Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good News, Bad News for the Archives Profession

Let's start with the good news. I work in Washington, DC. Most of my faithful readers know where. So allow me to step out from behind the curtain to highlight one of my colleagues, who is also a real hoot. She will also be on the program when MARAC travels to lovely Chautauqua, New York in the spring. (I have been given assurances the lake will no longer be frozen.) Imagine my surprise when I picked up the Washington Post on Sunday and happened to note on the front page of the jobs section (a section that neither Mrs. BA or I read regularly - we have jobs that we like) a side bar article titled, "Among Fragile Records The Archivists Reign." "Ms. P" points out in the article, "the job requires "patience and a sense of humor" as well as the ability to work independently and search for answers in all kinds of fragile materials." I guess I am doing the right kind of work.

So, bad news. I used to work in New York, but not at the New York State Archives. Let me state for the record, I do not know this individual. But he certainly gives the profession a bad name. Take your pick on any of the links below.Or you can do a Google News search for New York State Archives theft or some variation and get all the latest updates. Those of us in government services are paid well for what we do, as you can see in the article regarding Connie, and even to learn what Mr. Morello was being paid. I could wax on philosophically about how we are the keepers of the flame, that we are supposed to protect the knowledge. But I am stunned to read how this individual stole these items to pay his daughter's credit card debt. For shame, sir. For shame.

In other news, my father arrived today. Tomorrow he is on his own in Washington, DC, so if you see a lost 79-year old on the National Mall, call me. Saturday, we may head toward Annapolis to see the Naval Academy or in the other direction to see how the Marines do museums.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lost Finds its Way Back

We've waited long enough. With hope and despite the writer's strike, the TV series Lost will return tomorrow. Here is a map of the island posted on the Strange Maps blog, a really good blog that puts up some really interesting images. With the series heading for its conclusion, here's hoping they can wrap it up nicely. It has been a really good ride.

As an admitted television addict, I want to say here that I remember the days when you had to get up and change the channel on the television. I remember having a cable box that was actually attached to the TV, by a cable. I remember network only television. I remember UHF.

I dream of the days when I will have a new HD television. I dream of the days when I will have the time to sit around and watch all the television I want to. For now, I am grateful to one of the better inventions, the DVR / TiVO. I can't tell you how many people I will say, "I couldn't tell you what night a show is on. It's just there on the list when I want to watch it." Mrs. BA firmly believes that TiVO should be issued to every new parent upon leaving the hospital. (I mean, they don't give you a manual for the child, the least they could do is some other nice parting gift.) I very rarely watch "live" TV anymore. My son, who we try to limit his television watching, does not understand why he cannot watch one program on one television (without the DVR) that he watches on the other (with the DVR). And the commercials? Couldn't tell you about them, although I will be taping the Super Bowl this Sunday to be sure I get to see the best commercials (and perhaps a wardrobe malfunction or two, but then again, the halftime show entertainment is Tom Petty, and no one wants to see that).

On another note, my father arrives tomorrow for a visit. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes. We've got a full slate planned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

#3 - Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809

The gentleman from Virginia will always hold a special place in the Brave Astronaut's heart. His memorial in Washington, DC was the place where I asked Mrs. Brave Astronaut to marry me. Of course, there is also 1776, but that is sometimes hard because Jefferson is being played by the White Shadow. He is most certainly in my top 5 of greatest presidents. (A list will appear at the conclusion of this series.)

There is no doubt that Jefferson was extremely intelligent. An inventor, a student of the Enlightenment, he was America's DaVinci. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed forty-nine Nobel Prize winners to the White House he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

He was a very accomplished man before coming to the Presidency. A graduate of the College of William and Mary at the age of 18, he served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and was twice named a delegate to the Continental Congress. He became part of the Declaration Committee and is considered to be the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. In the waning years of the American Revolution, Jefferson was Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. He succeeded Benjamin Franklin as Minister to France and then returned home to serve as George Washington's Secretary of State.

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, was our first "Republican" president. He found himself at odds with the Federalists and Alexander Hamilton and helped to found a new party, the Democratic-Republicans. In 1796, he came within three votes of becoming the second president of the United States. Never an enthusiastic candidate, he reluctantly became Vice President, under John Adams. In 1800, a tie in the electoral college between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, threw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Federalists were in control. Alexander Hamilton disliked both men, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, but hated Jefferson less and manipulated the votes to secure the presidency for Jefferson. This was but one of the events that would cost Hamilton his life, who would be killed in a duel by Aaron Burr in 1804.

As President, Jefferson oversaw the doubling of the size of the United States, when he secured the purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1803. He then sent Lewis and Clark to the West to explore the new lands.

Following his two terms as President, the "Sage of Monticello" returned home to his hilltop retreat. He realized one of his last dreams, when he founded the University of Virginia, which he helped to design. One of his most lasting contributions was, following the burning of Washington by the British in 1814, Jefferson donated his library collection to the United States to rebuild the Library of Congress.

When he died on the Fourth of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was nearly destitute. He was buried on the grounds of Monticello, which he left to the United States for use as school for orphans of navy officers, under a monument that reads:


These were his words and he insisted that no other words be included. Finally, I am sure that someone will ding me for not touching on the Sally Hemmings issue. But, I don't really care. The man's wife was dead, he found solace in the arms of another woman. Unfortunately for the time, it was not socially acceptable. And yes there are issues with how things have been resolved, but they're getting better.

The Facts:
  • born April 13, 1743, Shadwell, Virginia
  • Governor of Virginia, 1779-1781
  • Minister to France, 1785-1789
  • Vice President of the United States, 1797-1801
  • President of the United States, 1801-1809
  • died July 4, 1826 (before John Adams), Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, DC
  • The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth. Each year, a celebration is held on the steps of the memorial to commemorate Jefferson. (I know this because Mrs. BA and I stumbled on it once.)
  • Jefferson appears on Mount Rushmore, the nickel, the two-dollar bill, and the $100 US Savings Bond.
  • Adding to the coincidence of Adams and Jefferson dying on the same day, they were the only two presidents to have signed the Declaration of Independence.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Recipe: Anna's Bigos Recipe

This recipe first appeared on Anna van Schurman's (Mrs. BA's best pal) other blog.
  • 2 lbs sauerkraut
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1/2 lb veal
  • 1/2 lb pork
  • 1/2 lb ham
  • 1 kielbasa - don't know which kind, but next time we're doing it with "hunter's kielbasa"
  • small head of cabbage
  • 3 onions
  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • butter
  • dry mushrooms
  • 2 c boiling water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T caraway seed
  • 1 beer, I used Sam Light since it was the only lager in the fridge (and I wasn't using the Skullsplitter)
  • 3 tomatoes
Bring the sauerkraut (with juice) to a boil. Meanwhile, fry bacon. Throw the bacon in the pot with the sauerkraut once it is browned. In the bacon fat, brown the meats. Add to the pot. Slice the cabbage and add it to the stew. Chop the onions and brown in the butter. Slice the mushrooms and cook with the onions. Throw the cooked onions and mushrooms in the pot. Put a handful of dry mushrooms in the boiling water. Once they are reconstituted, chop the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and their (strained) liquid to the pot. If the liquid level seems low, add a beer. Add bay leaves and caraway. Chop and add three tomatoes (you can used canned).

Bring it to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours. The stew is purportedly better after a day or so. Boil it every day. I made the stew on Sunday and the dude boiled it on Monday. We didn't get to it on Tuesday, but heated it up (to boiling) well in advance of the party on Wednesday. Everyone raved.

Anna's Notes: The original recipe called for 1/2 c red wine instead of beer. It also suggested a chopped apple to sweeten it (it's a little tart from the sauerkraut). It called for 1/2 lb game (rabbit, venison) which is a little difficult to procure at the last minute. (But my father had both moose and venison in the freezer, if I'd only known!) And it said you could throw in any other cooked meats you might have. Which is why I decided I could play fast and loose with the recipe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Quantum of Solace

I am the father of two small children, one who's three, and the second a month old on Wednesday. There is little, if any, quantum of solace to be found in the Brave Astronaut home. Let me say up front that I am possibly the luckiest father on the face of the earth. As I reported in my last post, Mrs. Brave Astronaut sent me off to the movies by myself last weekend. Granted our older son was at a sleepover with his cousins and she only had the little one to look after, but still. I have the best wife ever.

Since LBA2.0* came home, I have been attending to the needs of LBA. Let me say parenthetically here, that two is the appropriate number of children for most parents. As I will always say, with two kids, you can still play man-to-man, when you add a third, you have to start playing zone. It has been great, especially when I was off work, to be able to have all that time, where my wife and I could focus on one child and spell each other when needed. Now that I am back at work, it has been harder for Mrs. Brave Astronaut to find a few moments to herself. In fact, as I write this, LBA2.0 is sitting on my lap, asleep for the moment, but may wake at any moment, in search of nourishment from my wife (which I cannot unfortunately help with).

When the last James Bond movie came out, I went to see it with my brother-in-law, again leaving my wife at home, then only with one child. I liked it very much. It was nice to see James Bond actually get the snot kicked out of him and need to take some time before he could get back up again. He was more human and less superhero-like. There was word out this week that the new James Bond movie, and Daniel Craig's second turn as Bond, would be titled, A Quantum of Solace, from an Ian Fleming short story that appears in For Your Eyes Only. The new movie opens approximately one hour after the conclusion of Casino Royale and Bond is pissed and looking for revenge.

So to all of you out there, on this cold Sunday afternoon (at least here in this neck of the woods) may you all find a quantum of solace in your daily lives and that things aren't too crazy for you. I have found mine and her name is Mrs. Brave Astronaut.

* LBA2.0 - perhaps the new moniker for my younger son, as my older son will continue to be Little Brave Astronaut, or LBA for short.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Well We Can't Have a Bridge, How About a Tunnel?

Today is the 29th anniversary of the death of Nelson Rockefeller. (And remember now, say it with me kids, Nelson Rockefeller died of a heart attack at his desk in his office in New York City.) I have previously written about Nelson's dream of a bridge across Long Island Sound. Well, they've gone underground.

Where I lived on Long Island was near where the terminus of the Cross-Sound bridge would have been located. But now, where all that development has now taken place, a Long Island developer has proposed building a tunnel under it all. Not just any tunnel mind you, but what would be the longest tunnel in the world. The price tag currently sits at $10 billion, built with private funding and with no cost to the taxpayer, until they decide they want to use the tunnel. The toll could be as high as $25 per trip. And don't get your hopes up, the tunnel, if approved, still wouldn't be ready until 2025.

Now faithful readers, I think you all know how I feel about traffic. I've lived in areas that rank high on the lists of worst traffic. Having worked in the Rockefeller Archives and having grown up at ground zero for what would have been the bridge to save Long Island, I have to say, please, do something. It's already too late.

I will say that this idea of the longest tunnel in the world won't really do anything about the traffic (I firmly believe that we are already over capacity, you build more roads and we'll fill them up, too). There needs to be less people. In my youth, I used to travel to New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel. Without a doubt, every time I would go through it, I would think of the scene (as my mother would do the same) in Stephen King's The Stand, where one of the characters gets out of a plague stricken New York City by climbing across the rooftops of cars stuck in the tunnel. Just last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the movies. I went by myself to see I am Legend (although I tried to find a date - Mrs. Brave Astronaut stayed at home and urged me to go). Of course, I am not advocating for that scenario.

For the record, I am Legend, is worth your time and money. If you like Will Smith, for it is his movie. I mean it's him (and the dog) for 3/4 of the movie. Sure there's some flashbacks as to how this all happened, but it's all him. And you have to love the post-apocalyptic New York City. The movie is supposed to take place in 2012 (with the plague hitting in 2009) and there is one scene where Smith is pumping out gas to fill up the many cars he has access to. You can see the price sign - $6.35/gallon. Funny.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

#2 - John Adams, 1797-1801

So I actually came up with this idea of going through all the presidents primarily because of this television event coming up in March. Faithful readers of this blog know that I have a penchant for John Adams on the screen. ("For God's sake, John . . . sit down!") Our second President, John Adams, led America down the path to independence, serving as a delegate from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to both the First and Second Continental Congresses. Adams served as a diplomat during the Revolutionary War, helping to enlist the French to join with the colonies against Great Britain.

Prior to serving as the colonies chief agitator, Adams actually worked for the British, defending the soldiers who were involved in the Boston Massacre.

Adams has the distinction of being the nation's first vice president and also being the first man to despise the office. Washington did not ask Adams for input on the affairs of state. When he finally became president, international tensions between France and the United States, leading Adams to send three commissioners to France. The three were turned away from the French officials for they would not pay a substantial bribe. The "XYZ Affair," as it became known, helped Adams' Federalist Party solidify their power in America.

However, Adams tried to then negotiate with France, which cost him the election of 1800, losing to Thomas Jefferson by only a few electoral votes. Adams had suffered the wrath of Alexander Hamilton, who engineered Jefferson's victory. Adams left Washington and did not attend Jefferson's inauguration. The two rivals reconciled in 1812 and began a correspondence that lasted until their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826. Adams also had the opportunity to see his son, John Quincy, elected to the presidency, when J.Q. took office in 1825.

One of the better presidential quotes comes from the gentleman from Massachusetts, written in a letter to his beloved Abigail shortly after moving into the Executive Mansion:
"Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."
Oh, John. Though it were so, though it were so.

The Facts:
  • born October 30, 1735, Braintree, Massachusetts
  • died July 4, 1826, Braintree, Massachusetts (age 90)
  • As President of the Senate (while serving as Vice President), Adams holds the record of casting the most tie breaking votes with 31. John C. Calhoun is second with 28.
  • The USS Constitution was built during his administration.
  • That Jefferson and Adams both died on the same day, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence is considered one of the greatest coincidences in history. Adams' reported last words were, "Jefferson survives" although he had died a few hours earlier.
  • Adams is the first president to live in the Executive Mansion, now known as the White House.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Recipe: C in DC's Beef Stew

Hey, it's January. It's cold. It's good stew weather. Here's a recipe courtesy of C in DC.
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound leftover roast beef, diced into small pieces
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 2 small potatoes, cubed
  • large handful of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • beef broth just to cover (save 2 tsp for later) - around 2 cups
  • corn starch
In a dutch oven, heat a tbsp of olive oil. Saute onion and garlic until transparent. Add beef cubes to heat through. Add ingredients up to and including the broth. Do not add too much broth; you want it stewy, not soupy. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Mix 2 tsp of corn starch with reserved 2 tsp of broth until combined. Stir into pot. Cook until sauce thickens. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Gift Outright

Exactly one year from today a new president will be inaugurated on the steps of the United States Capitol. 47 years ago on this day, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States (don't worry, we'll get to him in turn on Presidential Tuesdays). Kennedy chose to have Robert Frost read at his inauguration.

Recently, this story caught my eye. Sad. From CNN:
RIPTON, Vermont (AP) -- A former home of poet Robert Frost has been vandalized, with intruders destroying dozens of items and setting fire to furniture in what police say was an underage drinking party.

Homer Noble Farm, a former Frost residence that's now a historic landmark, was ransacked late Friday night during a party attended by up to 50 people, Sgt. Lee Hodsden said Monday.

The intruders broke a window to get into the two-story wood frame building -- a furnished residence open in the summer -- before destroying tables and chairs, pictures, windows, light fixtures and dishes. Wicker furniture and dressers were smashed and thrown into a fireplace and burned, apparently to provide heat in the unheated building, he said.

Empty beer bottles and cans, plastic cups and cellophane apparently used to hold marijuana were also found, according to Hodsden. The vandals vomited in the living room and discharged two fire extinguishers inside the building, located on a dead-end road off Route 125.

No arrests have been made, Hodsden said, adding that they've tracked down some party goers and believe they are minors.

The damage was discovered Saturday by a hiker who notified police at Middlebury College, which maintains the site. The cabin's caretaker was last there at 10 a.m. Friday, police said. Frost, a celebrated New England poet known for such verse as "The Road Not Taken" and "The Gift Outright," died in 1963. He summered at the home from 1939 to 1963.
And here's an update! Good news.

On Inauguration Day 1961, Frost was unable to read the poem he wanted to read because of the wind and glare. He recited from memory, "The Gift Outright." Frost is one of my favorite poems. Here is a Wikipedia link to Frost and the text of the two poems from that special day.

Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country'd be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
"New order of the ages" did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
'Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom's story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right divine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

"The Gift Outright"
The land was our before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, Still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely; realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting Ready for the Return

I am going back to work next Tuesday. As I enjoy this last weekend at home with my newborn son and wife, I hearken back to when my first son was born. At that time I was working for an international organization that understood how important it was to have time off when a major life event occurs. I was given eight weeks of paternity leave PAID after the birth of my first son.

This time, as a newly minted federal employee, I accrue leave at a snail's pace. The only way I have been able to stay out this long has been through the generosity of my colleagues who donated their leave to me. I was out of leave a week after the birth of my son.

Mrs. Brave Astronaut will be out for another two months. She has advanced herself sick leave to give her a few more weeks of paid leave. However, she will not be able to take sick leave for two and a half years. She is also on a donated leave list, but to some arcane second class employment status, she will likely not get very much, if at all.

All that being said, I have been given the opportunity to work at a different location for the next month. It will allow me to bring my older son to school in the morning and then literally walk across the street to work. It is going to be sweet. We are going to have to leave right on time though, no dawdling.

And evidently no hitting the snooze button. Especially if I buy this alarm clock. But if someone buys me this mug, I won't have to fix my own coffee.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

#1 - George Washington, 1789-1797

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. When he was sworn into office in 1789, there was a good chance that the event might never have taken place. For during the French and Indian War, Lt. Colonel Washington was nearly killed at the Battle of the Monongahela in Pennsylvania. General Edward Braddock, under whom Washington served, was killed in that battle. Washington had two horses shot out from under him and four bullet holes in his jacket after the battle.

Washington had been born into a family of landed gentry and pursued interests in both surveying and the military. After his brush with death in Pennsylvania, Washington returned home to Virginia to marry the widow, Martha Dandridge Custis.

Shortly after the convening of the Second Continental Congress, Washington was called upon to serve as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Taking command in July 1775, he led the colonials against the armies of the British empire for the next six years. The Continentals were defeated at nearly every turn, forced to withdraw from Boston, New York and elsewhere. Washington was very successful in using guerrilla tactics, something the British were completely unprepared to defend against, best exemplified by the crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Eve, 1776. With that, Washington likely saved Philadelphia from being taken by the British and with it the American government. When French forces arrived to assist Washington and the Americans, the tide turned and Washington forced a surrender of the British forces under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.

During his presidency, Washington set about setting the precedents for the United States government. He watched as partisanship quickly enveloped his administration and, weary and longing to return to Mount Vernon, he ignored pleas to serve a third term and retired in 1796, publishing a Farewell Address. His retirement lasted barely three years, when Washington died of a throat infection in December 1799.

The Facts:
  • born February 22, 1732, Westmoreland County, Virginia
  • April 14, 1789 - Washington accepts the presidency
  • April 30, 1789 - Washington is inaugurated on the steps of Federal Hall in New York City
  • died December 14, 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia
  • George Washington is the only president to be elected unanimously (in the electoral college).
  • He is the only president to be inaugurated in two capitals (New York and Philadelphia) as well as the only president to not reside in Washington, DC
  • Washington refused the presidential salary of $25,000
  • The "Father of Our Country" had no children of his own
  • Washington granted freedom to his slaves at Mount Vernon upon his death

Monday, January 14, 2008

Escargot in Puff Pastry

This recipe came across my desk a few weeks ago. I have a thing for the snail. I had them on my birthday and will likely have them if they are on the menu. It's really about the garlic and the butter and the bread to dip it in. So here, you get the whole package wrapped up in one! Bon Appetit! [From the Amateur Gourmet blog, please note, the "chef" did not have a good experience consuming these snails, but I'm willing to give it a try.]

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup infused olive oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose or bread flour
  • 3 large eggs and 3 large egg whites
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped in salt
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium saucepan bring the water, oil and sugar to a boil
  3. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once
  4. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the pan
  5. Return pan to low heat and mash continuously for 3 minutes
  6. Transfer dough to the food processor
  7. Leaving feed tube open, process 15 seconds
  8. Pour in the eggs all at once and process for 30 seconds; dough should be too soft to hold peaks. If it is not, add a small amount of water.
  9. Add garlic and stir
  10. Using a pastry sleeve or a tablespoon, pipe about 2 tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet spaced 1.5 inches apart
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, checking often, until puffs are golden brown and firm enough to lift without collapsing
  12. While the puffs are baking, begin on the snail butter
Snails and Snail Butter:
  • 1 can of 12 large Helix snails
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter softened
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, packed
  • 5 drops or small pinch of hot sauce or cayenne
  • Tiny pinch nutmeg
  • Fresh ground white pepper to taste
  1. When you have removed the puffs from the oven, raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees
  2. Line a cookie sheet with foil
  3. Smash the shallot and garlic, then sprinkle with salt and mince
  4. Add parsley to garlic mixture and mince all together
  5. Add parsley, garlic, shallot and other spices to a small bowl with the softened butter
  6. Allow butter to soften until spreadable and then mix it
  7. Cut off the top ¼ or so of each puff and reserve the tops
  8. Place one snail in each puff
  9. Add a dollop of the butter to the top of the snails
  10. Bake in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the butter is bubbling
  11. Return tops to the puffs and serve at room temp, or refrigerate covered for up to 2 days

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Song Title Quiz

This came to the surface when I tagged Stitch Bitch with a meme (and don't think I haven't noticed there are a two of you out there still unpublished).

Here goes. The instructions: Using your favorite band's song titles, answer the following questions.
  1. Are you male or female? An Innocent Man
  2. Describe yourself. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  3. How do some people feel about you? Don't Ask Me Why
  4. How do you feel about yourself? Just the Way You Are
  5. Describe your significant other. She's Got a Way
  6. Where would you rather be? Vienna
  7. Describe what you want to be. The Entertainer
  8. Describe how you live. I Go to Extremes
  9. Describe how you love. The Longest Time (ooh, that could be dirty . . . )
  10. Share a few words of wisdom. Only the Good Die Young

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together"

It's _________?

These two items crossed the radar screen last week. I would have been lost without them while making my trips back and forth to the hospital.

I swear to God, there must be something in that glaze that makes an otherwise rational human being swerve across several lanes of traffic and through an intersection to get to a location that is proclaiming "HOT Donuts Now!" (Not that I have ever done that, mind you.)

Oh, and the answer from above? Any guesses? Who remembers their TV commercials?

Friday, January 11, 2008

I am a hockey fan but . . .

Thank goodness the nursery where the new member of the space crew arrived was just a "holding nursery" and the baby stayed with us in the room all the time. This is very funny and I saw this first here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Archives Meme

How could I not do this one? It's about archives! I got tagged by Stinkypaw to do the following meme. Below you will find those who have been tagged to keep the party going. Here's how it works.
  1. Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you've written. But there is a catch:
    1. Link 1 must be about family.
    2. Link 2 must be about friends.
    3. Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are... what you're all about.
    4. Link 4 must be about something you love.
    5. Link 5 can be about anything you choose.
  2. Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least TWO of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better.
  • Link 1 must be about family. Tough choice, but I chose this one: Why I'm Not Surprised It Snowed Today.
  • Link 2 must be about friends. I had trouble with this one, picking this one, which talks about food and friends. And if you are around the same age as me (and you grew up in the states in the 1980s, read this).
  • Link 3 is something about me. Again, a very difficult choice, but I went way, way back and picked this one.
  • Link 4 is about something you love. That's easy. Read this one or this one.
  • Link 5 is dealer's choice. Here's mine. But you should also read this, if you haven't already.
So, faithful readers, how'd I do? Did I pick the right ones? Here are the list of happy go-lucky bloggers out there who I am tagging. You will note the absence of some of my most faithful readers, who either don't have blogs, or archives that deep. If you feel worthy, get on it. Otherwise, enjoy the postings of the tagged.
  1. Kim Ayres, The Bearded One. Hey, he gives me an award, I give him a meme to do. Plus, he constantly beats me at Scrabulous.
  2. Geof Huth. And yes, you may choose from any one of the blogs you have created.
  3. Archival Trash. Hey, just doing my part to help you keep those resolutions.
  4. Amy in O-hi-O. You have the blog, it's your blog. C'mon out and play.
  5. Stitch Bitch. Because I needed 5, and you've been at this for a long time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

44 Weeks until Election Day

43 Presidents to talk about, 42 men who have held the office, see where I'm going with this? Time for a little American History lesson.

Recently at work, my friends and I have been trying to count off the presidents. We get lost in those years pre- and post-Lincoln. I knew a guy in elementary school, Bruce Farbstein, who could recite them all, forwards and backwards, in like two minutes. A little weird, I'll give you, but cool, in a geeky kind of way.

Also, there was a recent article on the Washington Post about the unfinished work of publishing the papers of the Founders (ooh! Mandatory Archival Content!). Here is the gist of the article, as I think the link will soon be dead.
Projects were begun in the 1940s to process and make available the papers of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. A recent study by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Washington's papers will not be finished until 2023, John Adams's papers will not be done until 2050. Who's done? Alexander Hamilton. Why? Not a big volume of papers, you may recall Hamilton died at age 49 after a duel with Aaron Burr.

There is some pressure being exerted to get to work on the papers, and to allocate some additional resources to get the job(s) done. David McCullough and the current Librarian of Congress are leading the way. One reason the pace is so slow is cost. For example, a complete set of 26 volumes of the papers of Alexander Hamilton runs about $2,600. A recent poll of public libraries found that very few have many if any of the volumes on their shelves, for exactly that reason.
So what will we (I) be doing here each Tuesday? Basically, giving out some facts and trivia about the men who have served as President of the United States. Feel free to comment when I talk about your favorites. These weekly posts will also serve as a reminder to check out my political blog as the presidential race heads to its finish and the nation elects the 44th President of the United States, who will not be William Harrison Mitchell. And it also gets me some filler to help me not fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet so much.

Next week, Number 1, numero uno, the Father of Our Country. The First George W.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Lost Dessert Recipe

In the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago, in the food pages, there were two recipes and an article on "Lost Desserts," a book by Gail Monaghan. I have previously mentioned my fascination with the Floating Island dessert I had for my birthday. Here is another recipe using meringue. It seems so light, it must be like, fat-free, right? There is also a second recipe for a Neapolitan cake, but there is no chocolate, so what's the point?

Fané (French for "faded")
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup plus 5 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • Cooking-oil spray
  • 3 pints vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 5 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 ounces hard white nougat, crushed into small pieces
  • ¾ cup (about 3 ounces) shaved bittersweet chocolate
The day before, prepare the meringue: preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on low speed. When soft peaks form, increase the speed and sprinkle in ¾ cup of the sugar until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

Spread meringue into a rough 1-inch layer on baking sheet. Bake until slightly sticky when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours. Turn off oven and leave meringue inside for a few hours to dry completely. Break into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Four hours before serving, assemble the fané: spray the inside of a 4-quart metal bowl with cooking spray and lay a large piece of plastic wrap against the inside of the bowl. Spread the ice cream evenly over the entire inside of bowl and plastic wrap. Cover and freeze.

Two hours before serving, whip the cream. When it begins to thicken, add remaining sugar and the vanilla, then beat to soft peaks. Set aside 2 cups of the whipped cream and refrigerate. Fold nougat into remaining whipped cream, then add to the ice-cream-lined bowl. Cover and freeze.

Just before serving, rewhip the reserved whipped cream to firm peaks. Turn the bowl out onto a platter, separating the plastic wrap from the bowl. Remove the plastic wrap. Cover the ice cream with whipped cream, followed by chunks of meringue. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Let soften a bit at the table before cutting into wedges. Serves 10 to 12.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's Epiphany. Here's some God stuff

Everybody loves Google Earth. You know you have put your address in to see if you were standing out front when the satellite went over snapping pictures. Well, here, the Glue Society presents the Bible According to Google Earth [from the Creative Review blog].

Looking at the pictures, you can see the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve catching some rays in the Garden of Eden, where Noah's Ark ran aground, and Moses parting the Red Sea.

The blog entry ends by noting that "the Glue Society is aiming to produce further works using the same satellite imagery next year but this time relating to mythological occurrences and major historical events." That sounds like something worth waiting for.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The End of an Era at NYPL

For those in the "biz," we will recognize that NYPL translates to New York Public Library. A language blog that I get in my Google Reader had a story at the beginning of December about the demise of the Donnell Room of the New York Public Library. The bottom line: rather than fix up the building, it is being sold to a developer. Just remember people, technology ain't all that. Sometimes it's nice to hold a book in your hands.

Here is the link to the news story and the blog story by a man who will miss the Donnell very much. Should we all go chain ourselves to the doors? C'mon, who's with me!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Post Christmas Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to the quiz from last week. Of course, this week, we are all hung over, except those of us who are severely sleep deprived.
  1. Name the last five movies to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
    • Chicago (2002)
    • The Lord of the Rings (2003)
    • Million Dollar Baby (2004)
    • Crash (2005)
    • The Departed (2006)
  2. Name the last five major party candidates who ran for President and LOST.
    • Michael Dukakis (1988)
    • George H. W. Bush (1992)
    • Bob Dole (1996)
    • George W. Bush (2000) - oh, wait . . .
    • John Kerry (2004)
  3. Name the last five countries to become members of the United Nations (Hint: all became members between 2000 and 2006.)
    • Tuvalu (2000)
    • Serbia (2000)
    • Switzerland (2002)
    • Timor-Leste (2002)
    • Montenegro (2006)
  4. Name the last five teams to win the World Series (or lose?) (winners listed first)
    • Anaheim Angels vs. San Francisco Giants (2002)
    • Florida Marlins vs. New York Yankees (2003)
    • Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals (2004)
    • Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros (2005)
    • St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers (2006)
  5. Name the last five teams to win the Super Bowl (or lose?) (winners listed first)
    • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders (2003)
    • New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers (2004)
    • New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles (2005)
    • Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks (2006)
    • Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears (2007)
The bonus question came from C in DC, who was watching the game and reported the question out to ADR and me. Even ADR was stumped and that's saying something.
  1. The United States Naval Academy (Jimmy Carter and Roger Staubach)
  2. University of Michigan (Jerry Ford and Tom Brady)
  3. Stanford (Herbert Hoover and John Elway)
and the one you would never get:
4. Miami University of Ohio (Benjamin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

So we have arrived at 2008. In just a few short days the presidential campaign will get under way . . . oh, wait a minute . . . too late for that. With the new year still fresh in our heads (is that what is causing the headache?) here are the Brave Astronaut's New Years Resolutions. Let's bear in mind, these are fairly broad.
  1. Stop smoking. This may be a moot point, as I quit for my fortieth birthday, two weeks ago). Let's see if I can stay away. When is the next professional meeting?
  2. Lose weight. Tradition holds, one quits smoking and gains weight. Plus, it's winter and we are not as active. But a new baby, which arrived just two days ago, should help. And I promise to be more diligent about getting to the gym at work when I am back on a normal schedule.
  3. Read More. I got a bunch of books for Christmas and they are gathering dust on my night table. Which leads me to number 4.
  4. Establish a better schedule and routine for household chores and other responsibilities. This may require less blogging and my new time suck, Facebook. But we will see. The goal is getting to work earlier and leaving in time to have dinner ready for the family so we can all eat together. With Mrs. BA off for a few months, that may have to wait. And one should not just look at the dirt and think, I really should clean.
  5. Be a better time manager. Face it, we all procrastinate. I want to be better at my job and be more productive in general. This homeowner thing is very time consuming.
  6. Be a better husband and father. I think I am doing OK here, but there is always room for improvement. My wife says I spoil my older son, so I would like to avoid some of those same mistakes and try and correct others already committed. I have the best wife in the world, so that first part should be pretty easy, too.
  7. Be a better person in general. I actually said it out loud the other day . . . I can be a real SOB sometimes. Let's see if I can't be nicer to people this year.
What are your resolutions? Let's bear in mind, many people make them and then break them. I was one of those people that stopped making them for exactly this reason, so I'm counting on all of you to make sure I stick to them.

Happy New Year to All!