Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's In Your Kitchen?

There was very little that the Brave Astronaut family had to do when we moved into our house, which is a good thing, for as Mrs. BA will tell you - I'm not handy (in my defense, I will say that recently I reinstalled some towel racks and those suckers are in there good.)

Our kitchen came equipped with drawers instead in cabinets under the counters. It was a interesting thing to have to get used to, but I'm getting there. I'm actually in the market for a carpenter to look at the state of the shelving that is in the kitchen, so if you know one, send him my way. And lets give it up for C in DC's new kitchen, which is looking quite nice.

As one who craves order, I set out to set up the kitchen almost immediately. I identified the spaces available to me, what would go where, and began to stow things away. At around the same time, Mrs. BA's sister's family built a new house and excessed some of their kitchenware (their new house is bigger - but go figure) and we got the castoffs. Some of it I integrated into our stuff, the rest is going off to a yearly yard sale held by some friends.

I stumbled across this blog post not so long ago about what everyone should have in their kitchen. The author of the blog is Adam Roberts, who now has his own show (now canceled)on the Food Network, which I have written about before (I've used some of his recipes). In the post, he recounts what every well stocked kitchen should have. I like to cook and am certainly taking this list to heart. Who knows, I might even create a wish list. Maybe Adam will buy me something.
  1. A really good skillet/saute pan - he suggests All-Clad, well sure, wouldn't we all. He also suggests that there be two, one non-stick and one metal. Sensible. We have one large skillet that we use a lot (I think we bought it at IKEA) though we do have an All-Clad frying pan.
  2. A big pot and a small pot. His point here is that brand doesn't matter because most likely you are using it to boil liquids and the one that he bought from Target in the 1990s works just fine.
  3. He suggests that instead of settling on a full knife set, get yourself three really good knives: one large chef's knife (approximately $100), one really sharp, high-quality paring knife and one serrated knife. He recommends Wusthof or Misono (of course he does). We bought a Cutco knife set shortly after we got married, but that's another story. But they are good knives. To go along with those knives, he recommends a rubber cutting board, but I'm not there yet, I like substance to cut on.
  4. A roasting pan. Again, he says you don't have to spend a fortune and we didn't. We have a good Corning one and one or two metal non-stick ones. We could probably excess items here.
  5. A Dutch Oven. He likes Le Creuset and who wouldn't really. We have one of those and it makes great chili and stews. As he says, you will and we do use it a lot.
  6. Finally, "two cake pans (9-inch) [check], one springform pan (also 9-inch) [check], one loaf pan [check], a cupcake/muffin pan that makes 12 muffins [check], two cookie sheets (preferably without sides for flatter, more evenly cooked cookies) [check], one with sides for roasting vegetables [check], a hand mixer if you're just starting out baking [check], a flat rolling pin (no handles, which forces you to put pressure on the middle) [check], measuring cups [check], measuring spoons [check], a nice wooden spoon [check], a nice whisk [check], a sifter [no, who sifts flour anymore?], mixing bowls [check], a strainer [check x 2], a cheap juicer [check], a microplane (for zesting citrus) [check], a grater (for cheese) [check], a thermometer (for testing meat) [check] and a pastry brush [check]."
If you are interested in the "higher end items," you can read the whole post, but basically he suggests a KitchenAid mixer [check], a food processor [check], a salad spinner [check], a pasta maker [really? who makes their own pasta anymore?], a coffee grinder [check, but I love my current coffee maker], and a hand blender [check].

Now if I could just find room for everything. Remember why we moved? We needed more room? So we moved to a bigger place and now I need to find room for more stuff. I hate that.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday's Quiz - Last Lines from Novels

[I'm on my own tonight as Mrs. BA has headed off to her 20th College Reunion. Just me and the boys. But it's movie night here in Cheverly so we're doing OK. But I did write this post some time ago and auto-posted it, so I wouldn't forget about you, my faithful readers. In fact, tonight's, tomorrow's, and Sunday's posts are all scheduled, so I won't have to lift a finger - a child definitely, but fingers, no.]

Here's a quiz where you don't have to wait a week for the answers, but no cheating. Clusterflock has provided us with a list (their list) of the 100 best last lines from novels. The list comes from the American Book Review, so it's got some literary chops.

Of the 100, here are the ones I knew. Surely you can you do better than I (12, that's just awful - well there was no Stephen King . . . )?
  1. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
  2. "But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before."
  3. "He loved Big Brother."
  4. "'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’"
  5. "‘I shall feel proud and satisfied to have been the first author to enjoy the full fruit of his writings, as I desired, because my only desire has been to make men hate those false, absurd histories in books of chivalry, which thanks to the exploits of my real Don Quixote are even now tottering, and without any doubt will soon tumble to the ground. Farewell.’" (hey, the CDs in the car, what can I say?)
  6. "Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days."
  7. "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"
  8. "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
  9. "After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain."
  10. "But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."
  11. "The old man was dreaming about the lions."
  12. "“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”"

Thanks Harvey

You made us laugh for so long. Harvey Korman left us today. Here is just one of many really great sketches. And don't even get me started on Blazing Saddles. "That's Hedley!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not for All the Money in the World

I not afraid of heights. At least I don't think so. But I get a little woozy looking at these pictures. (This on the heels of a story I heard that in China, one building dressed its window washers up as Spider Men so as to not freak out the people that worked in the building.)

I'll take my adventure on the silver screen, which is where I am when this post hits the Interwebs, watching the new Indiana Jones movie.

Cleaning the Seattle Space Needle

Just one of the images from the above linked article:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

#20 - James Garfield, 1881

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I must have been a 19th Century Ohioan in a former life, because I have this affinity for these Ohio Presidents. James Garfield, our 20th President, is also the second president to be cut down by an assassin's bullet.

In 1862, Garfield was elected to the House of Representatives. At the time, Garfield was serving in the Union forces as a brigadier general. President Lincoln asked him to resign his commission, he was needed more in Congress than in the army. Elected for another eighteen years, Garfield became one of the most powerful Republicans in the House.

In 1880, Garfield went to the Republican Convention to try and secure the nomination for his friend and colleague, John Sherman. Thirty-six ballots later, Garfield became the dark horse nominee. Oops. Sherman, however, did get a prize out of it. The Senate seat that Garfield was also elected to (that was the job he really wanted) at the same time he was elected President, went to Sherman.

In his brief time in office (the second shortest administration, after William Henry Harrison), Garfield took on the powerful machine of Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. Garfield fought the corruption and patronage advanced by Conkling, and emerged victorious when Conkling resigned from the Senate in protest, thinking he would be reappointed by the New York legislature. Oops. They missed that memo and appointed someone else.

As Garfield walked through the Sixth Street Station in Washington, DC (the spot is now occupied by the National Gallery of Art), he was approached by Charles Guiteau, who was disgruntled with the Garfield administration as he had been thwarted in securing a federal position. Walking with Garfield was Robert Todd Lincoln, notching his second of three direct associations with presidential assassinations. Garfield lingered for more than four months before succumbing in September 1881. It is widely believed that he would have survived had his doctors been more capable.

The Facts
  • born November 19, 1831 in Orange, Ohio
  • died September 19, 1881 in Elberon, New Jersey (after being shot in Washington, DC on July 2) (age 49)
  • Party: Republican
The Election of 1880
  • James A. Garfield and Chester Alan Arthur (R) - 4,446,158 popular votes / 214 EVs
  • Winfield Scott Hancock and William English (D) - 4,444,260 popular votes / 155 EVs
  • Garfield was the last President to be born in a log cabin.
  • Garfield is the only man to be elected President as a sitting member of the House of Representatives.
  • The assassination of Garfield led indirectly to the Pendelton Civil Service Reform Act, which did away with the "spoils system."
  • Among the many treatments tried on Garfield, was Alexander Graham Bell's use of a metal detector to try and find the bullet that was lodged in Garfield's body.
  • Garfield is one of three presidents to predecease his mother - Polk and Kennedy are the others.
  • Garfield was an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ, making him the only person to serve as President and be a member of the clergy.
  • Garfield was ambidextrous and could write in Latin with his left hand and Greek with the right.
  • Garfield had an extramarital affair in 1862, admitted it to his wife, who forgave him.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt Likes Pudding

It's Memorial Day. No recipes for hardtack or spam casseroles. Just some pudding variants. Hey, maybe Teddy would have liked this.

Indian Pudding
  • 6 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 6 cups scalded milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 pound Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon grated Lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Ginger
  • 1/2 pound Raisins
  • 6 Eggs, beaten whole
Combine the cornmeal with the scalded milk. Add the sugar, butter, and salt. Let the mixture cool. Then add the lemon rind, ginger, raisins, and eggs. Bake in a buttered 3-quart casserole, set in water, for 2 hours in a slow oven (300 degrees).

Decoration: orange wedges glazed with honey

Decorate the top of with orange sections that have been glazed with honey. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream. Recipe from The First Ladies Cook Book (1966)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Customer May Not Always Be Right

[This post goes on for a while. It's about customer service, something I have a fair amount to say about. So just in time for all those Memorial Day sales - don't get me started - here's a post about remembering those in the service industry, while also remembering those in the service as we celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow.]
One woman who frequently flew on Southwest, was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.

Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’

In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

I used to work retail. Yes, I'm crazy. My wife doesn't understand that part of my personality. I used to be the guy that sales associates would call when there was a problem with a customer. Managers loved to work with me because I always took the heat from the customers. It seemed that I had a way of calming down the most irritated of customers. I just really loved the give and take.

There were times when I used to have to swallow hard and give in to the customer as there was some fault on the store's part and we had a philosophy that the customer was [usually] right and we would go to great lengths to please them. So I read with some interest this blog post about how the philosophy of "The Customer is Always Right" is not the best business practice. I include the story above for two reasons. I really love Southwest and think they have excellent customer service and secondly, I wrote a letter to Southwest and they actually responded to it (as they said they would).

But here are five reasons why caving to the customer may not work out in the end:

1. It makes employees unhappy.
Of course the problem here is that your employees will feel as if you have hung them out to dry. This is fine line that management has to walk and one of the reasons that I was so successful in mediating issues with customers, I wasn't management. I had hired a number of the associates and trained them, but I knew many of them and managed to look after both their interests and the interests of the store.

2. It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage.
The customer that walked in with the super attitude and the big chip on their shoulder was not going to get anywhere with me. They didn't know that of course, because their mentality was that they were right. I just had to make sure they understood that by the time we were done. And in most cases, they did. Remember the old saying, "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar."

3. Some customers are just bad for business.
One of the problems I have is when I receive bad customer service from a company that has competition in the market. These people really need to understand that I can go elsewhere for the same item and the next place will be just as happy to take my money. What's worse however, is receiving poor company service from companies that have me over a barrel. Verizon, DirecTV, are you listening? Really, I don't want to go into it. It still hurts. But it worked out in the end.

4. It results in worse customer service.
I might tend to take issue with this. Granted, I understand how this would work. If you value your employees over your customers they will have a better work ethic and perhaps the issues with customers might go down. In fact, just last week, I had my car in for service and I complained about my service writer to another service writer that I had worked with before. He had been there for 35 years and the guy I had an issue with had been there for 5 months. Who do you think I will be working with next time?

5. Some customers are just plain wrong.
There is the customer that is upset that something has gone wrong. We can fix that. We can't work with genetics or personality disorders. We would all do well to remember that. I actually like getting out of the city and into the country because people are really just nicer. My father had an interesting "customer service" experience when visiting in Quebec. The Quebecois don't like Americans and like only mildly better the French. My father was born in France and [at the time] spoke perfect French with the appropriate French accent. He went into a shop for something and asked a question of the shopkeeper in French. The shopkeeper responded in English. My father asked why, to wit the shopkeeper responded, you are an American, I could just tell and I don't like them. Mind you that was like, 40 years ago, but is it any wonder this country has trouble making friends?

Friday, May 23, 2008

No More Red Shirts for LBA

One of the struggles one can have with a three-year old is demanding a particular item of clothing. My son will announce in the morning that he wants to wear something other than what his mother or father have picked out for him. Do you want to guess who wins? At least it was not quite this bad - 11-year old finally takes off Brett Favre Jersey that he has worn for four years. My son does have a red shirt that he likes to wear. But he is not getting into that shirt if he is heading into outer space.

According to statistics compiled by someone with too much free time on their hands, USS Enterprise crew members who wore red uniform shirts died 43% of the time on the TV series, Star Trek. The safest crew members on the Enterprise were those in blue, who died at an 8% rate. The link above even includes a PowerPoint presentation to make their case. As I said, way too much time on their hands.

Tomorrow, the Brave Astronaut will venture off to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to celebrate with fellow residents of Chestertown to observe the Chestertown Tea Party. We went a few years ago and it was a lot of fun. Our friend OSG will be marching again this year and the food was very tasty. We will spend the night at my mother-in-law's apartment before heading off to Wilmington, Delaware to celebrate my sister-in-law's husband getting tenure from his university. So a full weekend and no one will be wearing red shirts (except the British re-enactors, and they are likely to be wet (but not dead) before the day is over on Saturday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ring Ding vs. Ding Dong. Discuss

This particular discussion made an appearance at the lunch table some time ago. Growing up, I was exposed more often than not to Drakes Cakes products, of which I believe the Ring Ding is the "flagship" of the line. Ring Dings used to come individually wrapped in in foil and there was an ongoing contest to see if you could get the foil off in one piece and then completely flatten it without ripping it. Ring Dings and their long caked cousin, the Yodel were mainstays in the lunch bags of my youth. I would still be eating them more often if I looked less like a Ring Ding. Luckily my son did not develop the sweet tooth his father has so he doesn't even look for them. He does have a salty tooth and will often come looking around if we are having potato chips and will ask in his little voice, "May I have another chip?" But I digress.

If you are looking for that gift for the Brave Astronaut that has everything, you can always go here and buy me a box of treats. There are few if any of the products found there that I wouldn't eat if put in front of me (except perhaps the Yankee Doodle, I'm not that fond of their chocolate cake, which would thereby extend to the Devil Dog).

The lunch table discussion revolved around the differences / similarities between Drakes products and Hostess products. Hostess is of course the company that provides the world with its Twinkie fix, which I may have also eaten my fair share of in my youth. Given their interminable shelf life, Twinkies and cockroaches may be the items that survive our decline. My parents have friends in Bermuda, where food prices are astronomical as everything has to be shipped in to the 26-mile long island. When they would visit, they would often pack a second suitcase of foodstuffs, including Twinkies for their children who had developed a taste for them in the states. I wonder what they would think of the now ubiquitous Fried Twinkie.

Hostess does offer a comparable alternative to the Ring Ding, known as the Ding Dong, in fact they counter with a similar alternative to the entire Drake's line (with the exception of the Drake's Funny Bone, which is a yodel filled with peanut butter). I will go on the record here that I prefer the Drake's line over Hostess, but I can't necessarily tell you why. I think it is just a factor of what one is used to and this is especially relevant in the area of "comfort foods." This is probably why I was sad to move to the DC are and not be able to find Wise products because of the glut of Utz products in the DC area.

The discussion above all leads to this blog post, which I read some time ago. It seems that a restaurant here in DC has begun offering the "Cking Ding" on their dessert menu. It occurs to me that Mrs. Brave Astronaut and I never did go out to dinner for our anniversary . . .

Update: Colorado Kitchen closed in June 2008.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

#19 - Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881

Our nineteenth President, Rutherford Birchard Hayes (isn't that a great name?!), came to office in the much disputed election of 1876, in which a compromise was reached to end the Reconstruction Era. In a series of secret deals and pledges, Hayes promised to withdraw troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction. Hayes was elected President by only one electoral vote and he remains the only President to be elected by a special Congressional Commission.

Prior to being elected president in the most disputed election in history (yes, even more than that one), Hayes had served in the Civil War, been elected to the House of Representatives, and served three terms as Governor of Ohio. Even then, Ohio was an important state to be from (again as has been noted, second only to Virginia for producing presidents).

This era of presidents also begins to feature some prominent first ladies. President Hayes was married to Lucy Ware Webb, known prominently in the Washington circles as "Lemonade Lucy." A devout Baptist, Lucy got her husband to ban alcohol from the White House, delighting the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She is also the first First Lady to have graduated from college (Wesleyan).

Hayes had pledged to serve only one term (he actually advocated one term limits, but increasing the one term to six years) as President and retired in 1880, leaving the White House and the Presidency to James A. Garfield, so come back next week to hear his tale (albeit a true short story). Hayes returned to Ohio and sat on the Board of Trustees of Ohio State University, which he had helped found while Governor of Ohio, until his death in 1893.

The Facts
  • Born October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio
  • Died January 17, 1893 in Fremont, Ohio (age 70)
  • Party: Republican
The Election of 1876
  • Rutherford B. Hayes / William Wheeler (R) - 4,034,311 popular votes / 185 EVs
  • Samuel Tilden / Thomas Hendricks (D) - 4,228,546 popular votes / 184 EVs
  • Of the five presidents to serve in the Civil War, Hayes was the only one who was wounded.
  • Hayes was the first president to have graduated from law school (Harvard).
  • March 4, 1877 was a Sunday and as a result, Hayes took the oath of office in the White House on March 3, becoming the first president to take the oath in the White House. A more public ceremony was held at the United States Capitol on March 5.
  • During his administration, the first telephone was installed in the White House and the Easter Egg Roll took place for the first time.
  • Hayes signed an order as President that allowed female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
  • In 1880, the population of the United States hit 50 million people.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Looking for Lasagne

I love Italian food. I am always on the lookout for a good lasagna. I grew up on Long Island, New York, where good pizza and good Italian food are readily available. In fact, in my home town is Christiano's, made famous by one of Long Island's treasures, Billy Joel, who wrote "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," in part because he had spent a fair amount of time there. They have really good lasagna. With meat, none of this spinach / veggie crap lasagna that is permeating our culinary adventures.

When I move to Washington and the future Mrs. Brave Astronaut and I began to plan our wedding, we settled on this place. Sure, it's a chain, but God, the food is good and plentiful. I always had leftover lasagna for lunch the next day. Perhaps someday I'll recount the day in greater detail, if for no other reason than to talk about our wedding "cake."

In March, new Cheverly resident Scott, wrote on his blog about his weekend plans, which included lasagna. He had originally posted the recipe on his blog in 2006, which I reprint here.

Drop-Dead Lasagna
from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

Time: 2 1/2 hours
Serves 12
  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 3 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 TB fennel seeds
  • 1/2 TB red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 TB dried oregano
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 2 lb ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
Fill a large pasta pot with water and place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don't stick together, the set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with {about 2 TB} of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the ground beef and pork, stirring to break it up, and cook until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain out the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, give it a whirl, and sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take inventory of the components you should have now: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, a pot of sauce and a 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; in my experience this prevents the lasagna from sticking.
  • Layer 1 -- the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Here is a little tip I swear by: if you take 2 lasagna noodles and line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it.
  • Layer 2 -- the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula. The meat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation.
  • Layer 3 -- the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula, and then sprinkle a third of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture for that stringy cheese pull that you know and love.
  • Layer 4 -- the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup; smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella. I like to tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles and to compress the layers.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden and bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesn't ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares. Pass the extra tomato sauce and grated Parmesan around the table.

Marinara Sauce
from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

Makes 5 cups
Time: 1 hour
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of whole tomatoes
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
  • 2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • salt/pepper
In a large pot over medium heat, heat {about 3 TB} of olive oil until hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to appear translucent. Hand-crush the tomatoes and add them, along with their liquid, to the pot. Toss in the herbs, red pepper flakes and sugar; season with salt & pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Archive Madness

A short film from two University of Denver LIS Students, who created in for a Visual Media Class on perceptions in Libraries. It's a silent film. Filmed at Denver's Westminster Law Library.

Did You Ever Get the Feeling You Were Being Watched?

I mention here frequently how much I enjoy the site, I posted about the "When Nixon Met Elvis" site back when I noted that the 30th anniversary of Elvis's death had rolled to the top of the calendar.

Well, Mr. Kottke got around to noticing the National Archives and the Elvis/Nixon site in April 2008. I'm just saying. There is a case to be made for staying off his radar, but it's nice to get the plug from a site that has lots of visitors.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Now Wait Just a Minute . . .

I am off tonight to the "prom," the dinner/dance that precedes the social event of the season here in my town, Cheverly Day. If you are in the neighborhood, you should stop by. I am given to understand that the fireworks tomorrow night are spectacular.

So you don't miss me, here is a list that I shamelessly "borrowed" from the New York Times Op-Ed page today (it even bumped the list that was scheduled for today to another Friday) . . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You Call This a Library?

From Overheard in the Office:
Patron: Ummm, I'm looking for a book.
Librarian: Okay, well, do you know what it's called?
Patron: No.
Librarian: Do you know who wrote it?
Patron: No.
Librarian: Are you just hoping that we have some sort of book?
Patron: Yeah.
Librarian: You know you're in a f***in' library, right?
- Austin Public Library
- Austin, Texas
Another nugget from the Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine:
"Books account for 23% of the items in the Library of Congress. The rest of the library's collection of 134 million items consist of recordings, photos, maps, music, and manuscripts. But despite making up only about a fourth of the holdings, books still play a big role in the world's largest library. The Washington D.C., institution houses 32 million of them, stored on about 530 miles of bookshelves. And that number will only increase as the library adds about 10,000 items a day. Our favorite find? Old King Cole, a book so small - about 1 millimeter square - that you have to turn the pages with a needle. Talk about light reading."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

#18 - Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877

U.S. Grant is one of my favorite presidents, although he is consistently found in the lower fourth of presidential rankings. I think it comes partly from a class that I took in college where one of the required reading was his memoirs. The work is one of the best works I have ever read. Grant, in the final year of his life, turned to Mark Twain to help him provide a windfall for his family. Grant finished writing the book a month before his death from throat cancer.

Grant was not the first, nor the last, military man to gain the Presidency. He quarreled with President Johnson and became a hero to the Radical Republicans, who sought him out to run for President in 1868. He was a reluctant politician, accepting the nomination of the Republicans by replying, "Let us Have Peace," which became the slogan for Grant's campaign. His presidency featured the final days of Reconstruction and Grant also signed legislation that established, among other things, Yellowstone National Park (1872) and made Christmas a National Holiday (1870).

The economic Panic of 1873 cost the Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1856 and the economic shockwaves took several years to recede, ultimately resulting in the Democrats winning the White House in 1876, but that's a story for next week. The Grant Administration was not without scandal, most notably the Whiskey Ring scandal and the Credit Mobilier, which brought down Grant's first vice president, Schuyler Colfax. While Grant was not directly involved with the scandals, it is his tolerance of corruption that pushes him toward the bottom of the list of presidents.

During his post-presidency, Grant traveled extensively around the world. He returned to the United States and was drafted to run for a third term as president in 1880. The nomination went to James Garfield and Grant campaigned for him, but that's a story for two weeks from now.

The Facts
  • born April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio
  • died July 23, 1885 on Mount MacGregor, New York (age 63)
  • Party: Republican (Grant was a career military man and only declared his party affiliation to run for the presidency.)
The Election of 1868
  • Ulysses S. Grant & Schuyler Colfax (R) - 3,013,650 popular votes / 214 EVs
  • Horatio Seymour & Francis Blair, Jr. (D) - 2,708,744 popular votes / 80 EVs
The Election of 1872
  • Ulysses S. Grant and Henry Wilson (R) - 3,598,235 popular votes / 286 EVs
  • Horace Greeley and B. Gratz Brown (D) - 2,834,761 popular votes / 66 EVs (Greeley died between the election and when the electors met to cast their votes. His 66 votes were dispersed among other Democrats.)
  • Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. When nominated to the United States Military Academy, the Congressman referred to him as Ulysses S. Grant, while Grant signed the register at West Point, "Ulysses Hiram Grant," to avoid getting the nickname "H.U.G." West Point only accepted the nominated name and Grant became Ulysses S. Grant.
  • Grant was the first president to serve two full terms since Andrew Jackson, forty years earlier.
  • Grant was the second president from Ohio, which is second only to Virginia in providing the country with presidential timber.
  • When he entered the presidency, he was, at 46, the youngest President to date.
  • Julia Grant was a supporter of women's rights and in 1872, her friend, Susan B. Anthony, supported her husband over Victoria C. Woodhull, the first woman to run for President.
  • After leaving the presidency, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association (1883).
  • And yet another reason for me to like him - while serving as President, Grant was cited for speeding in his horse and buggy, fined $20, and forced to walk back to the White House.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pat Nixon's Meatloaf

OK, I can so see "Tricky Dick" eating the loaf. I ate a lot of meatloaf growing up. My mother's was a very "low-rent" meatloaf, with ground beef, bread crumbs, some chopped onions, ketchup, and then a few bacon slices across the top. The best part was the crunchy pieces that sat in the pan after the meatloaf was done. I know, it's a wonder I survived my childhood.

Pat Nixon's Meatloaf

This recipe for family-style meatloaf is from the Nixon administration and belonged to first lady Pat Nixon. It was so popular that the recipe was printed on White House stationery to be mailed on request. It appeared in "The White House Family Cookbook" by Henry Haller, 1987
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 slices white bead
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Melt butter in a saute pan, add garlic and saute until just golden - do not brown. Let cool. Dice bread and soak it in milk. In a large mixing bowl, mix ground beef by hand with sauteed onions and garlic and bread pieces. Add eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme and marjoram and mix by hand in a circular motion. Turn this mixture into the prepared baking pan and pat into a loaf shape, leaving at least one inch of space around the edges to allow fat to run off. Brush the top with the tomato puree and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to penetrate and to firm up the loaf. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake meatloaf on lower shelf of oven for 1 hour, or until meat is cooked through. Pour off accumulated fat several times while baking and after meat is fully cooked. Let stand on wire rack for five minutes before slicing. Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Whither the Atari

When the Atari 2600 was the hottest gift of the Christmas season in 1977, I begged my parents for one. I may have made the statement, "I don't want anything else, just that." Cue the music, "What Kind of Fool am I?" My parents took me seriously. Leading up to Christmas, I was notorious for checking and rechecking the "haul." I will even admit here that I might have unwrapped a gift or two to see what was coming my way. Is it any wonder why my mother "punished" me with socks and underwear each year? So this particular Christmas, I was satisfied with the pile of presents with my name on it.

Come Christmas morning, I began to attack the pile with a great fervor. First gift, a stack of old magazines. Second gift, the socks and underwear. Third gift, an actual brick. I begin to become a little unglued as my family laughed at me. As I make my way through a pile of gag gifts, one of my siblings finally took pity on me and told me to go look on a chair in the dining room. I leap up and run to the dining room, pull out a chair and scream, "There's nothing here!" I am then told to look on the other chair. And there, on the chair, is the dream gift, the Atari 2600. I learn later that my father had bought one of the last ones (it being the Wii of its day) around. My family then produced a few games and Christmas was saved for everyone.

I played that game every day for years. I had all the great games, Missile Command, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Asteroids. The game got retired as I got into high school and put away. When I went off to college, I was having a conversation with my suite mates one evening and it was determined that I should bring it back to school after winter break. In fact, my roommate called me at home at like 2:00 in the morning (drunk) to remind me not to forget it. I have this vision of me sitting on the floor in my parents room, who have come to get me, thinking it was some emergency, but no, just Joe (drunk) reminding me to bring the game. So I did.

One game that I don't recall if I had was the subject of a nugget in the Southwest Airlines magazine that I was reading on my recent trip to Buffalo. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial game involved bicycle riding and getting E.T. out of jams and onto a spacecraft home. However, Atari fans did not respond. In the fall of 1983, Atari buried 14 truckloads of E.T. game cartridges in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill. The company was facing slowing sales and $300 million in losses and pulled an alleged "millions" of games from the shelves and literally, buried them.

This all reminds me of my years as a video game geek. There were countless hours spent in game rooms around Long Island (including the great Nathan's game room and the one in Bayville). This may indeed turn out to be a seminal post as there are lots of ideas that could be expanded to give you, my faithful readers, more glimpses into my "storied" past.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday's List - Nyoo Yawk City?

Here is a list of 98 nicknames for New York City (with some explanatory links added). Growing up on Long Island, we always just called it #20. And remember that everywhere north of the Throgs Neck Bridge is "upstate." The list comes from kottke, who picked it up from the Gothamist. As you may see, I take issue with some of these. Really, trust me, I've been there. God, are New Yorkers that pretentious? I apologize in advance.
  1. America's Leading Tourist Resort
  2. America's Mecca
  3. Father Knickerbocker (referring to the type of trousers worn by the early Dutch settlers)
  4. Gotham (name given to New York City by Washington Irving in the Salmagundi Papers, 1807)
  5. Babylonian Bedlam (allusion to the confusion of tongues at Babel, described in Genesis XI)
  6. Baghdad of the Subway
  7. Baghdad on the Hudson
  8. The Banking Center of the World
  9. The Big Apple
  10. The Big Burg
  11. The Big City
  12. The Big Town
  13. The Biggest Gateway to Immigrants
  14. The Burg
  15. The Business Capital of the Nation
  16. The Business Capital of the World
  17. The Capital of Finance
  18. The Capital of the World
  19. The Center of the World (Trygve Lie, first United Nations general secretary, on Sept. 7, 1962)
  20. The City
  21. The City at the Crossroads of High Diplomacy
  22. The City of Cities (book by Hulbert Foother)
  23. The City of Friendly People (sorry, what was that one?)
  24. The City of Golden Dreams
  25. The City of Islands (the borough of Manhattan and numerous other small islands within the city limits)
  26. The City of Light (wait a minute, isn't that this city?)
  27. The City of Orchestras (music center and "Tin Pan Alley")
  28. The City of Skyscrapers (the tallest building in the world; the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, 60 Wall Tower, etc.)
  29. The City of Superlatives
  30. The City of the World
  31. The City of Towers
  32. The City that Belongs to the World
  33. The City that Never Sleeps
  34. The City with Everything
  35. The Cleanest Big City in the World (*choke*)
  36. The Coliseum City
  37. The Commercial Capital of America
  38. The Commercial Emporium
  39. The Corporate Capital of America
  40. The Crossroads of the World
  41. The Cuisine Capital of the World
  42. The Cultural Capital of America
  43. The Cultural Center of the Nation
  44. The Cultural City
  45. The Empire City
  46. The Entertainment Capital of the World
  47. The Fashion Capital of the World
  48. The Fear City
  49. The Financial Capital of the World
  50. The Financial Hub
  51. The First City of the World (the most populated city in the United States, approximately 8 million) (*gasp*)
  52. The Friendly City (*snicker*)
  53. The Frog and Toe
  54. The Front Office of American Business
  55. The Fun City
  56. The Fun City on the Hudson
  57. The Greatest All-Year Round Vacation City
  58. The Greatest Industrial Center in the World
  59. The Headquarters of World Banking
  60. The Hong Kong of the Hudson
  61. The Host of the World
  62. The Hub City of the World
  63. The Hub of Transport
  64. The Information City
  65. The Land of Surprising Contrasts
  66. The Mecca for Young Adults
  67. The Media City
  68. The Melting Pot (drama by Israel Zangwill, 1908)
  69. The Metropolis
  70. The Metropolis of a Continent
  71. The Metropolis of America
  72. The Metropolitan City
  73. The Mighty Manhattan
  74. The Modern Gomorrah (one of the cities if the plains destroyed by fire and brimstone because of wickedness, mentioned in the Old Testament)
  75. The Money Town
  76. The Most Colorful Exciting City in the World
  77. The Movie-Making City
  78. The Nation's First City
  79. The Nation's Greatest City
  80. The Nation's Largest Communications Center
  81. The Nation's Largest Port
  82. The Port of Many Ports
  83. The Printing Capital of the World
  84. The Restaurant City
  85. The Science City
  86. The Seat of Empire (named in 1784 by George Washington)
  87. The Super City
  88. The University of Telephony
  89. The Vacation City
  90. The Wonder City
  91. The Wonder City of the World
  92. The Wonderful Town
  93. The World Capital of Fashion
  94. The World's Capital City
  95. The World's Fair City
  96. The World's Financial Capital
  97. The World's Metropolis
  98. The World's Most Exciting All Year Round Vacation Center

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Six of the Best Years of My Life!

[This post was of course supposed to go out on Sunday (our actual anniversary) but it was not ready yet, so I am posting it between our anniversary and Mother's Day - two days that allow me to pay homage to the woman I love. In the interest of full disclosure, neither of us managed to get a card for the other, but I did send flowers. The traditional gifts for the sixth wedding anniversary are iron and candy, if you are still looking for ideas.]

Among other things, my wife is a published author. She has a wedding thing (hey, she got married twice), in fact, when we went to a friend's wedding this past Saturday, I luckily had brought my handkerchief as she set a good example for those who cry at weddings. So, while I pause for a moment to thank my lovely bride for the greatest time of my life, let me share with you some "Wedding Photos We'll All Remember."

Mrs. BA and I were married on a beautiful day in May. As this was the second trip down the aisle for both of us, we eschewed some of the traditional stuff. For starters, we got married in a cemetery (hey no jokes), in a Chapel designed by James Renwick, which is found on the grounds. I can always tell people that Katherine Graham was at my wedding, as she was buried just outside the chapel. We greeted our guests at the door and saw them to their seats. We came in together and walked out together. It was a testament to how connected we were to each other and how the words "let no one put asunder," really applied for us. It was just such a wonderful day as every day with her is. There really is no part of me that sees me living my life any other way. I love her more and more every day. I used to joke that Paul and Linda McCartney spent all their time together, with the exception of a night Paul spent in jail for pot possession, but he blew it by marrying again after Linda's death and we all know how that turned out.

I love my wife dearly and I didn't think it was possible to love her any more - and then we had children. We came together later in life and we were not sure if children were going to be in the cards. We have been blessed with two wonderful boys (known here as Little Brave Astronaut and Son of Brave Astronaut). There was a time in my life when I wasn't sure if I would be a good father and I had many concerns about raising children. It is only because of my wife's strengths in motherhood that I can step up and help her with the responsibilities of raising two boys. I said to her recently that she is much better at this than I am, which makes her mad, but it is true. So as we get ready to celebrate the day set aside for mothers, on behalf of my boys, Happy Mother's Day to Mrs. BA. I suppose there is some study that could be made about how exhaustion leads to a greater love, because we've got lots of both, but that's what two kids will do to you. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I highly recommend marriage. I admit to looking at other couples and wondering, "why aren't they as happy as we are?" I don't necessarily have the answer to that, other than I believe I have my solution and I am thankful for her every day of my life. Happy Anniversary, Mrs. BA, I love you very much.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

#17 - Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869

Our seventeenth President, Andrew Johnson (the photo at right is by Matthew Brady), is another of those that ranks near the lowest of all the presidents, although occasionally his ranking rises. He was noticed by Abraham Lincoln, when the Tennessean stayed in Congress while his home state seceded. Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee and then he was selected to be his Vice Presidential running mate in the 1864 election.

What Johnson is mostly remembered for is being the first president to be impeached (he was of course the only president to hold that dishonor, but that's a story for a twentieth century president). There are numerous sites to commemorate this dubious event (two of which are linked below), but basically, Johnson ran afoul of the Radical Republicans in Congress and found himself on trial for his political life. What I will always remember about the Johnson impeachment will be the name Edmund G. Ross. In high school (or it might have even been junior high) we were shown a black and white film that dealt with the Senator from Kansas. Ross was one of the chapters in the book by John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage. It was by Ross' single vote to acquit that Johnson kept his job as President. Ross however, lost his job two years later.

While the Johnson presidency is considered by many a failure, he did have foreign policy success with the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. "Seward's Folly," so named for the Secretary of State that negotiated the deal, brought Alaska under U.S. control and of course, later discoveries of gold and oil in the territory proved beneficial.

The Facts
  • Born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Died July 31, 1875, in Carter's Station, Tennessee (age 66)
  • Party: National Union / Democrat
  • A strict Constitutionalist, Johnson was buried with his copy of the Constitution.
  • Johnson is the only former President to serve in the Senate after leaving the Presidency. He was elected in 1874, took office in March of 1875 and died in July of that year.
  • Johnson was the first president to be impeached (actually tried in Congress).
  • He was 17 years old before his wife taught him how to read.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Truly, a Tasty Kake

I've found another blog. Because I have all this free time, you see. But the post that got me sucked in was her recounting of her addiction problem with Tastykakes. I'm married to one of those people, too. The post contained a recipe on how to make your own Peanut Butter TastyKakes.

Tandy Take Cake (tandy take is the old name for PB candy cakes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 8 oz Hershey bar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
Beat eggs until thick and lemony. Gradually add sugar, milk, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients separately. Fold egg mixture into dry ingredients. Pour into greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Spread peanut butter on warm cake. Cool. Cover with melted Hershey bar.

Friday, May 2, 2008

MARAC - Friday

Day 2 at MARAC is mostly done. To finish up where we left off on Thursday, I went into a marathon meeting which lasted long into the evening, finally breaking up around 11:15pm. It was my last Steering Committee meeting as Treasurer and it was one for the books. We will see what comes of the issues discussed.

Up this morning for some additional meetings and then to a great plenary address by Joseph Persico, who among other things was a speechwriter for Nelson A. Rockefeller. Persico has a new book out on Franklin Roosevelt and the women in his life. It is called Franklin and Lucy and I purchased a copy and had it autographed by Mr. Persico, along with my copies of The Imperial Rockefeller and his Edward R. Murrow biography.

From there, I went off to the session that I helped to organize on the history of MARAC. I think the panel was great and a number of significant discussions were generated as a result. The session went exactly as I had hoped. Lunch was another great talk about the 1939 World's Fair, which I was unfortunately called out of, when my phone rang and I went off to deal with that.

I sit now in the lobby while the last block of sessions wraps up for today and then there will be a reception here in the hotel parlor. Then I will try and restrain myself and invite a limited number of people out for dinner to one of the few local restaurants that are open.

Tomorrow I will head home for DC to attend the wedding of two good friends. Then I will do my best to get out an anniversary post on Sunday as I will celebrate with Mrs. BA. (I probably shouldn't give her the Franklin and Lucy book as a present, right?)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

MARAC Thursday

Here it is - Thursday at MARAC. Yesterday, I and two colleagues had an uneventful flight to Buffalo International (HA!) Airport and made our way to the historic Anchor Bar for the original buffalo wing. As payment for ADR transporting my golf clubs to Chautauqua, I very kindly brought him an order of wings, which were consumed by he and a few other friends that were lurking about in the lobby of the historic Athenaeum Hotel. That Ed guy and I settled in our room in the hotel and turned in for the night.

[Mrs. BA - don't read this part!]
I have to admit to getting a really good night's sleep. A queen size bed and no children snuggled up close to me and I was able to stretch out and be quite comfortable.

We got up this morning and headed off to play the Lake Course, which was enjoyed by all of us who played. Back to the hotel to get cleaned up and shortly I will be heading into a stretch of meetings that is sure to run long into the night. Luckily, my cellphone will be able to deliver me text updates of the Rangers-Penguins game. Hopefully by my not watching it will turn out better for the Rangers tonight. And Sean Avery, forward for the Rangers will be watching the game from a hospital bed. Don't ever try to tell me that hockey players aren't tough.

The hotel features Wi-Fi in the lobby and I hope to get another update out tomorrow. And maybe a picture or two of Amy in Cleveland's first archival conference, as we begin her initiation to becoming an archivist.