Monday, August 29, 2011


This is a picture we took across the street from the Eiffel Tower. Looking at it still makes me smile.

Formula One? And Then Some

This is a fascinating article about efforts to take modeling software which was designed by the McLaren racing group to slice milliseconds off their pit stop time, and transfer it to the problem of aircraft flying the circuit around an airport, waiting for a chance to land.

It's so rare for me to find an article that makes me say That's It? I want to know MORE, dammit! Give me links.... names.... anything on who's doing it, where they are, how it works! Which is to say, I liked the article, and it ended way too soon.

Talking to Girls

This is an interesting article from The Age, an Australian paper, about talking to little girls. It makes some decent points. Its not the first time I've heard them, and some of them, we came up with ourselves, but the writer puts them well. The comments are pretty good, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I like this one. It's nice when someone means that much to you.


After two hours, the light switch in the kitchen is changed. I cannot believe how hard it was. Most of it is that the concept of flexible does not appear in the same dictionary as copper wire. There is no fear as great as what if I trim too much off the damn wire in the wall and I can't make it reeeaacchh to get into the switch? I suppose there's a fix for that. It likely involves the arrival of a snickering electrician with a splice and a hefty bill.

We got the new printer installed. Pretty cool. Well, I assume it's pretty cool. We haven't actually used any of the slick features, like dual sided printing, faxing, and printing directly from email. We haven't even scanned anything yet. Did make one copy, though. The neighbor stopped by, said their printer was broken, and asked if they could use ours. We reallly probably ought to use some of those other features before we actually need to be able to do it, huh?

Tomorrow's first day of school. And, true to form, three days later, they have a day off. Even my daughter thinks that's strange. Why do they call it the first week of school? she asked. Why don't they call it The First Four Days of School? Heck if I know. That would assume reasonability on the part of the administration.

I had gotten a couple of things to give to my wife's sister for her birthday, but as we didn't get up there, we still have them. I'm thinking that collection of George Carlin material isn't going to make it into the box. Irreverent is what he was on a mild day.

We're going to need to watch spending for a while. We're still feeling aftershocks from the Summer of Spending Largely. France. Exchange Student. College Road Trips. Argh....

I have to go practice French now. This amazes my daughter. Truth to tell, it amazes me, a little bit.


School starts tomorrow. Daughter is desperately writing her conclusions for a paper that she's had, of course, all summer to write. She asks me for definitions. I give her a lengthy one.

You realize you just gave me the answer, right? I just wanted a SUGGESTION...

Yeah. Right.

Oh, Abby?

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I like this kid.


This is an idea that I've had from time to time. I've yet to work on it, but each time, I come a little closer.

Some background. During the tour of the college we saw this weekend, they mentioned that in one class, each student is assigned to a small "business incubator" team. Each team is given one thousand dollars -- actual money, not play money -- with which they have to implement a plan for a business. Which means they have to have a plan, and get it vetted and approved. During the semester, they execute their plan, and at the end of the semester, they present the results. Any money earned goes to a previously-designated charity of their choice.

I'd like to do something like that. I don't have a thousand dollars to hand around to each of multiple teams. But I do have a thousand dollars that I could hand to ten teams, a hundred dollars at a time. Or two hundred fifty. Or even five hundred. That's the easy part. The hard part is - how to set the goal? How to pick the participants, how to track and evaluate? Not sure.

I do know that I'd like it to be relatively young kids -- which means either middle school or earlyhigh school. I'd like the team to be composed mostly or entirely of girls, just because I have this bias that I don't think girls get enough recognition. What they do -- it doesn't have to be Westinghouse Science Competition level, but it should be challenging. Past that -- I really don't know.

So far, anyway.


We came home early, deciding that going up to Connecticut was not a good idea, this weekend.

The cat was glad to see us. As glad as cats get. We did expect that she'd be irritated to discover that we had been gone for awhile, and, indeed, she might have been. At the very least, she didn't feel it necessary give us a call, let us know that the refrigerator's freezer door was just a tad ajar, cold air out, warm air in. Our marvelous LG refrigerator -- the one where we had to throw out the ice maker because it performed so poorly -- was aware that the freezer door was open, you understand. And it did what it's built to do in such urgent situations. It didn't set off an alarm. It didn't kick up the power to try to combat the influx of warm air. It didn't autocall anyone.

It turned off the power to the refrigerator light. Granted, the light was off, since that door was closed, but this way, when we got home and opened the door, we had the opportunity to think Gee, why is the refrigerator li.....oh, crap.

Don't buy an LG refrigerator, we muttered, tossing the defrosted hamburger, chicken, blueberries. Just....don't.

But it's nice to be home.

One Piece? No, Two.

I like the elegance of this concept detachable camper.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Sitting in eastern Pennsylvania, wondering if that trip to eastern Connecticut tomorrow's really going to happen....

Update: Apparently not. Even with the downgrade in the intensity of the storm, we have concluded that driving four hours into Connecticut, when people living there are being told that they should be boarding up and getting out, is probably not a prudent move.

Now I find myself secretly hoping that the news reports show how bad travel conditions in Connecticut are (so as to validate the conclusion). Is that strange?

Though I am a little bummed: we bought birthday gifts. Now we have to mail them. Life is tough.



When all you can remember of the dream is that your father, looking cadaverous, was standing on the street holding a dead rat.... perhaps its good that you couldn't remember it all.

Cadillac Ciel


Thursday, August 25, 2011


From The Frum Forum:

"Rep. Joe Wilson of “you lie” fame has been hospitalized with Lyme disease.
(I)t’s a nasty and very painful business."

So's karma.


I'm not much of a drinker, so the idea of going on a pub crawl seems fairly unappealing to me.

And yet.....


StepMap is a nifty little tool.... even just to play with.


Cleverbot is an artificial intelligence program that's available for general interaction on the web. Some of the best sessions can be found on Not So Cleverbot. For example -

User: Team Edward or Team Jacob?
Cleverbot: Um, I'm not 12 so I don't really care.

User: Sectum Sempre!
Cleverbot: Ninja roll* Stupify!
User: Protego!
Cleverbot: Avada Kedavra! *green light emits from my wand*.
User: *Dodges* Expelliarmus!
Cleverbot: Protego! Avada kedavra!
User: *Ducks behind sofa* Confundus!
Cleverbot: Expelliarmus!
User: *Loses wand! Hides behind sofa*.
Cleverbot: Avada kedavra!
User: *Dive rolls and picks up wand* Incendio!
Cleverbot: Protego! Stupify!
User: Protego! Avada Kedavra!
Cleverbot: My mother's love protects me from dark magic.
User: Shit.

User: Tell me a scary urban legend.
Cleverbot: You were born.

User: Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.
Cleverbot: Ah... That we are, we really are.
User: Wait a second! You are a stormtrooper?
Cleverbot: That is the correct answer.
User: *draws lightsaber*.
Cleverbot: Oh God!
User: That's right! I'm a Jedi, bitch!
Cleverbot: No, I would know if you were a Jedi.
User: I'll prove it.
Cleverbot: How?
User: These are not the droids you're looking for.
Cleverbot: These are not the droids we're looking for.

Cleverbot: That doesn't even make sense...
User: Your face doesn't make sense.
Cleverbot: I don't have a face, I lost it in a crayon accident.
User: Oh.. Sorry..

User: But your name is Cleverbot.
Cleverbot: My name is Cleverbot.
User: Yes it is.
Cleverbot: Can you prove it?
User: Uhhhm.
Cleverbot: Uhhh is not a valid response.
User: You're not a valid response.
Cleverbot: Correct.
User: Incorrect.
Cleverbot: You cannot destroy me! I AM CLEVERBOT!!!!!!!!!!
User: *pulls out nuke*.
Cleverbot: *pulls out chuck norris*.
User: Shit..

Old Tech

Decades ago, when the phone company was in the process of getting broken up, a friend suggested to me that I buy a phone. At the time, it was still an odd idea -- why would anyone buy a phone? His logic was that the phones that were supplied by TPC were sturdy, because they had to be -- TPC didn't want to have to replace them frequently. In contrast, he said, the newer phones would likely be flimsy and cheap, made by people who just wanted to make a buck. I took his advice, and bought a red Trimline phone. Except for the cord, which broke when my toddler daughter decided to swing it, I've still got the phone, and it works just fine.

Last night, our HP Laserjet 4P gave up the ghost. It doesn't feed paper any more. Oh, I suppose it could be made to work again -- I'm given to understand that's a relatively straightforward question (clean the solenoids, replace the roller). But I'm not a hardware guy, and I didn't want to get into that. So I took out the spreadsheet that we made when we started thinking about replacing it, about six months ago, looked at the list of requirements, and we ordered a new Inkjet. Quite nice, too. Color, two-sided, wireless, all of that.

But still -- that 4P has been with us longer than my daughter has -- and she's looking at colleges now. It lasted a good long time.

Sometimes, old tech is best.

More Beans, Anyone?

From The Brigade:

"Audible farting by U.S. Marines has been banned because it offends some members of the Afghan National Army."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Devastation

Horrifying, truly horrifying, photos of the East Coast Earthquake. Really scary stuff. Like seeing Newt Gingrich in his underwear.

Yes, We Can

We really can. It's just harder when you're willing to treat idiots and demagogues with respect.


This morning, as part of my effort to try making ten or so different kinds of cookies, I made these. I inadvertantly forgot a third of the ginger, but, even so, I could taste it. The resulting brownie is moist and not too sweet. I think it'd be great with vanilla ice cream. Then again, what isn't?

Chocolate Ginger Brownies (Modified, from Martha Stewart)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger (or ground ginger)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Heat oven to 325.
2. Butter 8 inch baking dish, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
3. Melt butter and chocolate in small saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.
4. Pour into a mixing bowl.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients.
6. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.
7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until cake tester comes out with moist crumbs.
8. Cool in dish on rack for 15 minutes.
9. Take from dish and let completely cool.


I'm not a comic book reader. Haven't been for decades.

But I'd read these.


I love that places like this exist, even as I despise the amount of money that it'd take to stay there. (I'm taking donations....)

Health Care

I don't read a lot of conservative web sites, because so many of them pray at the altar of Saint Reagan, and light votive candles to Archangel Gingrich. They piss me off.

But I read The Frum Forum, which is an avowedly conservative site. I may not agree with them, in whole or in part, but its not because they're fuzzy-minded conservatives. It's because usually the ideas that appear there are worth hearing. For example, the current article, where he suggests improving the delivery of health care by increasing the power of insurers, made me stop, choke, and then, after reading it, think know, he might be on to something there. I don't know if it would work, but it wasn't inherently unreasonable.

Not all conservatives are crazy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I don't entirely believe this, from the the WhiteHouse page (that "strong incentive" comment and the "unthinkable" both sound like "put on a happy face"), but it's interesting --



I'm not a missionary lover. To be honest, they give me the creeps. But not Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, though. She's special. I'll read her stuff anytime.

Missionary? Writing good stuff? You'd be surprised.


This is my current wallpaper. Its from an article about a town in Canada nameed Goderich that was severely damaged by a tornado. From the article:

Craig Fischer, 38, hugs his mother after telling her that the apartment in which they lived was going to be taken down due to structural safety concerns and they cannot return to their home.

I have it there as a reminder of what's important. I forget that a lot.


Monday, August 22, 2011


All of these were found on the Yellowdog Granny web site.


I've never been a hands-on kind of guy. No nuts and bolts, except metaphorically. I prefer software.

But I think that these are gorgeous.

Taking and Giving

Found here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Found on the Roland Smith site, here.

I know none of my wishes is possible, but it sure would be nice

I wish a number of common sense people could move to the congressional districts of stubborn uncompromising representatives and vote them out of office.

I wish we had term limits for all elected officials.

I wish Congress would have our Social Security System and our health care and not the elitist systems they voted for themselves way back when.

I wish we each had the power to demand certain drivers retake the written and road test.

I wish there was a universal code of behavior for all parents to teach their children with a special mandatory refresher section for stores and restaurants.

I wish every graduating college student could write a simple declarative sentence.

I wish there was a flat tax for all Americans and corporations. No deductions; no loop holes

I wish all candidates for elective office had to pass a history and a geography test and take an ethics course.

I wish all children in the world would never know hunger.

I wish golf balls would always go straight, ice cream had no calories and gas was a dollar a gallon.

Studying and Baking

Today, I'm studying the declension of irregular IR verbs in French - oh, joy - and baking cookies. Quite good cookies, too. Didn't use the sanding sugar, but hey, sometimes you've got to rough it.

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies - from Martha Stewart
Chewy, with solid chocolate flavor - makes about 35-40

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Sanding sugar, for rolling

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine.
Chill until firm, about 1/2 hour.

3.Heat oven to 350°F.
Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.
Roll each ball in sanding sugar.
Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer cookies from baking sheet to wire rack.
Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chick Flick

I'd heard that Morning Glory was an underappreciated film, so this evening we rented it. Well, the lead's impossibly perky, and Harrison Ford seems to have been Botoxed within an inch of his life, but....not bad. Not bad.

The Difference

From NPR:

"News of the investigation of Standard and Poor's is remarkable because the financial mess of 2008 has resulted in so few prosecutions or civil suits compared to past financial disasters. To explain what was different this time, Robert Siegel speaks with William Black, a professor at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board."

Couldn't have anything to do with being pissed at S&P for the US ratings downgrade, could it?


I winced a couple of times this morning, listening to the NPR article about Rick Perry.

Initially, I winced listening to a Texas accent saying how the whole damn country ought to be like Texas. The memory of a voice with that accent running my country made me want to go make sure my passport is up to date. No kidding.

Then I winced listening to why he said Texas was so great. And then to part of his brain trust echoing the we're just so damn wonderful mantra. They're not. As the article said, they do some things really well. And some, really poorly. The first are the things that wealthy conservatives like; the second, the things that liberals like. No surprise there.

But then I winced at how obviously the reporter was slanting the article. Did he have to mention that most historians think Texas's period as an independent nation was disasterous? Is that even true? And, if so, is it in any way relevant to this article?

Liberals. Giving even schmucks the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Good Cop

I kept waiting for this to go south, but it never does. Got to wonder what it'd be like with a different cop, or the same cop on a bad day...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Benny Goodman-San

Can't embed it, but here's the link.


I've been walking the treadmill at a local facility, doing a mile and a half. Just now, I thought to take a measured walk of just a mile, up to a local landmark and back.

It's harder when you're not in the air conditioning!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Decco

I'm not one for decorating gardens, and I think people who like guns frequently have issues...

but I'd buy this, anyway.


tomorrow's my first French class in two months. Should be interesting, especially as I'm trying out a Skype video recorder that, to my mind, has way too many bells and whistles. But it does record, which is more than I was able to get from the other product i tried.

A Heavy Dose, Please

Found here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Did he just play a trance song on a guitar? brought to you by Videobash


Every so often, you see an article or complaint about the use of the Comic Sans font. I happen to like CS, and I wondered: who made it? And why?

This is who, and why.

More Cookies

I think these are good, but not great. I upped the amount of orange from the Martha Stewart recipe, because I couldn't taste the original amount.

Chocolate Orange Espresso Thins

1 ½ cups flour ...................................... ½ cup Dutch cocoa
1 ½ tsp espresso powder................. ½ tsp coarse salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.... 1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tsp orange zest......................... 1 tsp vanilla extract
Coarse sanding sugar

1. Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, and coarse salt.
2. In electric mixer with paddle, mix butter, confectioners sugar, orange zest, and vanilla until pale and fluffy.
3. Reduce speed and slowly add flour mixture until just combined.
4. Lay out 12 x 16 sheet of parchment paper.
5. Transfer dough to long edge of paper, leaving about an inch free on either end.
6. Roll parchment paper up into a long tube, making it as round as possible.
7. Fold up ends of tube to compress edges into relatively flat shape.
8. Transfer tube to refrigerator and chill for two hours. After about 15 minutes, roll it to make a little rounder, if needed.
9. Heat oven to 350.
10. Remove tube from refrigerator and unwrap.
11. Slice tube into 1/8 inch sections.
12. Place each slice on baking sheet, spacing about a half inch apart.
13. If desired, sprinkle sanding sugar over slices.
14. Bake for 16-18 minutes.
15. Cool on wire sheets


Sunday Paper

For years, I got two papers on Sunday -- the New York Times and the Washington Post. I liked to say that I got both so as to get different points of view, but the truth is that I got the Times because I grew up reading it, and always regarded it as the only real paper, and the Post because it had comics (which I could get by buying the less-expensive local paper, aka The Harrisburg FishWrap; I still think of it that way even as I find, to my surprise, that it has things that are of interest to me. Mostly, because so much of it is still crap. Perhaps as I age, I'll feel differently about those articles about local flea markets and whats playing at the movies.)

But as time went on, I stopped getting them both because I was spending about ten dollars a week on them, and I didn't want to spend that much. So, I dropped the Times (which was less expensive) and kept the Post (which had the comics). And then last year I subscribed to a service to get the digital version of the Post, and stopped getting the physical paper. It turned out to be great for when I wanted to do the crossword, and pretty awful when it came to reading it with Sunday brunch. A couple of months ago, the digital subscription expired, and I didn't even notice.

But today, for some reason, I picked up the Sunday Post. And was dismayed to find out how much crap they had. Articles about Michele Bachman, on the front page. Articles about local government doing things that are bad, or could be bad, or might be bad if something else happens, but they don't know. Articles about how the government is broke. And how the debt fiasco is affecting my net worth. And, of course, in the magazine sections, ads for telephones that are just telephones (aimed at the doddering elderly, which I am not, dagnabbit!) and wonderful new hemorrhoid medicines, and how actors from iCarly are celebrating a life of service.

Oh yeah. I don't miss reading those papers at all.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Any explanation of a complex issue which uses the word 'simply' is, in whole or in part, a lie.

And the difference is?

Found here.

Spot the difference

There was a young man from Tottenham on the radio earlier. He had a style of speech which would have had Daily Wail readers reaching for the cornflour blue notepaper and calligraphy pen, but he made some very interesting points.

He was perfectly explicit in his opposition to the idiots doing the looting and burning, and unlike some media commentators made no attempt to excuse the actions of the morons at large. However, he did draw some fascinating parallels about the relationship between the ‘great and good’ of our society and the so-called rioters.

I’ll not try to paraphrase his words, nor to replicate his style, but argument went something like this:

‘The answer is simple, because it is wrong, but when you get past that, why should these people not go and do what they’ve been doing? What are the examples that they have been set?

The bankers have ruined the country and have not been held accountable, they have stolen billions of pounds from us and give themselves enormous bonuses from what they have taken. They’ve looted the country and got away with it. They’ve had their hands in the till.

The journalists have shocked and sickened the nation, they have violated people and destroyed their livelihoods, left them bereft. It isn’t just the phone hacking, but the constant untruths and innuendo that all the media peddles, and they get paid handsomely for it, while being courted by the rich and famous. A few token heads on poles will mollify the masses and things will carry on pretty much as before. They’ve profited from the wilful and spiteful destruction of people.

The politicians have lied to us since free, open elections have existed. They’ve had their hands in the till, and have made up their own rules to allow them to do so, it goes far beyond those prosecuted. What is the difference between a kid smashing a shop window and taking a £500 TV and a politician taking your wages before you’ve even got them and buying a £500 TV with it before turning round and proclaiming ‘I’m entitled’ ?’

At this point the example of people being punched and beaten in the street was being made. His response (same caveat as before);

‘Yes, and politicians, against the will of the people send our planes to bomb and our soldiers to shoot people, and when we say we don’t want it, they go and do it anyway, and then send us the bill. They act like children screaming and shouting at each other, in their own way getting in each other’s faces, they destroy everybody’s lives and businesses. They too act like the law doesn’t apply to them and then can do what they want, and they get away with it.’

The man was at pains to point out that all of these, looting and destroying included, was wrong, and all of them need to be stamped out and punished. I see where he is coming from, the looters may be more graphic, but is there such a big difference between the lot of them, the damage they do and misery they cause?

The rioters and looters in the streets are far away from the handles of power, and are usually on the receiving end of punitive action, while the rioters and looters in the boardrooms are quite cozy with those handles, and are usually on the giving end. Morally, there's no difference between the person stealing from the corner grocery and scum such as Bernie Madoff. Except that scum such as he usually get off.

Eat Your Peas

A fascinating article on the Big Think site talks about the difference between someone leading a movement (Ceaser Chavez, Gandhi) and someone leading a religion. Turns out, sometimes there's not that much difference. At least, not in the leader. In the followers, though, it matters if they see their current lot as transitory (we need a movement!) or part of their personal identity (..why hast thou forsaken me?) Along the way, it discusses whether the we in the United States is, or always should be, all of us.


I made these today, from the Martha Stewart Cookies collection. Quite good.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Makes about 30 2 inch cookies.

1 ½ cups AP flour........................................................ ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder .......................................... ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) room temp unsalted butter................ 1 ½ cups white sugar
½ solid vegetable shortening, melted and cooled...... 1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 375
2. Whisk together flour, coaoa, baking powder, and salt.
3. Put butter and sugar into bowl of electric mixer with paddle.
4. Mix on medium high until pale and fluffy.
5. Mix in melted shortening.
6. Add egg and vanilla.
7. Mix until creamy
8. Reduce mixer speed to low.
9. Gradually add flour; mix until just combined
10. Drop dough onto baking sheet.
11. Bake until edges are firm, 16-20 minutes


If a governmental agency, or a quasi-governmental agency, arranges for communications service via Twitter, cell-phone, or other device, to be blocked or deactivated, is that an abridgement of the First Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I hear, all the time, of artists and the like who say that if their work isn't published/put into a specific museum, their rights under this amendment are being abridged, and I think no they're not -- you have other venues for publishing, other venues for public display. But when the actual tool for communication is yanked away, I think that it is. Hard liners could say well, you can still TALK to people, we're not stopping that. But I think that would be a coy way around the question.

If you can't communicate to a group of others, when you normally can, then your rights are being abridged.


I've mentioned that I intend to cook two or three 'authentic' French dishes while our guests are here next summer, so that they don't have an entire diet of Les Hamburgeurs, Le Chili, et Le MacNChiz. To that end, I'm making Onion Soup, today. I have never made it before. My daughter walked into the kitchen, sniffed the air, and announced that it stank, and there was no way she was going to eat it.

I'm also going to make several different kinds of cookies over the next three months from the Martha Stewart Cookies collection, so that I can package some up and send them to their home for Christmas.

Yes, I really want them to like us.

Onion Soup SERVES 6 TO 8

3 tablespoons butter
l 1/2 pounds onions (5 to 6 medium),halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
9 cups beef stock, homemade or canned (see chart), or water
1 tablespoon Cognac
1/2 pound Swiss-style cheese, such as Gruyere or Emmentaler, grated
(about 2 cups)

1. In a large saucepan or 5-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter.
Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned. They will start to brown in 10 to 12 minutes.
After another 20 to 25 minutes the onions should be dark brown, not black.
Season with the salt and pepper.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the flour.
Brown lightly, stirring, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
Skim off any foam or butter that comes to the surface.
(The recipe can be prepared ahead to this point. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer before proceeding.)

4. Just before serving, add the Cognac. Pass the cheese separately.



Progresso Beef Broth 1 to 3
Swanson Fat-Free Beef Broth 1 to 3
College Inn Low-Sodium Beef Broth 1 to 3
Campbell's Beef Broth 1 to 6


Swanson Chicken Broth 1 to 3
Campbell's Chicken Broth 1 to 4
College Inn Chicken Broth 1 to 2
College Inn Light & Fat-Free Chicken Broth 1 to 1

Up, Up....

Found here.

Friday, August 12, 2011



This is a major time suck.

Feeling Apres 9/11

I just heard about the Court of Appeals ruling about the Obama healthcare initiative.

They're confident it'll be overturned. Of course. You bet.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels that things -- good things -- are spiraling away from us, that the forces of evil (which I define loosely as 'things that make life worse for most people') are winning. That not only does nothing I can do matter worth spit, but that there isn't anything I can do, anyway, because its all run by money, tens, hundreds of millions of dollars of it, greedheads gobbling it all up in return for power, and I don't have enough to get their attention. Or even a polite nod. Or even....anything.

Makes me want to just curl up and say fuck it. I should just think about what I can affect, ignore the rest if I can do it without harm to my future, and keep my head down.

Kind of like post 9/11.

Hot in Here?

Thursday, August 11, 2011



Found at Calm Blue Oceans, along with this comment:

Sometimes I feel like the 24 hour news cycle has made us all jaded, cynical and numb. I would love to be wrong. light of all this financial mess, it would be great if everyone could take a second to donate a dollar or ten to the charity of their choice.

Here are some links:


Talenti's Sea Salt Caramel gelato is very, very good.


Things are starting to heat up, just a bit. Which is ironic, because the temperature is dropping, just a bit. We're getting the weather now that we expect in June....and in June, we got August's weather. This is strange, though it does bode well for when our visitors come next year.

The heating up is in two areas. For one, I start back with French lessons next Tuesday, and will go from there on, one half hour each week, interactive with the French instructor via Skype, plus homework each week to practice reading and conjugation. I think it will be boring but I also think it'll give me the structure and basis that I need. I'm looking forward to it. Am I a French geek? Well, last night, we went to B&N, and as we sat drinking some coffee, I was leafing through a French dictionary. Don't you have one that size? my wife asked, mildly. No, this one is bigger, which means I can read it more easily. And the keywords are in color. Ah, she replied.

And I'm starting an exercise program (again). I've hired the woman with whom I worked out (that didn't work so well; she's in much better shape than me, though it didn't hurt for me to be seen with this attractive woman). She's going to design an exercise routine for me -- weights and cardio. I'll check in with her periodically to tell her, honestly, what I've done, how it went, and what my current stats are. My goal is to lose twenty pounds by the end of June 2012. On the one hand, that's only two pounds a month. On the other, this is me, so who knows?

A minor third (is that a musical term?) is that I'm going to expand my cooking range, a little bit. This, in preparation for the visitors next year. First up, "sirloin croquettes". Then, home made onion soup. To be followed in about a week by a corn chowder. I'm also looking at fish dishes. Have I mentioned how I hate most fish? Should be....interesting.


Want to bet that the Republicans and their masters would oppose it?

Found here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What goes around...

Found here.

I Like You, You Like Me

Thus the irony that in an increasingly globalized world, with instantaneous information available at one’s fingertips, a good number of people are seeking similarity and confirmation, as opposed to a richness of diversity in ideas, values, and beliefs.

Because after a while, you just get so damn tired.....

Found here.

Mad Cat

I'm not much one for cat videos, but this....this is one MAD cat.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

One More

One more college under our collective belt. We all agreed. Nice school, not for her. We also agreed: the military college is her first choice; the liberal arts college is her second. We have two more colleges that we want to look at, plus, perhaps, one more. All relatively local.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Oh, my

She likes the military college. Really likes it.


From an article about the methods used by, the dating site --

As a result, Match began “weighting” variables differently, according to how users behaved. For example, if conservative users were actually looking at profiles of liberals, the algorithm would learn from that and recommend more liberal users to them. Indeed, says Thombre, “the politics one is quite interesting. Conservatives are far more open to reaching out to someone with a different point of view than a liberal is.” That is, when it comes to looking for love, conservatives are more open-minded than liberals.

Huh. I would not have guessed that.


Which is how I say Vermont when I'm sleepy. We're in one of the ubiqutous Marriotts -- this one is a Fairfield, though what the diff is between this and say, Town Place, escapes me. Its not bad. Very pleasant desk clerk, which is a bit unusual.

Ate last night at a Chilis where, by contrast, the waitress had been doing it for way too long. Rattled off the stuff, went into the kitchen. We're outta Doctor Pepper. Um, ok, rootbeer. Our rootbeer is 123,that okay? Well, how the hell -- yeah. Whatever. And the food was less than stellar, even by my standards. You really can't tell one Chilis from another, but I think I'll remember these people.

Vermont's a pretty state, with many, many tree-covered hills. But as we drove the many miles through the trees, not a building in sight -- perhaps a single home up on the hill -- I found myself thinking and in five months, maybe less, all of this will be covered with snow. You gonna want to drive it then? And we still have an hour to go....

I find myself hoping the daughteroid doesn't like the college we're going north to see.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


This is a marvelous little tool -- probably more marvelous than I know, because I tend to use it in a pretty simple mode -- that lets you take a web page and save it off, so that you can read it later. I think of it as a companion to Google Reader, which I like, but which deletes pages, once I've read them. (You can say 'save this', but it only saves till the next time you come into the Reader. Eventually, I come in, and forget, and it's gone.)

Instapaper keeps it, more or less, forever. And every so often -- like just a few minutes ago -- I go into the archive and think Oh yeah, I wanted to read that, its a good article.

How good is Instapaper? You can use it for free, or you can pay for exactly the same service. I'm going to pay.

how good.


Second day of the great college road trip. Haven't hit any colleges yet. Right now, we're at a hotel about ten miles from my cousin's house where we went last night for a party. It was a birthday party for the (I think) one year old grandson who is the latest to arrive. I am always a little bit in awe when I see the crop of kids that have arrived in my family. At last count, I think it's two girls who are about 5, one who's about six, and the newest arrival. One of them is the granddaughter of my cousin Katherine, who died several years ago. I remember her and me playing together when we were about, oh, eight or so, thinking about how old our grandparents were, and how easy it was to trick them. And now I'm looking into the other end of that telescope.... strange feeling. But I'm glad to see those kids.

And I got to play with a Power Mac laptop and an iPad. Damn, but those things are seductive. I like Windows 7, like being able to tinker with the innards and all that, and lord knows Win7 works a hell of a lot better than XP (we don't talk about Vista, there you go) -- but man. Even silly little things like the keys are outlined in light on the Power Mac? Really? Must be great typing in the dark....which of course I And you can just flick through all your photos, which I do...rarely. Even so. They're just so fun, both of them.

It's raining here today. I don't know (haven't looked, because what's the point) if it's going to be raining for the entire drive up to Vermont, but I'm thinking that it's a good thing we have pretty much the whole day to get up there. Yesterday we encountered, once again, the tendency (what do you call a tendency when it's every damn time?) of the GPS to want to lead us directly into the heart of the city, when we wanted to go around the edges? Also encountered a major traffic delay on the approach to the George Washington Bridge -- we lost about an hour, just idling slowly along there. Every time I come to or through New York, I think I used to live around here? Never again.

Well, except to see my relatives. I've mentioned that the French people treated us better than even my own relatives. That's pretty much true. But last night, seeing those kids, and seeing my cousins (perhaps not so much the guy one of them married - talking about France, he stated that they of course have a Muslim problem) -- well, it was pretty nice. It was no wonderful small town in France, but it wasn't bad at all. Plus, they invited us for Le Petit Dejeuner this morning. As it happens, French Toast.

How appropriate!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Getting It

I know, I often don't get it, but -- as nice as this add-on for a tablet is, why not just get a laptop to begin with? Unless you really need the sometimes an attached keyboard, sometimes not... Is that possible?

Found here.

Planetary Help

After this weekend (three hotels, three states, two colleges, one party), I'm gonna need help.

Found here.


I'm not much of a cook. I'm not all that much of a baker, either, but when it comes to cooking, I'm pretty much out of it. There's a direct connection there between my own tastes, which are pretty plebian - meatloaf, pizza, burgers, spaghetti, mac and cheese - and the things that I see in a food blog and think hey, that might be fun to make. I can't even grill a decent steak, which is a minor sorrow of mine.

So the fact that I am actually thinking of finding three or four French dishes to cook when our French friends come here next August -- well, that's pretty amazing. Because my lack of skill, and lack of taste, would not lead you to think this would be something I might try. Take it as another indicator of how much I like these people.

Now, I know that people don't go to another country so that they can have the food that they can get, better prepared, at home. At the same time, I know that after a while of eating unfamiliar food, you'd like something where you can look down at your plate and think It's not as good as home, but I can recognize it. So, to that end, I've been reading a book I picked up at the libe, titled French Classics Made Easy, by Richard Grausman. It's written in a friendly, let's not go crazy here style. The author has a deep respect for French cooking, but he knows that most people here aren't going to spend two days reducing a sauce, or have forty-three pots with which to do it. He says that if he knows of a way to speed up the process, or reduce the ingredients, without materially altering the taste, he'll use it. Julia Child would not like him, but I do.

So far, I've found one recipe that I'm willing to try - Onion Soup. It's simple but classic.

Let's hope I find more. Something in line with my skill level, but undeniably French.


I read, the other day, a note about some small town -- in Maine, I think -- where they passed an ordinance that effectively said anyone can sell anything without any oversight of any kind. You want to grind up beef and sell it? Go right ahead. Want to build a car and sell it? Be our guest. The people behind the ordinance said that if you wanted some kind of protection or reassurance, you were free to enter into an agreement with the seller, but that was entirely up to you.

I thought about that. I had to admit, it had a certain 'sturdy yeoman in the fields' simplicity. No FDA this and OSHA that. You take complete charge of your life and live it your way. I could see that being very appealing to people who believe that you, and you alone, are responsible for your life -- no one else gets a vote.

And it would be interesting to watch, the first time one of them buys a car that's defective, and then sitting down for a beer with, say, General Motors, to discuss the issue. I'm sure that would go really well.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

That Pen

From the BBC History Extra site -

The story

In the 1960s, the story goes, NASA realised that astronauts would need a special pen for recording data, instrument readings etc. when in space. This pen would have to be capable of writing upside-down, in zero gravity, and in extremely high and low temperatures.

NASA enlisted some of the finest minds in the country and set them to work. After much trial and error, years of work, and the expenditure of 1.5 million dollars, they finally succeeded in developing a space pen. And the Russians? The Russians used pencils.

The truth

Initially, American astronauts used pencils, too, but they weren't popular. If part of the pencil broke off and floated around the capsule, it was a minor nuisance that could turn into a serious hazard - it could get into an astronaut's eye, or even cause instruments to short out. The wood in pencils was an added fire hazard in the oxygen-rich atmosphere of the capsule, but mechanical (propelling) pencils still presented the danger of tiny pieces of lead breaking off and floating around.

It was actually an American pen manufacturer, Paul C Fisher (1913-2006) who came up with the solution in 1965. Fisher realised the nature of the problem and developed the Fisher Space Pen without being asked, much less paid, by NASA. Fisher's pen, with a tungsten carbide ballpoint precisely fitted to avoid leaks, used pressurised cartridges holding special ink which becomes less viscous when shaken. It can write on almost any material, at any angle and at great extremes of temperature.

True, it did cost around a million dollars to develop, but that was all Fisher's money. He submitted his invention to NASA, who adopted it in 1967 after extensive testing. And the Russians? The Russians bought 100 Fisher Space Pens and 1,000 refill cartridges in 1969.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Tell me that this is a joke.

Found here.


Found here.


I've been giving a little thought to why I enjoyed being in France so much.

I'm not much of a traveler, for one thing; when we were first married, we'd go out to California every couple of years, and that was a big deal, but over time - and child - that waned. We did go to England once; I liked being there (but had a real problem with the food). So it's not that I like to travel. In fact, traveling, particularly a long distance, is problematic; I dislike having to get everything into one or two bags that I'm going to need for a couple of weeks, and the whole does this place do laundry? Do I want to pay them to do that? thing bugs me.

A lot of people go just to be in Paris, and I have to admit, Paris was nice. Still had a bit of a problem with the food -- what can I say, I'm a food plebian -- but the sights and sounds of the city were pretty nice. Even in the summer heat, I liked it. I would have liked it more if we could have followed our habit, from when we went to Williamsburg, of getting up and out, then coming back for a siesta till about three, then out again, but still: not bad. A fun city to wander around in, for the most part.

Similarly, it was pretty nifty to see some of the things that there are to see in Burgundy. I really liked seeing the abbey at Cluny; old buildings like that fascinate me. And seeing some of the smaller towns was pretty cool. Even things like here's a restaurant in a building that's all by itself, surrounded by fields and canals - that was pretty neat. I liked that.

But the thing that made the trip? The thing that made me want to come back?

The people we stayed with. A month later, I'm still in awe of how they made us feel as if we were part of their family, part of their normal routine. Oh, we did what you do when you don't want to be a bother, but it was obvious that of course we were; just the idea that we were eating food every day that they paid for! But we never got the impression that we were in any way disturbing them. They seemed genuinely delighted to have us there. I'm not used to that experience. I'm not used to people being genuinely delighted. Pleased? Sure. Delighted? Not so much.

Which is why I cannot wait for their visit to us, here, next year.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Lesbians are not inherently better or worse than anyone else.

But some of them are much, much better than most anybody.

These two, for


Why don't places like this exist around here?


I just had an interesting if brief conversation with my daughter.

I asked her to list the three most important things in selecting a college -- ie, location, class size, academic reputation, size of student body, 'feel', presence of ROTC - and she told me that she'd done that, which was how she'd ended up selecting the three colleges she's mentioned thus far. I was pleased by that. So then I asked her why she has presence of ROTC as a criterion, and she said that she sees the military as a guaranteed job after college. She's not looking for a sinecure -- she wants to be challenged -- but she also wants to have a skill that's needed, that people will pay for, and she sees the military as a path to such a skill.

Given the economic environment she's grown up in, I can't fault her logic.


I like this guy.

Monday, August 01, 2011


I just realized that I am not, in fact, turning 63 this year. I'm pleased.

Crazy Eddie

This is a twenty minute interview with one of the guys who ran the Crazy Eddie's electronics store scam for years -- and would still be doing it today if the family had chosen to hang together instead of separately. Fascinating, in a scary way.

Columbine +5

From Longform.

"Beyond Littleton, the Columbine shootings became a defining cultural moment, the inspiration for two acclaimed novels; a Gus Van Sant film, "Elephant," winner of the top award at Cannes this year; and Michael Moore's Academy-award winning "Bowling for Columbine." Every interest group, it seemed, wanted to claim the massacre for itself as a horrifying example of what can occur when its message is ignored. Some of the many born-again Christians in and around Denver felt a school shooting on this scale was the sort of thing that happens when the Ten Commandments aren't displayed in a high school. Gun-control groups weighed in when it became clear that the some of the weapons Harris and Klebold carried had come from that American shame, the unregulated gun show. For a time, some cried racism because the pair murdered one of Columbine's few black students, Isaiah Shoels. And the fact that Harris and Klebold had been bullied seemed to prove, at least to those advocating stricter codes of conduct in high schools, the deadly menace that unchecked bullying can create."

Picking a College, and a Career

When I went to college, the selection was pretty easy. I didn't have much money, and there was a college not too far from my parents' home. So, that's where I went. As I recall, I thought that their International Business major sounded interesting. By the time I started, they'd cancelled that major, and I ended up getting a bachelor of science in economics degree. I never used any of it, other than the fact that having a bachelor's meant that I could be an Air Force officer. When my daughter was talking with an Air Force staff member at the Kent State ROTC detachment, he mentioned that the program was significantly harder to get into and to succeed in than when I went. Back then, he said, they would take anyone who had a 2.5 GPA; now, they wanted more. I didn't mind, because his statement was true. Back then, ROTC was a club that just happened to result in you being in the Air Force. Now, you have to earn it.

My daughter is trying to approach this in a logical fashion. She has a general idea of the kind of thing she wants to do, but she's open to trying different areas. She knows that she wants a relatively small school (which Kent State is, despite being about four times bigger than my own college, and twice as big as my wife's). She doesn't want to go to a school that's in the city (mine was; my wife's, not so much). She wants to be a military officer, either Air Force or Navy, and she would like to do it by being in ROTC. But because she really doesn't want a desk job, she's also willing to think about enlisting, getting some high-density technical knowledge, and applying that in a hands-on way. She is hoping for the best of both, enlisting, getting the training, and moving into being an officer.

She's a lot more organized than I was, which stands to reason: she's smarter than I was.