Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Off to New York

I am leaving tonight for Chautauqua, New York for the Spring 2008 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). This conference will mark my final one as Treasurer of the organization. While I expect to be able to blog while there (my roomie, that Ed guy should have his laptop), there may not be a lot of content for the next few days.

In honor of the Empire State, I offer to you a website that I found recently. It is one of those "single serving" websites, which offers only one piece of information. The site will tell you what color the lights are on the Empire State Building and why they are colored that way. So while two days ago, the building was bathed in purple, pink, and white for Long Island native, Mariah Carey's album release, tonight the building will be just the general ESB white lighting.

The Empire State Building holds a special place in my heart. It is a favorite place for Mrs. Brave Astronaut and I to go when we are in New York. On Sunday, she and I will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

#16 - Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865

[I've been approved by Britannica as a "worthy blogger!" - So you can all enjoy Britannica content from here out. Here's the Lincoln entry and it also appears below in the links section.]

Our sixteenth President is the second of the real "heavy hitter" presidents. This is fairly evident by the fact that Abraham Lincoln's mug is carved into Mount Rushmore. This entry could go on and on with the accomplishments of Lincoln, but lets try and find some lesser known things about Old Honest Abe.

It should be noted that Lincoln did not hold any elective office when he was elected President. He had served one term as a member of the House of Representatives. He had tried to become Senator from Illinois in 1858, but lost to Stephen A. Douglas, following the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln is also regarded as one of the primary figures in the new Republican Party and as president, is credited with strengthening it into a force. But Lincoln also rallied Democrats to his cause, taking advantage of the "Rally Around the Flag" mentality exhibited by Americans in time of war or national crisis.

Lincoln fathered four children, all boys, with Mary Todd Lincoln. Two of his sons predeceased him, Edward (1846-1850) and his beloved Willie (1850-1862). His third son, Tad, was born in 1853 and died in 1871. Only his oldest son, Robert, survived to adulthood. Robert Todd Lincoln holds an interesting trivia record in history: While he had been invited to accompany his parents to Ford's Theater, he was therefore not present at his father's, he was present at the assassinations of both President James Garfield and President William McKinley. Robert Todd was also present at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, four years before his death.

The Facts
  • born February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky
  • died April 15, 1865, the morning after being shot at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. Lincoln was 56 years old.
  • Party: Republican
The Election of 1860
  • Abraham Lincoln (R) - 180 electoral votes / 1,865,593 popular votes
  • John C. Breckenridge (Southern Democrat) - 72 electoral votes / 848,356 popular votes
  • John Bell (Constitutional Union) - 39 electoral votes / 592,906 popular votes
  • Stephen A. Douglas (D) - 12 electoral votes / 1,382,713 popular votes
The Election of 1864
  • Abraham Lincoln (R) - 212 electoral votes / 2,206,938 popular votes
  • George B. McClellan (D) - 21 electoral votes / 1,803,787 popular votes
  • 81 electoral votes not cast
  • While Lincoln is the third president to die in office, he is the first to die by assassination.
  • Lincoln was our tallest president, at 6 foot 4 inches.
  • Lincoln is the first president to have been born outside the original 13 colonies.
  • Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent, a device to lift boats over shoals.
  • Occasionally, a pause will happen in a conversation and quiet will reign. There is somewhat of an urban legend there is a good chance that it will be twenty minutes past the hour. Lincoln died at 7:22am. Go ahead, check the clock the next time a lull comes up in conversation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Original Wing of Buffalo

I'm off on Wednesday to head to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) meeting in Chautauqua, New York. Upon arriving in Buffalo (on the official airline of the Brave Astronaut, Southwest), I and a few colleagues will head to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo to sample the chicken wings that made Buffalo famous. They have been serving wings there since 1964. There may also Beef on Weck, but that's a different post.

The recipe is really, really hard - so, pay attention.

  • 2 1/2 lbs fresh chicken wings (12-16 wings)
  • 1/2 cup Original Anchor Bar Wing Sauce
If preferred, split wing at joint, pat dry. Deep fry for 10-12 minutes or bake at 425 degrees fro 45 minutes until completely cooked and crispy. Drain, put in bowl, add sauce and toss until wings are completely covered. Serve with Bleu cheese and celery.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baseball Been Berry, Berry Good to Me

Tonight, I went out to Nationals Park for the first time since Opening Night (and again I went with OSG). This was the first outing on tickets I scored at an auction that I attended last week. OSG and I have now attended two games in the new ballpark, seeing the Nationals win both games with walk off home runs in the bottom of the ninth.

With all the brouhaha that swirled about that other team in Washington, which is now playing golf, after finally removing their ice skates after an amazing series (and for the record I am very disappointed - it was very exciting to watch), I am prompted to answer the question (from no one in particular), what is my favorite sport? I will not (for now) pick a particular allegiance to any one team, although that is fairly evident to those who know me.

It's a valid question. Of the sports that are on my radar screen here they are (ranked according to height and popularity - and what's that from? - my favorite TV show) and please note this is but a very short list. There are certainly more sports out there and even some that I will watch. This just happens to be the list today and it conveniently gets me to the link I wanted to share with you (see the bottom of the post):
  1. Baseball
  2. Golf
  3. Hockey
  4. College Basketball (hey don't I get lunch because I won the pool?)
  5. Football
So there you have it. I am not a big pro football fan of either New York team, which don't even play in New York anymore and I am too far removed from C in DCs beloved NY Team. I will usually watch the Super Bowl, but that is more about the food and the commercials than the game. But the Giants beating the Patriots last year was sweet. I will watch the occasional college game (I might tune into the bowl games around New Years and I'll always look at how Brown is doing for my mother).

When I lived in the Hudson Valley, I held season tickets for the Marist College Red Foxes. I liked the smaller intimate settings and you could really get involved in the games. I will watch (and did watch) most of the March Madness tournament and will usually root for the underdogs, because those are the teams I know. But I'm not stupid and usually do well in the pool, which is why my lunch table group is going out to lunch and I get to eat free!

I am a hockey fan by genetics. My mother was an only child and learned her love of the game from behind the chicken wire at Rhode Island Reds games. I won't even get into how my father nearly got killed when he came home one night and told my mother that someone had offered him New York Rangers tickets and he turned them down, not knowing the level of craziness exhibited by hockey fans (if you haven't seen the linked commercial, click it - it's worth it). When my mother died, my brother-in-law arranged for a floral display of carnations made into the New York Rangers logo. It was quite something.

The reason that golf sits atop hockey is that I can actually play golf (shut up, Ed). I can't skate worth a lick and I love watching hockey and will root for my Rangers until my last breath. But I can pick up a golf club and (occasionally) get a good ball down the fairway. Next weekend I will travel to a conference where a foursome of archival golfers will beat up on the little white ball. And of course we have just seen the Masters, which is the one golf tournament that I try to not miss on TV. Now if I can just get adopted by Archivalist's father and go with him on his tickets one year, I'll be all set.

So that leaves baseball. I grew up in New York, where that purple stadium was closer than the hallowed grounds of the House that Ruth Built. I went to my fair share of both Mets and Yankee games, but my heart went to the pinstripes. It's been said that's why the Yankees always win, "the other teams can't stop looking at those pinstripes." (Look a quiz question right here at the end - name that movie!). I played little league as a youngster, but didn't have what it took. Perhaps Little Brave Astronaut can do what his old dad could not - support his father in the lifestyle he would like to be accustomed to.

But I agree with the article posted here. Baseball is the best of all games. And here, from a 1961 conversation recounted in a letter (a letter, not an email, not on the phone, an actual letter) twenty years later, the American Philosopher, John Rawls, explains why he offers the six reasons why baseball is the greatest of all games.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

War and Planes

My father makes models (this is but one link), although he has not really done any modeling since moving to the new house. I had warned him when I was packing the boxes of unopened models that I was going to charge him a dollar for every one that wasn't done. I would be able to retire early. My father tends toward planes, although he has made soldiers, and has recently been in a boat mode. He even was doing commission work for a while.

As far as planes go, he prefers (well only) making non-jet planes. For my father, wartime aviation ends with World War II. He has made his fair share of World War I aircraft (the bi-plane, and the tri-plane) so I read with interest ADR's post of the other day about the 90th anniversary of the shooting down of the Red Baron. It was also his first post using the Britannica, which is making its resources available to bloggers who register with them. I am waiting to hear back from them, which could make my presidential series even more educational.

The other thing that ADR's post reminded me of was this article that I had starred in my Google Reader. It involved a German aviator who learned that during a dogfight in World War II, he wound up shooting down his favorite author of the day, Antoine de Saint Exupery. The German aviator stated he would have held his fire if he had only known. What is they say? C'est la guerre?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NHL Playoffs - Second Round

I will not speak of last night other than to say, I am saddened by what I saw. Do not count out that team, they will be back and hoisting that cup in the Verizon Center before long. Lets Go Habs.

If you're wondering how I did with my predictions from the first round:
  • Canadiens in 7 - it was a hard series against the Bruins, but I was on the money here.
  • Ottawa in 6 - one presumes you will see a brand new Ottawa team next year. If only they could have beaten on the Pens a little more, instead of being swept by the Pengoons.
  • Caps in 5 - well, I'm sorry. I really thought they would do it.
  • Rangers in 6 - they pulled it out in 5 and looked impressive punishing the Devils.
  • Red Wings in 4 - the President's Cup trophy winners stumbled, needing six games to dispatch the Predators. But hey, it was Nashville, which is in violation of a team that plays hockey where ice does not exist naturally.
  • Flames in 6 - Lets all remember that Sharks swim underwater - they do not skate on top of it. The Sharks were favored, but I still liked the experience of the Flames, who did take the Sharks to seven games.
  • Avalanche in 5 - the Avalanche took an extra game to tame the Wild.
  • Ducks in 5 - the defending Stanley Cup Champions ran into the Stars machine and got fricasseed. It was one of the better series in the first round and the Stars needed all seven games to get out of it.
And while Archival Trash already got his predictions out there, let's just remember his team are already playing golf and have been for two weeks. Here are my predictions for the next round of NHL playoffs.

In the East:
  • Montreal Canadiens vs. the Philadelphia Flyers: Both of these teams took seven games to advance to this round. The Canadiens, who topped the conference are the top seed and survived a scare from the Boston Bruins. The Broad Street Bullies, of course, crushed the hopes and dreams of DC fans last night. I cannot bring myself to pick a team from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, especially this one. But it won't be easy, Canadiens in 6.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the New York Rangers: My son's teacher is from Pittsburgh. I have friends who live there (that Ed guy). And the Rangers have that guy who used to play there (who I don't really like wearing a Rangers sweater). But my earlier comment stands, no teams from PA get out of this round. Rangers in 6.
For the West:
  • Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche: Both of these teams took six games to make it to the Conference Semifinals, but I am still going with the tradition of the Red Wings over the Avalanche in another good six game series.
  • San Jose Sharks vs. Dallas Stars: Just as I couldn't pick a duck in the first round, I still can't pick a fish over the Stars. Dallas in 5.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#15 - James Buchanan, 1857-1861

Today is Primary Day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is appropriate that we have arrived at the 15th President on this particular day. For as Franklin Pierce was New Hampshire's only president, his successor, James Buchanan ranks as the only President from the Keystone State. Tomorrow marks the 217th anniversary of the birth of President Buchanan. He is also the only U.S. President who was never married (perhaps you've heard a rumor or two, but I'll leave that alone, I still need to work with J in PA).

Buchanan tried desperately to hold the Union together, but it fell apart as his presidency came to an end in 1860. A strict Constitutionalist, he tried with his appointments and legislative agenda to avoid civil war. The situation was note helped when the Dred Scott decision was issued by the Supreme Court (the Chief Justice of the Court was Roger Taney, who had a connection to Buchanan - does anyone other than J in PA know what it is?) two days after Buchanan took office.

Historians generally look upon Buchanan's failure to deal with the secession crisis as the worst presidential mistake ever made. With that and his other presidential achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults (such as corruption), James Buchanan's ranking places him among the two or three worst Presidents in history (sorry J in PA).

The Facts
  • Born April 23, 1791 near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
  • Died June 1, 1868 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (age 77)
  • Party - Democrat
The Election of 1856
  • James Buchanan (D) - 1,836,072 popular votes / 174 electoral votes
  • John C. Fremont (R) - 1,342,345 popular votes / 114 electoral votes
  • Millard Fillmore (Know-Nothings) - 873,053 popular votes / 11 electoral votes
  • The 1856 election was the first contest between Democrats and Republicans, with the Republican party having been established in 1856.
  • While Buchanan served in many elective and appointed offices (including as James Polk's Secretary of State), he turned down an appointment as Supreme Court Justice from Polk.
  • Buchanan is the last Secretary of State to become president, ending the prominence of that role in the cabinet as a step to the presidency.
  • As Buchanan was not married, he asked his niece, Harriet Lane, to serve as first lady.
  • As the country began to spiral into civil war, Buchanan actually believed he would be the last president of the United States. He is alleged to have said to Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861 (Inauguration Day), "My dear, sir, if you are as happy on entering the White House as I on leaving, you are a very happy man indeed."

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's the Pillsbury Bake-Off!

Just last week, the now biennial Pillsbury Bake-Off took place, The contest used to take place every year but they went to an every other year schedule when they started to give away a million dollars for the win.

A local homemaker (in Gaithersburg, MD) won the 43rd contest in Dallas, Texas. Her recipe used five Pillsbury ingredients (you must use at least two). Here's the article from the Washington Post. The winning recipe was for Double-delight Peanut Butter Cookies. It appears below.

  • 1/4 cup Fisher Dry Roasted Peanuts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Domino Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup Domino Confectioners Powdered Sugar
  • 1 package (16.5 ounces) Pillsbury Create 'n Bake refrigerated peanut butter cookies, well chilled
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix chopped peanuts, granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely blended. Shape the mixture into 24 one-inch balls.

Cut a roll of cookie dough into 12 slices. Cut each slice in half crosswise to make 24 pieces; flatten slightly. Shape one cookie dough piece around one peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with the remaining dough and the balls.

Roll each covered ball in peanut mixture; gently pat the mixture completely onto the balls. On ungreased large cookie sheets, place balls two inches apart. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray; press into remaining peanut mixture. Flatten each ball to 1/4 -inch thickness with the bottom of the glass. Sprinkle any remaining peanut mixture evenly on tops of cookies; gently press into the dough.

Bake seven to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool one minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store tightly covered.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are You Going for the Food or the Name

[I expect that Restaurant Gal may have something to say about this.]

Just last night I was talking with Mrs. Brave Astronaut (because its always about the next meal for us) that we should meet Mr. and Mrs. OSG for breakfast / lunch at "the diner" after church. We both knew what the "diner" meant. It meant Plato's in College Park. Were we on Long Island, I would have heard Alex Trebek's voice in my head, saying, "be more specific, please" as diners grow like weeds there. Granted the really good ones are run by Greeks (and on occasion, Italians) - and yes I know I'm stereotyping, but it's true in this case.

But if you are heading out, would you go to a place over another because the name is better? There are no lack of restaurants here in the DC area, they come and go with great regularity. Recently I found this "scholarly paper" that sought to draw some parallels between some restaurant names based on the food they serve. It's an interesting read.

From the introduction:
Coffee houses, restaurants and taverns are social retreats where people meet and eat, drink and converse, conduct business and celebrate family and professional occasions. The names of these gathering places are as diverse as the coffee, cocktails and cuisine which they serve to their customers. Their business names reflect the nature of the food or drink which they ply (China Buffet, Pizzeria Uno, Shaw's Crab House, Steak 'N' Egger), their proprietor's names (Harry Caray's, Michael Jordan's), or their geographic location (Bourbon Street Cafe, Chicago Chop House).

The names of others, however, constitute clever word plays (Once Upon a Thai, Thai Tanic and Thai Foon), or mimic proper names and literary characters (The Hearty Boys, Lawrence of Oregano), book titles (Tequila Mockingbird), commercial establishments (Grub Med Greek Ristorante, Lettuce Entertain You), ethnic designations and distortions (Bohemian Crystal, Carlos Murphys), humorous epithets (The Honest Lawyer, The Jewish Mother), films (Dog Day Afternoon), phrases (Relish the Thought), songs (Grill from Ipanema), and brand and trade name puns (Quaker Steak and Lube).

In this paper, examples of international onomastic appellations are presented which demonstrate that the names of contemporary dining and drinking establishments serve as semantic and/or humorous reflections of societal mores.

Friday, April 18, 2008

So What Else Happened Today?

  • In 1923, The first game was played at Yankee Stadium, New York; the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-1.
This is noteworthy on many levels. I am, of course, a big Yankees fan and have enjoyed many outings to Yankee Stadium. This is the final year for the "House that Ruth Built" as the new digs go up across the street. And speaking of digging, there was this bit of treachery undertaken by the team that got beat by the Yanks on this day in 1923. Not taking any chances, the team dug up the jersey.
  • On this day in 1861, Maj. Robert Anderson sent a telegram to the Secretary of War, announcing that he had surrendered Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor to the Confederates.
As mentioned in my other post, while the American Revolution holds first place in my eras of history, the Civil War is a close second. I have been to my share of battlefields, but not yet to Charleston. The series that I have been undertaking on the American Presidents is currently focusing on the "antebellum" period, those years leading up to the Civil War and next week's post will feature the president who sent forces to try and hold Fort Sumter, which evidently didn't work out so well.
  • On this day in 1906, at 5:13 a.m., an earthquake (estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale) struck San Francisco, CA, followed by raging fires. About 700 people died.
Again, several parallels can be drawn here. In August, I am planning to travel to San Francisco for the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists. While I certainly do not want to be caught up in an earthquake of that magnitude, a little one might be nice. I would just like to feel one. There is in fact a recent study out that says the West Coast is overdue for a major quake. With the recent departure of Charlton Heston from the scene, can one not think of this great disaster flick? And one of the news stories of today, a quake has shaken the Midwest, bringing to mind the earthquake that really shook that area (back in 1811).

Listen my Children and you shall hear

In a previous career, I was a history teacher, so it should not surprise people when the history facts show up here with some regularity. Even now, as an archivist, I am surrounded by history. Perhaps my favorite period in American History is the American Revolution. I have been enjoying the HBO miniseries, John Adams very much. And I just like the story of these first "Americans" rising up to throw off the heavy blanket of British rule against heavy odds. And don't even get me started on 1776, unless you want me to start singing . . .

So while there are several other events of note for today's date, here's my favorite: on this day in 1775, Paul Revere began his famous ride from Charlestown to Lexington, MA, warning American colonists that the British were coming.

Mr. Longfellow, the floor is yours (c'mon, who didn't have to memorize this growing up? show of hands?)
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#14 - Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857

Unaware that we have had two presidents with the first name of Franklin? Well, Franklin Pierce is also our only president from New Hampshire. Pierce's administration started under a personal cloud for Pierce. Between the time he was elected in November and his inauguration, Pierce and his wife watched as their son was killed when the train they were riding on was wrecked. He had two other sons who had died previously. He entered the presidency wracked with grief.

Sectional crisis reared its ugly head again. While the Compromise of 1850 had given the nation a period of calm, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois wanted to get a railroad built across the country. To facilitate that goal, Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The passage of the act prompted people to pour into the newly formed territories to try and tip the majorities to make them into slave states, including John Brown and his minions. The fighting that broke out led to the designation of the Kansas territory as "Bleeding Kansas."

While Pierce managed to bring calm to the territories, the Democratic party denied him the nomination in 1856. He returned to New Hampshire and died in 1869, never returning to public office.

The Facts
  • Born November 23, 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire
  • Died October 8, 1869 in Concord, New Hampshire
  • Party - Democrat
The Election of 1852
  • Franklin Pierce (D) - 1,607,510 popular votes /254 electoral votes
  • Winfield Scott (Whig) - 1,386,942 popular votes / 42 electoral votes
  • Pierce was nominated on the 49th ballot at the Democratic convention as a dark horse, overcoming prominent Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas and Pierce's successor, James Buchanan.
  • Pierce's Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis, who would go on to become the President of the Confederacy.
  • Pierce was arrested while in office for running over an old woman with his horse, but his case was dropped due to insufficient evidence in 1853.
  • Because of religious considerations Pierce affirmed rather than swore the Presidential oath of office.
  • Pierce gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes.
  • Pierce went to Bowdoin College in Maine, where he nearly flunked out in his second year. He changed his study habits, graduating third in his class, which included Nathaniel Hawthorne (who wrote an extensive biography of his class mate, see below) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  • Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Herbert Hoover's Asparagus Souffle

Here's a second in the presidential recipe series. Are you surprised it's not "Chicken in [every] pot?"
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup half milk, half cream
  • 4 egg yolks, well beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 stiffly beaten egg whites
  • 3-1/2 cups asparagus tips for soufflé and garnish
Melt butter, blend in flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. When mixture is smooth, gradually add milk or cream mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool before stirring in the beaten yolks, season with salt and pepper. Lastly, fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Arrange 1-1/2 cup of asparagus tips in the generously buttered soufflé dish, and pour mixture over. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Take the tips to be used for garnish out of the can, and just before serving, trim the soufflé.

Recipe from The First Ladies Cook Book (1966)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday's List - The 50 Best Works of Art

My wife went back to work two weeks ago at her job at an archives which maintains the papers of many artists and works closely with several art museums. To mark that event, I offer you this list, of the 50 Best Works of Art and how to see them. It comes from (again) from a link/article from the Telegraph (UK). And here you can see the list, with links to Wikipedia for more information about the works of art.

This list is sure to spark some discussions as, with all lists, it is subjective and bears the stamp of the person who created the list. I am purposely not including the list in this post for (a) it is too long; (b) I don't agree with how it is arranged; and (c) who is to say what makes a great work of art? It should be noted that in the article, the list is presented chronologically, with explanations about how easy it is to get to see them. What's your take? How many have you seen?

I consider myself a fairly cultured person and in a previous job, I worked on arranging the papers of Nelson Rockefeller's art collection, who collected a lot of Modern Art, but also had a full spectrum of art in his collection. And I have to say that while I definitely recognized most of the works, I have not seen more than a few of them in person. Of course, there is the whole discussion to be had about how we are defining "best"? I have a very good friend, who reads this blog, who is an artist and I like her stuff. Were I to write an article about great works of art, would her name appear?

I am further reminded of the depiction of art museums in popular culture. There is the scene in Ferris Bueller, where they rush through an art museum in Chicago; the scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation, where they take in the sights of the Louvre in fifteen minutes. The Louvre is also prominently featured in the film, The Da Vinci Code.

I really believe that art is what you make of it. Not every work of art is for everyone. What I like may not be what you like. As I like to tell my wife, it's not wrong, it's just different.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Of Baseballs and Hockey Pucks

Because I can't help myself. I can't stay away from all you fine people. As Mrs. Brave Astronaut would say, "I am my own worst enemy."

On April 10, 1961, President John F. Kennedy threw out the first pitch at Griffith Stadium as Vice President Lyndon Johnson and others looked on.
This was the last opening game ever played at Griffith Stadium. Kennedy recorded the longest and hardest-thrown ceremonial first pitch in history (made from the stands), which sailed over the heads of the reporters (seen in the foreground) and the players waiting for the pitch beyond that.

As many know, I was fortunate enough to have attended opening night for the Washington Nationals on March 30. While I was using a very poor performing digital camera (which has since been replaced), here are a couple of shots from that outstanding evening.

The new scoreboard that you can actually read.

The first President's Race at Nationals Park concludes - and Teddy didn't win . . .

The Center field gate at the end of Half Street. It's a new way in and it's nice.

While the Washington Nationals have hit the skids and are settling in for a likely long season, the Orioles were predicted to be historically bad. Go ahead, check the standings, they're 6 and 1, tops in the AL East. Who would have thought that?

And of course, the hockey playoffs have begun. While Archival Trash has done a nice job in making some predictions, here are mine. ADR, feel free to step up, although you did say you were refraining while your team is still in it. And I'll even give you that for this round - Lets Go Caps!

In the East:
  • Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins. The dance of the dynasties. I have to go with the formidable Canadiens, who backed into winning the Conference, when the Pengoons rolled over in their final game. Habs in 7. Sorry NJM. (In an interesting parallel, today marks the 61st anniversary of Branch Rickey buying the contract of Jackie Robinson from the Montreal Royals.)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators. I like the Sens in this one. Possibly because I have no use for the Penguins. But after last night, I'm a little worried. Nonetheless, Sens in 6.
  • Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers. In NHL history, no team has come from the bottom of the conference to win their division, as the Caps did. This is a good team and they are a force to be reckoned with. You can get all of your Caps propaganda over on ADR's blog, but I will say that I see the Caps in 5.
And the West:
  • Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators. The Red Wings were the best team (points wise) in the NHL this year. The have tradition, history, a couple of cups in their pockets and they should easily put away the Predators in 4.
  • San Jose Sharks vs. Calgary Flames. Again the Flames have a bit of a better pedigree than a fish that should be below the ice and not skating on it. AT believes this will be one of the better series to watch. After last night the Flames are up and I see Flames in 6.
  • Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche. Who cares? The Avs have players out there on walkers. But experience should count for something. Avalanche in 5.
  • Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars. I still cannot comprehend that the Ducks are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. I'd like to pick Dallas here, but Anaheim should be able to dispatch the Stars in 5 games.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog

I currently have 48 blog posts in draft form. Granted that most of them (more than half) are future presidential posts. I even have a fair number of recipes stashed away for future weeks. Here and there I have the nugget that I am hoping to get around to (I have a pretty good list on works of art ready to roll on Friday) and then there is the extensive list of items in my Google reader account.

So what to post and when to post it?

I hate that life interferes with my blogging and I don't want to give it up. I will give you that my political blog has been pushed aside (it has been more than a month since it was updated). In just this past week, my wife has gone back to work, my mother-in-law is living with us part-time to help out with child care of our newborn son, we had said son's baptism with a party/luncheon here, and then a guest in from out of town for a few days.

And of course, tonight the hockey playoffs started (with the Rangers sending the Devils down to defeat, 4-1) and then its also Masters weekend (if you have to ask, you don't get it).

I need a vacation from my non-work life. But I'm afraid my leave balance is just as bad in that column as it is at work.

So, I'll muddle through, but I might not be here as much. But I'll keep an eye on all of you. Here's a oldie but a goodie blog post (from one year ago today) to remind you of a "space" related anniversary. In other historical news for today, from which I will not draw any parallels to surrender, obstruction, or marching toward one's own end:
  • On this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. The Confederate general surrendered his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War.
  • On this day in 1939, singer Marian Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, after she was denied the use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • On this day in 1942, American and Philippine defenders on Bataan capitulated to Japanese forces during World War II; the surrender was followed by the notorious Bataan Death March, which claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

#13 - Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853

What? We had a President named Millard? And he was Vice President for a guy named Zachary? Who were these people?

Millard Fillmore was born on the "frontier" of New York State. (I will say here that I grew up on Long Island, which is just east of "the City" and that everything else was "upstate." But back then, New York really did have a frontier.) Good old Millard was born near the Finger Lakes and ran a successful law practice in East Aurora, near Buffalo, New York. In addition to being a member of the House of Representatives, he was Comptroller of New York when he was elected as Vice President.

Fillmore, as Vice President, presided over the Senate during the divisive debates over the Compromise of 1850. When Zachary Taylor died, Fillmore was thrust into the presidency. Taylor's cabinet resigned and Fillmore plucked Daniel Webster out of the Senate to serve as Secretary of State. Webster was one of the great orators in the debate. Henry Clay, another of the great debaters over the deal, left Washington exhausted, leaving the debate in the hands of Stephen A. Douglas. The Compromise of 1850 was finally hammered out (shortly after Fillmore pledged his support to it) and it was passed and signed into law in September of that year.

There were five provisions of the Compromise of 1850:
  1. Admit California as a free state
  2. Settle the Texas boundary and compensate her.
  3. Grant territorial status to New Mexico
  4. Place Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives
  5. Abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

Ultimately, it was Fillmore's support of the Fugitive Slave Act (#4 above) that cost him the nomination of his party in 1852, making Fillmore a less than one term president. By this time in history, most believe that civil war was going to happen, the Compromise of 1860 did delay it for another ten years. The Whig Party fell apart in the late 1850s, but Fillmore refused to join the Republicans. He accepted the nomination of the "Know-Nothing" party for the presidency in 1856, which was won by James Buchanan (but we have to wait two weeks for that one - J in PA, are you writing that one?)

The Facts
  • Born January 7, 1800 in Locke Township (now Summerhill), Cayuga County, New York
  • Died March 8, 1874 in Buffalo, New York (age 74)
  • Party: Whig
  • Fillmore was the last member of the Whig party to hold the Presidency. His last words are alleged to be, "my only regret in death is that the Whig dies with me."
  • In 1846, he founded the private University of Buffalo, which became part of the state system and is the largest college in the SUNY system. He served as the first Chancellor, continuing during his presidency and returned to Buffalo following his time in Washington.
  • Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as the first governor of the Utah Territory. As a result, you should not be surprise to find Millard County and the city of Fillmore in Utah today.
  • Fillmore is responsible for starting the White House library, when he arrived there in 1850 and found no books.
  • In addition to Webster serving as Secretary of State, Fillmore's other Secretary of State, was Edwin Everett, who is notable for being the long winded orator, who spoke ad nauseum prior to Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.
  • Fillmore was one of two presidents to have been an indentured servant.
  • Fillmore authorized Commodore Matthew Perry's trip to Japan, although Perry did not reach Japan until after Fillmore was out of office.

Monday, April 7, 2008

C'mon, Who Doesn't Like Pudding?

Well not me. I'm a big fan. So I was very excited to see this post on the Amateur Gourmet back in February. He took the recipe from the New York Times, which is here. C'mon it's easy. Make some pudding!

Vanilla Pudding
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (optional)
Put 2 cups of half-and-half or milk, sugar and salt in a small or medium sauce pot over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into milk or half-and-half using small sharp knife, then add pod. Cook just until mixture begins to steam.

Combine cornstarch and remaining milk or half-and-half in a bowl and blend; there should be no lumps. Fish pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in butter and vanilla extract, if using.

Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish or 4 to 6 small ramekins or bowls. Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent formation of a skin, or do not cover if you like skin. Refrigerate until chilled, and serve within a day, with whipped cream if you like. Whisk to remove lumps if needed.

Yield: 4 servings.

Time: 20 minutes, plus chilling.

Note: To make chocolate pudding, shave or finely chop 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate. Stir into pudding with the butter.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hard Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to Stinkypaw's quiz.
  1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends: Boxing
  2. North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls. The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.
  3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: Asparagus and Rhubarb.
  4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: Strawberry.
  5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.
  6. Three English words beginning with dw: Dwarf, Dwell and Dwindle. (Although I would maintain "dwelling", and "dweeb" are valid)
  7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation, point, quotation marks, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.
  8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: Lettuce.
  9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S': shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.
  10. This one, by the way, was for those of you who actually know the proper way to type, what they showed in typing classes . . . "Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" is the longest word typed with your right hand.

MLK forty years later

Forty years ago on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, the Reverend Martin Luther King was gunned down by James Earl Ray. His assassination sparked riots in many American cities. including here in Washington DC, and prolonged the civil rights struggle. One wonders how Dr. King would look upon the events of today, of this presidential campaign.

Everyone can remember the "I Have a Dream Speech," delivered at the Lincoln Memorial. But it is the above speech that always moves me. The prophetic remarks were delivered the night before he died. The site of the assassination, the Lorraine Motel, was saved from the wrecking ball by some prominent Memphians, who raised money and later opened the National Civil Rights Museum on the grounds.

Here in 2008, we will mark a series of turbulent events from forty years ago. In two months, the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy will be marked. I have to say that we are at a point in our history where we have an opportunity to make both of those men proud. If you live in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, or any of the remaining states holding presidential contests, please get out and vote. I hope that you will vote for the man in the video below, but please, do something.

And Ed, this means you. And we of my party thank you for coming over to play in our end of the pool. We hope you'll stay awhile.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

#12 - Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850

"Old Rough and Ready," so named because of his slovenly dress Zachary Taylor was the second president to die in office, although he did manage to hold on longer than the 31 days of poor William Henry Harrison. A career military man, although raised primarily in the South, he was a strong nationalist and was prepared to hold the Union together by armed force, if necessary.

The issue of slavery dominated Taylor's shortened term. At the time of his death the Compromise of 1850 was being negotiated in the US Congress.

The Facts
  • born November 24, 1784 in Orange County, Virginia
  • died July 9, 1850 at the White House (allegedly after eating cherries and milk following a July 4 celebration, although allegations of poisoning by arsenic continued into the 20th Century)
  • Party: Whig
The Election of 1848
  • Zachary Taylor - popular votes, 1,360,967 / 163 electoral votes
  • Lewis Cass - popular votes, 1,222,342 / 127 electoral votes
  • Martin Van Buren
  • Taylor's only son, Richard, served as a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Taylor's daughter, Sarah, married future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, although she died three months later of malaria.
  • Election Day in 1848 marked the first time that votes were cast across the country on the same day, November 7.
  • Taylor was the second president to hold no other elected office (Washington was the first).
  • Taylor is the last Southern president to be elected until Woodrow Wilson.
  • Taylor was the first President to have been born after the end of the Revolutionary War and the Treaty of Paris, making him the first President born a true native American.