Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#39 - Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981

Our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, served only one term in the White House, but looked as if he had spent a lifetime in the office. It is said the presidency ages a man, but for Carter, he suffered most prominently from the pressures of the office. Tomorrow, on October 1, Carter will turn 84 years old.

Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served in the Navy for seven years. He entered politics in 1962 and was elected Governor of Georgia in 1970. Four years later, Carter announced he was running for President and defeated President Ford in the 1976 election.

Carter's administration had many successes, but the economy continued to struggle under his administration, causing him to focus on righting the economic ship. When he left office, his administration could point to an increase in jobs and a reduction in the national deficit. Carter also faced an energy crisis and developed a national energy policy to combat fuel shortages. Carter also established the Department of Education as a separate agency, which had previously been under the aegis of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, along with the creation of a Department of Energy. Although staunchly pro-life, Carter became the first President to support legalized abortion, established in the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

In foreign affairs, Carter was one of the most successful of modern presidents, when he brought Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel to the peace table and got them to sign the Camp David Accords in 1978. He also established full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, signed the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and negotiated the treaty that returned the Panama Canal to Panama at the end of the 20th Century.

The SALT II treaty was not ratified by the United States when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, which also led the United States to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Most damaging to Carter's presidency however, was the taking of fifty-two American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran. The hostages were held for 444 days and were released on January 20, 1981, the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States.

The Facts
  • born: October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia (Carter is currently the second oldest living former President, younger than George H.W. Bush by 3 1/2 months)
  • party: Democrat
  • wife: Rosalynn Smith Carter
The Election of1976
The Election of 1980
  • Jimmy Carter is the first president to have been born in a hospital.
  • Carter is the only president to be a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Carter entered into the fledgling submarine service and was poised to serve on the nation's first nuclear submarine, but he resigned his commission when his father died. Carter returned home to tend to the family farm. In 1998, the Navy announced that it would name a submarine for Carter, one of the first naval vessels to be named for a living person.
  • Carter rarely used his full name (James Earl Carter, Jr.) and was sworn into the presidency using his nickname, "Jimmy."
  • Carter was the first president since 1932 (Herbert Hoover) to be defeated for a second term. He also is the only President to have served at least one full term and not have appointed anyone to the United States Supreme Court.
  • For his humanitarian efforts around the world since leaving the presidency, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, becoming the third president to be so honored.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recipe: Petite Meringues

One of the best cookies my mother would make at Christmastime were meringue cookies. I vividly remember her dropping dollops of whipped goodness on a baking sheet and walking away. Most often the cookies would have chocolate chips in them. Now, this recipe (which comes from Chocolate and Zucchini and is accompanied there by a long explanation of meringues) is not one to necessarily try if it is really hot out. With fall upon us and winter approaching (and Christmas cookie season), file it away. Anyone who makes me meringue cookies is alright in my book.

French Meringues
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature (see note 1)
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) sugar (see note 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other flavoring
Preheat the oven to 140°C (285°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites in a large, clean bowl (i.e. dry and with absolutely no trace of fat). Using an electric whisk or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whisk until soft peaks form (see note 3).

Keep whisking continuously as you add in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time: wait until each tablespoon is fully incorporated before you add the next. Once all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and firm and glossy gorgeous, whisk in the vanilla until incorporated.

Using two tablespoons, form pingpong- to golf-ball-sized blobs of meringue and drop them on the prepared baking sheet, giving them some space (roughly their own width) to expand. (You can use a piping bag, but I prefer free-form meringues. At this point, you could also sprinkle the meringues with sliced almonds.)

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes for soft centers, 1 hour for fully baked centers. If you prefer soft (as I do), remove the baking sheet from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the meringues delicately to a rack to cool. If you prefer fully baked, turn the oven off, open the oven door just a crack, and let the meringues cool inside for a couple of hours.

The same recipe can be used for larger meringues or even a single large disk for a pavlova; adjust the baking time accordingly.

Note 1: I had only 2 egg whites, so I scaled the recipe by two thirds. Frozen and thawed egg whites work fine. It's best if the eggs are more than just a few days old.

Note 2: I used unrefined light brown cane sugar, in which an empty vanilla pod had been steeping for months, so I skipped the vanilla extract.

Note 3: Start on low speed until you can see bubbles at the surface, then switch to medium speed for a minute, and then whisk at full speed until the soft peak stage. "Soft peaks" mean that when you lift the whisk from the egg whites, they form a fluffy peak that doesn't collapse.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Other Ol' Blue Eyes

It is with deep sadness that I note the passing of Paul Newman. He was one of my mother's most favorite actors. I remember she had a pillowcase with his face silk screened on it, so she could sleep with him. Newman was one of those on her "list" and he could "put his shoes under her bed anytime."

I believe that in heaven, you get to be well, your favorite age forever, and everyone is equal. To that end, I am sure that my mother is having Paul over for dinner tonight. And after dinner, well, who knows.

National Book Festival

I'm off this morning to the Library of Congress Bookfest with LBA. We are sure to head to the children's tent where the stars of PBS Kids will be hanging out. We will likely also wander about the Pavilion of the States to score some free stuff.

Now if this book were being sold, I'd buy a copy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Airplane Answers

So did you crash and burn? Or did you pull up in time? And I am sure that I missed your favorite and probably some of my own. Tell me about it in the comments.
  1. The Hindenburg (1975)
  2. Airport (1970)
  3. Airplane (1980)
  4. Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac (1984)
  5. Airport 1975 (1974)
  6. Air Force One (1997)
  7. Airport '77 (1977)
  8. Die Hard 2 (1990)
  9. Always (1989)
  10. Alive (1993)
  11. Concorde - Airport '79 (1979)
  12. Flight of the Phoenix (1965) (2004)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

#38 - Gerald R. Ford, 1973-1977

(Note: Today is the 56th anniversary of the "Checkers Speech" delivered by Richard Nixon)

Among many other things, the thirty-eighth President, Gerald Ford, will be forever remembered in history as the first Vice President to be selected under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and the first President to hold the office without having been elected as part of a national ticket. He nearly derailed his presidency when he gave Richard Nixon a full and unconditional pardon following the Watergate scandal that put him in the White House. In 2001, Ford was awarded the Profile in Courage Award for his pardon of Nixon.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ford was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan and was a star football player for that school. Ford nearly made the pros, receiving offers to play for both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. He graduated from Yale Law School, entered the service of his country in the United States Navy in World War II. After the war, he was elected to Congress in 1948 and that same year married his wife Betty. The House of Representatives was where Gerald Ford wanted to be. He longed to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, although the position eluded him, he served as House Minority Leader from 1965 until his selection as Vice President in 1973.

Ford spent the majority of his presidency trying to fix a broken economy, which had lapsed into recession. He did have some international successes, signing the Helsinki Accords, ending the war in Vietnam, following the fall of Saigon in 1975, and preventing widespread conflict in the Middle East. Ford also presided over the celebration of America's 200th anniversary of its independence.

Ford sought the support of the American people in 1976, when he ran for President on his own. However, he lost the election to Governor Jimmy Carter. Ford retired and became a respected American statesman. When he died in 2006, he had become the longest lived President, passing his rival Ronald Reagan, by just over a month. During his state funeral, Ford's body lay in state before the doors of the House of Representatives before being moved to the Capitol Rotunda, signifying his love of that chamber that had shaped his political career.

The Facts
  • born: July 13, 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska
  • died: December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California (age 93)
  • party: Republican
  • wife: Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Ford
The Election of1976
  • Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. Shortly after his birth, his parents divorced and his mother married Gerald R. Ford. The elder Ford adopted the young boy and his name was changed to Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
  • Ford was the first president to have been an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Ford was appointed to the Warren Commission by President Lyndon Johnson, which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission.
  • It is widely speculated that Ford was selected by Nixon to be Vice President, because he could be easily confirmed and Nixon was also interested in "impeachment insurance" and wanted someone who didn't look better than him, which would have made it harder for the American people to stick with Nixon.
  • After assuming the Presidency, Ford selected Nelson Rockefeller to be his Vice President. It is alleged that Nixon passed over Rockefeller to be Vice President, because Rockefeller did not satisfy Nixon's requirement above. In 1976, conservative Republicans forced Ford to drop Rockefeller from the ticket. In the election, New York went to the Democrats, and might have been won by the Republicans if Rockefeller had been on the ticket.
  • Ford survived two assassination attempts in September 1975, both of which were by women, the first by Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, a member of the Manson "family," and the second by Sara Jane Moore.
  • Ford's two White House Chiefs of Staff were Donald Rumsfeld, who also served as Ford's Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney. George H.W. Bush served as head of the CIA for President Ford.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Which came first - the chicken or the paper?

I make no guarantees that the recipe below will produce the desired result. For it seems that the Colonel's (Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) Secret Recipe exists on paper. And only two KFC executives have access to the document. Earlier this month, the document was relocated to a temporary storage facility in a process that involved armed guards, briefcases chained to wrists, and a ride in an armored car under police escort. And you thought your archives security was tough! Here's the Buzz Feed page, which included the recipe below.

KFC Original Fried Chicken
  • 1 frying chicken, cut into frying pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Pkt. (dry) Good Seasons Italian Dressing (THE 11 herbs and spices!)
  • 1 Envelope Lipton (or other brand) Tomato Cup of Soup
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Vegetable oil to cover bottom of your skillet; about 1/2 inch deep.
  1. Combine eggs and milk. Set aside.
  2. Combine flour with the Italian dressing and soup mix.
  3. Dip chicken pieces in milk-egg mixture and roll them in the flour-seasoning mixture. Repeat procedure.
  4. Fry pieces over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, turning often.
  5. Remove from fire. Drain and serve.

Friday, September 19, 2008

FIOS vs. DirecTV

Faithful readers of this blog will recall my problems with DirecTV and Verizon last year, when the Brave Astronaut bought our house. If you would like to refresh your memory, go here, here, and here for the DirecTV saga and here, here, here, and here for the Verizon tale.

So, now after a year, I have received numerous offers to switch to Verizon FIOS TV from DirecTV. I have been happy with DirecTV and was not looking to give Verizon anymore of my money. But I thought I would at least give Verizon an opportunity to pitch to me. The price quoted was less than what I was paying for DirecTV. There was really no one at Verizon I should talk to except my good friend Nancy at Verizon, so I contacted her. I don't know if she recoiled in horror when my email popped up in her inbox, but she did call me and made the pitch to me. She offered all of the advertised specials that FIOS was running ($47.99 for the service, free DVR for the year) and talked about some "unadvertised" specials that might come my way, if I made the switch.

I decided to wait and give DirecTV an opportunity to keep my business. So on the way home the other day, I called DirecTV and explained the situation to the representative who answered the phone. He asked me to hold while he transferred me to a "retention specialist." Really.

So I explained my situation to the retention specialist and told her that I was not interested in leaving DirecTV if they wanted to make me an offer to stay. So here's what I got:
  • An extension of the $10 monthly credit (that was set to expire next month) for another year.
  • Free DVR service for six months ($4.99/month)
  • Free Showtime and Starz for six months (I wasn't really interested in Showtime, so I asked for HBO instead - so I got HBO for three months and Starz for six).
  • I had recently changed my package (dropping HBO) and agreed to step up to the next service package, which restored several channels that I had lost as the credit will make the price almost identical to the FIOS price.
I said thank you to the nice retention specialist, told them I was very happy with DirecTV and hung up the phone. Who says you don't get stuff when you ask nicely? But now I have to tell Nancy that I'm breaking up with her, again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Those Marvelous Men and Their Flying Machines

Today marks a significant anniversary in airplane travel. The first crash that took the life of a passenger occurred 100 years ago today, on September 17, 1908. At the controls on that fateful day? None other than Orville Wright, who took a plane up over Fort Myer, Virginia, with Lt. Thomas Selfridge aboard. After a few revolutions, one of the propellers split and cut into the fabric wing and the plane crashed to the ground. Wright was badly hurt but Selfridge was killed.

The New York Times article of September 18, 1908 is available on the web and here is a contemporary article about the crash that mentions the 1908 crash and draws parallels to air travel today.

To honor this "special" day in history, here's a quiz about plane crash / disaster movies. For we all know what a sucker I am for the disaster genre. Answers next week.
  1. This film, while not about an airplane crash, makes for really good imagery, primarily due to the contents of the airship. And its based on a true story!
  2. This film, released in 1970, set the benchmark for airplane disaster movies and involved a bomb on a plane that cripples the jet.
  3. Surely I can't be serious to imply this film can be considered as a disaster film. I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.
  4. This was a TV movie based on the events of January 13, 1982 in Washington, DC.
  5. This film, which came out in 1974, tried to capitalize on the success of its predecessor, but even the appearance of Gloria Swanson, in her final film, couldn't save it from being inducted into the Razzies Awards Hall of Fame in 1983.
  6. While this plane is this film does not crash until the very end, it does have people falling out of it periodically, most dramatically after someone tells someone else to "Get Off MY Plane!"
  7. In the third film after numbers 2 and 5, this time the plane crashes in the Bermuda Triangle, while people on board try and devise a way to steal the art in the cargo hold.
  8. This sequel film has planes everywhere and it takes place at an airport. It also featured a former Senator and future presidential candidate, who utters the memorable line, "OK, people, stack 'em, rack 'em, and pack 'em."
  9. OK, so it's not a disaster flick, but it does have a plane crash and featured the final performance by Audrey Hepburn.
  10. Another action film, this movie is not so much about the plane crash as it is about the aftermath and the, oh, let's say, dwindling food supply, and how the survivors deal with that issue.
  11. Not originally planned as a comedy, this was the final chapter in the series of movies noted at numbers 2, 5, and 7. When it was screened to derisive laughter, it was re-tagged as a comedy.
  12. This film, released in 1965 and remade in 2004, deals with surviving a plane crash in the desert and how the survivors manage to get out of their predicament.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

#37 - Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-1974

The 37th President, Richard Nixon, holds the dubious distinction as the only individual forced to resign the presidency. It is likely that he would have been impeached and removed from office and chose to resign rather than face removal. After his resignation (and subsequent pardon by Gerald Ford), Nixon almost immediately began a career rehabilitation. By the time of his death twenty years later, he was regarded as a senior statesman and had contributed widely to policy discussions.

Nixon graduated from Duke University law school and then joined the United States Navy during World War II. Following that service he was elected to the Congress from the 12th District of California and moved to the Senate in 1950. One can certainly say this about Richard Nixon, he didn't go away. Following a meteoric rise in politics, Nixon was selected by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 to serve as his vice president. Nixon was 39.

He was narrowly defeated in 1960 by John Kennedy by the smallest of margins and then two years later lost the California gubernatorial election. After that defeat, Nixon famously uttered the words, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." His election in 1968 to the presidency was the culmination of a political rebirth. As President, Nixon was moderately successful on both domestic and foreign policy fronts, climaxing with his trip to China in 1972 and the ushering in of Detente with the Soviet Union. Nixon was also successful in beginning the negotiations to end the Vietnam Conflict. During Nixon's administration, the United States space program had its greatest success, when, in 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the surface of the moon.

President Nixon appointed Warren Burger to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1969, succeeding Earl Warren, who had been appointed by President Eisenhower. After rejecting two previous choices, Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun to be an Associate Justice in 1969. Nixon also appointed Associate Justices Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist.

Following his landslide reelection in 1972, the wheels began to come off the bus. A number of irregularities were discovered within the White House political machine, pursued with great zeal by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, later chronicled in the book (and movie), All the President's Men. In 1973, the first chip fell off the table when Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign under a tax scandal. Nixon selected House Minority Leader Gerald Ford of Michigan to replace him, under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. Shortly thereafter, as Watergate began to consume Nixon, he announced that he would resign the presidency in August 1974. Two days after leaving the presidency, Ford pardoned Nixon, to end "our long national nightmare."

The Facts
  • born January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, California
  • died April 22, 1994 in New York, New York (age 81)
  • Party: Republican
  • Wife: Patricia Ryan Nixon
The Election of 1960
  • John Kennedy / Lyndon Johnson (D) - 34,220,984 (49.7%) - 303 EVs
  • Richard Nixon / Henry Cabot Lodge (R) - 34,108,157 (49.5%) - 219 EVs
The Election of 1968
The Election of 1972
  • Nixon is the first president to have visited all fifty states.
  • Nixon earned his most derisive nickname, "Tricky Dick" during his Senate campaign.
  • After being selected as the vice presidential nominee, Nixon was forced to give a speech about campaign funding irregularities. The speech became known as the "Checkers Speech," based on Nixon's recounting of a dog that had been given to the Nixons.
  • Nixon was the first Vice President to temporarily assume the powers of the President, which he did three times while serving as Eisenhower's Vice President.
  • The funeral for Richard Nixon in 1994 was the first presidential funeral since the death of Lyndon Johnson in 1973, presided over by Richard Nixon.
  • While serving in Congress, Nixon sat on the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) and was involved in the investigation of Alger Hiss.
  • Both the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were created under the Nixon administration.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No recipe, just a defibrillator, please

Mrs. BA and I were recipients of the chocolate bacon bar. She did not like it, but I have a little nibble every now and then. It's the right combo of sweet and salty.

But just so you know, there is no problem with obesity in America. Oh no. Not here. And I am not posting the recipes for these items. I refuse to be a party to murder. But, that said, where can I get these things that appeared in my Google Reader?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Making a Better Society - Part I

As most of you know, this blog is syndicated on ArchivesBlogs and I do actually post on archival issues now and again. There is an issue that has come up in my national professional organization, the Society of American Archivists regarding voting representation. Most of my friends know this is an issue that I have been working on for several years. A good friend who covers archival issues much more than I "broke" the story on her blog regarding a possible dues increase and the issue of voter representation and she urged me to comment on her blog. I have chosen to do so here.

For my non-archivist readers, here's a little background for you so you can see where I'm going with this. The Society is currently comprised of more than 5,000 archivists and information professionals around the world, though primarily in the United States. The Society holds an Annual Meeting and just recently closed one of its most successful meetings in San Francisco, California. At the Annual Meeting last year, the Society voted a dues increase for membership. Membership dues for SAA have always been on a sliding scale, based on one's salary. As a result, long term archivists and those in government jobs have paid the highest dues. As it stands, votes on dues increase and other matters are held at the Annual Meeting, so only those members who attend get a voice. I think this is wrong.

However, the main question raised was whether members of the Society should have the right to vote if they cannot be present at the Annual Meeting. Given the available technology, there is no reason that electronic voting could not be instituted for issues of importance to the Society. I wholeheartedly endorse any plan that would extend voting representation to any member in good standing of the Society regardless of attendance at the Annual Meeting. There are a number of solutions that would make this feasible. I will grant that votes on dues increases are a special matter in and of themselves. For this reason, they should be voted on by the entire membership and not only voted on at the Annual Meeting. We are sure to lose members that way.

I should point out that the initial comment about in-person voting was raised by a former President of the Society, a man that I respect and think very highly of. The extensive reaction that came as a result of his comment changed his mind and he has even suggested language to revise the Constitution of the Society regarding votes on dues increases. He does also advocate for a routine cost of living increase in dues, which I don't think is necessary but that is a matter for my next post on financial matters.

Voting representation is one of our most basic fundamental issues. It has been noted that the Society gets a very low rate of return on its mail ballots in candidate elections. Although, this rate is low, by restricting the right to vote on issues such as dues increases to those in attendance at the Annual Meeting will only serve to further disenfranchise the members. There is certainly more to this issue but we need to start somewhere. Making the Society a more democratic organization is a good way to start.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Hope and a Prayer

Today is September 11, 2008. It was seven years ago this morning that the world in which we live was forever changed. I posted about my experiences in 2001 here. We are now preparing for a presidential election where we will elect a new Chief Executive to steer our nation in this new world. Now, I have a political blog and my allegiances are fairly well known. But I am using this blog to make a pitch to every American to exercise their right to vote.

This election is by far the most important one of my generation. It is likely to be close and the result may not even be immediately known. However you feel, whichever candidate you support, please get involved. You owe it to yourself to vote. You don't get to speak if you don't use your voice.

If you need some inspiration, think about the thousands of people who aren't here anymore as a result of the attacks we remember today. Don't you think they would like to have a say in the direction this country goes?

So today, stop, remember, and then get involved. We have no choice. The future is in our hands.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

#36 - Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969

Lyndon Baines Johnson came to the presidency as a result of the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was however a job that he had sought in 1960. As a result, Kennedy found it necessary to create a political compromise and pick Johnson as his running mate.

Johnson envisioned an America that lived in a Great Society. Johnson had been born into a family that struggled and it instilled in him a keen understanding of poverty in America. in 1937, Johnson entered public service when he was elected to the House of Representatives. Eleven years later he moved to the upper house, when he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1953, he became the youngest Minority Leader in history. A year later, he became Majority Leader when the Democrats took control of Congress.

When Johnson rose to the presidency in 1963, he spent the next year pushing through many of the efforts that had been started by President Kennedy. When he ran for a term of his own in 1964, he was elected by the largest margin of popular votes ever recorded, more than 15 million. After the election, Johnson advanced his ideas for the "Great Society." Johnson's domestic agenda was widely praised and many of the reforms helped Americans across the board. However, Johnson was vilified for his policies on Vietnam and as a result, he chose to not seek reelection in 1968. He returned to his ranch in Texas, where he died suddenly from a heart attack in January 1973.

The Facts
The Election of 1964
  • Johnson City, Texas is named for Johnson's family, who helped settle the area.
  • Prior to his career in politics, Johnson taught school.
  • Some historians (including two LBJ biographers) agree that Johnson was the most effective Senate Majority Leader in history.
  • Johnson challenged Texas state election law, allowing him to run for reelection to the Senate in addition to running as Vice President. He won both elections.
  • When Johnson was sworn in by family friend and judge Sarah Hughes, it marked the first time a President was sworn in by a woman. He is the only President to be sworn in on Texas soil.
  • In 1967, Johnson nominated the first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall
  • Johnson's State Funeral in 1973 was the last in Washington until the death of Ronald Reagan in 2004.
  • August 2008 marked the centennial of Johnson's birth. Events were held across Texas, several of them at the Johnson library.
  • Lyndon Johnson confided to Doris Kearns Goodwin that he feared dying alone. On the day of his death, Lady Bird had just left for a day trip to Austin, when the Secret Service were summoned to LBJ's bedroom, where he was dead on the floor.
  • Mentioned to me: Lyndon Johnson was a local distributor for the Muzak Corporation and had speakers draped around the Texas ranch to hear music wherever he was.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potato Salad

I'm not a great fan, but this recipe looks good. It comes courtesy of my neighbor, who ventured out to a local farm and scored the recipe. And potato salad is just such a uniquely summer kind of thing. Enjoy. (And I won't say that she has started her own recipe thing - but she has) :)

Farm Herb Potato Salad
  • 8-10 Yukon gold potatoes, boiled in well salted water until soft and patted dry
  • 1/2 c. good olive oil
  • 2 tbs. white balsamic vinegar (I use a pear-infused white balsamic, more or less, to taste)
  • 1/3 c. mixed fresh herbs (I used a mix of tarragon, dill, cilantro, and garlic chives), finely chopped
Make a vinaigrette by emulsifying the olive oil and vinegar, then add the herbs. Add the vinaigrette to a large bowl with the cooked, dried potatoes. Smash about half of the potatoes with the vinaigrette to soak up the oil and continue folding until it's well-incorporated. Chill.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hey, Wait, Isn't That, You Know, What's His Name

As Washington, DC is our nation's capital, we have our fair share of monuments and memorials. Many of them are dedicated to former Presidents (Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson), others are devoted to significant events (World War II, Vietnam). At the end of July, an intrepid Washington Post reporter set out to find ten memorials around the city that deserved to be recognized. Here's the list and a link to the article with pictures. I have also linked the memorials to sites where they are explained in greater detail.
  • Women's Titanic Memorial - not a memorial to the women, but to the men who gave their lives so the women could be saved. You might recognize the pose of the statue found in Hains Point, near the water, duh. It was later used in a film that I explained as "ship sinks, boy dies."
  • Samuel Hahnemann Memorial - It seems that the good doctor has a bad headache. The homeopathic physician has his hand on his head and is seated in this memorial near Scott Circle. The memorial was erected by the American Institute of Homeopathy, which currently has its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Jim Henson Statue and Memorial Garden - Jim Henson is a graduate of the University of Maryland and created everybody's favorite frog while there. Here the late puppeteer is memorialized with Kermit in front of the Student Union.
  • Spirit of Haida Gwaii - This literal boat load of Canadian creatures sits in front of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC to commemorate the Haida people from the Queen Charlotte islands.
  • Navy-Marine Memorial - This sits alongside the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is likely a blur in most commuters eyes as they speed past. The wave and seagulls memorializes sailors that have lost their lives in service. Note that "marine" in this case means Merchant Marine. If you want a memorial to those Marines, you need to go here.
  • Mahatma Gandhi Memorial - This memorial sits in a city close to many memorials and statues devoted to war and generals. Erected near the grounds of the Indian Embassy, it is possibly my favorite on this list.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial - The African-American educator was the first to honored with a statue on public parkland in Washington. The memorial was created by the same individual who did statues of John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein.
  • National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II - I will admit to passing this sculpture several times and not realizing what it was for. It was erected as a form of apology for the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Around the sculpture are the words, "Here we admit a wrong."
  • Victims of Communism Memorial - This sculpture found its inspiration from two previous sculptures: the first was the "Goddess of Democracy" constructed by students during the Tiananmen protest, the second is a little larger and sits in the middle of New York Harbor.
  • George Mason Memorial - I've been here. I had a friend who got married there. But don't go looking for it. It's hard to find. Poor George, is it any wonder he also carries the moniker, the "Forgotten Founder?"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What I Did With My Summer Vacation

C'mon now, we all had to do it. Those bored and burned out teachers made us write that essay at least once in our school careers, yes? And I would be remiss if I didn't catch you up on the events of last week at the beach. Besides, there's nothing worth watching on TV tonight, right?

We left for the beach on Tuesday evening, getting there in a nice easy manner. We had a quick dinner and then went down and played in the surf. LBA greatly enjoyed that part of the day. Wednesday we got up and headed down to the beach in the morning to play in the water some more. The weather was very cooperative and we had a great time splashing, building sand castles (which were quickly dismantled by LBA). For dinner that evening, we headed to an Ocean City landmark with some friends. I have to say the White Pizza was outstanding. But don't bother with the calamari appetizer. Wednesday evening, I went to bed with a bit of a sore throat, but thought nothing of it.

On Thursday, I woke up not feeling any better and when heading out to buy the morning paper, picked up a thermometer, where I learned that my fever was pushing 102 degrees. Guess I was sick. I probably should have headed to urgent care at that point, but instead opted for talking to a nurse on the phone, who walked me through a series of diagnoses over the phone, scaring me into thinking that I might have Scarlet Fever or Meningitis. Oh goody.

By Friday, I was no better and sent the BA family off to play with friends, while I rested in the morning. I felt a little better in the afternoon and we all headed up to Rehoboth Beach, for Thrasher's Fries, soft serve, and arcade games. The soft serve was probably the best as it made the razor blades in my throat easier to swallow. The time had come to seek medical help. Evidently people get sick a lot at the beach, for you can come across an urgent care center every few blocks in Ocean City. I finally chose this one. There was little suspense or surprise when they discovered that I had come down with a raging case of strep throat.

The doctor decided to treat with steroids (including a shot in the butt to get me started) and anti-biotics, as is the best way to attack strep. However, when the doctor noticed my wrists and the healing patches of poison ivy still evident, she upped the doses of steroids, for evidently, if you introduce steroids to a body coming off a case of poison ivy, the poison ivy can come back even worse. So I'm on steroids for three weeks. There go the Olympic time trials. I also scored some pain killers (yeah, baby) and something known as viscous lidocaine, to help numb my throat. While it may seem like a lot of pharmaceuticals, it helped me to salvage the last two days of my vacation, which was really the only important thing.

In addition to my own health woes, Mrs. BA had her own issues on vacation. On the above mentioned trip to Rehoboth, we parked the car at a metered space ($.25 for 10 minutes!) and Mrs. BA emptied her wallet of quarters so we could park. in the confusion of then getting LBA out of the car, her wallet was inadvertently left on the roof of the car. Needless to say, it is no longer in our possession. We had had to go through and cancel credit cards and she's in the market for a new wallet, if you are looking for a gift for her. And does anyone want to go to DMV for her?

And now, in closing a few statistics:
  • Number of "Summer" days (Memorial Day - Labor Day): 99
  • Blog posts this summer (since Memorial Day, May 26): 73
  • Number of president posts and recipes posted over the summer: 14 and 15, respectively
  • Number of posts containing the tag, "summer" (I need to work on my tagging): 2
  • Number of "memes" posted: 6
  • Number of quizzes posted: 3
  • Number of obituary posts this summer: 3 (Harvey Korman, George Carlin, and my cat Minnie)
  • Number of iPod shuffle lists: 2
  • Number of parties and events held or attended this summer: 8 (A baby shower, the Ford's Theater Gala, Red Dawn Movie Night, the Annapolis Rotary Crab Feast, the Fourth of July festivities in Annapolis, a picnic for LBA's daycare class, Little OSG's first birthday, and another toddler birthday party)
  • Number of baseball games attended this summer: 6?
  • Number of football games attended this summer: 1 (Go Giants tonight!)
  • Number of movies attended this summer: 2 (Indiana Jones and Get Smart)
  • Number of beach vacations taken: 2 (June and the most recent strep vacation)
  • Number of rounds of golf played this summer: 1.5 (oh, how sad)
  • Number of work days this summer: 68
  • Number days taken off this summer (including sick leave): 10.5
  • Number of dentist appointments this summer: 3
  • Number of eye doctor appointments this summer: 3
  • Number of doctor visits this summer: 1 scheduled, 1 urgent care

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In a Galaxy Far Far Away

I remember the day when I saw Star Wars in the theater. I remember the day my friend skipped school to go and see The Empire Strikes Back on opening day. I remember having my fair share of Star Wars trading cards (forget baseball cards, movie cards was where it was at for me). Then of course, I wept when I read Special K's post. You see I came to the archives thing too late to have saved all that good stuff and the realization that there was money in memorabilia.

This was soon followed by a story on CNN (CNN? Really?) about those other must haves of my childhood, Wacky Packages. When my father moved out of the house I grew up in, my bedroom door was bedecked with a number of stickers, including several Wacky Packages stickers. I was momentarily tempted to take the door with me.

Then I watched with amusement, a child the same age as my son, explain Star Wars.

Today is the first day of school in New York state (always the Wednesday after Labor Day). Here in Maryland, where I live now, kids went back to school last week. I long for the days of not having to worry about things other than what my mother packed for my lunch and whether my homework was done. Some days, being a grownup ain't all it's cracked up to be. Wait, is that the bell from the ice cream man? I gotta go.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

#35 - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963

I'll get this right out there at the outset. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is my favorite president. Sure his presidency was short, he had many problems, and was a bit of a womanizer. But as I have long said, what men do with their personal lives is their business as long as it does not affect the office. I am sure that his assassination and the snuffing out of his youthful "vigah" certainly led to the lionization of the man who was the 35th President of the United States.

After graduating from Harvard University in 1940, Kennedy entered the Navy and commanded a PT boat in the Pacific during World War II. In 1943, PT 109 was struck by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy is credited with saving the majority of his crew, despite suffering severe injuries in the accident, giving him back problems that would afflict him for the remainder of his life.

When he returned to Massachusetts after the war, he was elected to Congress and moved to the Senate in 1953. In 1956, his name was placed in nomination for the vice presidency at the Democratic convention. Kennedy and his allies soon realized that the nomination was not within their grasp and Kennedy withdrew. In retrospect, a good move, as the ticket of Stevenson and Kefauver was buried in the Eisenhower landslide in 1956.

Kennedy declared his intention to run for President in January 0f 1960 and went to the convention with enough votes to secure the nomination. In order to ensure party unity and secure votes where Kennedy might not otherwise find them, Kennedy tapped Lyndon Johnson to be the vice presidential nominee, in one of the biggest political compromises of the 20th Century. With his election by the narrowest margins (allegations of voting fraud were rampant), Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President.

Kennedy's brief administration was marked by a series of foreign policy issues. In April 1961, shortly after taking office, Kennedy authorized the invasion of Cuba to try and topple the Castro regime. The troops were not given air support and the majority of the invaders were captured by Cuban military forces. The name of the failed invasion became known as the "Bay of Pigs." In the fall of 1962, Kennedy faced another challenge with Cuba with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviet forces had installed missiles in the island nation, with the ability of reaching U.S. shores in minutes. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of the island and tensions rose very quickly. The Soviet Union blinked first and dismantled the missiles and war was averted.

In 1961, Kennedy faced his second major foreign policy crisis when the Soviets decided to further divide the city of Berlin, by erecting a wall between East Berlin and the rest of the city. The Berlin Wall divided the city until the fall of communism and was finally broken down in 1989. In June 1963, Kennedy traveled to Germany and gave his famous, "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. In 1987, two years before the wall came down, President Reagan exhorted the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

President Kennedy was the second president to become involved in the quagmire of Vietnam. Kennedy authorized sending additional "advisors" to the Southeast Asian country. Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, would escalate the U.S. involvement and Vietnam, which would wind up costing him the presidency (come back next week!). Kennedy also accelerated the U.S. space program declaring in a speech the objective of the U.S. that "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth."

Building on his call to service in his inaugural address, Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961. Kennedy also advanced the Civil Rights movement, by meeting with Black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kennedy proposed sweeping legislation in the wake of several incidents in the South. It was after Kennedy's death that the Civil Rights Act was passed and signed into law by President Johnson in 1964.

In November 1963, as Kennedy looked forward to a reelection campaign in 1964, he traveled to Texas. On November 22, as he rode in an open top limousine, Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The President was 46 years old.

The Facts
  • Born: May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Died: November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas (age 46)
  • Party: Democrat
  • Wife: Jacqueline Bouvier (Onassis)
The Election of 1960
  • John Kennedy / Lyndon Johnson (D) - 34,220,984 (49.7%) - 303 EVs
  • Richard Nixon / Henry Cabot Lodge (R) - 34,108,157 (49.5%) - 219 EVs
  • Kennedy is the youngest man to be elected President (TR was not elected) and the youngest to die in office.
  • Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage, was written while he recuperated in a hospital after back surgery. It was later revealed that speechwriter Ted Sorenson wrote most of the book. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for History.
  • Kennedy is the only Roman Catholic President, the first President born in the 20th Century and the first Boy Scout to be President.
  • The Kennedy-Nixon television debate was the first joint radio-television debate in politics. Nixon looked poorly on television, and later people who watched the debate thought that Kennedy had won handily, while those who listened on the radio, thought that Nixon had prevailed.
  • Kennedy's medical history and traumatic injuries led him to receive Catholic last rites four times over the course of his life.
  • Kennedy is the only president to predecease both of his parents.
  • Kennedy is one of two presidents to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Whose the other one? Have you been paying attention?
  • As a result of his tragic death, Kennedy has one of the largest lists of things named for him, including an airport in New York, many roads, bridges, causeways, expressways, etc., several schools, but not this state, which had been suggested.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's Labor Day! Relax with a Rhubarb Smoothie

I am writing this post on the same day as I enjoyed a phenomenal strawberry-rhubarb pie from C in DC. I am assuming that as of this writing (although it is Labor Day and this was closer to the planned arrival date) she is otherwise engaged and will likely not be baking again soon. Around the same time as the pie made its appearance at work, she passed along a slew of rhubarb recipes, having scored a fair amount of fresh rhubarb from the store. Here is a smoothie recipe, the aforementioned pie recipe, a crumble recipe, and a tart recipe all featuring the lovely rhubarb.

Rhubarb Smoothie
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, washed, trimmed (leaves and roots discarded); cut stems into 1" pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. mild honey
  • 1/4 C. water
  • 1/2 pint strawberries (about 1/2 lb.), hulled and cut in half
  • 3/4 C. freshly squeezed orange juice (use slightly less if using prepared o.j.)
Combine the rhubarb, honey, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the rhubarb is tender and has fallen apart. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Next, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and orange juice in a blender or food processor with a steel blade. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a pitcher and chill for several hours (or serve immediately over ice).

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (from Betty Crocker)
  • Pastry crust for 9-inch two-crust pie
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/3 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups sliced rhubarb
  • 2 Tbsp butter, cut into fine pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare pie crust. Place lower crust into a pie plate. Dust with the corn starch. Place 1 C each of the strawberries and rhubarb in the pie plate.

In a bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and orange peel. Sprinkle half the sugar mixture into the pie plate. Add the remaining fruit and cover with the remaining sugar mixture. Dot with the butter. Cover with the remaining pie crust, cutting several long slits into it to allow the liquids to escape (otherwise you get a runny pie). Seal and flute the edges. Cover the edges with foil. Remove foil after 35 minutes of baking.

Bake until the crust is brown and the juices are bubbling and beginning to thicken, about 40-50 minutes.

Rhubarb Crumble (Health Magazine, May 2007)

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Toss 5 Cups chopped rhubarb with 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons honey, and 1 Tablespoon flour in a large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Mix 2/3 Cup uncooked regular oats, 2/3 Cup brown sugar, and 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 Cup cubed unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt to the oat mixture and mix with hands or a large fork until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms.

Spoon rhubarb mixture into 6-ounce ramekins (I think you need 6 of them). Spread oat mixture evenly on top of filling. Bake 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown and rhubarb is tender when pierced with a knife.

Rhubarb Raspberry Tart (Redbook Magazine, June 2007)
  • Pastry crust for 13-inch one-crust pie (i.e., about 1.5 9-inch crusts rolled together)
  • 1 lb fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
  • 1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp grated orange zest
  • 6 oz raspberries
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 Tbsp butter, cut into fine pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, 1/2 C of sugar, cornstarch, and 1/2 tsp of orange zest. Let stand 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small dish, combine the remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar and 1/4 tsp of orange zest.

Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the pie crust and transfer to the baking sheet.

After the 25 minutes have passed, gently stir the raspberries and ginger into the rhubarb mixture. Spoon the mixture onto the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border of dough all the way around. Fold edge of dough up over the mixture, pleating as you go and fixing any cracks. Dot filling with butter. Brush dough with water and sprinkle with sugar-zest mixture over dough and filling.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees. Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer, until crust is brown and filling is bubbly. Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 minutes. With a spatula, very carefully slide the tart onto the wire rack to cool completely.