Friday, February 29, 2008

A Leap Day Quiz

It's leap day. An interesting point was made to me today. Those of us working for an annual salary, worked for free today. Think about it. An extra day in the year (that whole annual thing). We don't get anything, you know, for the effort.

If you are "leap ignorant," here is an article from the New York Times about the every four year phenomenon. And here's the Wikipedia article on "leap year." Here's the Wikipedia article on historical events, birthdays, and deaths which occurred on February 29.

Here's an interesting historical note. Who's wondered why those kids in Family Circus never get old? The comic strip debuted on leap day in 1960, so if they are celebrating birthdays only every four years . . .

And as it is a day that comes along only once every four years, go here to take it, instead of me posting the questions here. The person who referred it to me said she got two wrong. I got three wrong, but went fast and should have looked closer.

If you're a fan of Google Earth, you'll love this quiz. Feel free to post scores in the comments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

For My Simpsons Fans Out There

I am not a fan of the show personally, but this was too wild to not share. From via
This portrait of Homer Simpson painted in the style of Rembrandt is strangely mesmerizing. Can't look away from those giant eyes.
As I have said many times before, is worth a visit or get the RSS feed. And is very amusing as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#7 - Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837

Our first frontier president, Andrew Jackson, was not a man you wanted mad at you. Just ask his predecessor, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay, who Jackson believed were in collusion to give Adams the presidency, when suddenly Clay was given the job of Secretary of State in the new Adams administration. Jackson, who had won the most votes, was denied the presidency, when the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, where Clay, who had been a candidate, threw his support to Adams.

Jackson constantly defended his honor, engaging in brawls and duels, killing one man who slandered his wife, Rachel, but not before the man shot Jackson, lodging a bullet near his heart, which was never removed. Jackson had a deep hatred for the British - he had scars on his hand and face from the sword of a British officer, when Jackson refused to polish the boots of the officer. Jackson's entire immediate family died from "war-related hardships" that left him an orphan at age 14.

Jackson was deeply protective of his wife, Rachel. She had been married before and while it was believed she had secured a divorce from her first husband, there was overlap between the time it was official and when she married Jackson. Rachel and Andrew re-married later but Jackson's political adversaries filed that away for later use. She died on December 22, 1828, just after the election of Jackson to the presidency. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for Rachel's death as the scandal was brought up in the election of 1828. He believe the stress had contributed to her death and never forgave Adams.

Jackson served in the House and Senate, representing Tennessee, but it was his exploits at the Battle of New Orleans, during the War of 1812 (more appropriately, after the war ended, as the battle took place after the treaty signing) that made him a household name.

The one major issue that Jackson fought during his two terms as President was the fight against the Second National Bank of the United States. The Bank was a private corporation but largely sponsored by the Federal government. Jackson thought about doing away with it and the Bank leveled its sights on him. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, two of the leaders in Congress in the newly established Whig Party (Jackson's election led to the split of the Democratic-Republican party and the birth of Jacksonian Democrats and the National Republicans, or Whigs) fought for the bank and Jackson tried to kill it. The American people were behind Jackson and he won reelection with 56% of the popular vote in 1832 and received more than five times the number of electoral votes of his opponent, Henry Clay. The Bank lost its charter in 1836 and folded in 1841.

Another crisis that afflicted the Jackson administration was the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina, led by his Vice President, John C. Calhoun. The crisis nearly boiled over into rebellion, but Henry Clay managed to broker a compromise and the Union was preserved, at least for now.

Another significant crisis during Jackson's presidency was the notorious Indian Removal Act of 1830. This is the incident in which Native American tribes (Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw) were removed from their homelands in the south and relocated to what was called the Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma. Many of these people died along what has become known as the infamous Trail of Tears.

Jackson also holds a dubious record. He is the first president to have an attempt made on his life. In 1833, after Jackson ordered the dismissal of Robert Randolph from the U.S. Navy, Randolph appeared before Jackson and struck him and fled. Jackson did not press charges. Two years later, while walking in the U.S. Capitol, Richard Lawrence approached Jackson and tried to shoot Jackson. The guns misfired and Jackson tried to beat Lawrence with his cane. While some restrained Jackson, others subdued Lawrence, including Congressman David Crockett, yes that Davy Crockett.

The Facts:
  • born March 15, 1767 in Waxhaw, North Carolina
  • died June 8, 1845 at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee (age 78)
  • His nickname was "Old Hickory," largely for his reputation of toughness.
  • Jackson, ever the people's president, recommended in his first Annual Message to Congress, the abolishing of the Electoral College, still bitter from his loss in 1824.
  • Jackson was the second president to have been a prisoner of war, having been imprisoned by the British during the American Revolution (Washington had been captured by the French during the French and Indian War).
  • When Jackson's choice for an ambassador was denied by the Congress, Jackson installed the man as his vice president. And Martin Van Buren became the eighth president. Oh, and Van Buren had also been Jackson's (wait for it) Secretary of State.
  • Andrew Jackson opened the White House every year for visitors. Refreshments would be served, including a "big block of cheese," which was later publicized on The West Wing.
  • In 1829, James Smithson's estate provided the funding for a little museum in Washington DC.
  • In 1835, the United States was debt-free for the only time in its history.
  • Jackson is the first president to ride on a train and the first to be born in a log cabin

Monday, February 25, 2008

Recipe: Sole Meuniere

Yes, it's Recipe Monday. And tomorrow is Presidential Tuesday. But before I get to that, I just wanted to ask for some good thoughts sent my way. Astute watchers of the calendar will note what today is. I was OK with it, just going to get past it, until last week, it was determined that my father has to go in for major surgery tomorrow. He went to the hospital today for some pre-op testing (an angiogram) and tomorrow he will be operated on to repair an aortic aneurysm and a biopsy on a piece of "a mass" that's hanging out in his lung. We will see what tomorrow brings.

But enough sad stuff, let's talk about food and presidents! I like French food. And there is nothing like a good Sole Meuniere. This from the New York Times Magazine from November 25, 2007, in turn adapted from the book, The Seventh Daughter, by Cecilia Chang.

Sole Meuniere
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 fillets sole
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp. white wine
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Place the flour in a wide dish. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high. When hot season the fish generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Cover in flour and then shake off excess. Cook in the oil for 2 minutes, flip and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

Pour off the oil and return the skillet to the heat. Whisk in the butter and cook until the butter turns light brown and smells nutty. Add the wine and boil for 20 seconds. Season with two pinches of salt, or to taste. Pour butter over the sole and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Fellas, It's Been Good to Know Ya"

If you know the above lyric or spent many an afternoon after school watching the disaster movie of the week, you totally need this CD. Maybe I'll download the songs to my iPod. I already have Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on it (which is where the title of the post can be heard). Here's the link to Amazon, if you would like to buy a copy. Share the love, send me one :)

While none of these are up for an Academy Award (currently underway in Holly-wood), it's got mandatory archival content. From NPR's All Things Considered:
"You may be familiar with the Wreck of the Old '97, the plane crash that killed Knute Rockne, and the Mississippi Flood of 1927 — just three of the many debacles described on a new box set, titled People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938. This collection of early-1900s country and blues has just been nominated for a Grammy in the category of historical recordings . . .

This three-CD box set of murder ballads and disaster songs is filled with misfortune and horror. But hidden amongst the chronicle of wretched events are some rare early roots-music gems, including what may be the very first truck-driving song. I'm a huge fan of trucking music, and I'd always thought that "Truck Driver's Blues" launched the genre in 1939. But "Wreck on the Mountain Road," by a North Carolina group called The Red Fox Chasers, predates it by 11 years . . .

The notion of turning reportage into song is anachronistic in an era when information is immediate and disposable. Even songs about recent events like Hurricane Katrina were mostly prayers for the aftermath, not documents of the tragedy. But our connection to the past represented on this box set is right there on the evening news: Calamity still sells. Perhaps it gives us a little comfort that our lives aren't so bad after all. Or maybe people just can't resist a good story."
One of the songs on the soundtrack to the Christopher Guest movie, "A Mighty Wind" fits in with the genre as well. Here are the lyrics. Enjoy.
It was April 27 in the year of '91
Bout a mile below the surface and the warm Kentucky sun
The late shift was ending and the early shift was late.
The foreman ate his dinner on a dirty tin plate

Blood on the tracks, blood in the mine,
Brothers and sisters what a terrible time.
Ole 97 went in the wrong hole,
Now my number 60 has blood on the coal,
Blood on the coal, blood on the coal.

The slag pits were steamin' it was 7:25,
Every miner worked the coal face,
Every one of them alive
The train came round the corner,
You could hear the trestle groan,
But the switcher wasn't listnin' so he left the switch alone!


The walls began to tremble and the men began to yell,
You could hear that lonesome whistle like an echo out of . . . well
They dropped their picks and shovels and to safety they did run,
For to stay among the living in the year of '91!


An Irishman named Murphy said "I'll stop that iron horse!"
And he stood to thwart its passage, it crushed him dead of course.
And I hope he hears the irony when e're this tale is told,
The train that took his life was burning good Kentucky coal, Hey!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Random Weird Things

Man, the woman goes out and starts a blog and then she tags me? What's up with that? Fine. I can't get mad as I tagged her before she even had a blog . . .

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

So seven weird or random things about me. Let's see . . .
  1. I didn't drink beer until I went away to college. I never really had a taste for it. I was (and for the most part still prefer) a vodka drinker. And my tolerance will never be what it was in college, but I am still an enjoyable drunk. Just ask [stamp foot, stamp foot]. But that won't impact my ability to keep the stories rolling for the blogging month of drunkenness.
  2. I do not hold a valid passport. I had one for a trip to France in 1983, but it has long gone away into the ether. Mrs. BA's is around somewhere, but it's expired and has her wrong name on it. That trip to France and two trips to Bermuda are the only ones off of the North American continent that I have taken, making Canada the only other foreign country I have ever visited.
  3. I have a flair for the dramatic and have been known to exaggerate on occasion. I would love to act in a stage production some day. And I even promise to not sing.
  4. I inherited my mother's ability to cry at the drop of a hat. It may be part sentimentality, but there are any number of movies that I can't watch without getting a little misty eyed. It also makes being mad difficult, if you are trying to be angry and all you want to do is start crying.
  5. "I am a model train enthusiast . . . about ten years ago, I killed a man in a bar fight. It was in Minnesota and . . . I just ran. I never heard from the police and I'm not about to give them a call . . . Every now and then, I take out his wallet and think, Steve Dercy, you poor son of a bitch." [I graduated from high school with the man who helped craft the above "confession." Judd Apatow produced "Anchorman" and the above lines appear on the soundtrack, spoken by Will Ferrell. So, no, I didn't kill Steve and I have never even been to Minnesota. Natalie Portman also graduated from my high school.
  6. My chosen profession, despite it not being my first choice, suits my personality. I am crazy neat and pretty organized. I like to use lists and like to have a clean desk and neat, orderly piles to do my work.
  7. My current profession was not my first choice. I was a teacher for about six years until I left education. I became an archivist after my first wife left a job that she didn't like. I applied for it in her place.
I just recently tagged the "Usual Suspects" for a meme not too long ago. I guess I have to go a little further afield this time. Even so, this is the best I got.
  1. The 6th Floor Blog. There are at least seven people running around that apartment at one time or another. Everybody gives up one factoid. C'mon Anne. Crack that whip.
  2. Lana at the Dreaming Tree. Let's see if you can come up with seven things that I don't remember about my high school friend. And I figure you will tag Charles, whose blog I also now read, or else I would.
  3. As discussed, I am tagging NJM. She can respond in the comments along with . . .
  4. Ed in Pittsburgh. That's right, click on the hot link in the reader, come over to the site, spend a few minutes, and flash us all with some juicy secrets.
  5. Anna, Amy, Kim, and Stinkypaw, you're off the hook, unless you want to be on it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pickled, Plowed, In the Bag, 3 Sheets to the Wind, etc.

What's your favorite drunk story? My blog friend Amy over on her blog related a story (by her own admission, "one of my top five OU [Ohio University] drinking stories") involving Everclear. I responded with my own story about an unfortunate encounter with some '151' that I neglected to blow out before drinking.

She came back with her own comment back on my blog:
What I came here to do was make a comment somewhere about an idea for a theme week. Picture it — A whole week of entries counting down our top college drinking stories.

On second thought, maybe not. First of all, I could probably file a month's worth of posts on this topic alone. I mean, I thought of three more just while I was typing the previous paragraph: Circle K elections 1995; Teeter-Totter Marathon 1993; and Halloween 1992.

Secondly, it might give off the wrong impression.

So my blogging friends out there? Are we game for a drunken circle of blogging? We could pick a date, have one person "start" and then link to the next person for their story, who links to the next, etc. We could do our own version of "March Madness" and the best story wins a prize. Non-bloggers are welcome to play as well, but we would have to identify one of the participating blogs as the central location for commenter stories.

I know how wild and crazy some of you fine folks out there on the intertubes can be. Who's in? RSVP in the comments if you are interested and we'll make a plan for Drunken March Madness.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Frightens You?

Right now what frightens me is that Tooth No. 19 is a goner. It's coming out as it is cracked, infected, and an all around pain in the mouth. What's coming in its place is an implant, some oral surgery, and a nice hefty price tag (I know how I'm spending my tax surplus check).

Here's a list of phobias (courtesy of the online page-a-day calendar I receive by email every morning). Many of these have to be made up (let's start with the fact that spell check didn't like any of them):
  • anthomania - fear of flowers
  • balletomania - fear of ballet
  • cytheromania - fear of sex
  • dromomania - fear of running; roaming
  • eleutheromania - fear of freedom
  • flagellomania - fear of flogging; beating
  • gamomania - fear of marriage; proposing
  • hexametromania - fear of writing hexameters
  • islomania - fear of islands
  • jumbomania - fear of mammoth proportions (or graduates of this university?)
  • klopemania - fear of theft
  • lypemania - fear of mournfulness
  • melomania - fear of music (and the subsets "Mariahmania" and "Madonnamania")
  • nostomania - fear of nostalgia
  • onomatomania - fear of words; neologisms
  • polkamania - fear of dancing polkas (c'mon, who doesn't love a good polka)
  • pteridomania - fear of ferns
  • rinkomania - fear of ice-skating
  • sonnettomania - fear of sonnets
  • squandermania - fear of reckless spending (oh, I'm not afraid of it, I'm really good at it)
  • timbromania - fear of postage stamps
  • uranomania - fear of celestial power
  • Whitmania - fear of Walt Whitman
  • xenomania - fear of things foreign
  • zoomania - fear of animals
Then I received this nugget in my Google Reader about a woman who lives on Staten Island and was afraid of the Verrazano Bridge, once the world's longest suspension bridge. For those of you who aren't familiar with the greater metropolitan NYC area, Staten Island really is an island and you need that bridge to get to Long Island. Then I saw this story in the Poughkeepsie Journal about a planned refurbishment of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

I personally don't like to drive across this bridge, but I am not sure why. It might be the pitch or the fact that you can see through the drains to the water below. I've driven across a lot of bridges. I grew up in New York and that meant bridges (or tunnels - but that's a story for another day). I crossed at least one bridge every day while commuting. When I moved to DC, more water, more bridges (although I didn't cross this bridge for the first time until last fall). For a while, before I moved, I drove across a bridge that was built in the same model as the Minnesota bridge (it was on the Beltway - so it didn't get a lot of traffic, nope). I like bridges, the architecture, the design. I really wanted to cross this bridge when I was in New Orleans and this bridge-tunnel combo is something that I want to do as well.

I am an intelligent person. I understand the bridge is not going to collapse . . .

and yet?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

#6 - John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829

As mentioned last week, John Quincy Adams served his predecessor, James Monroe as Secretary of State. He also makes the trivia lists as a son who followed his father to the presidency (Would that he were the only one to hold that record . . . ). He also holds the distinction of being the only president to be elected to the House of Representatives after serving as President. In fact, J.Q. Adams was felled by a stroke in Statuary Hall in the Capitol, carried to an anteroom, where he died two days later. J. Q. While serving in Congress, Adams argued for the Amistad slaves before the United States Supreme Court in 1841.

Adams also served in the Upper House of Congress, elected to the Senate in 1802. The majority of his other public service came as Minister or Ambassador (the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, the Court of St. James).

J. Q. Adams' election was made possible by the House of Representatives as none of the four candidates in 1824 received a majority of the electoral votes. Henry Clay, a candidate himself, like Adams and his policies and threw his support to him, ensuring his election. Adams "rewarded" Clay with the plum position of Secretary of State (see where this is going? - but alas, Clay would be denied yet again). The man that lost to Adams was Andrew Jackson, not someone that you wanted on your bad side. He vowed to beat Adams in 1828, which he did.

The Facts:
  • born July 11, 1767, Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy)
  • died February 23, 1848 in Washington, DC
  • Adams is one of three presidents who did not attend the inauguration of his successor. The other two are his father and Andrew Johnson.
  • Charles Francis Adams, John Quincy's son erected the first "presidential library," on the grounds of the family homestead in Massachusetts.
  • Adams was the first Senator profiled in John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage
  • Adams was the first president to have been married abroad. He married his wife Louisa in London.
Famous Last Words:
  • Something that might be of interest. J. Q. Adams' last words are reportedly: "This is the last of earth. I am content."
Here are the earlier ones:
  • Washington: "Tis Well"
  • John Adams: "Thomas Jefferson survives"
  • Jefferson: "Is it the Fourth?" (disputed)
  • James Madison: "Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear."
  • James Monroe: unknown

Monday, February 18, 2008

Salmon and Bacon

It's President's Day (or as the Office of Personnel Management knows it, Washington's Birthday (I know, don't get me started). But what it means is that I have the day off. I started my day at the dentist (the regular one) and he has determined that I need to go back and see the endodontist as Tooth No. 19 is acting up again. I am off to the chiropractor this afternoon so I can be well-adjusted for my return back to work tomorrow (how well adjusted will always remain to be seen). C in DC has tagged me with a meme, which I will get to after the weekly recipe and presidential homage.

So this week's recipe. Sure, I know those two look bad, together like that. Salmon recipes have appeared here before. And I have had bacon-wrapped scallops (this is but one of many recipes) so I am willing to try this one.

Bacon-Wrapped Broiled Salmon
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon minced dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon slightly crushed pink peppercorns
  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless salmon fillets, preferably at least 3/4 inch thick, pin bones removed
  • 4 slices streaky (fatty) bacon
Position an oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiling element; preheat the broiler. Have ready a broiler pan with a rack and 4 long metal skewers.

Combine the mustard, dill, salt and pink peppercorns in a small bowl, mixing well. Spread in equal amounts on the top (rounded) sides of the salmon fillets, pressing the mixture down slightly into the fish. Lay a slice of bacon across each fillet (fold into a V shape, if using center-cut fillets) and tuck the ends neatly underneath. Thread a skewer through the center of each fillet to secure the edges of the bacon. Place the fillets bacon side down on the broiler pan and broil for 4 minutes, until the salmon looks opaque, then use a spatula to carefully turn them over (leaving the skewers in place) and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the skewers and serve immediately.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Villas's "The Bacon Cookbook" (Wiley, 2007).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Doing the DC Dozens

This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of my arrival in Washington DC (of course that means my sixth wedding anniversary is coming up - that's candy, iron, or wood, for those of you who need ideas for gifts). Recently the Washington Post weekend section had an article on 12 great things to do around DC. Their take on it was, it's January, here's something to do each month for the remainder of the year. Here's the list.
  1. The Exorcist Steps - I've seen them, but gone up (or down!) them? Nope. If you have to ask more, you haven't seen the movie.

  2. Drag Queen Brunch at Perry's - this might be worth looking into.

  3. The Theatre for a song - several of DC's theaters, including the Washington Shakespeare Company, the Wooly Mammoth, and Theatre J, offer "Pay What You Can" shows. I like the theater and I'm cheap, so I could very easily get behind this.

  4. The Wright Stuff - Fallingwater is so far away and we have Frank Lloyd Wright stuff right here in DC, with the Pope-Leighey House. And you could also see Woodlawn while you're there.

  5. Go look for eagles. The Post suggests going here, but I will continue to look for my eagles on the golf course.

  6. Jazz in June - I have just completed working in a department that deals primarily with congressional records so HR-57 means something completely different to me. But evidently, it is the name of one of the premier jazz clubs in DC. And the jam sessions are something not to be missed.

  7. "If it's not Scottish, it's Crap!" John Russell Pope, who was a very busy man in Washington, DC, designed the Temple of the Scottish Rite on 16th Street. Go on the tour (I have already done this one), it is very interesting. And you get to learn more about those wacky Masons.

  8. The Post suggests the Drum Circle in Meridian Hill Park for August. Are they nuts? Don't they know what this town is like in August? Make a note there, J in PA, Meridian Hill has a statue of Pennsylvania's only president.

  9. Climb to the top of the Washington Monument. Really? I've done it. I prefer this. It's not as high, but I like the view.

  10. Saluting the Unknowns. There has been a fair amount of talk here in DC about whether the Tomb of the Unknowns needs to be replaced (it has several cracks). But while they debate that, go see the changing of the guard. It is incredibly moving.

  11. Objection! - People who live here can often lose sight of the government working around town. Go see the oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court or my favorite, get passes to the House and Senate Galleries. You'll need to contact your Congressman or Senator, and you better know who that is. But no spitballs, or you'll wind up disappearing without a trace.

  12. Come Dancing! (possibly one of my favorite songs, remind me to put it on my iPod). With the demise of Blob's Park, Glen Echo Park is one of the last places in the DC area to shake your groove thing.
So there's the list. Shall we try and get them all done in 2008?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers Reported Yesterday!

Oh, thank God. Do you smell it? Yep, there it is, grass, dirt, sweat, human growth hormone . . .

A side note here - I spotted a brief story yesterday that Roger Clemens may get a presidential pardon.

I don't care. Yes, the Mitchell report came out and everybody was shocked. C'mon, really? If you are a fan of baseball, you knew that something had to be happened. These guys just got caught. And let's be clear, the use is rampant, but it's what the fans want out of the game these days.

But the baseball season ramps up this week. Opening day at the new Nationals Stadium is a little more than a month and a half away. Haven't missed a Nationals opening day yet and I won't this year either. Mrs. OSG scored some seats for OSG and the Brave Astronaut. OSG is sure to be conflicted as the Nationals will open the season against the Atlanta Braves.

To commemorate the return of baseball, here is a quiz just for ADR. Anyone else may offer, but I expect him to get them all. Now, no cheating, but here's the link to the page with the answers.
  1. Is there such a thing as a ground rule triple?

  2. There are 23 different ways to get a man to first base. Name them.

  3. If there is a man on base and another player hits a homerun - what happens if the man on base cannot get to home plate (injury), what happens if the injury happens to the man who hit the home run? The answer lies in this rule.

  4. Can a team "hit" into a triple play if the ball is never touched by a fielder?

  5. What are the 16 ways for a pitcher to balk?

  6. What happened that made it mandatory for the Commissioner of Baseball to sign off on all contracts before a player can appear in a game? Hint: It happened on August 19, 1951 in a game between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers.

  7. Name the principals involved in the "Pine Tar Home Run."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's Valentine's Day

Readers will certainly be disappointed if I don't acknowledge the holiday dedicated to St. Valentine (won't you?). So let me of course begin by wishing my very special valentine, Mrs. Brave Astronaut, a very Happy Valentine's Day. I love you very much.

Here's some random Valentine's Day items:
  • My father used to say that they didn't celebrate Valentine's Day in France, so it was OK if he forgot to get something for my mother. However, since he left France when he was, um, 7, that didn't usually fly with my mother.

  • This was the first year for LBA to issue valentines. He is in a daycare class with three other boys and nine girls. Occasionally, the teachers need to have discussions about "friends kisses" and "family kisses." When I first heard this, I explained to Mrs. BA that I may have been known as the "kissing bug" in the first grade.

  • Valentine's Day traditions are all his fault, as during the High Middle Ages, the age of courtly love flourished.

  • Second only to Christmas, it is the second-largest card-sending holiday.

  • I saw a news report a few years ago that reported that Valentine's Day is a very busy day for private investigators. Stop and think about it for a minute and you'll get it.

  • You will likely not get an argument that John Maynard Keynes was a brilliant individual. Evidently, it also seems that the sexual exploits of the Bohemian lifestyle he favored was documented by him. (Yes, it borders on the crude, but it "touches" on love, and in a way, significantly archival!)

  • Certainly no love here - Valentine's Day was a bad day if you were not part of Al Capone's Chicago.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#5 - James Monroe, 1817-1825

Today is February 12, the day on which the 16th President of the United States was born. However, you have to wait a few more weeks before we get to Honest Abe. But here we are at number 5, the next distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. James Monroe. Is everyone keeping track? The Commonwealth of Virginia calls itself the Mother of the Presidency, it produced eight presidents. Anyone? Anyone? Name them? And which state is the other mother of the the presidency ("The Presidency has Two Mothers?" coming soon to a children's bookstore near you)?

If you remembered that Madison comes before Monroe, you can remember James Monroe's place in the presidential roll call. Another good way to remember Monroe's place is think about the Monroe Doctrine, but that was really written by John Quincy Adams (Monroe's Secretary of State), of whom we will learn more next week. And Monroe was Madison's Secretary of State. See? Another Secretary of State promotion to the top job. Condi, are you reading this? Colin? Anyone?

Monroe was one of the first presidents to surround himself with a well-balanced cabinet. He selected the fiery Southerner, John C. Calhoun as his Secretary of War and Northerner John Quincy Adams as his Secretary of State. The refusal of Henry Clay to join the cabinet denied Monroe a Westerner. This was fortuitous for Monroe, as during his presidency the issue of slavery in Missouri came to a head and it was Henry Clay who negotiated the Missouri Compromise.

Florida also joined the Union during Monroe's presidency, along with the aforementioned Missouri and Maine. To avoid a really funky looking flag, the American flag was standardized with thirteen stripes to honor to original 13 colonies.

It is noteworthy, given the direction of the current presidential campaign, that James Monroe was the first president to have served as a Senator prior to the presidency (although he is immediately Secretary of State before being elected President - yeah, yeah, I know, I'm like a dog with a bone).

The Facts:
  • born April 28, 1758, Westmoreland County, Virginia
  • died July 4, 1831, New York City, New York (5 years after Jefferson and John Adams), age 73
  • Monroe came to prominence when he helped to negotiate the purchase of the Louisiana Territory.
  • Although adopted during his Presidency, the Monroe Doctrine, which basically told all foreign powers (read: Europe) to say out of the Western Hemisphere, was not known as such until 20 years after Monroe's death.
  • Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is named for Monroe. He is the only other US President to have a capital city named for him (Washington being the first).
  • Monroe is the last American President to have fought in the Revolutionary War (although Andrew Jackson was a courier).
  • Monroe is pictured in the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. He is behind Washington, holding the flag.
  • The US Marine Band made their debut at Monroe's inauguration and have played at inaugurations ever since.
  • When he was reelected in 1820, he received all but one electoral vote. That elector wanted George Washington to be the only president to have been elected unanimously.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Meat and Potatoes

These two recipes appeared in January in the Washington Post food section. This is not your mother's pot roast recipe, this one actually sounds really good. The recipe comes from the executive chef at the National Press Club.

Slow-Roasted Beef
For the meat
  • 4 to 6 -pound beef roast, such as a boneless shoulder roast, top round roast or eye of round roast
For the meat and sauce
  • Kosher salt or celery salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, top 1/2 inch trimmed off to expose the cloves
For the sauce
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade low-sodium beef broth
For the meat: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Have ready a large roasting pan and a skillet large enough to hold the roast.

Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Heat a dry skillet over medium-high or high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste, then sear on all sides until well-browned.

Spread the peeled and cut vegetables in a single layer on the bottom of the roasting pan or on a flat rack inside the pan, then place the roast on top, fat side up. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 170 degrees. Cook for 2 1/2 hours per pound (for medium-rare).

Transfer the roast to a platter or cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes before carving. (At this point, the cooled roast can be covered and refrigerated to carve later.) When ready to carve, discard the fat layer and cut the meat against the grain into thin slices.

For the sauce: Discard the garlic's papery skin and peels; combine the carrots, celery, onion and garlic cloves to taste in the bowl of a food processor; pulse just until finely chopped. (This also can be done by hand.)

Combine the wine and broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling at the edges. Add the chopped vegetables and stir to mix well; let the mixture return to bubbling at the edges and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids; return the sauce to the saucepan. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; for a slightly richer flavor, cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve the sauce on the side with the warmed slices of roast beef.

And what good is roast beef without roasted potatoes? This recipe comes from the chef at Central Michel Richard.

Roasted Potatoes for Roast Beef
  • 2 pounds red or white new potatoes (about 25 to 30) about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, scrubbed and dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic or shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch chopped thyme leaves
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees.

Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a baking dish or ovenproof skillet that is just large enough to hold them. Sprinkle the potatoes with the kosher salt. Roast for 30 minutes; use a spatula to turn them or shake the pan every 10 minutes to promote even roasting.

Meanwhile, combine the butter or olive oil, garlic or shallots, pepper and thyme in a small bowl. After 30 minutes, brush the butter or oil on the potatoes, coating them evenly, and distribute the garlic or shallots over them. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the potatoes again about halfway through, until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Serve hot.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nuts About Jerico, Nuts About Hockey

I grew up near a Jericho. But not the one in Kansas that is the focus of the series returns Tuesday night. I got hooked on the series last season. What can I say, I am a sucker for the disaster genre. I was one of those who was disappointed when the show was abruptly canceled. I was not one of the crazed fans who sent nuts to CBS to get them to reverse the decision to cancel.

It all stemmed from one of the later shows from last season. Skeet Ulrich, who plays Jake on the show, having heard the famous story from his father and grandfather about General Anthony McAuliffe's response to the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Faced with uncertain odds, McAuliffe's one word reply to the Germans was, "NUTS!" In other words, forget it we're not leaving.

Jake utters the same to the town of New Bern, setting the stage for another battle between the two towns. Which will now be fought in a new season, starting on Tuesday. For the loyal viewers of "Jericho" bombarded the CBS studios with thousands of pounds of nuts of all varieties to save the show. And it worked.

Finally, today, because I didn't have anything else to do, the whole family went to the New York Rangers - Washington Capitals game. It was the first game for both of my sons. LBA's response when the Caps scored? "It's too loud" and he would cover his ears. But I did have him chanting, "Let's Go Rangers." It was decided that he may still be too young to learn, "Potvin Sucks." LBA 2.0's impression? He slept through most of it. Even the scoring. Here's a recap. Yeah, and the Caps won. They're doing well and it was a really good game.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Tell Him I'm Not Here"

Spotted this headline the other day: Bush Ready to Back GOP Nominee.

And . . . ACTION!

The lights come up on a den / living room / study. On a large desk is a phone, which begins to ring. The machine picks up:
"Hi, you've reached the McCains. We're out campaigning for the presidency and can't come to the phone. Leave a message and I'll have my people call your people back. Thanks and remember . . . Vote Republican!
"Heh, heh, Hey John. It's um, George. I've tried callin' several times, but I keep getting this darn machine. Hey, um, John? Call me, huh? I've got some free time, that terra thang's doin' good and I gots some free time. Thought we could go out campaignin' together, you know like the old days? So, um, call me, OK . . .
The message continues to record and the camera pans over to a chair. In it sits a figure seen in shadow. He lights a match for a cigarette and we see Senator John McCain with a wry smile on his face. As the message finally ends, he leans over and presses the erase button.
"Yeah, right." says McCain.
And fade out.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What, You Can't Leave a Comment?

Pittsburgh Ed, who has been referred to here before, seems to have a phobia about commenting. He does read Order from Chaos, he's told me that much. He read yesterday's post about typing and sent me the following link. He wrote in the email, "Thought this would go nicely with your recent post on typing." Well, yes, he's right. But he could have left the link in the comments. But no, now I have to write a new post, "reschedule" the post I already had ready for tonight, write some pithy language to accompany the link. Geez, it's a good thing I like him, even though he consistently golfs better than me.

The link is to another blog, O'Reilly Radar, which covers a variety of topics in the technology world. This particular post is pertinent to me in a few ways. It does indeed dovetail nicely with the typing post, being about the tele-type machine. But it also features the work of another archivist, Valerie Komor, who is the archivist for the Associated Press. I worked with Valerie when I worked in New York. She has been with the AP Archives for some time now and is doing great things. And of course, Radar O'Reilly is one of the characters from my all-time favorite comedy show.

My thanks to all of you who do comment. I am not as consistent as others who respond to every comment, but please know that I read every one. They mean a lot to me. I have long said that one of the reasons I blog is that I like to pass along information and blogging has been a good forum for me to do that. I know that I have readers out there who don't comment - SiteMeter has Order from Chaos at over 11,000 visits and nearly 17,000 page views. In the month of January, I had more than 1400 visits and nearly 2100 page visits. I think I have a fairly good readership and I still get some who stumble across the site. One of the biggest draws? My post/quiz about the New Jersey Turnpike rest areas. Go figure. Almost as interesting as a post which reviewed a McDonalds in the Dakotas.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

QWERTY is a valid Scrabble Word

I have previously mentioned my "addiction" to Scrabble and it's new Facebook knock-off, Scrabulous, which is in danger of being killed by Facebook, as it evidently might be an infringement of Hasbro's rights. But I digress. Qwerty refers to the common computer keyboard. Look up there in the left hand corner.

Further, your keyboard may have dots or raised lines on the "F" and the "J" keys. They are part of the home keys (A-S-D-F for the left hand, J-K-L-; for the right hand). I took typing in both junior high school and high school. I was miserable as I had already learned to type myself. For the longest time, I used to have to look at the keyboard to make sure I was pushing the right keys. Now, I can pretty much look at the screen to see if things are correct. The backspace and the delete keys are still very much used in my world. Computers have made that so much easier.

So what's my point? I could go on about how secretaries are becoming less utile and more of a status symbol for executives as "typing" becomes easier and there are fewer occasions when someone needs to be asked to "take a memo." Or I could argue that the art of hand writing is rapidly becoming a lost art, but that is a blog post for a different day, as I could go on about that for some time. I really just wanted to show off this site I found, again courtesy of one of my most favorite sites on the web, The site has let me know that I can type between 35-45 words per minute. It tracks errors and tells you how fast you type. It's kinda cool.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

#4 - James Madison, 1809-1817

There is something appropriate about James Madison's post appearing on Super Duper Tuesday. The first President James M. was the one who is known for a lot of things, most notably, being the father of the American Constitution. When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, it was Madison who took the lead on many issues, helping to hammer out the document that serves as the foundation for our government. He, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, helped advance their cause by writing the Federalist Papers, which were published anonymously.

James Madison attended college at Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey). It may be noted that our fourth president, was the third to attend college. Washington did not attend college, Adams graduated from Harvard, and Jefferson from William and Mary.

While Madison was a small man (our smallest president at 5 foot 4 inches and under 100 pounds), his wife was, in many ways, larger than life. Dolley Madison is so much more than a brand of ice cream. She was a force of American History and transformed the role of First Lady.

Madison's term is marked by a return to war for the new America. In 1812, America went to war yet again with the British. Hey, let's call it the War of 1812. But unfortunately, it took them more than a year to wrap up, but so what. The War of 1812 will feature the heroics of two future presidents, William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson. It is the War of 1812 that sees President Madison flee the White House in advance of British troops. And his wife, Dolley refusing to leave without the portrait of George Washington. The British burned the White House and the Capitol and much of Washington when they invaded. The War of 1812 is also when we get our national anthem, courtesy of Francis Scott Key.

Like his predecessors, when Madison left the Presidency, he was nearly destitute, as his farm had failed while in Washington. Trying to prepare for his future (and Dolley's) he refused to make available any of his papers until after his death. He spent his remaining years reviewing them and making changes to them (including forgery) as he slowly sank into depression and insanity.

The Facts:
  • born March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, Virginia
  • died June 28, 1836 at Montpelier (his home), Virginia (age 85)
  • Take note, Ms. Rice. Being Secretary of State is a good stepping stone to the White House. Jefferson was John Adams' Vice President, but Washington's Secretary of State. Madison was Jefferson's Secretary of State (and there will be others).
  • Madison is the first president to have prior congressional service, having served as a Representative from 1789-1797
  • Madison is the first president to wear pants, as opposed to knee breeches fancied by his predecessors.
  • The Madisons had no children.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Recipe: Super Bowl Cake

Here's the cake that made an appearance at my Super Bowl Festivities yesterday. We had the whole gamut: little hot dogs, chili dip and chips, wings and Super Bowl Cake, made by the best wife ever, Mrs. BA. Goalposts made by Brave Astronaut's Dad. Sprinkles added by LBA. The picture does not look like the one that Mrs. BA made, I'll have to see if OSG has a good one.

Here's the recipe, from the Food Network kitchens:

  • 3 ounces semisweet or bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup flat cola
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 9 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
Football Sugar Cookies, homemade or store bought, recipe follows (as mentioned, we used football-themed sprinkles, placed on the cake by LBA)

Plastic goal posts, available a specialty baking stores (My dad made them out of lollipop sticks and a hot glue gun - there may be chocolate lollipops in the future - we had left over sticks)

For the cake: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and line the bottom of 9 by 13-inch cake pan with parchment paper, overlapping on 2 sides to create flaps.

Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat cola just to a simmer over low heat and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir until smooth.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until slightly thickened and pale, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs. Beat on low until combined well, but not aerated. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until just combined. (Stir lightly with a rubber spatula to remove any pockets of flour.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake springs back lightly when touched, and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Cool cake completely in the pan on a rack. Run a knife around edge of the pan and invert cake onto a rack. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool completely. (The cake may be made in advance, tightly wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.

For the Icing: Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan that can hold a standing mixer's bowl above the water. Whisk the sugar, the egg whites, lemon juice, or cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl by hand. Set the bowl above the boiling water and continue whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the whites at medium-high speed until they almost hold a stiff peak and are fully cooled, about 10 minutes. Beat in the butter, a little at a time, until the icing is smooth and spreadable. (If the icing separates, just keep beating and it will come back together.)

To decorate the cake: Divide the icing in half. Set aside a couple of tablespoons white icing for field line. Blend a few drops of green food coloring into 1 portion so it is the same color as football field turf. Beat the cocoa powder and melted chocolate into remaining icing.

Cover sides of the cake with chocolate icing. (Save some chocolate icing to decorate football cookie, if desired.)

Transfer the green icing to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip, and cover the top of the cake, moving back and forth in small motions to create the turf. Clean bag and tip thoroughly, fill with white icing and add yard lines to field as desired.

Pressed football themed cookies into the top or sides of the cake, as desired, and finish with plastic goal posts.

Serve or set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours before serving, refrigerate if needed. (If cake is refrigerated, bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Giants Win the Pennant, the Giants Win the, Oh, wait

Sorry, wrong sport, but I can't get that out of my head. Congratulations to the boys in red and blue who stopped the fantasy cold. NJM, ACK (though he doesn't read this blog), others, I feel for you. But you had to lose sometime.

And it was a helluva game.

Do You Get Enough Leisure Time?

A recent blog post brought a visitor from Down Under (welcome, David to the Brave Astronaut orbit). He has a rich blog wherein he reports on a variety of things. Today (yesterday for him), he posted the following question: Do you get enough leisure time? Given that today is America's homage to "leisure time," the Super Bowl, it's a fine question to answer.

As many of you know, my father is visiting this weekend. However, as a relatively new federal employee and one who burned most of their leave to take time off to be with my newborn last month, I had no time to spend with him during the work day. So he planned his visit to be here primarily on the weekend. He arrived on Thursday and on Friday, Mrs. Brave Astronaut drove my father in to have lunch with me. After lunch I sent him in the direction of one of the Smithsonian museums for him to kill some time and then I went and got him and brought him back to my place of work so he could look around there.

Then yesterday, we decided to go to the new National Museum of the Marine Corps. I must admit that is was very well done. Of course the Marines can be very much in your face, OOH-RAH and all that. But the museum was very subtle, sort of like, here we are, this is what we do, thanks for coming by. I am happy to report that, among other things, LBA and I stormed the beaches at Iwo Jima, twice.

But to the question at hand. I have reported here before about vacation, missing it, weekend getaways, longer beach vacations, and not expecting to ever take a vacation again. But this of course, is different than leisure time, or at least how I would define it. I believe partly that my recent bout with insomnia has been due to my belief that nothing was getting done around the house. Much of this was my own making, the siren call of this blog and getting trapped in the Interwebs. It is also a factor of having two small children around, one of whom is three and requires a level of interaction that is higher than normal.

When we arrive home, many of us can relax for a bit, maybe read the paper, sit down for a leisurely dinner, and then watch some TV. With a three-year old, routine is key. You walk through the door and dinner needs to be in process, followed by a bath (most days), then pajamas and a show before bed (which encompasses, teeth brushing, face washing, and then stories before bed). Maybe Mrs. BA and I have eaten dinner with LBA, more often than not, we haven't. So it is now pushing past 8:30, heading for 9:00, and we have to think about dinner? Or clean up the dinner dishes?

Life is very much about priorities. I wouldn't trade my life now for anything. I love my wife, I love my children. Do I have enough leisure time? No. Do I want more? Yes. Am I OK if I don't get it for a few more years? Sure. Lives today are infinitely more complicated. Weekends used to be the time to decompress and do some things for yourself. Things change when you have two small children depending on you. Insomnia seems to be a small price to pay. I can actually get some things done while everybody else is sleeping.

So what about you? Do you have enough leisure time? Oh, and GO GIANTS!