Monday, March 31, 2008

Presidential Recipes

Recently, to commemorate President's Day, someone sent me an article from the International Falls Daily Journal. They had dutifully collected several president's favorite recipes. And with me in the midst of this "who are your presidents?" series, I thought I would share. It also takes some of the pressure of finding a new recipe each week. So let's start with my favorite president. Text in this and successive recipes comes from the newspaper article, which is no longer (to my knowledge) available online.

John F. Kennedy - New England Fish Chowder

According to chefs who worked in the White House, President Kennedy was a "soup, sandwich and fruit" man for lunch, but always soup though. New England Fish Chowder was a favorite. It was said Kennedy was a small eater; he often had to be reminded that it was dinner time . . . politics always took preference over food.
  • 1/4 lb. salt pork diced
  • 2 onions, sliced or diced
  • 4 cups potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 2 lbs.haddock or cod fillets, cut up
  • 1 heaping tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Accent (optional)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
Fry salt pork in bottom of large kettle until golden brown. Remove pork bits and set aside. There should be about 3 tablespoons of fat in the kettle (or Dutch oven). Add onions and cook slowly until wilted and yellowed (but not brown). Place potatoes in, and then the fish on top. Add seasonings. Add water to the top of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then cook on low until potatoes are cooked. Pour in both kinds of milk and allow to heat thoroughly but not boil.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Busy Sunday

There's a lot going on here today. Cherry Blossom season has returned to DC and the traffic around town is a nightmare. I am off shortly to spend the majority of my day fielding players for my Fantasy Baseball team. I got "sucked in" last year, and although I finished next to last, I'm looking to make a big comeback this year.

Oh yes, and tonight? I'm glad you asked. I'm going here for the opening of the 2008 baseball season. More to come (depending on what time I get home and how much beer I have consumed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Tough Quiz

This one comes from one of my blogging friends up north in Canada. She posted it on her blog and made us all look stupid in a big hurry. Here's the questions and the answers will follow, as always, next week.
  1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.
  2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward? (Lana, you are not allowed to get this one wrong)
  3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle.. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?
  6. Only three words in standard English begin with the letters 'dw' and they are all common words. Name two of them. (Although those of us who posted answers to Stinkypaw maintain there are at least two more.)
  7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter 'S.'
  10. Name the longest word type with only the left hand and then the longest word with the right hand.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I got #4, #5, #7, #8, and four of the items in #9 right.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obituary: Leonard Rapport

Speaking of history . . . Leonard was a legend in my profession. I had the occasion to talk with him on several occasions and he also made a cradle for his own children to sleep in, which made its way through the profession as well as the National Archives. My older son was one of the last "archives babies" to sleep in the "MARAC Cradle."

Leonard A. Rapport, Noted Archivist and Author

Leonard Rapport, 95, died Monday evening, March 17, 2008, at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C. of cardiac and respiratory arrest.

A sixty-year resident of Washington D.C., he was born in 1913 in Durham, N.C. and later moved to Asheville. He graduated Biltmore Junior College (UNC-Asheville) in 1932, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1935 and joined the staff of UNC Press from 1935-38. As a member of the Federal and North Carolina Writers’ Projects from 1938-41, he collected and published life stories, including “The Tobacco Auctioneer,” which appeared in A Treasury of Southern Folklore(1940). He received his MA in American History from George Washington University in 1957. A WWII volunteer, Lieutenant Rapport served with the 502nd, 82nd, and the 101st Airborne units from 1941-1948. After the war, he co-authored Rendezvous with Destiny: A History of the 101st Airborne Division with Arthur Northwood, Jr., considered definitive by many.

A distinguished archivist, historian, and author, Mr. Rapport worked for the National Archives from 1949 to 1984, specializing in the documentation of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. He was particularly noted for his writings on archival subjects, including “No Grandfather Clause,” first published in The American Archivist in 1981, which brought fresh insight to reappraisal and influenced the thinking of a generation of archivists. After retirement from the National Archives, he collected the unpublished documents of the Federal Convention of 1787 for the American Historical Association. He was a steady contributor to many historical publications, several of which are translated into different languages.

The recipient of several awards and honors, he received grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) established an annual scholarship in his honor and he was the first recipient of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Award for Lifelong Service to the Archival Profession. He was a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington D.C.

Ever the Eagle Scout of his youth, he was a great hiker and wood chopper. He trekked the Appalachian Trail from Virginia to North Carolina to attend the 50th reunion of his class of 1932. From 1989 until 1993, at the age of 80, he made five long solitary walks across the British Isles. He had a contagious love of life, humor, and companionship, complete with an astonishing memory for minute details of the past 95 years.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years Virginia (Reynolds) and daughter Jody Lynn of Washington D.C., son Russell, daughter-in law-Rebecca (Robison) and granddaughter Kate Lee of Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is History and How Do We "Keep it Real?"

I'm an archivist. That's what I do. I'm also a history geek. I love it. I feel that I know my fair share of history. I was a little disappointed in myself when reading Mary Witzl's blog recently, as she related the story of taking her daughter to look at schools and they passed through the town of Dunblane. She touched on the historical significance of the town in Scotland, where in 1996, a gunman killed sixteen children and an adult before taking his own life. The Dunblane Massacre remains the deadliest attack on children in the history of the United Kingdom.

Somewhere back in the cobwebby sections of my brain, I have all these random historical facts and trivial notes filed away. They are occasionally brought out and discussed. I have raised the issue of historical significance on this blog several times. I talked about the notable events of the 1980s and 1990s in conjunction with the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. My work place offers up a "this day in history" on our internal webpage, which elicited blog posts on February 20, March 7, and April 9, to name a few. Do a search of my blog with the key word "history" and you'll get most of the posts.

Mary's post got me thinking about history and what (and how) do we remember certain events. In my comment to her post, I said:
Thanks for another great post, Mary. As a former history teacher, I am ashamed to admit that I had to remind myself about what happened at Dunblane. While looking it up, it struck me that you were there one day after the anniversary (it happened on March 13, 1996).

Kim's comment about Lockerbie still resonates with me though. I believe that you certainly will identify with events that took place close to you or to which you have a personal connection.

Of course, as students of history, we are all victims of the old adage, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." When these current events happen we are always reminded of similar events from the past, but then they, too, just become history.

And I don't know how to reconcile that. How do you decide what's important? Well, I've said my piece, but I think this discussion may come up again over at my place.
We have had discussions around the lunch table about when "current events" becomes "history" and we will marvel at ADR's command of arcane sports trivia and we will debate whether something has more historical significance than some other event. Even sporting events aren't immune - we had a rather boisterous discussion about Tiger Woods the other day. I would maintain that his arrogance on the golf course diminishes the historical significance of the accomplishments of those who came before him. Now of course, you can say that records are meant to be broken, but you don't have to like it, if you don't like the person doing the breaking (see also Barry Bonds).

When I posted about the notable events, C in DC, added in her comment about a shooting that took place at the University of Iowa, which again only registered slightly in my psyche. But it was big for her, because she was there. Obviously, one will give more significance to an event that you have a personal involvement with. In the modern world, news flashes around the world instantaneously. Our own personal circumstances must filter onto the onrush of information, lest we all be overwhelmed. If you have school age children, you likely paid more attention to the Columbine shooting (or Dunblane). Parents of college age children reached out to their children at the Virginia Tech Massacre. Do we diminish the significance of the event if we don't have the proper reaction to what is clearly a tragedy to those directly involved?

We clearly will identify with events that took place on or around significant dates in our own lives. For example, I can tell you that the American flag was raised for the first time over New Orleans after the sale of the Louisiana Territory on December 20. My birthday is that day.

We make parallels to events when we hear of them. Today is March 27 and the internal work page informed me that "on this day in 1804, the Louisiana Purchase was divided into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana." So that little nugget will be filed away next to the factoid about December 20. But I might not recall it as easily.

There are three other events that were noted on the "This Day in History" section today:
  • On this day in 1874, Robert Frost, the American writer who received three Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry, was born in San Francisco.
  • On this day in 1979, the Camp David peace treaty was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the White House.
  • On this day in 1982, groundbreaking ceremonies took place in Washington, DC, for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Again, three very different events. But I can tell you that Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, I've been to his grave site in Vermont. I wrote about Frost in January (when another news item passed across my radar screen) on the occasion of it being January 20, Inauguration Day in the United States, and I was reminded of his reading "The Gift Outright" at the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy.

In 1979, as a sixth grader in J. Irving Baylis Elementary School, I was ushered into the all-purpose room with most of the school to watch television coverage of the signing of the Camp David Accords. Then, it was believed that all was going to be better in the Middle East. Hey, how's that working out?

I remember the controversy surrounding the Vietnam memorial. Yet now, I will bring visitors there and it is an incredibly moving experience. I will often get a lump in my throat and I will be reminded that my brother was spared a trip to the jungles by the virtue of a high draft number.

I don't know what I'm getting at exactly and I've rambled on long enough. Here's your assignment - How do you define history? What historical events have impacted you most? If you made a list of your top 10, would your list look like the person sitting next to you, in another country? Why or why not? Discuss.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

#11 - James K. Polk, 1845-1849

Our 11th President, James Knox Polk, is one of our first really forgotten presidents. He's also one of my favorites. Considered to be the first "dark horse" candidate, he was the last "strong" (for however you would like to define that) president before the Civil War. A fellow Tennessean, he became close friends with Andrew Jackson. He served in the House of Representatives and then went back to Tennessee to serve as its governor. An aged Andrew Jackson made it known that Polk was his candidate and at the Democratic Convention, finally, on the ninth ballot, Polk was the nominee.

Polk campaigned on an expansionist platform, favoring annexation of Texas, which occurred before the election, but setting up war with Mexico. He also favored the "occupation" of Oregon, and bringing California into the Union. The slogan, "54-40 or fight" became the cry, indicating the latitudinal border with Russian Alaska. Once in office, Polk setting on the 49th parallel, setting the northern border of the United States from the Great Lakes to the Pacific, avoiding war with Canada (and the UK). To try and soothe Mexico, Polk offered $20 million. As tensions rose, Polk sent General Zachary Taylor (remember that name) to Texas, where his forces were soon attacked by Mexico. The Mexican War, ended in 1848, with the United States getting what they wanted anyway, California and New Mexico.

Polk left the presidency a broken man and in ill health. He did not seek reelection. He died just over three months after the inauguration of his successor, Zachary Taylor (told you to remember his name).

I would be remiss if I didn't point out the Mr. Polk is one of the few Presidents to have a song written exclusively about him. I have put the YouTube video at the bottom of this post. The song is by "They Might Be Giants." Here's a link to the lyrics so you can sing along. And if you need it, rumor has it that ADR has the song on his iPod.

The Facts
  • Born November 2, 1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
  • Died June 15, 1849 in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 53
  • Party: Democrat
The Election of 1844
  • James K. Polk - Popular votes, 1,338,464 / Electoral votes, 170
  • Henry Clay - Popular votes, 1,300,097 / Electoral votes, 105
  • Polk oversaw the establishment of the United States Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument. The California Gold Rush takes place during his presidency.
  • Polk became the youngest to assume the presidency, when he was inaugurated at 49.
  • He is considered the "Manifest Destiny" President, adding the most territory to the United States since the Louisiana Purchase.
  • The Liberty Bell's crack proves to be too large for the bell to be rung any longer (remember, it's not a crack, it's a repair).
  • His alleged last words illustrated his devotion to his wife, with whom he had no children: "I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you." Sarah Childress Polk lived for forty years after her husband's death. Polk is also only one of three presidents to predecease their mothers. A week before his death, Polk was baptized a Methodist.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yummy Ice Cream

First, a public service announcement. Seeing as I didn't win the $275 million Powerball drawing last week, I figured I might enter the drawing for a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card. It might help soothe my bruised wallet some. The Clean Plate Club is offering the prize on their blog.

I first learned of Nutella from my mother, who returned home from somewhere with it (not to be confused with the Vegemite she brought back from Australia. No offense to my Aussie readers, but, Ick.

This recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, sounds outrageous. Is it ice cream season yet? Can I find room in the freezer for the bowl?

Super Simple Nutella Ice Cream
  • 350 grams (= 12 1/3 ounces = 1 1/2 cups = 360 ml) store-bought chocolate hazelnut spread, preferably all-natural and organic
  • 410 grams (= 14 1/2 ounces = 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon = 380 ml) unsweetened condensed milk (a.k.a. unsweetened evaporated milk or lait concentré non sucré; I used reduced fat)
Makes about 750 ml (3/4 quart).

Pre-freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Combine the chocolate hazelnut spread and the evaporated milk in a medium mixing bowl, and stir with a whisk until they become one, voluptuous and smooth. Depending on the texture of the spread you're using, this may take a few minutes; don't get discouraged. (To speed things up, you may use a blender/stick blender/stand mixer, or gently heat the evaporated milk beforehand.)

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Whisk again and churn in your ice cream maker.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

This is very disturbing, but it's better than Peeps in a microwave. I think the less said, the better. Happy Easter. Don't touch my jelly beans.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stuck on Frank - Remember When You Could Lick Him?

I first saw this news this past December 12, which would have been Frank Sinatra's 82nd birthday.

From the United States Postal Service:
Ol' Blue Eyes will get his own postage stamp next spring.

The stamp commemorating Frank Sinatra was announced Wednesday by Postmaster General John Potter, who called the crooner "an extraordinary entertainer whose life and work left an indelible impression on American culture. His recordings, concert performances and film work place him among America's top artists, and his legendary gift for transforming popular song into art is a rare feat that few have been able to replicate," Potter said.

He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1915 and died in 1998. The Hoboken Post Office was renamed in his honor in 2002.
My mother is surely happy wherever she is. I am convinced she has all her favorites over for dinner all the time, because in heaven, you get to do whatever you want and everybody is equal. She had a thing for Ol' Blue Eyes. Today would have been her 78th birthday. Here is a picture of her with her seventh grandchild (my first son). I wish she were around to meet her eighth.

Today I will engage in a long standing Brave Astronaut tradition. I will dye Easter eggs with my son. I remember sitting at the kitchen table on Holy Saturday, while my mother prepared the dye out of hot water, vinegar, and food coloring (in the days before Paas tablets). The table would be covered with newspaper and my sister and I would spend time coloring eggs so the "Easter bunny" could hide the eggs overnight for me to find the next morning. My son will hopefully enjoy it as much as I did (and there's also an Easter egg hunt to attend today as well).

Speaking of my mother, I spotted this article (link may not work) in the Washington Post about two weeks ago regarding efforts by the Library of Congress to help more than 700,000 registered blind and disabled users. One of those random things that my mother did in her early adulthood was she used to "translate" books into Braille. In fact, at some point, we had a Braille typewriter, but it vanished into the wind. But my mother is (was, should be) in the Library of Congress catalog for the books that she translated. (It also helped that her maid of honor went on to a long career at the Library).

The article describes how the Library (if you live here in DC or are in the profession, "the Library" always means the Library of Congress) is working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to render digitally the more than 60,000 audio works held in the Library of Congress by placing them on flash drives and giving disabled users the equipment to play the books. This represents a significant jump for the Library, which began offering books on long play records in 1934 and began switching to cassettes in the 1960s.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's Good Friday - Having Fish Are You?

So what did you give up for Lent? Does everyone realize that this is the earliest Easter will be in over a century? (I learned that when I went to church, something I have started doing again as my son prepares for his baptism next month.)

So during Lent, there is that whole no meat on Friday's thing. I use to try and observe this tradition. Finally I decided that I am surely going to Hell for other things that not eating meat on Fridays would only surely help me to get a better seat on the express train.

But remind me some day to tell you the story of my mother serving up scallops and tater tots to her children, who weren't sure about scallops, but liked tater tots. If you don't know what a tater tot is, it's a small cube of hash browned potatoes, about the same size as a scallop. And therein lay the issue. Or the time my mother served swordfish and later admitted she had served shark instead. Whatever.

So in addition to the above "fish" incidents, we had a fair amount of pizza growing up. I benefited from living on Long Island, where the pizza was thin and exquisite. There are times when Mrs. BA and I will visit the land of my youth and the first stop is the pizzeria and then the bagel store.

Good Neapolitan pizza is to die for. I have found a few places in the DC area that have it, but many are like pita bread with sauce on it - icky. And don't get me started on the express places. I used to be a pizza jockey for one of those places and it's never been my favorite.

I saw a posting some time ago (again my information guru,, which everybody better have in their readers by now), which pointed to this blog. You gotta love a blog about pizza that is called "Slice." So in this post, they listed all the different styles of pizza that you can get in the United States. It's a fairly comprehensive list.

So dear reader, best places for pizza? Let me know in case I come to visit. Favorite pizza? Toppings? And you, over there? Drop the ham and pineapple and slowly back away. Pizza has cheese, sauce, and maybe some sausage on it. "Designer pizza" is not worth it. Interesting for a diversion now and then, but not for when you want the greasy cheese pizza. Then you have to go here, or somewhere like it.

Then there's this place in Albany, New York. I have been known to drive an hour and a half for this pizza. It's that good. I used to think that Jesus Christ was in the kitchen making the pizza.

(See how I did that? I came full circle on this post. Starting with the church thing, talked about food and wrapped up with Jesus. There may be heavenly hope for me yet.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

#10 - John Tyler, 1841-1845

There are a number of ways to remember presidential order. Here's one to help with the first ten presidents. Yes it requires a little memorization, but you can do it. I have faith. Let's review:
  1. George Washington - first, easy, OK?
  2. John Adams - second, first Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson - third
  4. James Madison - fourth and comes alphabetically before
  5. James Monroe
  6. John Quincy Adams - the first father-son pairing
  7. Andrew Jackson - that transition is a little tough, think Adams-Andrew (alphabetical)
  8. Martin Van Buren - you just have to remember that Martin was Andrew's veep
  9. William Henry Harrison - the first Bill in the White House, but only there for a month and then he died. Try and remember Tippecanoe and
  10. [John] Tyler, too.
John Tyler was known as the "Accidental President" for as we learned last week, never before had a President died in office, leaving the country without its leader. It was Tyler's actions (taking the oath of office, becoming president rather than "acting" president) that were later codified into the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

During Tyler's administration, the Republic of Texas was annexed by the United States, in 1845 and Florida became a state.

Tyler is on my list (of notable presidents) for another event (that some day I might actually write the book). In February 1844, the Peacemaker cannon on the USS Princeton exploded, killing Tyler's Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Navy. Also killed was David Gardiner (a Senator from New York), who daughter, Julia, was also on the boat. Julia and John Tyler were married in June 1844 (Tyler's first wife had died in the White House in 1842).

The Facts
  • born March 29, 1790 in Greenway, Charles City County, Virginia
  • died January 18, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia (age 71)
  • Party: Whig, then Democrat
  • Tyler was the first president to have an impeachment resolution brought against him. It was proposed by Representative John Quincy Adams, but the resolution failed.
  • Tyler was the first president born after the establishment of the US Constitution.
  • Tyler was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives in 1861, but died before taking office. As a result, he is the only President whose death was not commemorated in Washington, DC.
  • Tyler completed his term as president without naming a vice president.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Did you know your beer is green?

Today is St. Patrick's Day. It is also my sister's birthday. She was tormented for years with green dresses, cakes with green icing and all the accouterments of the day set aside for the wearin' of the green. I returned home from New York today, and yesterday I picked up my sister at the airport. She will be there through the weekend. Happy Birthday, sis! She celebrated her birthday by getting all liquored up in NYC today. Too bad we aren't accepting stories here anymore, she's got a good one.

Now I personally don't like this dish, but I know my father does. My two sisters brought him some "takeout" so he could have some. Here's a recipe from the Food Network.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
  • One 3-pound corned beef brisket (uncooked), in brine
  • 16 cups cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut into 8 thick wedges
  • 8 small new potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Serving suggestion: Whole-grain mustard or HORSERADISH SAUCE, recipe follows.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Place the corned beef in a colander in the sink and rinse well under cold running water.

Place the corned beef in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid; add the water, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Cover and transfer pan to the oven, and braise until very tender, about 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Add the cabbage and potatoes to the cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a large platter. Slice the corned beef across the grain of the meat into thin slices. Lay the slices over the cabbage and surround it with the potatoes. Ladle some of the hot cooking liquid over the corned beef and season with pepper. Serve immediately with the mustard or horseradish sauce.

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons jarred grated horseradish (with liquid)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, zest, and 2 teaspoons salt. Season generously with pepper to taste. Refrigerate the horseradish sauce for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: about 1 3/4 cups

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cardigan or Crewneck, I don't care - put it on

I'm on Long Island looking after my father, but he's asleep and hey, the computer is in my room. And I can only play Medal of Honor so many times. (You'll note its the middle of the afternoon, but it's naptime).

March 20 would have been Fred Rogers 80th birthday. To honor him and his memory, Mr. McFeely has a special request (see most of the press release below) as part of what is being referred to as "Won't You Be My Neighbor Days." And really, if you have to ask who those people are in the preceding sentences, shame, shame on you.

Mr. Rogers was always there for me. I was all about the Land of Make Believe. I may have even had a thing for Lady Aberlin. So please, on Wednesday, wear your favorite sweater. It doesn't even have to zip up in the front.
(Pittsburgh) – In honor of what would have been Mister Rogers’ 80th birthday on March 20, Mr. McFeely — aka David Newell, the public relations director for Family Communications, Inc. (the nonprofit company founded in 1971 by Fred Rogers) — has a special request.

"We’re asking everyone everywhere — from Pittsburgh to Paris — to wear their favorite sweater on that day," he asks in his best speedy delivery voice. "It doesn’t have to have a zipper down the front like the one Mister Rogers wore on the program, it just has to be special to you."

But wait, there’s more.

It just so happens that Sweater Day is part of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary celebration and the first-ever "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" Days (March 15 — 20).

"We wanted to recognize Fred in a way that would reflect his deep appreciation of what it means to be a caring neighbor," explains FCI’s Margy Whitmer.

As a result, "’Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" Days — WYBMND for short, although not by much — was born as a means of promoting neighborliness throughout Fred Rogers’ own backyard — Southwestern Pennsylvania region.

Throughout WYBMND, more than 30 organizations ranging from libraries (Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh and others throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania), to museums (The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the Senator John Heinz History Center and The Carnegies) to other venues (The New Hazlett Theater, The Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Zoo and the PPG Aquarium, the National Aviary and Gilda’s Club Western Pennsylvania) have signed up to participate. Highlights of the celebration also include performances by musicians including members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

I miss Mr. Rogers. It makes me sad that my kids will never know him.

Friday, March 14, 2008

There's no place like home - unless it's not your home.

I am in New York for the weekend, looking after my father who is still recuperating from surgery. I flew up on Southwest Airlines, on a completely uneventful flight, despite their recent troubles. I sat in the back as my boarding number was B-12, a fine vitamin, but a crappy number for seating on Southwest. A couple of rapid rewards drink coupons and I was good to go.

Upon arriving in New York (well actually, Islip), I got my bag and went over to the rental car counter. The delay in getting my car proved fortuitous. This is what I drove away in . . .
I arrived at my father's new place (it occurred to me that this was the first time I was returning to Long Island since last June. It should be an interesting weekend. I'm sure to have more to report at the end of the weekend. My sister arrives on Sunday afternoon to take over. It is her first time back in New York in more than two years. I have to admit - it's a little weird.

But in any case, I have a few things that I wanted to pass along to you in case you are looking for some diversions this weekend. (But of course, don't forget the Passion of the Lord on Sunday - make sure the coffee is extrey strong that morning.)
  • First of all, for those who are keeping track, the contest over at March Drunken Madness is in full swing. We have eight contestants (including yours truly) in the running. Voting will be available until Tuesday night at midnight (EDT). Go have a look and vote for your favorite.
  • I have told you people of my devotion to As it turns out, Jason has been posting his stream of consciousness for ten years now. If you haven't bookmarked the site, or put it into your reader, or gotten the RSS feed, do so. You'll like what you get. And, as it turns out, you can be cool like me. Evidently the British paper, the Guardian Observer posted a list of the 50 most "powerful" blogs and is number 4. As yet, Order from Chaos is not on the list. But Waiter Rant, which was the blog that NJM turned me on to and got me started down the rabbit hole of the blogging world is on the list at number 44. How many of the ones you read are on the list?
  • Trusting my life to Southwest this weekend might lead one to question one's mortality. Mrs. Brave Astronaut and I have had several discussions about what we get to take with us into the afterlife. I am not so keen on the idea of having anything "harvested" from me after I've shrugged off this mortal coil. She usually responds with, "well, you'll be dead and I'll get to decide." But even if I don't agree to organ donation, here's an idea I can get behind. There is no reason for any of my ideas to be buried with me. Maybe that novel will finally get published.
  • The Riverdale Garden, a restaurant in the Bronx (NY) has a problem. In order to save itself, it is prevailing upon its regular customers to pony up $5000 per couple for a year's worth of dinners. They are hoping to get fifty couples, which would net them $250,000, to secure a long-term lease and do some improvements to the restaurant
  • Speaking of the Bronx, here's a few baseball-related nuggets.
    • Billy Crystal, a lifelong fan of the Yankees (he produced and directed 61*) turned 60 today. To commemorate the event, Crystal was given a tryout and a one-day contract with the Yankees. Unfortunately for him, he struck out swinging. But I'm pretty sure he didn't care.
    • This will be the last season for the House that Ruth Built. Yankee Stadium will face off against the wrecking ball at the end of this season. Before that happens there is a good chance that this could happen. I am all about whatever the NHL needs to do. How much would I want to be there for that? Then again, I really want to be here for this final event, too. But that's not going to happen, unless we win Powerball tomorrow night.
  • If you are feeling a little frisky on this Palm Sunday weekend, the folks over at Gridskipper Washington DC have done the work for all of us heathens. You may have heard (or read) the Vatican has redefined those really bad sins (see also: seven deadly sins). Given that the big guy himself (no, not that big guy, the Pope) is coming to town, Gridskipper has created a map to let everyone know where they can go in DC to commit those new sins the Vatican would like us not to commit. But then we could just head down to Nationals Park and get some absolution.
  • And finally, if you have plans to attend Nationals Park this season (as Southern Gentleman and I will do on Opening Night on March 30), click over to the Washington Nationals website and vote for your favorite songs to be played at opportune times during the game. This news first came to me from the site devoted to getting Teddy a win in the president's race. (If you're not sure what that meant, it's OK)
Well that should keep you all busy for the weekend. I have a post ready to go for Sunday, a recipe ready for Monday, and then it will be time to sit down for a minute with Number 10, also known as John Tyler.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Do I Love Thee?

I'd like to begin with a historical note. On this day in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the United States were founded by by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia. The Girl Scouts were chartered by an Act of Congress on March 16, 1950. Those who know me will understand why this event is important to me.

So the rabbit hole of the Internet has led me many places and recently one of those places has been David McMahon's authorblog. He periodically throws out a question on the weekends for his blog readers to answer on their own blogs. I answered one of his earlier ones, "Do You Get Enough Leisure Time?" in February. The most recent question is "Do You Say "I Love You" Enough?"

There was a time when the answer to that question for me would have been unequivocally NO. I wasn't in love and really never understood what love was. It took Mrs. Brave Astronaut to teach me about love and now I get it. Of course it means that I love her so much that it hurts. And I surely don't tell her that enough. So Mrs. Brave Astronaut, I Love You.

I was not a big "I love you" exchanger in my own family. It took my mother's illness to get my siblings and I to start telling each other. I struggled with saying it to my father (and still do), but was able to tell my mother at the end of her life. I believe that love of one's family is different than "matrimonial" love, for you don't get to pick your family. So you sort of have to love what you got. So even for all their faults, I love them.

The birth of my two children helped me further to express love with the simple "I love you" statement. My son exclaims it as he goes to bed each evening and many other occasions when sitting next to Mrs. BA and me. Saying "I love you" back to him is something that is done without question or reservation, for there is nothing like the love a parent has for a child.

So, to answer the question, yes, I think I do say "I love you" enough. But I am sure I could say it even more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

#9 - William Henry Harrison, 1841 (31 days)

He had an impressive pedigree. He was from Virginia. He had run for President in 1836, nearly defeating Martin Van Buren. He won the 1840 election over President Van Buren decisively, winning an impressive 234 electoral votes (to Van Buren's 60). Yet William Henry Harrison did not heed the advice of his mother and did not wear a hat when he went out in the cold. Harrison stood up to give his inaugural address on March 4, 1841 and proceeded to give a 105-minute speech. He did not wear a hat, contracted pneumonia and died a month later, giving him the record of the shortest presidency ever. (Although there is no basis in fact that his exposure led to his death - it's still a good story.)

Harrison was elected along with his Vice President, John Tyler (who we will of course, hear all about next week), as "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too," the first election slogan used in a presidential campaign. Harrison was a former military man, having served as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers during the Indian campaign. He spent a great deal of time in the Northwest Territory, becoming its first representative in Congress as well as Governor, a position he held for 12 years. As Governor, he authorized the attack on the forces of Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, considered by many to be one of the opening battles in the War of 1812 and upon which Harrison made his name, which brought him to the presidency in 1840.

Allegedly, Tecumseh put a curse on Harrison and any future president elected in a year ending in zero (as happens every twenty years), stating they would die in office. While there was no proof of the curse, it struck down Harrison and the next six eligible presidents (A. Lincoln, J. Garfield, W. McKinley, W. Harding, F. D. Roosevelt, and J. Kennedy). Ronald Reagan's survival of an assassination attempt seemed to break the curse.

As Harrison was the first president to die in office, there was no precedent as to what to do. John Tyler is to be credited with deciding to become "President" and not "Acting President." He wound up significantly strengthening the office of the Vice President (although he completed his term as President without a Vice President).

The Facts
  • born February 9, 1773 in Berkeley, Charles City County, Virginia
  • died April 4, 1841 in Washington, DC (one month after taking office and becoming the first president to die in office) (age 68)
  • Party: Whig
  • Last known words: "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."
  • William Henry Harrison's father, Benjamin, signed the Declaration of Independence.
  • William Henry Harrison's grandson, also Benjamin, was the 23rd President of the United States.
  • Harrison, at 68, was the oldest man to become President, a record that stood until the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981, who was 69.
  • Harrison's death led to the first time in history when there were three presidents in one year's time. Harrison's predecessor, Martin Van Buren, and Harrison's Vice President, John Tyler. This happened only one other time, in 1881, with the death of James Garfield (predecessor - Rutherford B. Hayes, successor - Chester A. Arthur).
  • William Henry Harrison was the first sitting president to have his picture taken, although no known copies exist.
  • Harrison and Tyler are the only President-Vice President combination to have been from the same county.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh Fudge, Part II

Here, as promised, is the second fudge recipe. This one is provided by frequent commenter to this blog, DD. Enjoy.
  • 3 cups chocolate chips - any kind you like - semi-sweet, milk chocolate, Hershey's, Nestle's - I like to use Ghirardelli's ( or if you are really adventurous use white, or mint, or peanut butter, or butterscotch chips, or a blend and swirl them together, marble style)
  • 1 can (14oz) Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts - optional - I use pecans
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla - real Mexican if you have it
You can do this in the microwave but I like to use the stove. Melt the chocolate over low heat - watch and stir it or it WILL burn. Stir in dash of salt and sweetened milk. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts. Spread into foil-lined square (8 x 8?) pan. Chill until set, then cut and put in pretty box or tin lined with saran wrap. Keep it covered so it doesn't dry out.

I usually only make this at Christmas so I make several batches at once. If it's cold outside just set it on the back porch to set - out of reach of the critters.

Smooth and creamy. Yum!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Weekend Wrap and Miscellaneous Musings

I'm back "on the grid" after about 20 hours in the dark. We had some heavy duty wind and rain on Friday night and Saturday that led to this event, which put us in the dark. The aggravating thing was, we have a pole in front of our house, which I was informed was a junction pole, so there was "juice" coming in, but it couldn't come to our house, because of the break up the line. Oh, well. Everything is back now.

We still have not had our car stereo returned to us, but the window in the car was replaced on Friday. You can read about the explosion of crime in my lovely little town here and here. We may be resorting to leaving our cars open.

If you click on the links above, it will take you to ChvBlog, which is run by my neighbor and the man known as Breadman. I had not yet met him face to face until last evening, when I crashed a party he was having. A very public thank you to him for a great party. I was glad to be included. In my defense, I had received an invitation and had not gotten around to RSVPing, when my neighbor exerted the peer pressure on me and took me along. Little Brave Astronaut had a great time (concluding with a viewing of "The Wizard of Oz)."

On Friday night, the Brave Astronaut family played host to fellow blogger, Special K and HAH (J in PA), who are also frequent commentators on Order from Chaos. We had Taco Night here at Chez Cheverly, where the OSG family, C in DC and her husband, and NJM, all partook in a lovely evening. We agreed that we might have to make it a regular happening.

I watched a fair amount of the Washington Capitals game yesterday, which they shouldn't have lost. But I thank them for tiring out the Bruins, which allowed the Rangers to beat them today. I am not sure if they will make the playoffs this year, but I will go on the record (having been the one to push him to make the prediction) as agreeing with ADR on his belief that a Stanley Cup will come to the Verizon Center within the next four years. Oh, then again, they lost again today. For a different point of view, Sports Frog believes that last year's champion (I can't even say the team, it's so silly) is in a very good spot to repeat.

In other sports news, I can feel it. Baseball is coming. When my first son was born, I used to read to him from the newspaper. Shortly after he came home, a baseball player of questionable talent got into a scuffle with a judge in his native Aruba. He wound up in jail. My nickname for this waste of a ball player was (and still is, although I may have to change it) the "Fat Puke." It seems as if the Fat Puke has been working on his form. Again, from Sports Frog, Sidney Ponson has . . .

Finally, next weekend I will travel to New York to look after my father, who is recuperating from open heart surgery. Many thanks to all of you for your good wishes as well. I will be flying the official airline of the Brave Astronaut, Southwest, despite this news. Here is Southwest's response, posted on their website as well as emailed to its many Rapid Rewards customers.

March Drunken Madness - The Rules

We are slowly approaching March Madness, which means that it must be time to get the March Drunken Madness Contest underway. If you have expressed to me your desire to be a part of it, you have likely received an invitation to become an author to a blog created strictly for this purpose. It looks like we will have enough to start at the "Sweet 16" or else there was some talk of Amy and I getting a first round bye, which may still happen. We'll be like superdelegates.

While the rules are still a little in flux, here is how it is shaping up.
  • Pick your best drinking story. It may be a personal experience or something you witnessed, but not something you heard from your cousin's best friend's sister's boyfriend about this time they went to 31 Flavors in 1986.
  • Keep it under 1,000 words.
  • Use as many hyperlinks as you want, but do not embed photos/videos in the narrative.
  • Contestants will be randomly seeded by Amy and Brave Astronaut.
  • Post it to the blog and send an email to either Amy or Brave Astronaut, who will then create a poll on the side of the blog for your competition.
  • Tell everybody you know to go to the blog and vote for you. Repeatedly.
  • If you make it to the Championship Round, you will have the option of going with the story that got you there, or substituting a new one.
If you want in, there is still time. Based on the responses I got, we are at sixteen (provided the 6th Floor Blog comes up with six stories). Alternatively, we could post all the stories on the new blog and have one big poll. Thoughts?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A List of Books

Stitch Bitch had it first, then C in DC took it. But I had planned to do it too. I just didn't get to it first. But here it is.

C in DC added the * star condition, because she thought it important to know what was required reading in school before college. I concur. Not that it helped me. I must be some sort of ijit, having read only seventeen of them. Though, in my defense there is a fair amount of what might be referred to as "chick lit" on the list.

And most of my reading these days is confined to small square books with cardboard pages . . . "one night, after thinking it over, Harold decided to take a walk in the moonlight . . . and his took his big purple crayon with him . . ."


Look at the list of (100) books below. Bold the ones you’ve read. Italicize the ones you want to read. * Star the ones you were forced to read in your schooling before college. Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in. (Movies don’t count.)
  1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) *
  4. Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) *
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) *
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. 1984 (Orwell) *
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. The Bible
  46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) *
  50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) *
  53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  64. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) *
  69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) *
  81. Not Wanted On the Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  82. Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck) *
  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) *
  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. In the Skin of a Lion (Ondaatje)
  92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) *
  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) *
  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) *
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Well there's this thing and this one, and that one

I had a lot to say. I have several posts queued up and ready to go. They need a little editing before they go out. And I'll get to them in do time. I need to feel the creative juices flow a little more before they are "perfect."

One thing I was going to report on tonight (when I learned that today was the anniversary) was the Iron Curtain speech by Winston Churchill, which took place on this date in 1946. Click here for a little .wav file from the speech. It is also the anniversary of the Boston Massacre.

Then I saw on the Interwebs that Patrick Swayze was dying of pancreatic cancer, which was soon refuted by his doctors that, while yes he did have pancreatic cancer, his death was not imminent. had this YouTube link, offering up a brief history of evil, noted as "an (animated (and condensed (and brief (and truncated)))) history of evil. Almost as interesting for the comments as for the video itself." But I didn't want to just go with a link posting.

Perhaps one of the reasons my day was so disjointed was that my slumber was disturbed last night and not by my normal bouts with insomnia. The doorbell rang at 2:00am (which is in that time of night when the volume of things is increased by some exponential value). I had only been asleep for about an hour as I had been watching the returns come in from the primaries, so I was especially groggy as one gets shortly after having fallen asleep. At the door was one of my town's finest, informing me that my wife's car had been broken into and the stereo ripped out. He knew this because (Alleluia!) they had captured the cretins and the stereo will likely be returned soon. Here's a post from my neighbor about the incident.

This had occurred around midnight (when I was still up) and during a rather heavy rainstorm. But I never heard anything other than the rain. So now I am having the nice glass people come and repair both that car's window and my car's windshield, which has had a crack for some time and is on the move again.

Is there any wonder why I'm always tired?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

#8 - Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841

Today is March 4, the date on which presidents used to be inaugurated. A trivia note, which we will see in week 32 - this president was the last to be inaugurated on March 4 and the first to be inaugurated on January 20.

It is also the date on which the citizens of Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and are voting for president. And John McCain has secured enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. As for his opponent . . . will it be another from New York? Or a fresh face from Illinois.

Martin Van Buren, nicknamed "Old Kinderhook" for his home town,was our first president from the Empire State, New York. He came to power in the New York State political machine and was spotted by Andrew Jackson, who pulled him into his cabinet as, wait for it, yep, Secretary of State.

Conflicts grew between Van Buren and Jackson's Vice President, John C. Calhoun. Van Buren resigned, hoping to get others to resign from the cabinet, allowing Jackson to appoint a new cabinet. Jackson then tapped Van Buren to serve as Minister to Great Britain, but his appointment was denied by Calhoun and others in the Senate. Jackson got his revenge by making Van Buren his Vice President and then getting him elected as his successor.

In one of the first occasions of "It's the Economy, Stupid," Van Buren's administration was characterized primarily from the "Panic of 1837," which nearly put the country into a severe depression. The Panic had largely been caused as a result of the Second Bank Crisis, which had come out of the Jackson administration.

As the economic crisis worsened, the only other issue to affect Van Buren's tenure was the annexation of Texas. Van Buren opposed the annexation for it would have brought the slavery issue to the forefront again.

After being defeated in 1840, Van Buren returned to Lindenwald, his New York estate, to plan his return to the White House. He went to the convention in 1844 with a majority of the delegates but not a two-thirds majority. The nomination went instead to James K. Polk, of which we will hear more about in three weeks. Van Buren tried a third time for the presidency, running in 1848 as the Free Soil candidate. His candidacy and the votes he took in New York State likely gave the election to Zachary Taylor.

The Facts
  • Born December 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York
  • Died July 24, 1862 in Kinderhook, New York, age 79
  • Party: Democrat
  • Martin Van Buren was the first president born after the creation of the United States and as a result, the first "American" president.
  • Van Buren was a widower as President, his wife had died in 1819.
  • Van Buren holds the record for the second shortest tenure of Governor of New York. He was elected in November 1828, to take office in January 1829. He was appointed as Secretary of State in March.
  • His nickname, "Old Kinderhook," abbreviated OK, led to the rise of OK as a word to signify assent and acceptance.
  • He was the only the second vice president to be elected to immediately succeed the president under whom he had served (George H. W. Bush is the second).
  • If you like the number eight, here's the one for you: He was the eighth president, the eighth vice president and lived to see the election of eight different presidents from eight different states.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oh, Fudge

I will admit it right up front. Not only is the recipe from Anna, I stole the title of the post from her to. Now if I could only get her to make the fudge, too. This is her grandmother's recipe.
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • 1 lb confectioner's sugar
  • piece of butter, size of an egg yellow
  • 2 1/2 heaping t Hershey cocoa
  • 2 1/2 heaping t of marshmallow
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
Put milk, sugar, and butter in a deep pan. Stir continuously until you can drop a bit into cold water and it's kind of caramel-ly in about 1/2 hour. Keep stirring. Then put in marshmallow, stir, put in nuts, stir. Pour into butter greased pan.

Here's my interpretation:
butter, 1 T; about 4 teaspoons of cocoa; and I used marshmallow fluff for the marshmallow because this isn't the kind of fudge that has marshmallow chunks in it. I put the pan on medium heat because who knows what it is supposed to be. At about 20 minutes, there was a definite change in how it felt to stir it and lo, and behold, when I dropped some into cold water it didn't just seem "caramel-ly," it tasted just like caramel. I put the cocoa in when I put in the marshmallow, because it doesn't say when to add that. (I love that kind of recipe the best!) I probably should have taken it all off the heat at that point, and with future attempts I probably will. You should probably switch to a whisk when you put in the fluff because it's a lot of work to get the lumpy marshmallow incorporated with a wooden spoon. I think it was smart to use a glass pan, but grease it within an inch of its life because this stuff is hard to get out of the pan!

Coming next week, the other fudge, which is pictured here. Then you too will be able to have a fudge-off in your own homes (oh, that sounds dirty).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Toast! to Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday will take place on Sunday March 9. But we need a little more time to iron out the rules for our version of March Madness - March Drunken Madness. In this post, I referred to two drunk stories from yours truly and a blogging friend, Amy in Ohio. I challenged my readers to contribute their best drinking stories and we would have our own little bracket challenge to see who has the best story.

Comments trickled in and it would seem that we have the following competitors:
  • the aforementioned Amy in Ohio
  • Brave Astronaut (that's me)
  • despite her note that "how drunk could you be if you remember the story," I'm pulling Stitch Bitch in.
  • C in DC offers boring stories, but there has to be a Cinderella story in every tournament.
  • The 6th Floor Blog will play the part of the Big East in the tournament, as we will give them the option of sending six stories for consideration.
  • NJM is trolling through her drunken depths to find a winner. She will guest blog through this portal.
  • I recently heard a good story from OSG, so I'm snagging him for an entry.
  • C in DC, NJM, and I have all decided that the bearded one, Kim, must have several good stories, so we hope he will play along.
  • If he can stop fighting with anonymous commentators, will ADR offer a story?
  • If he can stop shoveling snow for a moment, will Archivalist offer up an anecdote?
  • Certainly Special K and HAH must have a memory they are trying to keep quiet, but would love to share with all of us? They can even have two entries.
  • Hey, the name of her blog is "Stories to Tell." Surely one of them must involve alcohol.
If we get all of the above to play, that's eighteen of us. Am I missing anyone? If you would like to get in on the fun, let me know. If I have drafted you for this and you want out, please let me know that as well.

We could use Order from Chaos as the central location for the stories. I think I could manage to get a poll feature that would allow people to vote for the stories. I propose the first round of stories be posted on Sunday March 9, with voting to take place through Friday March 14. Second round stories would go up on Sunday March 16 and voting through Friday March 21. If we get our numbers right, final four stories would be posted on Sunday March 23 and voting for those stories to go through Wednesday March 26. The Championship round would post on Friday March 28 and voting would cease on on Monday March 31 (I'll even suspend Recipe Monday for it!)

I will come up with a good prize for the winner and a plan on getting it to the "Lord (or Lady) of the Drunks." Questions? Comments? Moans of Despair? Cries of Anguish? Let me know in the comments.