Thursday, June 28, 2007

Something to get the brain juices flowing

Here's another quiz to jump start the brain on a hot Friday. My father is in town this weekend and I will be out and about entertaining him. Saturday, we will be at a Kingston Trio and Smothers Brothers concert at Wolf Trap (stop laughing at me). It should be fun.

The quiz is simple. I'll give you the first one. The other answers will come in a week. See how you do and try and stay cool.
  1. 366 D. in a L. Y. (366 Days in a Leap Year)
  2. 5 T. on a F.
  3. 3 S. (S., M., and L.)
  4. 100 Y. on a F. F.
  5. 360 D. in a C.
  6. 2000 P. in a T.
  7. 7 B. for S. B.
  8. 3 L. P.
  9. 144 I. in a G.
  10. 26 L. of the A.
  11. 12 S. of the Z.
  12. 54 C. in a D. (with the J.)
  13. 88 P. K.
  14. 13 S. on the A. F.
  15. 3 S. Y. O. at the O. B. G.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Standing in the Shadow of Greatness

I have two "celebrity" stories to relate. The first is familial and a blatant plug for you to go and buy something. My sister-in-law has published a book. If you have kids, you should read this book. The book is called "Nine Months in August." She "labored" long over this book and it is finally out and you will enjoy it. As people who have been reviewing it have said, it's a good summer read.

The second brush gives me a Kevin Bacon number of three. I went to high school and graduated with Judd Apatow. Judd's Bacon number is two (he was in Anchorman / with Tim Robbins / who was in Mystic River with Kevin Bacon). In the May 27, 2007 New York Times Magazine, there was an extensive article on Apatow, including his roots on Long Island. He got his "Hollywood" start working at our high school's radio station and managed to pull in celebrities for interviews, including a very young Jerry Seinfeld.

Last year, when I went home for my 20th high school reunion, it was about the time when the "40-Year Old Virgin" came out. An article I read then mentioned that Apatow was hoping to come to the reunion, but alas, he didn't show. I will admit that I didn't know him all that well in high school, but it's kind of cool to have somebody famous from your class.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Catching Up on Back Issues

I have been neglecting the ever growing pile of Bon Appetit magazines that had been arriving. I think I still have a few left to get through, but this recipe from the May 2007 issue caught my eye. My father's family came from Brittany and in honor of his visit this coming weekend, I might ask Mrs. Brave Astronaut to see if she can put one of these together.

  • 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar, divided (blend 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 coarsely chopped vanilla bean in processor. store for 2 days then strain through fine strainer before using. vanilla sugar will keep for several months)
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, husked
  • 6 large egg yolks (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water (for glaze)
  • Whole strawberries with stems attached or warm strawberry jam
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Combine 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar and hazelnuts in processor; blend until nuts are finely ground but not pasty. Combine 6 egg yolks and remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar in large bowl; whisk until well blended and slightly thicker, about 2 minutes (do not use electric mixer). Whisk in hazelnut mixture. Gradually whisk in melted butter. Sift flour over batter; stir just until blended (batter will be thick; do not overmix or cake may be tough).

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with offset spatula (layer will be thin). Brush top generously with egg glaze. Using back of tines of fork, deeply mark crisscross pattern atop cake, marking 3 times across in 1 direction and 3 times in opposite direction. Bake cake until deep golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then remove pan sides and cool cake completely. Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.

Cut cake into wedges and serve with whole strawberries or with warm strawberry jam.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's SUV

The Vatican has published its "rules of the road," with the intention of keeping motorists "on the road to salvation, warning drivers against the sins of road rage, abuse of alcohol or even simple rudeness." A Vatican official, Cardinal Renato Martino, told a news conference the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving has become such a big part of contemporary life.

The document, issued from the office for migrants and itinerant people, is called "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," and extols the benefits of driving - family outings, getting the sick to the hospital, allowing people to get to work and seeing other cultures.

I'll point out these "new" Commandments come from a guy that drives around in a car standing up, without a seat belt. Nonetheless, follow these or its eternal traffic for you:

The Vatican's Ten Commandments for drivers:
  1. You shall not kill.
  2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
  3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
  4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
  5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
  6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
  7. Support the families of accident victims.
  8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
  9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
  10. Feel responsible toward others.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Go Forth and Populate

If you are heading to the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting in Chicago this year, friends and colleagues have created a wiki for people to share information about the meeting and things about Chicago in general.

The wiki can be found here. Please note the wiki is the "UnOfficial Wiki of the 2007 Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting" and not sponsored, endorsed, or hosted by the Society.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Time to Go Already?

A historical note for today. It was on this day in 1912, the Federal Government adopted the 8-hour workday. As one of the many cogs in the federal wheels, it is nice to come to work and know that you can go home after a set period of time. I tend to be a task-oriented person (I like lists - sorry, nature of the beast) and I make lots of lists. Having a set timetable to plan out my day makes things go more smoothly.

I will say that I dislike the "factory worker" mentality that exists in those arenas where people are salaried professionals. There is something to be said about the idea that you pay a person a set salary - treat them like professionals. Don't stand over their shoulders and check what time they got here and what time they left. If the people are truly professionals, they will come to work, do what they are expected to do, and leave when they are done. The over-under would all come out in the wash. But then again just my opinion.

There are some interesting parallels for this day as well. Twenty-two years after the setting of the eight-hour day, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Archives Act, creating the National Archives and the National Historical Publications Commission (now the NHPRC).

Then, in 1964, some Senators eschewed the 8-hour workday gave up on an 83-day filibuster and passed the historic Civil Rights Act. It was sent to the President for his approval and signed by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Too Hot for Hot Food

It is days like this that my mother would declare we were having a "cold supper." Deviled eggs (really good), cold cuts for sandwiches, maybe some cole slaw, chips. The heat is causing a fair amount of lethargy about here, so I am copping out on the recipe of the week. Here is one lifted from the epicurious website. It is one that is sure to catch the eye of Mrs. Brave Astronaut. She's got a thing for bleu cheese.


When buying green beans, look for the skinniest ones—they have the best texture. Offer plenty of crusty bread, and open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to go with this hearty main-course salad.
  • 1 pound slender green beans, trimmed
  • 6 cups arugula (about 6 ounces)
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 8- to 9-ounce New York steaks
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Cook green beans in pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water and cool. Drain.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Combine beans, arugula, tomatoes, and olives in large bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup oil and vinegar in small bowl.

Brush steaks with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Cut steaks crosswise into strips.

Toss salad with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among 6 plates. Top with steak strips. Sprinkle cheese over.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Dad-opedia

It's Father's Day. Do you have your facts straight? There was an article in yesterday's Washington Post, where the reporter shadowed some fathers and sons around the National Air and Space Museum here in Washington. He heard the following:
  • "Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly across the Atlantic (looking at the Spirit of St. Louis).
  • John Glenn flew the little Mercury capsule to the moon (pointing to the Friendship 7).
  • The Russian satellite (Sputnik) carried a dog into space.

The reporter watched another exchange where a 12-year old asked his father what the large, dark disks on the bottom of the Mercury capsule were made of. Without missing a beat, the father reported, "Steel." Um, sorry. It's actually a plastic-fiberglass composite.

We (fathers) seem to have an inability to say "I don't know" (see also, asking for directions when lost). When asked about the exchange a few moments later, the father admitted that he guesses "I make stuff up all the time."

For the record, Lindbergh did fly the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean. He was not the first to do so, only the first to do it alone and non-stop. John Glenn used Friendship 7 to orbit the Earth. Sputnik (which the one in the museum is a replica) is only 23 inches in diameter. Laika, the Russian dog, went up later.

So, Dads, let's work on our image, OK? But stay away from Wikipedia, it's not trustworthy. Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Down (East) on Their Luck

As my faithful readers know, I do try to highlight archival content in my posts. I was reading Down East magazine recently (I love the state of Maine, having summered there every year growing up) and I came across the following article about the Maine State Museum.

The article starts off rather ominously, "The Maine State Museum has problems. A lot of problems." The problems are those that affect a great number of archives around the country, "it lacks attendance, money, staff, storage, and parking." Maine will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020. They need some help. Now, you may say that 13 years is a long way off, but those of us who work in government know that the wheels move slowly. The building that currently houses the Museum (and the state archives) is in need of renovation. The possibility of a relocation is also being debated in Maine.

The current director of the Maine State Museum arrived in 1992, just in time for Maine to be struck with a financial crisis. Layoffs ensued and the museum was forced to charge admission. Attendance dropped and continued to decline until the admission fee was revoked in 1996. Admission fees ($2/adults, $1/children) came back in 2003 and are still charged today. In 2006, attendance at the museum hovered at about 58,000 people. The museum's largest visitor bloc is (as might be expected) elementary school children. About half of the attendance figure are school groups.

The museum has a budget of about $1.7 million, which Director Phillips reports, "keeps the doors open" and supports its staff of about 20. Phillips has been successful at fund raising, bringing in about $3.5 million from private donors. State money is not available for exhibits, so the exhibits are installed and stay for many years.

The chair of the Maine State Museum Commission sums up the sorry state when she says, "Isn't it too bad that cultural areas seem to be the most superfluous government agencies."

When the current building opened in 1971, it allowed the memorabilia of Maine to come together under one roof. The building housed the museum, the library, and the archives. Prior to this, artifacts were scattered about the state. The ORIGINAL Maine State Constitution was stored in an abandoned elevator shaft. The handwritten reports by Joshua Chamberlain from the Civil War were in cardboard boxes in a DAMP POWDER MAGAZINE!

So, new building, everything better, right? Wrong. The new building was immediately obsolete. With the energy crisis of the 1970s, the concrete building had little insulation, nor was their adequate barriers to protect the state's treasures. The discussion of a new building (rather than renovating the existing one) carries a price tag of nearly $200 million. Maine recently built a new bridge over the Penobscot River for $85 million. The renovation plans would run about $58 million. While a new building would be nice, it's probably not going to happen, a fact that Phillips and his staff are fine with. They don't want to move.

So, my friends, go visit your local archives, libraries, and museums. Give 'til it hurts. We have the history and you'll be sorry when it's gone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New Old Stuff Out on DVD

This one's for Dave!

Four new DVDs are out this week, featuring the best(?) of some great 70s-80s TV. The "oldest" and possibly one of the better choices comes from the comic genius mind of Gabe Kaplan. "Welcome Back Kotter," 1975-1976 season has arrived on DVD. The birth of John Travolta's career and the show that made slacking in school an art form is one of my favorites. How many times did I copy of one Epstein's notes to try and get out of something?

The highlight for many of us is the release of a show that, while we watched when it was on the first time, we know it better from its days in syndication on TBS. You know it, you love it. You hear the theme in your head . . . DA DA DAH DUNT NA! Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox protect the freeways of Los Angeles in "CHiPS," Season one, 1977-1978. Oh, yeah!

"The Fall Guy" (1981-1982) is also out, one of Lee Major's better efforts but pales in comparison to his work on the Six Million Dollar Man. And, finally, one that would have been better left behind - it has not gotten better with age - the first season of What's Happening Now!, the "spin-off" to "What's Happening." Please, make it stop.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

So, What'll You Have?

Does anybody drink anymore? When I went off to college, I "liberated" several bottles of liquor for my college dorm room. As a result, we had the best stocked bar on State Quad. Of course, we drank our share of beer as well. We would go down to the distributor and get a case on Friday night and usually head back on Saturday (to return empties) and get another case. I suppose we could have gotten two cases on Friday, but we probably would have drank both on Friday then. As it was, sometimes we were looking for change in the couch to get enough for more beer. At year's end, our dorm had a hayride, and we went off with a "cocktail" of our own creation, using what was left of the bar. It involved, gin, maybe rum, and iced tea mix (we needed the color to disguise it in the Coke two liter bottles we put it in. I think we enjoyed it . . .

Anyway, recently the Post dedicated several pages of its food section to stocking a bar. So, again, I ask you, does anybody drink anymore? I mean, yes, I enjoy my vodka, and I might even reach for that before the beer. Especially now that summer is here and I can make vodka collins. So, do you have a full bar at home? What's in it? While you go check, fix yourself the semi-official drink of Bermuda.

Dark & Stormy
  • ice
  • 1 to 2 coin-size slices peeled ginger root (optional)
  • 2 ounces dark rum, preferably Gosling's Black Seal (from Bermuda)
  • 3 to 4 ounces chilled ginger beer (be sure to use ginger beer and not ginger ale)
  • 2 thin lime wedges, for garnish

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice and the ginger. Add the rum and stir. Top with the ginger beer. Squeeze the lime wedges over the drink and drop them in.

If you leave out the ginger and replace the dark rum with vodka, you'll have made a Moscow Mule.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Other Old Blue Eyes

Sad news this week out of Hollywood. Paul Newman, 82, is retiring. He reports that he is getting too old for it. Newman was one of my mother's favorite actors. She had a pillowcase that had his face printed on it, so she could go to bed with him. Her favorite expression was "He can put his shoes under my bed anytime." My mother got to meet him once at a car race in Cleveland.

Of course, while Newman will be forever remembered for his movie roles, including, Fast Eddie Felson, which he started with in "The Hustler" and finished in "The Color of Money." I really loved him in "The Verdict" and of course, hockey lover that I am, Reggie Dunlop in "Slapshot." I am a big fan of disaster flicks and he is great in "The Towering Inferno." The roles that will forever be his for me though are in his work in "The Sting" and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Newman has morphed into a successful business man as well and done great work for kids with his support of the "Hole in the Wall Gang" camp. And let us not forget he is married to Joanne Woodward in one of the few successful Hollywood marriages. Take a seat, Paul. We'll miss you, but you've earned the break.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hey, That's Funny!

A friend who has escaped the city life for the slowed down pace of the wilds of Pennsylvania has found herself something to do. She has started several blogs. One of them is generating a great deal of discussion about the profession we are both involved in. If you work in archives, you should certainly check out Archives Next.

But the real fun is taking place on "Special K's" other blog about her new country life. In Life After DC, she relates how things are going in her new life and with her new husband. They leave for Italy on Saturday (for their honeymoon), but late last week, she challenged our "lunch crowd" (those of us that usually eat together at the "Mother Ship") to come up with a list of our favorite comedy movies. It has been a very active thread, interspersed with her nearly interrupted plans to travel to Italy on Saturday.

But this I can do. I mean, really, who wants to talk about work all the time? This is infinitely more fun. So, I quickly posted several of my favorite comedies, with a twist. I only put quotes and challenged them (Mr. and Mrs. Special K) to identify the movies.

And here's a little bonus. On another blog I read, "Amy in Cleveland" included a link to this movie quiz. 45 movie midpoints. A frame of a movie taken at exactly the middle of the film. Look at the pictures and see how many you can get. I was able to get about a third of them.

Here are the quotes I posted on Life After DC, and another Order from Chaos quiz is born. Answers to follow next week.
  1. "Does Jeff know?"
  2. "Fifteen's my limit on schnitzengruben."
  3. "It is so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk."
  4. "I love this plan! I'm happy to be a part of it! Let's do it!"
  5. "This once former greens keeper, now putting for the illustrious green jacket.
  6. "If we were in Germany, I'd have to make your bed - but we're in Italy, so you have to make mine."
  7. "Sorry, folks, park's closed. Moose out front should have told you."
  8. "OK, but I get to be on top."
  9. I paid for it with the Underhill's American Express card. Want the number?
  10. "My name in Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
  11. "Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!" (the original, not the remake)
  12. "I want my two dollars!"
  13. "Run Away! Run Away"
  14. "You built a time machine . . . out of a DeLorean?"
  15. "I have one word for you, son. Plastics."
  16. "I'm no fool. I've killed the boss, you think they're not gonna fire me for a thing like that?"
  17. "Paul, I think I'm gonna be a lousy wife. But don't be angry with me. I love you very much - and I'm very sexy!" (A boatload of bonus points to whoever knows this one)
  18. "She's great. She's really exotic! She's a princess! She's Polynesian - well, half Polynesian, and half American. She's... Amnesian."
  19. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are such a wonderful crowd, we'd like to play a little tune for you. It's one of my personal favorites and I'd like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn't think he's seen anything good today - Cameron Frye, this one's for you.
  20. "I can't believe my grandmother actually felt me up."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

To Remember

Today is June 6. For a rapidly diminishing generation, this day is burned into their psyche. It is of course the 63rd anniversary of D-Day. For years, Charles Schulz would publish a strip on June 6 to commemorate the anniversary. His two simple words, "To Remember."

I read today in the Washington Post, on the editorial page, A Note on D-Day. It is particularly appropriate to use this day to recall the acts of American soldiers and the general that led them into the greatest invasion ever undertaken.

The day before D-Day, General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a note to be read in the event the invasion failed and placed it in his wallet. It read,
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
As the Post notes, Eisenhower's words are about more than warfare, "it speaks to the responsibility of all who would order the affairs of others, then and now." One wonders if anyone carries similar words in their wallets today. I'm guessing no.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Sale is Over - Go in Peace

So I'm back from my third weekend in a row to New York. Saturday was the big yard sale at the family manse. It was also my last opportunity to stay in the house I grew up in. The next time I go to New York, it will be to a new place, with a different um, taste, shall we say? See the pictures below. I don't have a picture of the neon sign over the deck, which features the character names from the Sopranos.

So the sale was a success. Here are couple of pictures from the sale, albeit late in the day. The ad said 8am, and yet at 7am - knock, knock on the front door. "Are you having a sale, today?" "Yes," I reply, "at 8:00." "Are you going to start early?" I am then asked? Gee, why would I put 8:00 in the ad and then start just because you are here? Good Lord. Sometimes I hate people.

And here is what the ad didn't say. Nothing went back into the house. If it didn't sell, it went to the curb. Some items were retained (books for, my postcards for eBay, some of my father's models for eBay), but everything else went to the curb. I neglected to leave beer for the garbage boys before I left and my father reports a lot of the trash was not picked up.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Secret Family Recipe

I promised this recipe a few weeks ago, and with summer upon us, I wanted to share it. It is a basic vinaigrette recipe. In my family, we make variations to serve with cold asparagus or artichokes (make it thicker), or on salads or for a nice tomato salad (my father's speciality). Please note there are no real measurements, I don't think I have made it the same way twice.
  • mayonnaise (approximately 4 tbsp)
  • mustard (approximately 2 tbsp) (I use brown, Dijon, yellow, whole grain - mix it up)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • spices (whichever ones I grab from the rack)

Stir together above ingredients.

  • olive oil (approximately to double volume)

Shake vigorously to incorporate oil.

  • vinegar (again I use white or red wine / you can use balsamic, but it will make it very dark) to thin dressing to desired consistency.

Secret ingredient: I squeeze a little lemon juice into the dressing.

Friday, June 1, 2007

It Was How Many Years Ago?

I am in New York for the big sale and have just finished getting things ready. I needed a shower and now feel clean again. But I wanted to get this out to all you nice folks, in case you missed it. Especially to my wife who prefers the Stones over the Beatles. Ah, mixed marriages.

News outlets are reporting today that today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Something else that is older than I am, although we both turn 40 this year.

Of the many items for sale tomorrow are my parents collection of LPs (and even some 78s - and you're really dating yourself if you know what those are). Back in the days when album covers meant something and the artwork was sometimes done by real artists, the LP is a lost treasure of my childhood. One of the features I like on my iPod is the "cover art" that you get when you download a song. Everything old is new again.

Go find a turntable and put on the old vinyl and sit back and listen to when "it was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play."