Monday, December 31, 2007

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

The Brave Astronaut celebrated its New Years Eve with the OSG family last Friday night. Tonight, I have left Mrs. BA with the newest member of the space crew at the hospital and come home. If possible, I might be watching the inside of my eyelids come midnight, lest the insomnia rears its ugly head. We shall see.

Traditionally, my parents would have a holiday party during the Christmas week. My mother's Swedish meatballs would make an appearance along with pigs in a blanket (which will certainly appear soon at a football party to be held nearby soon).

So what did we have for our New Years Eve party (three nights early)? In past years, as it was for this one, it has meant fondue. And no it's not 1970. We served it with apples, pears, crusty bread, ham, and broccoli. For dessert, we had chocolate fondue, which was just as yummy. I will say here, this recipe calls for half Emmentaler and half Gruyere, the market had no Emmentaler, so we used all Gruyere . . . and it was good.
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato flour
  • 1/4 cup kirsch (cherry brandy)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups dry, white wine
  • 12 ounces shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 12 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine the cornstarch and kirsch. Set aside.

Slice the garlic in half lengthwise and rub the cut side over the inside of a medium, heavy saucepan. Discard the garlic. Pour the wine into the saucepan and bring it to a boil over a medium-high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese to the wine by handfuls and stir slowly until the cheese is just melted. (Stirring in a figure-8 or zigzag motion prevents the cheese from clumping.)

Stir in the cornstarch mixture, pepper, and nutmeg. Simmer for two or three minutes until it begins to thicken, but do not let it boil. Transfer to a warmed ceramic fondue pot and serve immediately. Keep warm over a very low flame.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A New Member of the Space Crew

The Brave Astronaut proudly announces the arrival of the newest member of his space station Welcome to the world, my young son. Mrs. BA and baby, along with Little BA (a newly crowned big brother) all doing well.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Loot List

I should be in bed as we leave for the hospital tomorrow morning at 5:00am. There needs to be a few hours "prep time" and then the actual birthing part, which won't take more than about 15 minutes. Don't be surprised if those phone calls come around 10:00am (maybe from the Krispy Kreme across the street from the hospital).

There is some question that I might never have time for this again. Luckily, I have spent some time drafting posts for the future, so I am OK for a few weeks. But lets start with the important stuff. So was Santa good to you? Let's hear about it. Here is the list of things that Santa (and a very good Mrs. Brave Astronaut) put under my tree this year. And yes, this may be substituting for thank you notes in some cases!
  • For my birthday from the OSG Family - A new diaper bag, I had been coveting OSG's.
  • A neck pillow for falling asleep in the car, just not while I'm driving. (Mrs. BA)
  • A calendar of Lighthouses in France, already brought to my office and hung up (from Mrs. BA's sister)
  • Billy Joel's 12 Gardens Live (somebody's been reading the wish list!)
  • A new sweater and dress shirt for work (from my MIL)
  • The DVD that has the line, "I'll have a steak sandwich . . . and a steak sandwich" and this one, "It's all ball bearings these days."
  • This DVD. It's a long story. [from the OSGs]
  • While this DVD had my son's name on it, I think it was really for me.
  • The Book List (I did very well in this category)
    • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson
    • The House: The History of the House of Representatives - Robert Remini
    • Home Maintenance for Dummies (these three all from Mrs. BA)
    • American Creation - Joseph Ellis (tucked in the pocket of the above bag from the OSGs)
    • The Code [all about fighting in the NHL], from one of Mrs. BA's co-workers and good friend
    • Ghost Wars - Steve Coll (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, inscribed and autographed by the author)
    • The book from which the movie, "A Christmas Story"
    • The Totally Useless History of the World by Ian Crofton - ooh! Blog fodder [both from the OSGs]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tidying Up at Year's End

I have a few "starred" items in my Google Reader that I have been meaning to share. So here you are.
  • There has been a discussion recently about what my son's first "real" memory will be. Both my wife and I assume it will take place around this time. Here is an article from National Geographic on memory that is pretty interesting.
  • In that same vein, research has been done that showed that when people are shown doctored pictures of an event, they can be "persuaded" to remember the event differently. It just goes to show the strength of the image.
  • I got a fair number of books for Christmas this year (coming soon, the list of loot!). I am not sure if anyone who bought me a book employed the Marshall McLuhan method, which is to turn to page 69 and read. If you like what you read, buy the book. A blog has been created devoted strictly to that method.
  • I don't have any money to travel. But a man can dream. The New York Times put out its list of the "53 Places to Go in 2008." Let me know if you get there. Better yet, if you go, call me, I'll carry your bags.
  • Countless hours lost here. Don't click unless you are ready to give up a few hours. But it is definitely helping my geography if not my darts game.
  • A very public shout-out to C in DC (yes, I know it's not the written note, is that OK?) in thanks for the Scrabble Page-A-Day calendar for 2008. Were I not going to be a little busy in the month of January, I might consider this event in New York City.
  • Oh, and in the "I LOVE Irony" department, this news item from CNN.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post Christmas Quiz

While everyone comes out of their post-Christmas sugar comas, here's a little quiz to get the brain juices flowing. Now, no Googling. This quiz is clearly made to remind you how feeble our brains are at retaining simple trivia. The quiz comes from Games Magazine and asked you to name at least three of the five correct answers. All of the answers next week.
  1. Name the last five movies to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  2. Name the last five major party candidates who ran for President and LOST.
  3. Name the last five countries to become members of the United Nations (Hint: all became members between 2000 and 2006.)
  4. Name the last five teams to win the World Series (or lose?)
  5. Name the last five teams to win the Super Bowl (or lose?)
And here is the bonus question of all bonus questions. This question came up during the Poinsettia Bowl (Navy vs. Utah - and that's important). There are only four schools that have produced a president and a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Name them. And I'm looking at you there, ArTrash. We stumped ADR with this one. Let me know if you need a hint.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 12

And so we have arrived at Christmas Day. My son slept in until 8:00 (how many more years will we get that?!) and then we did stockings in bed, before going down to open presents in front of the tree. Each present was better than the next, with a pause to say "Open that" before being convinced to open the next present. And we haven't even opened his birthday presents yet. He turns three today.

My father called from my sister's house, where he is spending Christmas. He reported that he was up at 7:30. My sister's kids range in age from 16 to 21, so that was early for them, too. My brother will arrive there in a few hours. I wish I was there. My other sister is also at home and I will call there later. My mother would be happy that at least some of our family is together on this day. She loved Christmas very much and I miss her today.

I feel like I should have gone to church today, but the act that I should have gotten together is still sitting on the floor looking like unwrapped Christmas paper. My religious beliefs are such that I can talk to God without going to his "house," so I will have my own little moment at some point today.

Here's my Christmas message to all of you. Love your families, love your friends, love the season. Be good to one another and have a very special holiday however you choose to spend it. Here are two ways one can spend it, courtesy of today's Washington Post.

1. Light a Yule Log (but maybe not one this big)
2. Remember Christmases past. This is one of my favorite stories about Christmas. And with the country still in a war, it is a good time to remind people of the story.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 11

It's Christmas Eve and the traditional Brave Astronaut family dinner growing up was homemade hamburgers and my father's homemade potato chips. (Do you really need a recipe?) The burgers were shaped from ground beef into thick patties and fried in a skillet. The potato chips, which we could only get my father to make this one night a year, were sliced thin (by hand) and put into the deep fryer. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, we owned a deep fryer. But God, was it good. Mrs. BA has banned us from getting one. We would toss everything in, because, "hey, wouldn't that taste good deep fried?"

After dinner was over (you'll note, I did not mention a vegetable, I can't seem to recall one), I, as the youngest of the family would be allowed to open one gift. Then my father would read the Christmas story in the Bible, or maybe "Twas the Night Before Christmas" before being sent off to bed. I would leave out some cookies and milk for Santa and head upstairs. Because in our house, the tree, which was sitting on the back patio in a bucket of water, would not come in the house until Christmas Eve. Then it would be decorated by Santa when he came to drop off the presents. Except for the presents that were on the big green table in the basement, which may or may not have been unwrapped and re-wrapped by a small boy.

I was much older when I finally crept down the stairs one night to see my siblings and my parents decorating the tree. I was disappointed, but I still believe in Santa Claus. He's out there right now doing his job. So I better get to bed. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 10

Yesterday was Christmas with Mrs. BA's family at our house. Unlike dinner on Friday night for my birthday, when I overate, as did all my other dining companions, the family dinner was quite restrained. This "guide" was unabashedly stolen from Stinkypaw.

Holiday Eating Tips:
  1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
  2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an 'eggnog-aholic' or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it!!!! Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
  3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
  4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
  5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?
  6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
  7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.
  8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?
  9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
  10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips: start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

National Treasure 2 and a Family Christmas

For the Saturday before Christmas there was a lot to do here in our nation's capital. Of course, first and foremost was the screening of National Treasure 2. The final number for the outing was 84! A good time was had by all. For those readers of this blog and an attendee today, thanks for coming out.

After the movie, which ran long (I know this for when we returned to the car, there was a $25 parking ticket on it for exceeding the two-hour limit - Merry Christmas!), we got back in the car and headed home for the Mrs. BA family Christmas.

The title of this blog is Order from Chaos . . . it is what I strive for when four children descend upon a pile of gifts under a Christmas tree. Sort of gives me the shakes. I understand the excitement, it just makes me nervous. Yeah, I know, I'm weird.

For those looking for the review of Friday night's birthday dinner out, here it is. We went to Montmarte, a little French bistro on Capitol Hill. I was looking for escargot, seafood, and a nice creme brulee. I am happy to report that all was achieved. Mrs. BA and Mr. OSG started off with the pate (ick!) while Mrs. OSG and I had the escargot. I think I could have had three orders of them, but I would have definitely reeked of garlic for well into the Christmas week. My dining companions all went with the hanger steak for dinner, while I went with the Pot au Feu, a very nice choice. For dessert, Mrs. BA had the cheese plate, Mr. OSG had the pear tart, Mrs. OSG had the creme brulee, which I helped to finish. My dessert was a Montmarte exclusive, what they called the "Floating Island." It was a ball of whipped meringue (with toasted almonds and sugar on top), sitting in a bowl of creme anglaise. Sweet Jesus, it was good.

Tomorrow's day is not yet set, but there may be some Christmas Eve shopping (God help me) as I need to have my car serviced over in the old neighborhood (oh joy, Rockville Pike on the day before Christmas - what was I thinking?!) I'll be back with some more before Christmas, but wherever you are, I hope that Santa has put something in his sleigh for you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Paterno Makes How Much?

Today is Joe Paterno's 81st birthday. Last year, I wrote about Joe Pa's injury sustained on the sidelines during a game, which kept him off the field for a game, something he rarely does. At the end of November, it was revealed how much Joe Paterno is paid for coaching the Nittany Lions of Penn State University.

On November 29, the amount was released by the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System after The Patriot-News of Harrisburg won a five-year court case that was decided last week in Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court. The salary does not include other football-related income. According to an Associated Press report and an article in the New York Times, please note that in comparison, Alabama’s Nick Saban makes $4 million a year and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops makes more than $3 million. But those figures include base salaries from their universities and outside income related to football from other sources.

Further, it is fairly well known that Paterno contributes heavily to Penn State. The Library at Penn State? It's the Paterno Library.

Did I mention that Paterno turns 81 today? The article quotes Paterno as saying to reporters at a luncheon that Paterno "expected to coach for 3, 4 or 5 more years but probably not as many as 10."

Good for you, Joe. Good for you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I've Reached Two Score

In about two hours time, the daily calendar will read December 20. It will also mark my fortieth birthday, the big 4-0. As someone once told their mother, "Hey, it's halfway to 80!" When my mother-in-law turned 40, the friends next door draped her house in black crepe paper.

All in all, I feel OK about turning 40. I love my life, I love my wife, I love my sons (both the one on the inside and the one on the outside). Yes, things could be different. I could be 25 pounds lighter, more financially stable and not suffering from occasional insomnia. We all want things.

So far the festivities have been quite nice. A public shout out to Ed in Pittsburgh (he knows who he is) for the Golf Magazine renewal. Of the cards received so far, the best goes to Special K and her AH, who found the mandatory archival content card. Yesterday friends from work took me to a nice restaurant to have lunch. I have been asked to lunch tomorrow by OSG and we will go and redeem my free coupon for a steak sandwich at South Street Steaks. It's possible that C in DC and I may go out for lunch on Friday as there is likely to be no one left at work.

Friday night, Mrs. BA and Mr. and Mrs. OSG will head out for a nice dinner downtown. Then Saturday morning is the big movie outing. There's still time to join us!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 9

A Christmas potpourri from the news columns over the past week. (Apologies if some of the links no longer work.)
  • Christmas card arrives 93 years late (from CNN) - A postcard featuring a color drawing of Santa Claus and a young girl (and dated December 23, 1914) was mailed in 1914 and just arrived in northwest Kansas. The card was mailed to Ethel Martin of Oberlin, Kansas, apparently from her cousins in Alma, Nebraska. No one knows where it spent the 20th Century and the Oberlin Postmaster was surprise it never got thrown away. He said, "How someone found it, I don't know." Poor Ethel has gone on to her great reward, but the post office wanted to get the card to a relative. So it wound up in the mailbox of Bernice Martin, Ethel's sister-in-law. She believed the card had been found somewhere in Illinois. "That's all we know," she said. "But it is kind of curious. We'd like to know how it got down there." Wherever it was mailed from, it was put in a new envelope with the proper postage.

  • Holiday mystery amuses police (from CNN) - In southern New Jersey, along the Garden State Parkway, someone is hanging Christmas ornaments on trees along the parkway. It started before Thanksgiving with two glass ornaments - a shiny red ball about the size of a cantaloupe and a smaller red oblong with gold glitter swirls - tied to branches of two large pines along the Garden State Parkway. Motorists easily spotted the bright Christmas balls. Then more decorations popped up. One week it was a glitter-enhanced green ball the same size as the original red one. Next came a smaller gourd-shaped ornament with red and gold glitter. This was followed by a smaller red ball with white glitter snowflakes appeared. Then a large silver bell appeared on a tree on the other side of the road, which was joined by a burgundy apple-shaped ornament about the size of a medium pumpkin. There are no notes or any other indications of who is responsible for the roadside ornaments. State police in New Jersey are stumped, "It's a mystery to us," said state police Capt. Al Della Fave. A spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the parkway, wondered if the phantom decorator might be some frustrated husband whose wife won't let him cover the house with any more lights or ornaments. "This is probably some guy whose wife finally said 'Enough!" There were no reports of hockey ornaments, so it wasn't me.

  • Hotel chain offers a room at the inn for Marys and Josephs (from CNN) - A British hotel chain is promising free accommodation to couples who share their first names with the couple from the Christian Nativity story. Almost 30 Josephs and Marys had already signed up for the free night's stay at the Travelodge, said a spokeswoman for the hotel chain. The gift is designed to atone for the "hotel industry not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve over 2000 years ago when the original 'Mary and Joseph' had to settle for the night in a stable," the company says on its Web site. The offer is good at any one of the chain's 322 hotels in the United Kingdom, the Web site says. The couples must bring proof of identity and must prove that they are in a long-term relationship. The spokesperson continued, "If you satisfy the criteria, you get a free night in a family room for two adults and two children, there's also parking space for a donkey if needed."

Monday, December 17, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 8

Special K, who reads this blog voraciously, sent me this link last week in response to the butter cookie recipe I posted. This site allows you to post your family's best recipes for all to enjoy. As Special K points out "food and archival content all at the same time.!"

I must admit to copping out this week for a recipe. I have not yet gone through the Washington Post's special cookie food section to decide what other cookies I might make in my spare time (because I have so much).

Browse the selection. See what piques your fancy. Let me know how they turn out.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


My son sleeps tonight in a big boy bed. We bought a mattress and box spring (and a frame and headboard, but those will come later) and made it all up for him. He was initially unsure of his new surroundings, but once it was made up and populated with the appropriate number of his "friends," he snuggled down for some stories.

And now he sleeps. The question will be will he remain in it the entire night?

My friend ADR has posted a YouTube video on his blog that reminds us that there are many others out there who are less fortunate than we are. It is very moving. NJM, an occasional commenter on this blog, sent me this website, which I recommend. As you improve your vocabulary, you donate rice to those in need.

A final note. As I write this, I am listening to a selection of Dan Fogelberg music on iTunes. Yes, his music has a cheesy bent, but I like it and I'll miss him. Fogelberg passed away today at 56 from prostate cancer.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 7

10 days until Christmas and the house is not yet completely decorated, the shopping is not yet done, and the cookies I wanted to make are not yet made. But it will happen for as Hans Gruber remarks in "Die Hard," "It's Christmas Theo, it's the time of miracles." But I have been successful in getting some Christmas cheer to the Bearded One, courtesy of the Stitch Bitch. It seems my Christmas spirit has been hiding in a bag of peanut butter M&Ms.

I also received my professional organization's newsletter the other day. While I wrote recently that this American President was an honorary member of SAA, it would seem that St. Nick is also a member in good standing of the Society. On the back cover of the November/December issue, was the following:
"Santa Claus is a world-class record keeper and an honorary member of SAA. He has an enormous archives staff who can identify correspondence in every language, which they typically file under the categories of Naughty and Nice."
I know for a fact the Santa Claus archives exist. On the day I met Mrs. Brave Astronaut, she was giving a workshop on Arrangement and Description. She admonished us to get more involved in the workshop or she threatened to spend the entire afternoon on how to organize Santa's extensive archives.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 6

Again, from C in DC, here's a bit of "Twisted Christmas."

  1. Schizophrenia - Do You Hear What I Hear?

  2. Multiple Personality Disorder - We Three Kings Disoriented Are

  3. Dementia - I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

  4. Narcissistic - Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

  5. Manic - Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and . . .

  6. Paranoid - Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

  7. Borderline Personality Disorder - Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

  8. Personality Disorder - You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

  9. Attention Deficit Disorder - Silent night, Holy oooh look at the froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?

  10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, . . .

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rangers vs. Capitals and a Brave Astronaut Christmas Tree

I thought you might like to see what has become the Brave Astronaut Christmas Tree (living room edition). You have heard the saga, here is the result.

So tonight, ADR and the Brave Astronaut headed to the Verizon Center tonight to watch the New York Rangers take on the Washington Capitals. We started our evening here, where ADR jumped out to an early lead on the beer race. After some good pizza (and a salad, too), we headed over to the arena for the game.

It started out good, with the Rangers jumping out to a quick two goal lead in the first period. But the Capitals came back, tying the game at two. It was a good game with a lot of back and forth action. The Capitals played better than the Rangers and wound up winning in overtime 5-4. You can read a complete recap of the game here. I know that some people who come here, don't understand hockey (yes, Kim, I mean you) but please know that it was a great game and I am very grateful to Mrs. Brave Astronaut for getting me the tickets.

It was 80s night at the game, so there was really good music and lots of nostalgia to fuel the crowd. There was a Rangers fan three seats away from me, who was getting his fuel from the Budweiser tap but was having a great time. Some of you may recall I took some flak from Mrs. Brave Astronaut for feeding cotton candy to our two and a half year old at a baseball game this summer, but tonight our drunk Rangers fan bought cotton candy for the nearly two-year old behind him. Then as the game drew to a close, the language became a little more colorful. It brought back memories of Ranger games at Madison Square Garden with whiskey and Italian pastries in the "blue seats," AKA the "family section" of the Garden. And people wonder why New York sports fans get a bad rap.

ADR and I were one of the first 5000 fans into the building, we both got bright red mullet wigs. I was prepared to post a picture of me all decked out with the "business in the front, party in the rear" headgear, but I was asked nicely by Mrs. BA to refrain. So you will have to be satisfied with these. Trust me. It's better this way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 5

[partially taken from the Official Google Blog]

You might think that NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) might have their hands full tracking terrorists and all, but for the month of December a few of the monitors in Cheyenne Mountain are tuned to tracking Santa Claus.

It all started more than fifty years ago, when on Christmas Eve in 1955, a Sears Roebuck & Co. store in Colorado Springs advertised a special hotline number for kids to call Santa. However, the company had inadvertently misprinted the telephone number. Instead of Santa's workshop, the phone number put kids through to the NORAD. It wasn't just any number at NORAD: it was the commander-in-chief's operations hotline. Full of the Christmas spirit, the Director of Operations at that time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check radar data for any indication of a sleigh making its way south from the North Pole. They found that indeed there were signs of Santa, and merrily gave the children who called an update on his location. A tradition was born, and NORAD has continued to help children track Santa on Christmas Eve ever since.

This holiday season, NORAD has partnered with Google to use technology including Google Maps, Google Earth, iGoogle and YouTube to track Santa. Starting at 1:00 am PST on December 24th, you'll be able to track Santa's trip in real time. Throughout the month, you can visit the site and find activities to keep the kids amused and, presumably, good.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 4

I am the keeper of the family treasures. It's my lot in life as an archivist. When we were clearing out my parent's house after my mother's death, we came across the Christmas cookie cutters. I had accumulated some of my own as an adult, but there was something about the "family cookie cutters" that made me feel good. I was successful in beating off my older siblings to get the bulk of them.

Recently, Mrs. Brave Astronaut was baking an apple pie, for which she placed some dough stars on the top of the pie crust. Little Brave Astronaut decided that was a fun job (cutting out the stars with the cookie cutter). I pretty much decided right there that I would make sure to have a day with him to make Christmas cookies. I have many memories growing up and sitting at the kitchen table cutting out cookies, putting them on the cookie sheet and then decorating them when they came out of the oven. I want my son to have those same memories.

So here's a recipe for the basic butter cookie and some icing. Get yourself some sprinkles and other holiday-type toppings and have at it.

Basic Butter Cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 with a handheld. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls and flattening each into a 6-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. While oven preheats, roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 9-inch round (slightly less than 1/4 inch thick) on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, chill on a baking sheet until firm.) Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart. If garnishing, sprinkle cookies with glitter or nonpareils.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 8 to 10 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely.

Gather scraps and chill until firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) and bake on cooled sheets.

If coloring icing, transfer 1/4 cup icing to a small bowl for each color and tint with food coloring (if using plain white icing, spoon into 1 bag). Spoon each color icing into a bag, pressing out excess air, and snip an 1/8-inch opening in 1 corner of each bag. Twist each bag firmly just above icing, then decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour, depending on humidity) before storing cookies. (Makes about 7 dozen cookies)

Decorating Icing
  • 1 (1-lb) box confectioners sugar
  • 4 teaspoons powdered egg whites (not reconstituted) such as Just Whites
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat together all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer (preferably fitted with whip attachment if using a standing mixer) at medium speed until just combined, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and continue to beat icing, scraping down side of bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula, until it holds stiff peaks, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 10 with a handheld.

If not piping icing immediately, cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. If you plan to spread cookies with icing (rather than pipe it), stir in more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin to desired consistency. Icing can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Beat with mixer 1 to 2 minutes before using. (Makes about 3 cups)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 3

We have a tree. Well, actually two trees. The Brave Astronaut family and the OSG family trucked off to this tree farm to murder some nature and drag it indoors for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the Brave Astronaut lost his spirit in some good mud and a cold, wet December day. While the OSG family was successful (found a tree in record time), I could not find the "perfect tree," which is my quest every year. I may have also been acting a little childish . . .

We tromped around to no avail. I know there was some concern for OSG's fingers and I must report that while he left with the same number he arrived with, he did get a nibble from some geese, a donkey, an alpaca, and some tongue from a gentle calf. So we got back in our cars and headed for home. We made a stop for a late lunch at Beef Shakes, where we got some really good BBQ ribs, some amazing fries, and all around good food and atmosphere. Mrs. OSG and the Brave Astronaut had milk shakes, neither of which were beef-flavored.

Upon arriving home treeless, I headed out to find a tree cut by someone else. I found a local lot and found two good trees. They are up in their stands, hopefully drinking some water, to be decorated tomorrow evening. The remainder of the evening (what's left of it) will involve some laundry (did I mention the mud?), some other decorating and perhaps getting the curtain rods hung in the living room.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

December 7, 1941. Sixty-six years ago today, the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, bringing America into World War II.

While in high school, for an English class, we had an assignment that involved talking with someone who had been directly involved in an historical event. Somehow, I decided to write about the Japanese attack and found a man named Joe Hydrusko. Joe was at Pearl Harbor that morning and is credited with saving the lives of many men. He was near the USS Arizona when it went down. Hydrusko agreed to come and talk with my English class about his experiences. It was nice to see a roomful of high school students riveted.

In 1970, Joe Hydrusko came up with a plan to honor his fallen comrades. He began flying a vintage World War II plane past the Statue of Liberty, dropping roses to commemorate the event. Unfortunately, Joe died in the 1980s, while fueling his plane. Luckily, the tradition has survived him. This year, the event took place with several aircraft flying past the Statue of Liberty at 12:55pm, the exact time the attack took place in Hawaii. Sixty-six roses were dropped.

Take a minute. Say thanks for people like Joe. Remember.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

On Saturday December 22, I am organizing an outing of archivists in the DC area to go and see the new movie, National Treasure 2. I organized a private screening in 2004, when the first movie opened. About 100 people came out to cheer on the archival heroes!

If you are in the DC area and would like to come along, please let me know. Leave me a comment and I will get you all the information!

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 2

An early present was delivered to the employees of the Federal Government today.

Executive Order: Closing of Executive Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government on Monday, December 24, 2007

For a moment, and only a moment, it will keep me from commenting on this book for sale on Be sure to note the search tags associated with this book.

For those of us with dwindling leave balances and anticipated leave needs in the new year . . . this was very good news.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How do you feel? Let's talk about your mother . . .

A news item caught my eye the other day. Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association, compared depression levels and suicide rates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Evidently, the happiest people in the country live in South Dakota (really?) and the most depressed people are in Utah (well . . .).

The survey used four measures in the survey to develop the state rankings:
  1. the percentage of the adult population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year
  2. the percentage of the adolescent population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year
  3. the percentage of adults experiencing serious psychological distress
  4. the average number of days in the last 30 days in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.
If you are wondering, the top ten "least depressed" states are:
  1. South Dakota
  2. Hawaii
  3. New Jersey (Oh, c'mon now.)
  4. Iowa
  5. Maryland (I guess I feel better now)
  6. Minnesota
  7. Louisiana
  8. Illinois
  9. North Dakota
  10. Texas
The bottom ten "most depressed" states are:
42. Wyoming
43. Ohio
44. Missouri
45. Idaho
46. Oklahoma
47. Nevada
48. Rhode Island
49. Kentucky
50. West Virginia
51. Utah
In my job, I often work on surveys conducted under the aegis of a federal agency. I have seen statistical reports like this. There are a number of other ones to be found here. I am a bit of a geek this way, but I find them interesting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The 12 Posts of Christmas, vol. 1

There are sure to be several holiday posts about the upcoming Christmas holiday. There may even be more than twelve of them. But here's one. This "questionnaire" was forwarded to me via email from my friend, C in DC. Feel free to play along if you like. In fact, I know of at least two blogging friends who might like to grab this. So "Stinkypaw" and Amy in Ohio, tag you're it.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Play along if you'd like.
  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
    • Wrapping paper, mostly. There is less fun in opening a bag.

  2. Real tree or Artificial?
    • REAL! Always. Never artificial

  3. When do you put up the tree?
    • My family used to be a Christmas Eve family (Santa used to decorate it after I went to bed. Now it goes up when it comes home. So this year, that will be Sunday.

  4. When do you take the tree down?
    • Do I have to? My former mother-in-law always used to say she was going to hang Easter eggs on hers. But it usually comes down around Epiphany.

  5. Do you like egg nog?
    • Ick.

  6. Favorite gift received as a child?
    • See this post, re: the Atari 2600. Also, the year I received a bicycle that was at the end of a long ribbon that wound through the house. One year, I also got the hot gift, Simon.

  7. Do you have a nativity scene?
    • I have dibs on the family set that my father hand painted and my mother made at a pottery class.

  8. Hardest person to buy for?
    • I'm usually pretty good with people. But my brothers-in-law are a little enigmatic to me.

  9. Easiest person to buy for?
    • Mrs. Brave Astronaut. I usually have to restrain myself because I will always see many things for her. I already have four things for her.

  10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
    • Mail, although this year (as when my first son was born) the Christmas card may take the form of a birth announcement.

  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
    • Underwear. A traditional gift from my mother growing up.

  12. Favorite Christmas movie?

  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
    • I'm a "snack" shopper, but I try to resist heavy-duty shopping until after Thanksgiving. My mother used to travel to the outlets the first weekend in December to do the bulk of her shopping.

  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
    • Not as far as you know. But yes, find me someone who hasn't.

  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
    • I'm a sweets kind of guy. Christmas cookies, Mom's Chocolate Bit Delights (sort of a Blondie), her cheesecake or her trifle say Christmas to me.

  16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
    • Colored. White are too bright for sitting in front of in the dark. It's the wrong "glow." And Christmas lights do NOT blink, ever.

  17. Favorite Christmas song?
    • Carol? O Come all ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis), sung in Latin, it will always get me crying. Song? A song I found a few years ago and gets a fair amount of play on my iPod, "the Marvelous Toy." But Snoopy and the Red Baron is pretty good, too.

  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
    • Christmas is a stay at home holiday.

  19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
    • Yep.

  20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
    • Star. One day I might tell you of the story of the star in my family that nearly broke the family apart when my father tossed it. The pain is still too fresh and it was 20 years ago.

  21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
    • One on Christmas Eve and the rest in the morning (stockings first, then presents)

  22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
    • Christmas decorations appearing before Halloween

  23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
    • Duh. Red and Green. I grew up in a predominately Jewish area. One year, my father decorated the house in blue and white lights. It was a little odd.

  24. Favorite thing for Christmas dinner?
    • Growing up, turkey used to make a repeat appearance. But a nice roast beast would be nice, too.

  25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
    • See the list on the right hand side of the page.

  26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
    • Hard to say. Who's up to the task?

  27. Who is least likely to respond to this?
    • Mrs. Brave Astronaut doesn't like these sort of things.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Food and Mandatory Archival Content

I love when the stars align and Monday's recipe post can go out with "mandatory archival content" as well. In yesterday's Washington Post, in the front section no less, was this article: "Germans Take Pride in the Wurst." The article's opening paragraph:
"It's the German version of the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: Which was regulated first, beer or bratwurst?"
The Germans worked from tradition, believing that the "world-renowned Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian beer purity law of 1516, which stipulated barley, hops, and water as the only permissible ingredients in the German national drink."

But an erstwhile researcher and amateur historian, found a document in the Weimar city archives [this link goes to the National Archive, as the city archive does not seem to have a web presence] found a document from 1432 "that laid down the law regarding the production of Thuringian Rostbratwurst, perhaps the most popular variety of sausage in a country where wurst is worshiped as sacred grub." A replica of the document will be displayed at the German Bratwurst Museum. The museum is located in Holzhausen, where the main intersection features a giant sausage and bun sculpture.

Go and read the article and learn more than you care to about bratwurst and then you can either make this recipe, which appeared here in October 2006 or you can try the Brave Astronaut plan for (Italian) sausage sandwiches.
  1. Get some good hoagie / submarine rolls. Place a few slices of provolone cheese on the rolls and toast lightly.

  2. Fry some onions in a small fry pan. Set aside.

  3. Place a large fry pan / wok on the stove with some water. Put sausages in the water and bring to a boil. When temperature in the sausages reaches about 160 degrees, drain off the water and grill in the fry pan. I will sometimes add some beer to the pan. [Please note, the WP article says that "To fry it is a sin." Oh Well.]

  4. "Grill" the sausages until browned on all sides.

  5. Place in the rolls with some grilled onions and a good brown mustard. Enjoy.
The sausages are also good when served with some pasta and a good tomato sauce, but only if you are using Italian sausage. Don't insult the Wurst by serving it with pasta.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Political Quiz Answers

So how did you do? Know who you are voting for yet? Tired of the campaigns yet? I understand. Here are the answers for the quiz from last week.
  1. Which member of Congress is the only one who refuses to disclose his or her date of birth?

  2. Which member of Congress is baseball great Hank Aaron's brother-in-law?

  3. Which member of Congress delivered his 2002 opponent's baby?

  4. Which member of Congress worked for Jerry Springer's 1982 Ohio gubernatorial campaign?

  5. Which member of Congress carried the "nuclear football" for Presidents Carter and Reagan?

  6. Which member of Congress is the only member to list the addresses of all his district's bowling alleys on his congressional website? (Oh, think about this one, it's easy!)

  7. Which member appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a professional athlete?
    • Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) in the March 1, 1965 issue. (He was a professional baseball player.)

  8. How many current governors served in Congress?
    • 10 of 50 (Bob Riley - Alabama, Butch Otter - Idaho, Rod Blagojevich - Illinois, Ernie Fletcher - Kentucky, John Baldacci - Maine, Jim Gibbons - Nevada, Jon Corzine - New Jersey, Bill Richardson - New Mexico, Ted Strickland - Ohio, Mark Sanford, South Carolina)

  9. How many Senators served in the House?
    • 49 of 100 (yeah, go ahead and name them, poltical junkie that you are)

  10. How many Senators are children of Senators?
  11. How many presidents has Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.) served under since he was sworn in?
    • Ten, Dingell took office in December 1955.

  12. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore failed to win 30 percent of the vote in four states in 2000. Name them.
    • Alaska (28%), Idaho (28%), Utah (26%), Wyoming (28%)

  13. Which three states switched their presidential vote from 2000 to 2004?
    • Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Brave Astronaut's Christmas Wish List

As I watched my son leaf through a kid's catalog that came in the mail the other day, I was reminded of the days when I would sit with the JC Penney Wish Book or the Sears Wish Book Catalog on the day after Thanksgiving, ripping out pages and circling things for my parents, or "Santa" to get me.

Then there was the year that I wanted the Atari 2600. I made the foolish statement of "You don't have to get me anything else for Christmas as long as I get this." Friggin' family took me up on it. I, like most children, would measure success (or "goodness," if you will) by the number of presents under the tree with your name on it. So that year, I had a good number of gifts under the tree, so I was pretty happy. On Christmas morning, I unwrapped the first gift - a stack of old magazines. Second gift - two bricks. Gift after gift - useless item after useless item, and I was getting increasingly upset as my family laughed. Finally, somebody took pity on me and told me to look under the dining room table. And there it was. Nirvana, Heaven, Bliss, the Atari 2600 had arrived.

As I grew older, I used to type up my Christmas lists for my mother. Very specific, as well. Size, color preferences, clippings of specific items desired. It was a little anal, well maybe a lot. Well, my mother's gone now, but maybe she can read this wherever she is.

It's December 1. My birthday's the 20th. It's my 40th. Feel free to get as many items as you like. In case you forget and this post rotates off, the list is down there on the right. And just in case Santa is reading this blog, I have been very good this year, haven't I?
  1. Billy Joel - 12 Gardens Live
  2. Cuisinart Mix-It-In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker (I saw this in a catalog. I love the soft serve)
  3. Bill Bryson - "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid", for that matter any other Bryson Books I don't have.
  4. Dean Koontz has a new book out, "The Darkest Evening of the Year." For that matter, like Bryson, there are a few titles, I have not yet read of his, like this one, and this one.
  5. I would read this, too. It is by Richard Bachman, with a foreword by Stephen King. Oh, that's just weird.
  6. I am not the one to look gift clothes in the mouth. Pants, jeans, shirts, sweaters, "night clothes," I'll take whatever is offered.
  7. The holiday shopping season has also been dominated recently by the gift card. Take the creativity out of your shopping and give money (iTunes) . . . My mother hated giving money. And yet, that is what my father gives out now that she's gone. Where did she go wrong with him?

The true wish list (read: things I'm not getting, but would really like.)

  1. The big screen TV. Hey, it's time. HD, perhaps a 42" Watch those ads . . .
  2. A new laptop. The desktop has been wheezing again fairly regularly.
  3. Season tickets to the Nationals
  4. A Wii
  5. The hot gift this year is the GPS for the car. Those are kind of cool, too. I would love one of those.
  6. To travel more, but then again, I don't have a valid passport . . .

Friday, November 30, 2007

Where Has This Blog Been My Whole Life?

I recently created a Google Reader account so that I could keep current with the many blogs I read. While doing so, I subscribed to one of the bundles that Google Reader offers, the Language bundle, which included this blog, ", home of fine hypertext products." It is also an aggregator of sorts, like Google Reader, and it has given me the following:
  • McSweeney's Internet Tendency - "Thirty Illnesses, Sorted According to Whether or Not You Can Eat the Victims" - so stay away from those rabies victims.
  • The Mafia's Ten Commandments - #5 - Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's about to give birth.
  • How to win at Monopoly - but what about Scrabble?
  • A link to New York Magazine's vintage NYC videos.
  • A New York University study that showed that 50% of NYU students would give up their right to vote FOREVER for $1 million. That's just wrong.
  • And in honor of the New York Times issuance of their "100 Notable Books of 2007," you will note the addition of my "Library Thing widget" on the sidebar. So you'll know what's on my bookshelves, although possibly not read, but most have been.
  • Finally, I used to be a webmaster and was pretty good with the html tags. But I was at a loss on this one. I'm very rusty. So, ADR, are you up to the task?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Middle Name Meme

I have been tagged by my friend Lana. Here's how it works.

  1. Post these rules before you give the facts.
  2. List one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name make one up or use the one you would have liked to have had.
  3. When you are tagged write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
  4. At the end of your post, choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

A - is for Alan, my middle name. It is also my son's middle name. It is also my father's first name, who would be unable to play this game because he doesn't have a middle name. It is not, as some have suspected, my last name, nor is it spelled "Allen." It is Alan, like the French, Alain, as that is what my family is.

L - Laughter. There is nothing quite like laughter, especially when it is coming out of either my wife or my son. You know the questionnaire that James Lipton does at the end of "Inside the Actor's Studio"? That's the sound or noise that I love.

A - Archivist is my chosen profession, although I started out as a teacher, but decided this is where the fun is. It was never about the money, either for the teachers or the archivists. I do it because I love it.

N - New York. The state where I grew up. The only other place I have lived before moving to Maryland.

They are not the best answers, but the tooth seems to be draining off my creativity. So work with it. Now I know that I am supposed to tag four other bloggers, but I am going to vary that a little as two of the people I want to tag don't have blogs. So leave them in the comments, ladies.

I tag in the non-blogging world:

  • C in DC
  • NJM

And the bloggers are:

  • ADR (and I love Pearls Before Swine, too)
  • Special K (you won't threaten to leave again)

If you are a blogger friend who comes by regularly, please feel free to tag yourself and head back and enlighten us to the facts associated with your middle moniker.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mandatory Archival Content Post

Well sure, I could continue to moan about my tooth, which is still bothering me. I have an appointment with the butcher / dentist on Monday morning. So I should be able to get caught up on the TiVO list, as I am not sleeping all that well at night and five days to go before I can get back in the chair.

I could write one of the many posts that I have been thinking about writing, which I will do soon. I think it is fair to say that my postings may become sporadic in 2008, with the arrival of LBA, version 2.0. But for now, I will try and keep up the pace.

This story from CNN caught my eye today. The International Tracing Service, part of the International Red Cross. According to its mission statement, the ITS "serves victims of Nazi persecutions and their families by documenting their fate through the archives it manages." Well they have evidently gotten all the approvals they needed. Eleven countries oversee the archives of the ITS and Greece was the final country to give its approval. (In case you were wondering the other ten countries are: the United States, Britain, Germany, Israel, Poland, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.)

From the CNN article, "the records are unlikely to change the general knowledge of the Holocaust and the Nazi era, probably the most intensely researched 12-year period of the 20th century. But its depth of detail and original documentation will add texture and detail to history's worst genocide, and is likely to fuel a revival of academic interest in the Holocaust.

A few notes in conclusion, recently at work we were discussing books we had to read in high school. "The Diary of Anne Frank" was on most people's list, which was published 60 years ago. It is also noteworthy that Miep Gies celebrated her 98th birthday this year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recipe: Stuffed French Toast

Yes, I realize there was no recipe last week. I was a bit busy with the turkey thing. Plus, with the toothache, eating has not been the joy I usually want it to be.

The plumbers visited this morning, having waited until such a time as the $300 fee we incurred would not amount to three times that on the holiday weekend. The clog is gone, Alleluia!

For today's recipe, I found this in this catalog. They have lots of recipes on the site. While I usually stick with pancakes or waffles for the big Sunday breakfasts, this might need to make an appearance.

Stuffed French Toast
  • 8 slices country bread, each 1 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • softened butter for cooking, plus more for serving
  • powdered sugar for serving
Cut a pocket into one side of each slice of bread, leaving the other sides of the bread intact. In each pocket, spoon 2 heaping teaspoons of preserves and 2 teaspoons of ricotta. Press the bread back together to encase the filling. Set aside.

Preheat an electric skillet to 350 F, according to manufacturer's instructions.

In a shallow, medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, salt and orange zest until combined. Dip each bread slice into the custard and turn over to thoroughly soak each side. Remove from the custard and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Place bread slices on a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Brush the surface of the electric skillet with softened butter. Arrange the soaked bread slices onto the surface of the electric skillet and cook until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes each side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately. Don't forget the butter!

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Political Quiz

My political blog is getting "reborn" as the presidential race is hitting its stride. In just a little over six weeks, the Iowa caucuses will take place (on January 3). Five days later, the first primary in the nation will take place in New Hampshire. Less than a month later, we will have "Tsunami Tuesday," when more than 20 states will hold contests. It will be likely that both parties will know who their nominees will be after that day.

Also appearing in bookstores this past week was the latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics. Here is a set of questions to test your political acumen and send you in the direction of my political point of view. As always, quiz answers next week.
  1. Which member of Congress is the only one who refuses to disclose his or her date of birth?
  2. Which member of Congress is baseball great Hank Aaron's brother-in-law?
  3. Which member of Congress delivered his 2002 opponent's baby?
  4. Which member of Congress worked for Jerry Springer's 1982 Ohio gubernatorial campaign?
  5. Which member of Congress carried the "nuclear football" for Presidents Carter and Reagan?
  6. Which member of Congress is the only member to list the addresses of all his district's bowling alleys on his congressional website? (Oh, think about this one, it's easy!)
  7. Which member of Congress appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a professional athlete?
  8. How many current governors served in Congress?
  9. How many Senators served in the House?
  10. How many Senators are children of Senators?
  11. How many presidents has Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.) served under since he was sworn in?
  12. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore failed to win 30 percent of the vote in four states in 2000. Name them.
  13. Which three states switched their presidential vote from 2000 to 2004?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Tale of Two Teams

So it's fairly clear that Glen Hanlon had a crappy Thanksgiving and Bruce Boudreau had much to be thankful for. On Thanksgiving Day, George McPhee, the Washington Capitals GM relieved Hanlon of his coaching duties and named Boudreau as the interim coach. Boudreau comes from behind the bench of the Hershey Bears, where he steered the club to the Calder Cup last year and nearly won it back to back this year.

It was clear to me when ADR and I went to the Caps game on Wednesday night that change was surely coming. ADR had consulted his crystal ball (and the Caps schedule) and believed the coaching change would not come for another week or so. But someone important must have finally heard the "Fire Hanlon" calls echoing around the Verizon Center.

Boudreau brings an impressive record to the Caps bench. And from the Washington Post article announcing the change,
"Though Boudreau has been with the Capitals for only one practice, the contrast between his style and Hanlon's was obvious. The most noticeable difference was Boudreau's constant barking during drills. Known as a players' coach, Hanlon was more reserved.

"Boudreau also demanded that everyone race over to him when he blew his whistle. The last one to the huddle had to skate a lap.

"More importantly, he places a greater emphasis on generating offense, one of the Capitals' biggest problems. As of last night, they ranked 28th in the league in goals per game (2.24)."
Boudreau is currently 2-0 as the new Caps coach. Yesterday afternoon they beat back the inconsistent Philadelphia Flyers and tonight put on an impressive performance against the Carolina Hurricanes. It is only the second time this season they have back to back wins, after winning their first three games of the season.

I will again visit the Verizon Center on December 12, when my team of choice, the New York Rangers will come to the nation's capital. Let's see how that game goes. But for now, the Caps have figured something out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The 50 Greatest TV Icons

Last week, I posted about the list that TV Land and Entertainment Weekly put out promoting the newest list out there, the 50 Greatest TV Icons, listing the runners-up (numbers 51-100). Last Friday, there was a TV special counting down the top 50. Here is the list of #1-50. And let's just get on the record here, I got number one right.
  1. Johnny Carson (was there really ever a doubt?)
  2. Lucille Ball
  3. Oprah Winfrey
  4. Bill Cosby
  5. Walter Cronkite (he is the standard by which all anchors are measured)
  6. Carol Burnett
  7. Mary Tyler Moore
  8. Jerry Seinfeld (not that there's anything wrong with that)
  9. Homer Simpson
  10. Dick Clark
  11. Roseanne Barr
  12. Dick Van Dyke
  13. Jackie Gleason
  14. Ed Sullivan
  15. The "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" (aka, the first SNL crowd)
  16. David Letterman (so much the better choice than Jay Leno, who stole Johnny's crown from Dave)
  17. Bob Newhart
  18. William Shatner
  19. Andy Griffith
  20. Carrol O'Connor
  21. Kermit
  22. Milton Berle (what does it say that he is all the way down at number 22?)
  23. Barbara Walters
  24. Michael Landon (Holy Pa!)
  25. Heather Locklear
  26. Farrah Fawcett (but only for the hair flip . . . )
  27. Regis Philbin
  28. Howard Cosell
  29. John Ritter (another big loss for TV - gone too soon)
  30. Alan Alda
  31. Sarah Jessica Parker
  32. Henry Winkler (the Fonz, and I learned recently, one of Emerson College's most famous alumni)
  33. Ellen DeGeneres
  34. Bob Barker (a legend and an icon)
  35. Michael J. Fox
  36. Diahann Carroll
  37. George Clooney
  38. Bea Arthur (Then there's Maude . . .)
  39. Jennifer Aniston
  40. Sally Field
  41. Jon Stewart
  42. James Gandolfini (EW called him a family man, yes, but also a cold-blooded killer)
  43. Flip Wilson
  44. Susan Lucci
  45. Sarah Michelle Gellar
  46. Lassie
  47. Simon Cowell
  48. Jimmy Smits
  49. Calista Flockhart
  50. Larry Hagman

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Let Us Give Thanks, Part II

Well the clog is still there, but I am not calling a plumber on Thanksgiving so he can be thankful for the time and a half. But we will make the best of it for our family Thanksgiving. Peace to you all. I wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving. I am thankful for many things this holiday.

I am thankful for my family, although I am not celebrating with any of them this holiday. And a teeny part of me is a little thankful for that, too.

I am thankful to my wife's family, who will be sharing our Thanksgiving bounty in our new home.

I am thankful my extended circle of friends and colleagues who pitched in for the Brave Astronaut family, when we bought our new home. We are happy to have the organizer of that effort at our table today.

I am thankful for all those who I call "friend," whether here in the Internet world, colleagues, friendly acquaintances, and those friends who while I may not see or talk to regularly enough, are still special to me.

I am thankful for my own family. My wife, who is the love of my life and continues to amaze me with her love for me. My son, who is approaching his third birthday and loves to have the three of us in the same room and makes me melt when he demands hugs and kisses before leaving the room where I am. And I am thankful for his brother, who will arrive at the end of next month.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let us Give Thanks, Part I

Because I didn't have enough to do, I went to the Washington Capitals game tonight with ADR. It was a good time, but bad hockey. The chants of "Fire Hanlon" (the coach) began when the Atlanta Thrashers went ahead. They won the game 5-1. Mrs. BA and I will attend a second Caps game on Saturday night, when they will face off against the Carolina Hurricanes. On December 12, ADR will accompany me to the Capitals-Rangers game, after I received an early birthday gift from Mrs. BA.

Because God has a great sense of humor, I arrived home to find a clogged sink and water in the basement. Much work was done to try and rectify the situation, but I have to admit, Thanksgiving Dinner at the Brave Astronaut home is in danger of cancellation.

While I have several posts that I need to get to, I have lifted the meme below from Anna Van Schurman from her stitching blog. Enjoy your holiday.

Which do you like better: Cooking at your house, or going elsewhere? I would like to say that cooking at home is nice, but this year might not have been that year. But Thanksgiving to me has always been about family and I am glad to have as many of them around for the day (somewhere, my mother is happy with me).
  1. Do you buy a fresh or frozen bird? Butterball, baby, is what I am used to as that was what was on the table growing up. This year, we are having a 19 lb. bird purchased from the organic market. Should be delicious.

  2. What kind of stuffing? My father is always a meat stuffing kind of guy, but I am a plain old Pepperidge Farm or Arnold bread stuffing kind of guy, with the onions and the celery mixed in. And I prefer it in the bird, but that's evidently not allowed anymore.

  3. Sweet potato or pumpkin pie? Um, ick. Desserts are always big, but pumpkin pie usually came out of the freezer and then out of a box at my house growing up. And there was usually another dessert option available. Tomorrow there will be four of them.

  4. Do you believe that turkey leftovers are a curse, or the point of the whole thing? Duh, whole thing. C in DC and I are currently in negotiations about whether she should bring her stockpot so she can take the carcass home to make stock for soup.

  5. Which side dish would provoke a riot if you left it off the menu? I have to lobby for vegetables, so tomorrow we are having three different ones. My mother always said you had to have pearled onions because her grandmother did, and she hated them. They are one of the three tomorrow. I have no problem with more sides than people, but I am not sure which one I would agree to throw under the bus, except maybe for sweet potatoes, because they are icky, but I won't take away someone else's desire to eat them.

  6. Do you save the carcass to make soup or stock? Stock then soup, see number 5.

  7. What do you wish you had that would make preparing Thanksgiving dinner easier? I'm actually looking forward to the prep this year, as I have a real kitchen and an opportunity to use the good china. But it would be nice to not have to crush the final prep moments into a blur of time. So the ability to slow down time would be nice.

  8. Do you get up at the crack of dawn to have dinner ready in the early afternoon, or do you eat at your normal dinner hour? We are aiming for 3:00pm tomorrow, which means 4:00. You have to eat in the middle of the day so the 9:00pm turkey sandwich tastes that much better. And don't even get me started on my brother-in-law who plans dinner around the Cowboys game each year.

  9. If you go to somebody else's house, what's your favorite dish to bring? I like to cook, so I don't know. But I would usually bring wine, too. Then there was the year that friends were invited to another friends for the family Thanksgiving and when asked what the friend could bring, the hostess (the friend's mother) said, "Oh yes, could you bring this? And here's the recipe I'd like you to use . . . "

  10. What do you wish one of your guests wouldn't bring to your house? I'm on the fence with this one. I like when people bring things along to contribute, but when it's something I don't like, I feel some sort of obligation to try it. Yes, I know, I'm weird, but we've already established that.

  11. Does your usual mix of guests result in drama, or is it a group you're happy to see? Hi, I'm Brave Astronaut, have we met? Drama in families? Never happens [snicker].

  12. What's your absolute favorite thing on the menu? Tomorrow? I think it's my mom's cheesecake, followed by the mashed potatoes.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beating the Zero Curse

A few weeks ago, I watched a television program that broke down the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. I can't remember the show, but it used interviews from eyewitnesses and footage from the event to give a minute-by-minute account of the event.

Then, I noted the release last week of Arthur Bremer. UPDATE: The local section of the Washington Post noted the other day that the Laurel Museum received new items related to Bremer's assassination attempt on George Wallace. The memorabilia includes Wallace campaign swag, a Life Magazine issue, signed by Wallace, and news reports of the incident,

Finally, with my recent trip to President's Park (and thanks for the magnet "That is what I said," we put it on the fridge and my son looks at it daily to proclaim "GIANT HEADS!"), I was reminded of the Zero Curse that Reagan beat. So take your seats, kids, the history lesson is about to begin.

Beginning in 1840, every president until Reagan's election in 1980, has died in office. The Zero factor is linked also to the "Curse of Tecumseh," who allegedly stated that William Henry Harrison would die in office, despite the fact that no president had died in office before that point.

The election of 1840 saw William Henry Harrison win the presidency. On Inauguration Day, March 4, 1841, Harrison gave a lengthy speech, in the cold, without his coat. He caught pneumonia and succumbed a month later. John Tyler became the first vice president to rise to the presidency as a result of the president's death.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President on the eve of the United States Civil War. In 1865, as the Civil War was coming to a conclusion, Lincoln decided to go to Ford's Theater for a production of "Our American Cousin." John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Lincoln died the next morning.

The third victim of the Zero Factor Curse was James A. Garfield. While walking to a train in July 1881, less than three months after his inauguration, he was approached by Charles Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, who shot him at point blank range. Garfield lingered for more than two months, before dying in September, making Chester A. Arthur, the President of the United States.

In 1900, William McKinley was greeting people in Buffalo, New York in 1901, when Leon Czolgosz, a deranged anarchist, shot the President in the chest. McKinley lasted for a week, but Theodore Roosevelt had already been sworn in as President.

When Warren G. Harding died in 1923, it was later alleged at the time that his wife had poisoned him. Was she just trying to keep the curse alive? Harding's wife refused to let them autopsy the President's body. Harding was embroiled in several political scandals as well as rumors of extramarital affairs.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to his third term in 1940, much to the chagrin of John Nance Garner, his vice president, who believed he would run at the end of the second term of FDR, but FDR liked it so much he broke the tradition of only two terms. He died in April 1945, a year into his unprecedented fourth term of a cerebral hemorrhage.

1960's presidential election was very close, with John F. Kennedy defeating Richard Nixon by a very close margin. In order to try and solidify support for his reelection bid in 1964, Kennedy traveled to Texas in November 1963. While riding in a convertible limousine, shots rang out from the Texas School Book Depository. As the car sped away, Kennedy lay mortally wounded in the back of the limo. The 35th President had become the final president to die by an assassin's bullet.

That's all for today. Class dismissed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

To Dream the Impossible Dream

I have a number of posts ready to roll out the gates, but I had a disturbing dream last night. Normally, my sleep is uninterrupted by dreams, or at least I don't normally remember them. It must be the meds the dentist put me on. Here's last night's dream. And yes, I know I'm weird. But what do you think?

I am in the water under a large bridge (I think it's the Throgs Neck Bridge). There's a storm coming and I have climbed up onto the metal ladder to try and reach the roadway far above. There is a young boy with me (who might be me at a younger age). He has been in the water a long time, having drifted in Long Island Sound attached to something (it wasn't clear).

The dream "camera" shifts and I see that the current Governor of Maryland has organized a search for me and the boy. I realize that being on a metal ladder underneath a bridge during a thunderstorm is not the place to be, so the boy and I jump back into the water and swim for shore.

Yes it rained heavily here last night and my acute lack of sleep made me feel like I was walking in water most of the afternoon.

What is that about?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Better Not Affect My Turkey Eating

I learned a few things today. One, I am no longer in college, when I could pull all-nighters with abandon and make it through the daylight hours without nodding off. Two, I hate tooth number 19.

That is the tooth I had root canal in approximately a month ago. This was after having a root canal performed on it nearly four years ago. The past two evenings / early mornings, I have woken up at 4:00am in pain (coming from tooth number 19 - that's a molar on the lower left part of your mouth, if you're playing along at home). Yesterday morning, I managed to grab a handful of Advil and got back to sleep for a few more hours.

This morning, I again woke up in pain, and the Advil did not work so good. So I got up, did some work at home and then headed off to work, getting there about 7:00am. I was not the only one surprised to see me at the office that early.

So I called the doctor of destruction (aka the dentist who did the root canal last month) and got an appointment to see her this afternoon. So off I went. She did some filing of the tooth to cut down on the bite and prescribed some anti-biotics and an anti-inflammatory. I am supposed to see her again in February.

Goody, soft food for dinner tonight! And presumably going to be early. By mid-afternoon, I felt like I was walking through water. It's a funny feeling. I definitely should not be operating heavy machinery in this condition.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 50 Greatest TV Icons

On Friday night, on TV Land, the "50 Greatest TV Icons" will be reveled. Pictured in the ad from Entertainment Weekly are:
  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Ed Sullivan
  • Barbara Walters
  • Calista Flockhart
  • Jon Stewart
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Bill Cosby
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • George Clooney
  • Heather Locklear
  • Lucille Ball
  • Jackie Gleason
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Johnny Carson
I'm going on record to say, I think Johnny should be number one, but my predictions are usually heart over head anyway.

On the EW site, you can see the runners-up, numbers 51-100. See what you think and tune in to see who makes the top 50! Here's the list:
100. Marcia Cross (for going crazy on Melrose Place, and keeping it going on Desperate Housewives)
99. Delta Burke
98. Merideth Baxter
97. In Living Color
96. Shannon Doherty
95. Richard Dawson (95? He was robbed!)
94. Melissa Gilbert (Half-pint!)
93. Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie!)
92. Judge Judy (?! - Wapner better make the top 50)
91. Dennis Franz
90. John Stamos
89. Robert Guillaume
88. Gavin Macleod ("The Love Boat . . . Soon will be making another run")
87. Phil Hartman (I think had he lived longer, he would be much higher on this list)
86. Jerry Mathers (The Beave!)
85. Rod Serling ("You've entered a new dimension . . .")
84. Cartman (he's from South Park, for those of us with brains)
83. Isabel Sanford (Weezy!)
82. Ted Knight (and yes, he is still dead)
81. Dick Cavett
80. Adam West (Batman!)
79. Angela Lansbury
78. Art Carney
77. James Garner ("You've reached Jim Rockford, I used to be Maverick")
76. Candice Bergen
75. Peter Falk (Columbo!)
74. Joan Rivers ("OH, PUHLEEEZE!")
73. Tony Danza (for me, only from Taxi)
72. Cher (does this mean the Osmonds will be on the list somewhere?)
71. Rosie O'Donnell
70. Bob Denver (Gilligan!)
69. Barbara Eden (Jeannie!)
68. Don Cornelius (of Soul Train)
67. Tom Selleck
66. Kelsey Grammer
65. Pamela Anderson (I always forget she was the first Tool Time Girl)
64. Phil Donahue (That's Mr. Marlo Thomas to you. And Mike Douglas better show up somewhere on the list, too.)
63. Ed Asner (he hates spunk)
62. Redd Foxx (he's comin', Elizabeth)
61. Paul Ruebens (Pee Wee!)
60. Merv Griffin (he should so be higher on this list, too)
59. Ted Danson (but what number is his hair?)
58. Don Knotts
57. Charlie Brown
56. Betty White
55. Fred Rogers
54. Florence Henderson
53. Ed McMahon
52. Ron Howard (Opie, but for me, always Richie Cunningham)
51. Bob Hope

Monday, November 12, 2007

Call for Recipes: What are you having?

In a little more than a week's time, the Brave Astronaut family will open their home for Thanksgiving. Expected through the door at the Brave Astronaut in-laws along with C in DC and Mr. C in DC. And, if she gets called for a case, NJM, which would keep her from being with her family on Thanksgiving. My mother would not let me know of people being by themselves on a holiday, she would come down from wherever she is and haunt me endlessly.

But as of this evening, we will be eleven adults and five children (one of whom isn't on solid food yet, so she doesn't count). So much time is being devoted to menu planning for Thanksgiving dinner. So while I pull my recipes together, here's a preview of what is being planned. If you have a particularly good recipe or suggestion, let me know.

Appetizers (overeating is every American's God-given right on Thanksgiving, so we are sure to get started early with some munchies)
  • Crudites (and C in DC is bringing her own black olives, I am given to understand)
  • Cheese and crackers (Costco yesterday, big box of crackers and some really good cheeses)
  • Artichoke Dip
  • Turkey (already ordered, a 16-18 lb. bird, fresh, free-range)
  • Honey baked ham (this will allow me to make Ham and Turkey pie - ahh, leftovers)
  • Stuffing (likely to be made out of bird, to cut down on cooking time)
  • Mashed potatoes (well, whipped, but potatoes nonetheless)
  • Sweet potato casserole (being made by my MIL. I don't like them but others do.)
  • Green beans (I have a good skillet recipe with lemon and garlic)
  • Pearled Onions (my mother always had to have them on her table, even though she didn't like them. I have come to like them and my MIL has a good recipe that she is trying.)
  • A possible third vegetable to be named later (I'm thinking brussel sprouts).
  • Cranberry (fresh and from the can - as my sister-in-law, who normally eschews such things, "it's like candy, you just have to have it." And it's good with the 10:00 turkey sandwich).
  • Pecan Pie (C in DC, with her college fund raiser pecans is on this)
  • Apple cake (I voted for this one, but my other sister-in-law's in-laws are coming and evidently, her MIL makes a good one.)
  • Cheesecake (My mother's recipe. Some have said it's too heavy, but my mother's is not. And I want it, so I'm making it.)
  • Pumpkin Pie (Again something I don't like at all, but others do, so my MIL is on this as well.)
  • Wine (My sister-in-law (of the canned cranberry) is on choosing the wine for the evening. I am thinking a few bottles of both white and red.)
  • Champagne (C in DC has offered to bring a bottle or two to allow us to toast the holiday in our new home)
  • Beer (I'll need some)
  • Soda (I'll need some of that, too.)
  • Pellegrino (just bought a new case at Costco), maybe we will mix up some Crystal Light to serve with it (the official drink of the Brave Astronaut in-laws).
So, what am I missing? What has to be on your table at Thanksgiving? Recipe sound good? Want to come? Hey, what's one more?