In case anyone was on tenterhooks about this, I actually decided to celebrate the winter holiday this year. We made a pretty neat tree with more lights than I thought possible to put on one, topped off with a stuffed penguin. There are gloomy days right now, even here in sunny Arizona and the lights […]
Originally posted on July 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Today is the 44th Anniversary of Apollo 11’s liftoff. On July 20th the Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon. The 20th of July which I and some others call Apollo Day has become the mid-summer event of choice for reasons of patriotism and for the celebration of technological achievement. I still revere the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) am stirred by the words of the Declaration of Independence and honor the Fourth.
We have heard so much of war and violence over the last decade and a half however that it’s natural enough to seek for a more cerebral, more peaceful means of celebrating the country and thinking people everywhere than by setting off bombs and filling the skies with chemical incandescence. (Yes I know Apollo involved the expenditure of enormous amounts of energy but it was relatively localized and didn’t contribute to the terrorizing of pets and wildlife across the entire continent.) So it’s Apollo Day forward to which I look each year for the celebration of High Summer and the fact that I am Human and an American.
Apollo Day is a pretty much do it yourself holiday. As I’ve said elsewhere you should do something that has to do with the moon; eat a Moon Pie, drink moonshine, Howl at the moon, moon somebody; anything that lifts your rocket. It’s also fun to read or watch something moonish; read a good science fiction novel or a true account of the Moon Landing. While we’re at it, isn’t it interesting and sort of unfortunate that there are so few available movies about going to, landing on or living in the Moon? From the Earth to the Moon, Destination Moon, The Mouse on the Moon, First Men in the Moon and of course Apollo 13 are obvious choices and there are a couple other moon movies around but hard to find.
Refreshments for Apollo Day have varied from year to year. This time I’m probably making a blue cheese spread which I’ll spread on Triscuits and eat with malted rice brew. Sometimes I’ve been fancier. Once I had the event catered by a young woman who made me a moon-shaped cake, complete with gray frosting, craters and an astronaut with a rocket, molded from taffy, standing on the surface. Both of the latter were quite artistic but the rocket was streamlined with conical nose and had tail fins. I mentioned to my daughter that neither feature would be necessary or appropriate on the airless Lunar surface. She responded that I must be the only person who would analyze the aerodynamics of a cake decoration but I mean, Really!—
Happy impending Apollo Day all you Earthlings!
Originally posted on January 3, 2013 at 12:20 PM
For those with chickens you probably know that egg production goes way down in the winter months at least for those of us who have more or less aux naturalle coops. I’d known that light played a role in the disposition of hens to be active and possibly produce but I didn’t know quite how significant that role might be.
I’d rigged a power line from the house to the coop, a distance of about 75 feet, with intentions of providing a heater if temperatures dropped too low but the weather has been reasonably mild most of this season. Our six hens were behaving very sluggish and egg production was down to about .666667 per day with one valliant hen following through with the goods. Last Saturday I bought a high intensity reading lamp with one of those newfangled bulbs which draw only 20 watts of power. I hung the lamp from a coop rafter with a piece of wire and we plugged the power line into one of those nifty light switch sockets that let’s you turn things on and off without bending and unplugging. We’ve been turning on the chicken light in the morning sometime before 8:00 and letting it burn till about 8:00 PM. Immediate results; Chickens are active, seem happier. Egg production is up to more like 1.75 a day (Those fractional eggs are a bit messy but we’re hoping for an even number any day now!) I’ll keep you posted on the recovery rate of egg production and mental health of hens.
Originally posted on December 24, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Well tonight’s the night and NORAD makes it official. Santa has 24 hours to visit something like one billion homes, some of them Down Under and in South America where it’s summertime now. There’ve been some cute items on NPR lately, an interview with United Postal Service administrators concerning the size Santa’s organization must be to transport and eviler so many parcels. Another item was a physicist asserting that Santa must use wormholes to reach our houses as even travel at the speed of light couldn’t get him everywhere fast enough to get the job done in one day.
I think I was pretty young when I decided that it just wasn’t on to visit all of the houses in one night for one man no matter how magic. I hadn’t thought yet of parallel time lines allowing a person to loop back in time and perform a lot of things simultaneously but I’d heard of Santa’s helpers and had pretty much decided that there was a large crew of sleighs out there in the Christmas Eve sky going down chimneys and bringing cheer. When it came time to bring our daughter somewhat out of the open-eyed fantasy of childhood and a bit at least into the Adult Conspiracy we told her that Santa was very very busy and we needed to help Santa do some of his work so we delivered presents to certain neighbors. Later at a feminist gathering in Seattle we learned of Ms. Claus and how she was about bringing food, clothing and feminist literature to deserving children large and small.
However we imagine it happening and however we picture the personage himself, don’t we all still believe at some level in Santa and if someone comes to our house, down our chimney, through our window, out of our closet, however he gets there, that we were singled out to have a visit from the Real Santa?
It’s been said that Santa doesn’t come to poor people’s houses. Jesus does. That’s a fine sentiment in it’s way but I’ve known Santa to visit the homes of Jewish, Budhist, Islamic children- in a secular way perhaps, but bringing joy all the same. Christmas is overcommercialized. Of course it is. We’ve known that for decades but there is still magic in Santa, in those gifts that are small, nearly incidental, yet having the ability to charm as much as the big-ticket items.
I gave my friend a pack of modeling clay in Seventh grade and we spent hours making things together, two blind kids sort of coloring together in a way but shaping rather than crayoning. When I was much, much older I got one of those bendy rubber animals which you can pose. Mine was a bull I believe. My daughter and I spent I don’t know how long doing the most non PC things to that poor bovine that we could think of; having it take a poop, thumb it’s nose, anything a child and an often childlike adult could imagine.
Yes, Santa is out there. We all know him/her but Santa’s a busy person and can always use the help. Try sneaking a crate of Manderins onto your neighbor’s stoop or mailing an anonymous package of Anything to someone you hardly know. Use the address of the corner store of local tavern as return. Buy a kid a gyroscope. Learn how to make butterscotch. It can be secular as hell but still magic. It really is better to give than to receive because generally it’s more fun but we need to know how to receive and that’s really what Santa is all about.
Originally posted on December 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I attended an office gift exchange yesterday and my Secret Santa gave me the same thing I’d given her: Starbuck’s gift cards. That was okay except I’ve pretty much given up drinking coffee except in one or two contexts and I don’t need the sweets. The whole thing got me thinking about Holiday gifts in general and how stocking stuffers have transformed from oranges and Yo-yos and decks of playing cards when I was a kid (yes folks, really, truly) to palm pilots and cell phones.
A great deal has been said and written about how electronics pretty much rule the lives of young people in particular from computers large and small to personal communication devices to online networks which I don’t even particularly want to comprehend. Recent events which I’ve already spoken of in this blog again strongly suggest that among our most dangerous neighbors is a propensity for certain kinds of militaristic video games. Of course I’m not saying that anyone who plays a mass destruction video game is a sociopath or will become one but in the last 20 years or so I have noticed a tendancy toward turning Inward among younger people.
What I mean by Inward is a tendency to look into the system whether it be a computer game, a communication network such as Facebook, or a cellpphone which plays games with you and shows you the weather while you’re waiting for that all-important call. All this is going on Inside the system, network app, whatever.
I’m not decrying electronics. I’m a technologist myself and electronics are one of the most enormously transforming growth industries of the last century or so but shouldn’t we expect even more? Computers, phones, cyber nets do stupendous things within electronic memory. They certainly flummox me and I’m a reasonably good programmer. If you look at some of the things a person can dooutside the network, by this I mean from the network outward, we can see that we might be unnecessarily limiting ourselves.
This Christmas I bought matching lasers for my grown-up daughter and her friend. This is something I could only (and did) dream about when I was younger. What do you use a personal laser for? Hell, whatever you use a laser for, burn stuff, melt stuff, pop balloons! Take a look at The Cupcake CNC at makerbot.com and you’ll see a way to externalize a computers thoughts into something you can hold in your hand and use for many, many purposes. There are teaching robots which are essentially mobile erector sets with access to PC brains which can be modified and augmented in myriad ways. It’s possible to fly a model airplane a hydroplane or a helicopter from the computer. All these things get give us the gritty, challenging, often frustrating texture of real world experience and since the science fiction days of the 1950s I haven’t heard of a roboticist who committed mass murder.
Certainly let’s give our kids, spouses, students, computers and communication devices but for Goddess sake let’s give them also things to hook up to them which help them understand and utilize the wondrous variety of phenomena, effects and processes going on in the world around us. Let’s build a miniaturized, electronically controlled winery with the output of which we may toast the future!
Originally posted on November 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM
As we’ve been using home baked bread almost exclusively of late when it came to stuffing the turkey this year I was presented with something of a dilemma. Did it make a lot of sense to create dough, rise that a couple of times, bake it only to tear it up and sog it with broth to render it as stuffing? I wondered if I could just stuff with the raw dough and be done with it but several visits to the internet with every query combination I could think of rendered not one reference to stuffing a bird with uncooked dough.
I agonized over this for some time wanting especially to avoid the mouthful of dough sensation you get when biting into a piece of half baked bread (such as during an oven failure.) I did recall though how once upon a time when I had no oven at all, only a trash burner stove on which to cook, I made some excellent steamed loaves which sliced and tasted pretty much like baked bread.
I made my decision late Wednesday afternoon and that evening began turkey preparations.
I used essentially the recipe given in a recent blog entry but I had a 2-cup can of chicken broth to use as liquid so I began with that and 2.5 cups of white flour, the sugar, salt, oil and yeast; plus a couple teaspoons of powdered sage. When that foamed I began adding a home ground whole grain flour of about one part barley to three parts wheat, adding about 2.5 cups before I had a dough I wanted to work with, perhaps a little softer than what I generally use for bread.
I let this rise, punched it down and formed it into a thin, flat sheet rather like pizza dough then began folding in 2-cups chopped onion, ½-cup sliced mushroom, 1/2 –cup grated cheddar and finally the turkey giblets. I divided this into one quantity about 2/3 of the dough and the other the remaining 1/3, stuffing the smaller amount in the neck of the turkey and the larger in the tail area. I closed the legs of the turkey as usual and let it sit in a cool place until early Thursday morning when I put it in to bake at 350 F.
I had a problem with dough continuing to rise out of the cavity and mushrooming atop the bird. Though I repeatedly pushed it down and in I ended up with some overdone stuffing exterior to the turkey, which was excellent as dog treats but not for much else. I’d say next time I’ll be a little more conservative about the amount I stuff in the bird. The dressing which stayed inside was moist, tasty and gave no hint of being unbaked. Now that I know it will work I’d have no hesitation doing this again next year.