkyrie Romance. A Visual Novel adaptation set in a jousting school. Remember how one of the strong points of Girls und Panzer was how well they did the tanks? WalRom’s approach to horses is exactly the opposite. Their scenery is quite good. Their characters are reasonably well drawn (except that their lady-armor design has lots of what the tank community would call shot traps). Their concept of horse movement seems to have come from 17th Century English foxhunting prints. I dropped it at the 11:35 point

MeganeBu (メガネブ) Glasses Club. Boys wearing glasses turn themselves into asses. The first episode looks like a opthalmologists version of the swimming anime Free!. The color palette looks like they hired Shaft Studio’s Monogatari staff to do their color.

Ace of the Diamond is a country-boy comes to the city to make a name for himself in baseball anime. I like baseball anime, if it’s about baseball. So far, this one is about the character development of a smart-ass little shit with a good arm. In the first episode, everybody shouts, and the protagonist cries a lot, when he’s not trying to be M.T. Luffey, and we see a grand total of two pitches, one wild, and the other a cliff-hanger at the end of the episode. The artwork is OK, except during the action (AKA pitching) scenes, when it turns into a bunch of heavy-penciled comic-book stills with speedlines. Big Windup (Ōkiku Furikabutte), a baseball anime from 2007, is my gold standard for baseball anime. It features the character development of a spineless wimp of a pitcher, but it has the saving grace of being almost entirely about baseball, with the character development tacked on between episode-long coverage of games. I might look in on this one again, mid-season.

Three Grain Oatmeal

October 10, 2013

A couple weeks ago I harvested the corn I had been growing on my deck, and a miserable harvest it was. Sixteen plants produced eight usable ears with twenty-two ounces of corn on the cob between them. We steamed them and cut the kernels off the cobs. They were tough, chewey, and stuck to my teeth. I think that’s the end of my corn-growing adventures.

Meanwhile, we had some leftover corn. Never one to pass up an odd food pairing, I dropped a couple heaping dinner tablespoons of the corn into some chicken broth, and added a little poultry seasoning. Since corn doesn’t thicken too well, I added my usual potato flakes, giving a healthy three-grain meal. Three starch. You know what I mean.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, two tablespoons of cooked corn kernels, one cup of chicken broth, poultry seasoning, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the corn at the beginning, and the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: The corn stuck to my teeth. Of course, this isn’t really fair to the corn. I suspect that if I’d used frozen corn, or even canned, it would have come off a lot better. I’d save it for a dinner side dish, though.

Rating: *****

GOP Solidarity

October 7, 2013

Everyone knows Republicans walk side by side to overstate their numbers. — Ben Kenobe

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 7, 2013

Garden Report for 131007

As has become traditional, the publication of last Monday’s report was immediately followed by two days of wild weather, with sustained winds of 40mph gusting to 50. When it wasn’t winding it was raining, about half an inch worth.

Despite the lack of frost, the long beans didn’t survive. By Monday afternoon they were all wilted, and the beans were still only 3″ long. The lemon cucumbers didn’t survive. There was only one worth picking. As a precaution, I harvested the KHG tomatoes and squash. Less than half a basket. I also harvested the just-breaking pumpkin, and found it quite orange on the ground side (22lb).

The projected lows were in the lower 30’s with one night of light frost, so I harvested any tomatoes with color from the container plants, and then watered them and wrapped them all in plastic. I don’t plan to open it up for a week or more. I don’t expect to get more than 5lb of tomatoes there, bringing the total to maybe 40lb or so. This time last year I had close to 100lb.

I harvested the KHG corn, 10 ears of corn, 30oz worth (when husked, but not stripped from the cob), two were six inch long monsters. It tasted much better than the deck-grown, but I still think it’s too much trouble.

In KHG Section 2, where I planted lots of lettuce two weeks ago, almost nothing has come up. Well, a mass of seedlings came up in one corner, then disappeared. I suspect slugs. On Sunday, our last really warm day for a while, I replanted, and then liberally dusted with diatomaceous earth. I used that heavily earlier in the year, and am down to my last 40lb.

Cooked up one of the Delicatas. They’re a lot like Acorn squash, with a slightly sweeter flavor and a slightly different texture. We will do them again next year. Note that they were nothing like the picture on the packet. The packet squash are long things, like pie pumpkins. Our Delicatas were the same size and shape as an Acorn squash, but the packet-depicted Delicata coloring.

Week
Ending
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
lb
9/23
Last Week
Tomato 80 288 3.6 188 29.5
Summer 0 0 0 3 1.2
8-Ball 1 39 39 3 7.0
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 0 0 0 4 2.7
Beets 0 0 0 22 1.4
Delicata 2 64 32 3 6.0
Corn 8 22 2.75 8 1.4
Pumpkin 1 19lb 1 (19)
Running Total 51lb
10/7
This Week
Tomato 43 93 2 233 35.3
Summer 7 13 2 10 2.0
8-Ball 1 10 10 4 7.6
Crown 1 57 57 2 5.5
Cuke 1 2 2 5 3.0
Beets 0 0 0 22 1.4
Delicata 0 0 0 3 6.0
Corn 10 30 3 18 3.3
Pumpkin 1 22lb 20.5lb 2 (41)
Running Total 64lb

An open letter to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

October 5, 2013

Ms Rodgers,
I am nearly seventy years old, a military veteran, a Republican for most of my life. I lived in Washington, DC, for fifteen years. I’ve lived in your district for fifteen years. I voted for you, once. I have never seen such irresponsible conduct as is now being shown by you and the Republican Party in the House of Representatives.

I wasn’t going to write to you about the shutdown, but your latest screed forced my hand. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a tissue of lies from one end to another. You must have an exceedingly low opinion of the voters of eastern Washington if you think that document will be believed by anyone smart enough to read an email.

You had the chance to be a statesman. You are in a safe Republican district, and there’s no-one in sight who can mount a credible threat from your right. You could have been one of the sane voices in Congress, but instead you voted to furlough tens of thousands of hard-working government workers and shut down much-needed services, like NIH, in what amounts to a fit of partisan political pique because you lost the game of partisan politics.

The LA Times reports that, in an 1860 speech at New York’s Cooper Union, President Lincoln said:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. […] A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

This describes your actions exactly.

I cannot say that you’ve lost my vote over this, because you lost that years ago when you voted against ACA, and then lied about what it said. What I can say is that you have encouraged me to spend some time searching the country for Democratic candidates in competitive districts, and then supporting them with my campaign contributions.

Figgy Curried Oatmeal

October 3, 2013

An early Fall cold wave, and I’m looking for something hearty for breakfast, and also for something to commemorate the 600th entry in this blog. That means curry. The question is, what to add to round out the flavor? Well, MJ just came back from the store with a jar of fig jam. We have a somewhat limited repertoire of jams these days, because we’re trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup and almost all commercial jams list that as their first ingredient, right before 2,4,D, Dimethyl Hydrazine.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth (I used chicken), one block of Golden Curry, one slobbery dinner tablespoon of fig jam, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Yummers. Curry always goes good with fruit, and this is no exception. I may end up using more of the jam in my oatmeal than I do on my muffins.

Rating: *****

I miss the Soviet Union

October 1, 2013

It is said somewhere that your worst enemy is also your best friend, because it’s they who keep you up to the mark and true to yourself.

Back in the day, we spent a lifetime staring down the threat posed by the Soviet Union. They truly had the power to destroy the United States, to rub us out of existence. We could have done the same thing right back at them, but by then our country would be well on its way to radioactive non-existence.  For that matter, the Soviet Union, and us, could have made a good start at destroying human civilization. That didn’t happen.

It didn’t happen because the United States had two clear goals — prevent nuclear war and halt the growth of communism, in part by demonstrating that our system worked better than theirs, both for the elite and for the workers. It took seventy years or so, but we did it. We defeated the communist system so badly that even their power elite agreed it was unworkable, and we did it without fighting a nuclear war. Our politicians were, for the most part, statesmanlike, willing to compromise for the greater good. As far as Greatest Generations go, those of my generation gave our parents a pretty good run for their money.

So the Soviet Empire collapsed, and the threat of nuclear Armageddon faded. There were no enemies left, at least none worthy of the name. The USSR was gone, and the US was left astride the world like a colossus.

“And then what happened, daddy?”

And then it all fell apart. For seventy years, the politicians knew that if they made a mistake, it would hurt us in the undecided minds of the third world. If we showed a flaw in our ability to govern ourselves, the Soviets would be there in a heartbeat, prying and poking and widening the flaw until it gave them the ability to defeat us. We had to stand strong, we had to be governed by statesmen, because we were the hope of the world.

But once the enemy was gone, once there was no existential threat to the nation (and as far as existential threats to the US, Al Qaida and its ilk are dangerous but laughable bumblers who never scored better than a 75% success rate on their best day), once there was no external reason to compromise in order to display a united front, well then, our statesmen turned into politicians. For that seventy event-filled years, our politicians agreed that a strong and well-run country was essential to our survival and well-being. Power was important, but not power at any price. Ideology was important, but not at the expense of the country. Those who forgot that, those who (like “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy) attempted to turn governance into a platform for personal power, were rejected, reviled, and forgotten. Today, the single, solitary goal of the politicians is to gain power and to hold on to it.

Or, I should say, the single, solitary goal of Republican politicians is to gain power and to hold onto it. We know the mechanical reasons — demographics, gerrymandering, safe seats attackable only from the right. What we don’t talk about is the profound moral collapse of the party. There are those who could take a principled, statesmanlike stand. My own representative Cathy McMorris Rogers, is in a safely Republican seat, with no sign of a credible threat from her right. She could stand for the country, but doesn’t. She could be a statesman, instead of being a Republican Party hack, but she isn’t. She’s dedicated to keeping and extending what power the GOP now has, and to hell with the long-term interests of the country.

Why don’t I include the Democrats? Because they are the party of diversity, and they have to foster compromise within their own party if it is to have any kind of a coherent policy. They could have played the government shutdown card when Bush was in office, but they didn’t. They are forced to be morally better than the GOP, in the same way the US was forced to be morally better than the USSR.

So, we have a sequester — a self-punishment so bad even the Republicans would seek compromise to avoid, but they didn’t — and we now have the government shut-down, for however long this farce lasts, and we’re staring a default on our debts if things continue as they must.

When we had the Soviet Union as an adversary, we could look inside ourselves and pull out the courage and strength of character needed. Without the Soviet Union, Republican politicians can no longer find such things as character and courage, all they can produce is petty, greedy, small-minded clutching for power at any cost.