Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween and the end of Blogtober

Well, it's done.  Blogtober comes to an end with tonight's post.  I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing.  LBA and SoBA have just returned from reeling in the sweet treats of our little town.  Mrs. BA went out and bought LBA a "crystal skull" (actually just a glitter Styrofoam one - but it worked) because the whip is not an approved accessory at school.  But the whip did go out trick or treating.

Here's a list to wrap up the month with "24 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Halloween."
  1. The first jack-o'-lanterns were actually made from turnips.
  2. Thousands of people suffer from Samhainophobia which is an irrational fear of Halloween.
  3. The world's largest pumpkin weighed in at 1,872 pounds.
  4. Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas.
  5. Americans purchase over 20 million pounds of Candy Corn each year.
  6. The number one candy of choice is Snickers, followed by Reese's, Kit-Kats and M&Ms.
  7. It's estimated that total Halloween spending could reach $8 billion in 2012. That's over $79 per household.
  8. In Alabama it's illegal to dress-up as a priest.
  9. In Hollywood there's a $1,000 fine for using Silly String on Halloween.
  10. According to legend, if you see a spider on Halloween, it's actually the spirit of a loved one watching over you. (I still don't like them)
  11. October 30th is National Candy Corn Day.
  12. It's is actually very rare for a full moon to occur on Halloween. Although, it's predicted to occur on 10/31/2020. It also happened in 1925, 1944, 1955, and 1974.
  13. While pumpkins are typically orange, they can also be green, white, red and gray.
  14. Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween. It was originally a Celtic festival called Samhain which celebrated the harvest.
  15. Willow Smith, Dan Rather, and Vanilla Ice were all born on October 31st.
  16. Magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween.
  17. In the UK white cats are thought to bring bad luck, not like black cats in the US.
  18. Have leftover candy? Save it! Hard candy lasts for a year, while chocolate can last up to two.
  19. Halloween can give you diarrhea. Seriously. Consuming too much candy with fructose and sorbitol can give you rhea. 
  20. Barmbrack used to be a traditional food eaten on Halloween. The bread contained various objects baked into it and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. 
  21. Contrary to popular belief, no one has put razor blades or poison in goodies for random trick-or-treaters. The only documented cases have been pranks gone awry or parents poisoning their own children. 
  22. Many shelters don't allow black cats to be adopted around Halloween for fear that they may be tortured or sacrificed.
  23. More candy is sold on October 28th than any other day of the year. The top five candy selling days of the year are all in October. 
  24. Finally, your ghost costume isn't authentic unless you poop in it. Seriously, ghosts are believed to keep the same form they had at death and a side effects of death is involuntary defecation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Hallows Eve!

Today we spent our second day with nothing to do as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  I heard from my sister, who lives on the Jersey shore, she fared well despite some minor flooding.  My other sister who lives on Long Island, near my father lost the siding off of one side of her house.  Both she and my father are without power.  My NJ sister and I never lost power, amazingly.  Thanks PEPCO!

Saturday evening was Halloween Family Fun Night at LBA's school.  As you can see, he is Indiana Jones and SoBA is Superman, costumes that will be donned again tomorrow evening when we head out Trick-or-Treating.

Today we opted to have some friends over for the unexpected federal holiday.  Chili for everyone, hot dogs for the boys.  We spent some time talking about our Thanksgiving plans, which will take place at the beach this year.  We are looking forward to the weekend.

I ventured out to see what had become of the neighborhood(s) and went to the grocery store.  While there was still nary a D battery to be had anywhere - I did manage to get some perishable items, which I had resisted buying over the weekend for the anticipated loss of power.

We did have a tree come down in the backyard, crushing a section of fence in the back corner of the yard - and the grill skittered about 3 feet across the deck.  Other than that - we had no damage.  I am thinking of my friends and family in the New York / New Jersey region and hope they all fared as well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Recipe!

Today is a Hurricane Day as the northeast prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.  The Washington DC Metro system has shut down for the entire day for the first time ever.  The Federal government is closed as are most, if not all of the school districts in the area.  It is going to be a wild ride for the next 24-48 hours.

Mrs. BA made cupcakes yesterday using up the eggs in the house - she's going to make another hurricane dessert treat today - as long as the power holds.  I've moved our pumpkins off the porch so we can hopefully get to carving them in preparation for Halloween.  One of the primary benefits of having pumpkins is to be able to have roasted pumpkin seeds.

Here's a basic recipe.  We often will make a batch that is sprinkled with old bay on them, too.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • One medium sized pumpkin 
  • Salt 
  • Olive oil 

  1. Cut open the pumpkin by cutting a circle around the stem end, and pulling off the top. Use a strong metal spoon to scrape the insides of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the mass of pumpkin seeds in a colander and run under water to rinse and separate the seeds from the everything else. 
  2. Measure the pumpkin seeds in a cup measure. Place the seeds in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to the pan for every half cup of pumpkin seeds. Add more salt if you would like your seeds to be saltier. Bring the salted water and pumpkin seeds to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil, about a tablespoon. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan in a single layer. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 5-20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. Small pumpkin seeds may toast in around 5 minutes or so, large pumpkin seeds may take up to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the pumpkin seeds so they don't get over toasted. When nicely browned, remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack. Let the pumpkin seeds cool all the way down before eating. Either crack to remove the inner seed (a lot of work and in my opinion, unnecessary) or eat whole.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh, Sandy

So I spent today cleaning gutters and "battening down my hatches."  Yesterday after returning from a conference in Richmond, I went to the grocery store to get some provisions.  Of course, there was nary a D battery to be had anywhere.  I did manage to get some water - although the big bottles were being snatched up as soon as they came out of the box.

There seems to be some weird symmetry with my attending professional meetings and natural disasters - last year I was in Chicago for the DC earthquake and then came home early in advance of Hurricane Irene.  Now it's Hurricane Sandy, which is evidently to be transformed into "Frankenstorm" when it combines with a front racing across from the west.

My sister now lives in southern New Jersey and is poised to get the lion's share of the storm.  My other sister and father are on Long Island where there is also expected to be flooding and high winds.  It has just been announced that the federal government will be closed tomorrow - so the event that I was in charge of will have to be rescheduled.  Oh well.

The question is "do I have enough beer?"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

10 Things About "Red Dawn"

You may have heard one of the greatest pieces of cinematic history has been remade and will be in theaters next month.

In the remake, the Russians and the Cubans have been replaced by the North Koreans.  But I am sure it can't be as good as the original.  Right?

Here are 10 things you may not have known about the original "Red Dawn"
  1. Red Dawn was the first movie to receive a PG-13 rating.
  2. At the time, Red Dawn held the Guinness Book of World Records award for most acts of violence in a film. 134 per hour or approximately 2.23 per minute.
  3. The original script treatment was based off the short story "Ten Soldiers". It was intended to be less action oriented and more of a "Lord of the Flies" introspective look on the aggressive nature of man. 
  4. While the film takes place in Colorado, it was shot on location outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
  5. The prop T-72 Russian tanks were so convincing they were shadowed by CIA officers while in transit to the shooting location.
  6. Jennifer Grey revealed that her character and Patrick Swayze's had a love scene but for one reason or another it was scrapped in post-production.
  7. Red Dawn was Charlie Sheen's big screen debut.
  8. While shooting the opening sequence, parachutist Jon Fisher was blown over a mile off course. Caught in a tree outside a small town, he had a hard time convincing the locals that he was not a threat, declaring "I am NOT a Russian soldier!" 
  9. A poster of Genghis Khan on the classroom wall in the beginning of the movie is actually director John Millus.
  10. A scene from the trailer showing soldiers attacking the enemy inside a McDonald's was left on the cutting room floor. Many believe this was due to the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre that left 22 dead weeks before the film released.

Friday, October 26, 2012

MARAC Fall 2012 Meeting

Today is the first full day of the Fall 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) meeting here in Richmond, VA.  MARAC was last in Richmond eleven (!) years ago.  At this meeting, the conference is celebrating its 40th Anniversary / Birthday!

I came down to the meeting yesterday with that guy Ed from Pittsburgh.  He and I (and another colleague) celebrated MARAC's birthday by playing a little golf.  Once we got to the hotel - it was committee meetings for the remainder of the day.  Today is sessions and a reception this evening. Tomorrow the meeting will have its last session, business meeting and then I will head home.  At the business meeting, I will be presenting on the recent membership survey that was conducted.

I am grateful to the individual who agreed to drive me home - as Ed in Pittsburgh, while he came to the launchpad on Wednesday evening and then drove me here on Thursday morning, is not heading back through the DC area on his way home.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Washington - #42, November 11, 1889

The state that is named for our first President was explored by by Spanish, American, and British explorers - Bruno Heceta for Spain in 1775, the American Captain Robert Gray in 1792, and Captain George Vancouver for Britain in 1792–1794. Lewis and Clark completed their westward journey through the Columbia River region and coastal areas. Rival American and British settlers and conflicting territorial claims threatened war in the early 1840s. However, in 1846 the Oregon Treaty set the boundary at the 49th parallel and war was averted.

Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee, built for a variety of purposes including irrigation, power, flood control, and water storage.  The state is also home to Mount St. Helens, a peak in the Cascade Range, which erupted in May 1980.  The state has the largest ferry system in the United States and it also ranks third in the world.

The current Governor of Washington is Democrat Christine Gregoire.  Both Senators for Washington are Democratic women, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. The  Congressional delegation has eight members currently, with one vacancy in the first district, leaving it equally split ideologically, 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans - Jay Inslee, who resigned from the 1st District is a Democrat.  He resigned his seat to focus on his run for Governor.
  • State Capital - Olympia
  • Largest city - Seattle
  • Date of Admission - November 11, 1889
  • Area - 71,300 sq mi (18th) 
  • Population (2011 est.) - 6,830,038 (13th) 
  • State Motto - "Alki" "By and By" 
  • State Nickname - The Evergreen State
  • State bird - willow goldfinch
  • State fish - steelhead trout
  • State flower - pink rhododendron
  • State fruit - apple
  • State vegetable - Walla Walla sweet onion
  • State gem - petrified wood (really.)
  • State tree - western hemlock
  • State University - The University of Washington
  • Washington State Archives 
  • The Washington State Historical Society 
Prominent Washingtonians - (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two - there's evidently a lot of doodling and singing going on up there in Washington State)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy United Nations Day!

Today is United Nations Day, the day in which the UN Charter came into effect, with the ratification and signatures of the majority of its original members.

I have a long history with the United Nations.  I spent many days on the UN tour of the New York City campus, shepherding girl scouts and girl guides through the buildings.  It was always fun to - at the conclusion of the tour - send a postcard from the UN post office, which by agreement is on international territory, despite being in the middle of New York City.

In high school, I was a member of the Model United Nations club - and spent time traveling to Model UN conferences at various colleges and universities, where our members would be assigned a country and given a role to debate at various meetings of the bodies of the UN.

At one conference, held at Yale University, one of my classmates was assigned as the United States representative to the Security Council.  In the middle of the night, with the approval of the teacher / chaperons, the students were awakened in the middle of the night with the scenario that East and West Germany had reunified (before they actually did so), re-armed themselves, and were preparing to march across Europe again.  The Security Council needed to meet in emergency session to resolve the crisis.

The following year, I, and another classmate, were serving as the Soviet Union's representatives to the Security Council.  We filled our role very well - vetoing things that came up for a vote that were not in the best interests of the Soviet Union.  Then we broke for lunch.  Both of us were delayed getting back from lunch and the rest of the Security Council drafted and passed a resolution kicking the Soviets out of Afghanistan and other areas where Soviet troops were stationed and levied sanctions against the USSR.  Needless to say - we didn't win any awards at the conference that year.

At my first archives job, working for the Rockefeller Archive Center, I learned more about the Rockefeller connection to the United Nations.  Nelson Rockefeller was heavily involved in the UN Conference in San Francisco in 1945, and was responsible for keeping the nations of Latin America at the conference, when they threatened to walk out.  Of course, it was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. - Nelson's father - who donated the land in New York City for the headquarters of the UN.

Later, while working at the International Monetary Fund Archives, I led a committee of staff from the IMF and the World Bank to create an exhibition on the Bretton Woods Conference, from which the IMF and the Bank were created as a financial counterpoint to the United Nations.  The exhibition still lives, virtually and can be seen here.

I am leaning toward a new Thursday series for 2014, which will be devoted to the countries of the world- as defined by the UN Member States (currently at 193 members).  Look for it starting in January 2014!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Can We Go Out to Eat?"

The title of this post is a frequent request of LBA and SoBA (they come by it honestly - I used to say the same thing to my mother all the time).  The Brave Astronaut clan doesn't eat out a lot - Friday is always pizza movie night of course - but that's take out.  We eat out maybe a couple of times a month.

On Thursday, I will travel to Richmond, VA for the Fall 2012 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.  I will be on official travel so I will have a per diem to help with expenses for food.  Luckily none of the restaurants on the list below are in the capital city of the Commonwealth. And hey, what's up with Chicago? For the record, I have been to none of these restaurants.

The 25 Most Expensive Restaurants in America

#10.  Everest, Chicago (Average check: $546 / Cuisine: French / Prix fixe price: $110)

#9.   Daniel, New York City (Average check: $547 / Cuisine: French / Prix fixe price: $108)

#8.  Les Nomades, Chicago (Average check: $558 / Cuisine: French / Prix fixe price: $130)

#7.  Tru, Chicago (Average check: $558 / Cuisine: American Noveau / Prix fixe price: $145)

#6.  Melisse, Los Angeles (Average check: $576 / Cuisine: American Noveau / Prix fixe price: $150)

#5.  Charlie Trotter's, Chicago (Average check: $666 / Cuisine: American Noveau / Prix fixe price: $160)

#4.  Alinea, Chicago (Average check: $736 / Cuisine: American Noveau / Prix fixe price: $210)

#3.  Michael Mina, San Francisco (Average check: $844 / Cuisine: American Noveau / Prix fixe price: $115 (Tasting Menu))

#2.  Per Se, New York City (Average check: $883 / Cuisine: French / Prix fixe price: $295)

#1.  The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif. (Average check: $957 / Cuisine: French / Prix fixe price: $270)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beer Braised Chicken and Onions

I would so eat this.  It actually sounds like a bachelor-made up meal.  "Hey, I've got some chicken, an old onion, and some beer.  Hmm.  Let's see what happens."

From Simply Recipes (another good indicator it could be from a man-cave)

Beer Braised Chicken and Onions
What beer you use matters. Dark beers tend to be more full bodied and malty and sweet. They will work well in this stew. Hoppy beers like IPA or pale ale are too bitter for this stew and should be avoided. For this recipe we've used Moylan's Kilt Lifter, a Scottish ale, and also Ommegang Abbey Ale. A soft Belgian beer like Flanders Red or one of the Chimay beers would also be ideal. 

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 chicken thighs, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • Salt 
  • 3 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick, root to stem, about 6-8 cups sliced 
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme 
  • 2 Tbsp smooth Dijon mustard 
  • 1 1/2 cups dark beer 
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and set them skin side down in the butter. Salt the meat side lightly. Brown the chicken on both sides well. Remove the browned thighs from the pan and set aside in a bowl. 
  2. The chicken skin has likely rendered quite a bit of fat. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan, taking care to not discard any of the tasty browned bits. (Note, do not discard the fat down the drain, you may clog your plumbing. Pour off into a jar.) Lower the heat to medium and add the sliced onions to the pan. If you want, sprinkle brown sugar over the onions. This is optional. The added sugar will intensify the natural sweetness of the onions. Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes. 
  3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, mustard, 2 teaspoons of salt, and beer to the onions. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken thighs and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. 
  4. Cook covered for 45 minutes, then uncover the pot and simmer well until the liquid is greatly reduced and the meat wants to fall off the bone, between 45 minutes and 1 hour. If you are using unsalted or low sodium stock, you will likely need to add more salt. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste. Serve over egg noodles or with rice or potatoes. 
Yield: Serves 6-8.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


As most of you dear readers know, I am an archivist and when I worked primarily on paper collections, one of my responsibilities was to remove staples, and rusting paper clips from the paper to aid in their long-term preservation.

Some time ago, I spotted an article in my Reader about a new paper clip from ACCO Brands.  The article reports "though the U.S. long ago ceded manufacturing of such items as cellphones and computers to lower-cost producers, it still prevails in paper clips. Most of the estimated 11 billion sold each year in the U.S. are made domestically. But innovation has become rare."  While no one was out there clamoring for a redesign of the lowly paper clip - "the two main U.S. makers - ACCO and Officemate International Corporation of Edison, N.J. - have survived in that business mainly because, since 1994, import tariffs ranging up to 127% of the base price have protected U.S. clip makers from what the federal government deemed unfair Chinese competition. In June, the U.S. government renewed those tariffs for another five years. ACCO and Officemate also have kept costs low through automation."

Paper clips of course, do not just keep papers together.  "Others report using clips to hang Christmas tree ornaments (been there), clean pipes (done that) and unclog tubes of glue (got glue on the t-shirt). Some bend clips while talking on the phone, then flip them into the trash. Certain types of shredders have been made tough enough to digest all the clips office workers toss out with stacks of old paper."

While I am an archivist and will continue to protect paper from rusting metal - for many, the difference is lost on them - they think I am a librarian.  And it leads to some interesting looks, when they think I say "anarchist." Here's an "Open Letter to the Look that Slowly Forms on your Face When I Tell You I am a Librarian" (from McSweeney's)

An Open Letter to the Look That Slowly Forms On Your Face When I Tell You I Am a Librarian
by Becca Brody

Dear Look That Slowly Forms On Your Face When I Tell You I Am a Librarian:

The raised eyebrows and intake of breath fool no one. As a librarian, I am well aware that most people do not find my job an interesting topic of conversation at a neighborhood barbecue, music festival or, to use a more keenly relevant example, the cocktail party we both attended last Friday night. 

I believe that those four minutes we spent together, both holding a glass of shiraz in one hand and crumpled up napkins in the other, created a camaraderie that allow me to offer a few delicate suggestions. While at no time did your lips actually curl downward into a grimace, the frozen, dare I say stricken, look you chose to accompany my declaration of career halted our conversation before it even began.

It’s true that reactions to my occupation tend to fall into two camps. The first group registers immediate delight with a laugh and smile and a squealed “I love librarians!” followed by a request for assistance finding a favorite childhood book that had pictures of cats or rabbits and probably had a blue cover, or maybe red. That I can’t help them (because my job involves database administration and website creation, not children’s books) doesn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm, because they had a great librarian in school once. 

Members of the other camp (this means you) pause just a bit too long. Their faces blank out, and maybe their heads lurch back just a touch as the eyes search for something or someone else to latch onto. This is not so bad. I too have stood next to a woman at a party and had absolutely no idea what follow up question would be appropriate. What do you ask someone who did something unpronounceable for a municipal water system? Blanking out is a known risk at cocktail parties and schmoozing events of all types and is not in itself a reason for despair. 

It’s what happens next that, to me, is unforgivable. It’s when your eyes light up ever so slightly, that bemused, faraway look coalesces, and you turn to me and say: 

“How ‘bout that Dewey Decimal System?” 

At that moment, you look so proud of yourself. You believe you have found a clever way out of cocktail party purgatory. You look almost hopeful, as if the conversation has been saved. But let me explain to your smug visage what has just happened: you have ruined it for everyone. 

Because now I have two options: I can spend a few minutes boring both of us by explaining how that system has been superseded in academic libraries by the Library of Congress system and how I never learned Dewey because I am not a public or school librarian (thereby confirming that, indeed, librarians have no sense of humor) or I can laugh as if I have never heard that comment before and say “I know, right? It’s really confusing.” Then one of us can scramble around for a follow-up. In either case your face blanks out again, and it is only a matter of seconds before one of us makes a desperate excuse and runs off to get more canapés. 

Next time, might I suggest a smile and a simple “How do you enjoy your work?” 

All the best, 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday's List: Political Dynasties

I came across this list, which dovetails nicely with the States of the Union series that is approaching its conclusion.  Agree?  Disagree?  Post comments.  From the Washington Post, The Fix column.
  • Alabama – The Folsoms and the Wallaces - Former governor Jim Folsom Jr. is the son of former governor Jim Folsom. The elder Folsom was an uncle (by marriage) to former governor George Wallace and his wife, Lurleen Wallace, who also served two years as governor. 
  • Alaska — The Murkowskis - Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) isn’t the first in her family to hold the title of senator. Her father Frank Murkowski’s tenure in the upper chamber spanned three decades. From the Senate, the elder Murkowski went to the governor’s mansion, where he served from 2002-2006 (and lost a primary in 2006 to none other than Sarah Palin). 
  • Arizona – The Udalls - The Udalls have their tentacles all over the West, with members of the family serving as senators from New Mexico (Democrat Tom Udall), Colorado (Democrat Mark Udall) to Oregon (Republican former senator Gordon Smith) and now Utah (freshman Republican Sen. Mike Lee). But it all started in Arizona, where Udalls have provided two mayors of Phoenix, four state legislators, two state Supreme Court justices and a U.S. secretary of the interior.
  • Arkansas – The Pryors - Sen. Mark Pryor (D) followed in his father’s footsteps when he was elected to the Senate in 2002. David Pryor served three terms in the upper chamber before retiring in 1997. Before that, he was a governor and a congressman. Mark Pryor made the jump to the Senate after serving as state attorney general. 
  • California – The Browns - Here’s a family that knows a thing or two about serving in statewide office in the biggest state. Current Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is serving his second stint in the state’s top job (he was governor from 1975-1983, and thrice ran for president). Jerry Brown’s father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, also served as governor, and his sister Kathleen Brown was a state treasurer in the early 1990s. 
  • Colorado – The Adamses - Alva Adams was governor in the late 1800s, and his brother William held the same title during the Great Depression. Around the same time, Alva’s son, Alva B. Adams, was a senator.
  • Connecticut – The Ingersolls - The Ingerolls also have ties to Pennsylvania, but Charles R. Ingersoll served as governor of Connecticut, while two other Ingersolls served in Congress from Connecticut (Ralph and Colin) and held other high-profile posts, including as envoys to Russia. 
  • Delaware – The Rodneys - Two governors (Daniel and Caleb), a senator (Caesar Augustus), two congressman (Thomas and George), and one man who was both “president” of Delaware and a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Caesar) all descended from William Rodney and shared his last name. 
  • Florida – The Macks - There was a reason that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) immediately excelled in the polls when he launched his Senate campaign: name recognition. The Mack name is well-known and well-respected in the Sunshine State. Mack’s father, Connie Mack III (officially Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy III ) served as a senator and congressman. The younger Mack’s wife is Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), and his great-grandfather is baseball Hall-of-Famer Connie Mack. 
  • Georgia – The Russells - Richard Russell Jr. and his nephew by marriage, Ernest Vandiver, both served as governor. Richard’s father of the same name was chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and Richard Jr.’s brother Robert and son, Robert Jr., both served as appeals court judges. 
  • Hawaii – The Farringtons - Territorial Hawaii governor Wallace Farrington was the father of Joe Farrington, who along with his wife, Betty, served as congressional delegates from the state in the 1940s and ’50s. Joe Farrington is credited with bringing Hawaii its statehood, earning the nickname “Statehood Joe.”
  • Idaho – The Churches and Clarks - Longtime Democratic senator Frank Church, who served in the Senate from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, headed up the eponymous Church Committee, which investigated abuses in the U.S. intelligence agencies. He also ran for president in 1976. His father-in-law, Chase Addison Clark, and Clark’s brother Barzilla Clark, both served as governor.
  • Illinois – The Stevensons - The Stevenson family’s political history has roots in the 19th century. Adlai Stevenson served as vice president in the Grover Cleveland administration and was also postmaster general and a congressman. Adlai Stevenson II served as governor and ambassador to the United Nations, wining the Democratic nomination for president in 1952 and 1956, and Adlai Stevenson III was a senator.
  • Indiana – The Hendrickses - While Stevenson was vice president in Cleveland’s second term, Thomas Hendricks served in that role in his first term, and also as governor and senator. His uncle William Hendricks held the latter two titles as well, and the family includes several state legislators.
  • Iowa – The Culvers - When Democrat Chet Culver ran for governor in 2006, he had the benefit of a well-known last name in Iowa, as his father John Culver had served as a senator. The younger Culver, who spent eight years as secretary of state before ascending to the governor’s mansion, lost to Republican Terry Branstad in 2010 amid a bleak economic outlook in the state.
  • Kansas – The Dockings - George Docking and son Robert Docking both served as governor, just six years apart. Robert’s son Thomas was also lieutenant governor in the 1980s but failed to win the top office in 1988. Thomas’s wife, Jill, was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Senate in 1996.
  • Kentucky – The Chandlers - Rep. Ben Chandler (D), who faces a competitive reelection bid this cycle, is not the first in his family to have been bitten by the political bug. His grandfather A.B. “Happy” Chandler – great political name – was a governor, senator and even commissioner of Major League Baseball.
  • Louisiana – The Longs - Where to begin? Everyone knows Huey Long, who served as governor and senator before his assassination in 1935. His brother Earl was also governor and his wife, Rose, was appointed senator after Huey’s death. Huey and Rose’s son, Russell, served four decades as senator until 1987, while three other relatives served as members of Congress in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. That’s 60 years of political domination.
  • Maine – The Chandlers and the Hales - John Chandler was a senator in the 1820s, and his brother Thomas joined Congress when he left. Later, relatives Eugene Hale and Frederick Hale both served decades as senators, while Rodney Chandler served as congressman from Washington state.
  • Maryland — The D’Alesandros and the Pelosis - Most people would associate House Minority Leader and former speaker Nancy Pelosi with the state of California, where she represents a liberal San Francisco-based district. But she was born in Baltimore, where her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., served as mayor. So did her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III. The elder D’Alesandro also served in Congress. Pelosi’s daughter Christine works in politics as a Democratic strategist.
  • Massachusetts – The Kennedys - Really, there is no family in politics with such widespread name recognition. From John F. Kennedy to Robert F. Kennedy to Ted Kennedy, the family has been a fixture in the Democratic Party for decades. When Patrick Kennedy stepped down from his congressional seat in Rhode Island in 2011, it was the first time in 63 years that Washington was without a Kennedy serving in elected office. Joe Kennedy III, who is a virtual lock in Massachusetts’ 4th district next month, should make sure that absence is short-lived.
  • Michigan – The Dingells - John Dingell Sr. and John Dingell Jr. have held a seat in Congress since 1933, with the latter Dingell now in his 57th year in Congress – the third-longest congressional tenure in history. His son, Christopher, is a former state senator and circuit court judge, and his wife, Debbie, is a Democratic National Committeewoman. Either could run to succeed him and keep the seat Dingell.
  • Minnesota – The Humphreys - Hubert Humphrey was mayor of Minneapolis, senator, vice president and the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968. His wife, Muriel, was appointed senator upon his death in 1978, his son Skip is a former state attorney general who ran for governor, and his grandson Buck has been rumored as a potential statewide candidate.
  • Mississippi – The Johnsons - Paul Johnson was governor in the 1940s, his son Paul Johnson Jr. was governor in the 1960s, and grandson Pete Johnson was state auditor in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
  • Missouri – The Carnahans - The Carnahan family’s political roots in Missouri can be traced back to A.S.J. Carnahan, who served as a congressman in the 1940s. He was the father of the late governor Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash just three weeks before Election Day in 2000, when he ran against then-Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan won the race posthumously, and his wife, Jean Carnahan, went on to serve in the seat for two years. A decade after her father’s campaign, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan – sister of Rep. Russ Carnahan – ran for Senate but lost in a Republican wave year. And Russ Carnahan lost a primary to Rep. Lacy Clay earlier this year.
  • Montana – The Williamses - Longtime former congressman Pat Williams’s wife, Carol, is state Senate minority leader, and Carol’s father, Vern Griffith, was mayor of Butte, Mont.
  • Nebraska – The Weavers - Former governor Arthur Weaver was the son of a congressman (Archibald) and the father of a congressman (Phillip) and an ambassador (Arthur Jr.).
  • Nevada – The Reids - No political discussion about Nevada is complete without mention of the vaunted “Reid machine” – the driver of Democratic politics in the state. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is the state’s most powerful pol, and he keeps close tabs on what happens back home. In 2010, there were two Reids on the statewide ballot, when Rory Reid, an attorney and son of the Democratic leader, waged a bid for governor. He lost badly, but his father survived what once looked like long odds when he defeated tea party favorite Sharron Angle (R).
  • New Hampshire – The Sununus - John H. Sununu served as governor in the 1980s and later went on to the White House, where he was George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. His son, John E. Sununu, served in both the House and Senate. The elder Sununu has been among Mitt Romney’s most vocal surrogates this year.
  • New Jersey – The Frelinghuysens - Here’s a political family with roots that extend back to the 18th century, when Frederick Frelinghuysen served as a senator from New Jersey. Three more Frelinghuysens served as senators, with one of them – Frederick T. Frelinghuysen – also serving as U.S. Secretary of State. Current Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) is the son of another congressman, Peter Frelinghuysen.
  • New Mexico – The Lujáns - The Lujáns include current Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D) and former state health secretary Michelle Luján Grisham (D), who is about to join him in Congress. Ben Ray’s father, Ben, was speaker of the state House, and Michelle’s grandfather, Eugene, was chief justice of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a distant Republican relative, Manuel Luján, served as a longtime congressman and later as U.S. secretary of the interior, and his father of the same name was mayor of Santa Fe.
  • New York – The Roosevelts - Yes, New York has the Cuomos and the Rockefellers and many other political families. But how can you beat a family with two presidents and a beloved first lady? Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was actually a distant cousin of Franklin’s and a niece of Theodore Roosevelt.
  • North Carolina – The Scotts - Kerr Scott was a governor and senator in the 1950s, his son Bob was governor in the early ’70s, and Bob’s daughter Meg Scott Phipps was state agriculture commissioner before her conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003. Kerr’s father and brother also served in the state assembly.
  • North Dakota – The Burdicks - Longtime former senator Quentin Burdick was the son of former congressman Usher Burdick, and Quentin’s wife, Jocelyn, was appointed to his seat when he died in 1992. Usher’s son-in-law, Robert Levering, was also a congressman from Ohio.
  • Ohio – The Tafts - The most famous Taft is the William Howard Taft, who is the only person to serve as both president and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The president’s son and grandson – Robert A. Taft and Robert Taft Jr. – were both senators, and his great-grandson, Bob Taft, served as governor of Ohio for two terms last decade. The Tafts are also tied to the Chafees of Rhode Island through marriage.
  • Oklahoma – The Borens - Retiring Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is the son of former governor and senator David Boren and the grandson of former congressman Lyle Boren.
  • Oregon – The Robertses - Former governor Barbara Roberts and former state labor commissioner Mary Wendy Roberts left office in the mid-1990s, ending a streak of three decades during which a Roberts was in public office. Barbara’s husband and Mary’s father, Frank, was a longtime state senator. Frank’s second wife, Betty, who kept the Roberts name after their divorce in 1965, was also a state legislator and later a state supreme court justice.
  • Pennsylvania – The Muhlenbergs - This dynasty spans more than two centuries and includes the first speaker of the U.S. House (Frederick Muhlenberg), former senator Peter Muhlenberg, four members of Congress and governor with a different last name, John Shulze.
  • Rhode Island – The Chafees - Voters returned Republican-turned-independent former senator Lincoln Chafee to statewide office in 2010, electing him governor in a hard-fought three-way race. Chafee’s father, John Chafee, was a Republican senator, and the political gene appears to go back even further: Lincoln Chafee’s great-great grandfather Henry Lippitt, served as governor in the late 19th century.
  • South Carolina – The Rutledges - Former South Carolina president/governor and U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Rutledge was the brother of another governor, Edward Rutledge, and father to a congressman, John Rutledge Jr.
  • South Dakota – The Herseths - Former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) is the granddaughter of two former statewide officeholders, former governor Ralph Herseth and former secretary of state Lorna Herseth.
  • Tennessee – The Gores - Former vice president Al Gore followed in his father, Al Gore Sr.’s, footsteps to the House and the Senate, where he served for eight years before beginning his tenure in the Clinton administration. Gore, of course, was also the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000.
  • Texas – The Bushes - Another family with two presidents. George W. Bush was governor of Texas before moving up to the White House. His father, former president George H.W. Bush, was a congressman from Texas for two terms in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Bush family’s political reach isn’t confined to the Lone Star State, of course; Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, and family patriarch Prescott Bush (George H.W. Bush’s father) was a senator from Connecticut.
  • Utah – The Mathesons - Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D) father, Scott Matheson, was governor of Utah, and his brother, Scott Jr., was a candidate for governor in 2004, losing to Jon Huntsman.
  • Vermont – The Kidders - The Kidder family spans several Northeastern states, but it includes five former Vermont state legislators (Lyman, Joseph, Ira, Francis and Jefferson), and Jefferson later served as lieutenant governor. All served in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
  • Virginia – The Byrds - The most recent Byrd was the longtime senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, but the family’s roots are in Virginia. Harry F. Byrd and Harry F. Byrd Jr. served five consecutive decades in the Senate, and Harry Sr. was also a governor. Harry Sr.’s uncles were both congressmen with the last name Flood (Henry and Joel). The Byrd family even includes two men who served in the state House of Burgesses before independence.
  • Washington – The Minors and the Moriartys - By far the least dynastic dynasty on this list. The Minors include former Seattle mayor Thomas Taylor Minor and his grandson, two-decade congressman Thomas Minor Pelly. They are joined by marriage to the Moriartys, a family that includes a former U.S. attorney named Charles Moriarty and his son, a state legislator of the same name.
  • West Virginia – The Manchins - Former governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) uncle was secretary of state and treasurer. And the senator’s wife is involved in politics, too; Gayle Manchin was elected vice president of the state Board of Education in 2011.
  • Wisconsin – The La Follettes - This name is all over the history books in Wisconsin, with members including two senators (Robert Jr. and Robert, who also served as governor), another governor (Phillip) and a state attorney general (Bronson). A distant relative, Doug La Follette, has now served more than three decades as secretary of state.
  • Wyoming – The Simpsons - Former senator Alan Simpson (R) is the best-known of the family. He burst back onto the national scene in 2010 when he was tapped to co-chair the president’s bipartisan debt commission. Simpson’s father, Milward, was a senator and governor, and his son, Colin, is a former state House speaker who lost a bid for governor in 2010.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Attending a Reception

Tomorrow morning the Brave Astronaut clan is hitting the road for North Carolina.  My nephew got married some time back and his new wife's parents are throwing a party in their honor tomorrow night.  It should be fun.

My sister, father, and his girlfriend are making the trip down from New York.  My other sister (my nephew's mother), her husband, and their other two boys will be there of course.  Also making the trip are at least two of my cousins, who I haven't seen in probably 15 years.

My grandmother used to have a big house in Maine - where the three branches of the family (my father, his brother, and sister) would appear for periods over the course of the summer.  I used to see them fairly frequently growing up - but it has been hard as adults for us to connect (other than virtually on the Innertubes).  It will be really great to see them!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Montana - #41, November 8, 1889

We have arrived at the third state included in the bill that admitted the two Dakotas and the state of Washington (spoiler alert: Washington is next week!).  The major Indian Wars (1867–1877) included the famous 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn, better known as “Custer's Last Stand,” in which Cheyenne and Sioux defeated George A. Custer and more than 200 of his men in southeast Montana.  Here's an interesting fact, Montana and South Dakota are the only states to share a land border which is not traversed by a paved road.

Montana is the only one of the contiguous states that does not have a battleship named after it.  The planned Montana battleship class.  However the USS Montana and the sister ships were never built.  Of course, this makes me think of "I would like to have seen Montana." 

The current Governor of Montana is Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat.  Both Senators for Montana are Democrats, although Jon Tester has quite the fight on his hands in his reelection.  The other Senator is Max Baucus. Another sparsely populated state, Montana also has only an At-Large Congressional delegate, Republican Dennis Rehberg.  In 1916, the state became the first to elect a woman to Congress and was one of the first states to give women voting rights.

  • State Capital - Helena
  • Largest city - Billings
  • Date of Admission - November 8, 1889
  • Area - 147,042 sq mi (4th) 
  • Population (2011 est.) - 998,199 (44th) 
  • State Motto - "Oro y plata" "Gold and silver"
  • State Nickname - the Treasure State
  • State animal - Grizzly bear
  • State bird - Western meadowlark
  • State fish - cutthroat trout
  • State flower - bitterroot
  • State tree - ponderosa pine
  • State University - The Montana University system is comprised of the University of Montana, Montana State University, and other smaller public colleges.
  • The Montana Historical Society 
Prominent Montanans - (here's a few lists to peruse, one, two, and a third - hey, it's a big state)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where's your Mother?

There's a great scene in Bill Cosby's "Himself" where he notes that he would sometimes wander about the house, with a look on his face, and exclaiming, "Where's your mother?"  Well, Mrs. BA was away overnight in New York, leaving me on my own with LBA and SoBA.  I'm usually in charge of the physical plant and operations.  Mrs. BA does personnel.  But I managed.  They're good boys.

Last night, which is usually reserved for brinner, we had "Mom's Beefaroni" which usually makes an appearance when Mrs. BA isn't around.  It's a man dish. I may have made sure they were in bed before 9 so I could be in front of the TV for the debate, too.  That's another thing that Mrs. BA doesn't watch - she wants to throw things at the TV.

I believe I noted that Mrs. BA and I recently painted the boys room.  I have to say I think it came out pretty nice.  It needs a little touch up here and there, but the long season of home improvement is underway.  We've been in the house 5 years now.  My goal(s) is to paint much of the interiors between now and next spring.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Abraham Lincoln fights slavery

From the "This Day in History" page-a-day calendar:

On this day in 1854, an obscure lawyer and Congressional hopeful from the state of Illinois named Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech regarding the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Congress had passed more than four months earlier.  In his speech, the future president denounced the act and outlined his views on slavery.  Under the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, two new territories - Kansas and Nebraska - would be allowed into the Union, and each territory's citizens would be given the power to determine whether slavery would be allowed within the territory's borders.  It was believed that the act would set a precedent for determining the legality of slavery in other new territories.  Controversy over the act influenced political races across the country that fall.  Abolitionists, like Lincoln, hoped to convince lawmakers in the new territories to reject slavery.

Next month, a new movie is coming out.  As most of you know, I'm a bit of a history geek.  I'll be first in line to see it.  In fact, there's talk of an official Brave Astronaut outing to see it as a group.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheddar Crusted Broccoli Soup

I would eat this.  From The English Kitchen via C in DC.

Cheddar Crusted Broccoli Soup
Serves 4
A well flavoured broccoli and cheese soup, topped with a rich and tasty Cheddar Cheese Crust!
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli, about 1 1/4 pounds, wash and trim, Chop into bits 
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped 
  • 3 TBS butter 
  • 5 cups well flavored vegetable broth 
  • 2 TBS Dijon mustard 
  • 1 cup double cream 
  • salt and black pepper to taste 
  • 8 ounces of shredded strong cheddar cheese (about 2 cups) 
For the crust: 
  • 2 large crusty rolls 
  • 6 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups) 
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and potato. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium low heat, without coloring, until the onions are softened. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft. Add the chopped broccoli. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 4 to 5 minutes, until the broccoli is crispy tender and has not lost it's color. Remove from the heat and puree, using a stick blender, or very carefully in a regular blender, until smooth.

Return the soup to the heat. Stir in the mustard, double cream and cheese. Cook and stir until the cheese melts. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed. Keep warm.

Heat the grill to high. Cut the ends off of each of your rolls and then cut the middles into two thick slices. Toast them on both sides under the grill.

Place four heavy soup bowls on an oven tray. You want bowls that will be safe under the grill. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls, dividing it equally amongst the four dishes. Float a slice of toasted bread on top of each, then sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese evenly over top, again dividing it equally amongst the four dishes.

Slide the tray with the filled soup bowls under the grill and grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Hockey and New York Sports Teams

It's Sunday October 14 and normally hockey season would be underway.  However, for the third time in about 20 years, the NHL owners and players are at odds - the owners have locked out the players - and there is no NHL.  The NHL has already canceled games through the end of this month.

I have at least one friend who, after the last strike (which canceled the entire season), stayed away from hockey for about five years.  She has said she might be done altogether this time.

Today I fully expected to tune in to watch the first game of the NLCS with the Washington Nationals taking on the San Francisco Giants.  Unfortunately, Friday night was a soul-crushing, mind-boggling defeat of the Nationals by the St. Louis Cardinals.  I still can't go into it without getting depressed, angry, upset.  But I still have my Natitude and we'll be back next year.

There is baseball still to watch, I suppose, although the Orioles were also defeated by the New York Yankees, though I was more prepared for that outcome.  The Yankees are now facing the Detroit Tigers and lost game 1 AND their captain, Derek Jeter, who broke his ankle in the 12th inning last night.

This leads me to a commentary on New York sports teams.

As most everyone knows, I was born and raised in New York.  I am a fan of the New York Rangers in hockey and the New York Yankees in baseball.  I have never been a huge football fan and I would usually tell people when asked to pick a team - it would be the Giants.

Since moving to Washington, I have been more involved with the teams that live and play here, obviously.  I fell hard for the Nationals and root for them religiously and will continue to do so.  My New York friends questioned how I could do that as a Yankees fan - I quickly responded that I could have a National League affiliation and an American League affiliation.  I presumed the two teams wouldn't meet in a World Series for a few more years (despite the possibility that existed this year, which vanished on Friday night).

I have been moving in the direction of rooting for the Washington Capitals more than the Rangers in recent years - as I explained to a friend, who is a lifelong Caps fan - I knew more about that team than the current Rangers.  The Rangers I knew and loved were the ones of my youth.  But of course, now with hockey iced for the foreseeable future - I am not sure what to do. 

I have been teased about my allegiance to the Yankees - the devil incarnate to some, well, many.  But I really believe in team loyalty, which is why I may be a half-hearted Yankee fan - I am an ardent fan of Derek Jeter, who has only ever worn pinstripes and will always wear pinstripes.  That other guy, who they paid all that money to and plays third base?  Not a Yankee (and probably won't be next year).  Players that have come to the Yankees for money (and sometimes fame) are not truly loyal to the team, like Jeter, DiMaggio, Maris, Gehrig.

I will continue to follow the Yankees and cheer their successes (which I don't think they will have this season, BTW).  But I will be a bigger fan of the Nationals going forward.  I may start to root for the Orioles a little more passionately - but that may take a change in ownership before that can really happen.

As to hockey - it appears I don't have a decision to make right now.  But if and when the season comes back - I will figure it out.  I will root for the Caps, because they're here and I will cheer their successes as well.  They're due for something great and it will be a fun ride to be a part of.  Those Rangers of my younger days have been at the top - and they may get there again someday.  My mother will haunt me if I turn my back on them altogether - so I'll keep an eye on the sports pages to see how they're doing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

List: 10 Things about "Stand By Me"

Today's list (comes from BuzzFeed) and features "10 Things You Didn’t Know About Stand By Me" - a really great movie and one that I will usually stop and watch if I come across it on TV.
  1. Corey Feldman and Rob Reiner tried out 30 different laughs before settling on the one Corey would use for Teddy.
  2. To help the kids stay in character Kiefer Sutherland would pick on them around the set. 
  3. Rob Reiner, an outspoken anti-smoking advocate, insisted that the kids' cigarettes be made of cabbage.
  4. David Dukes and Michael McKean were both cast as “The Writer” before Reiner eventually settled on Richard Dreyfuss.
  5. Rob Reiner had to berate Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell to get a terrified enough reaction. Neither kid was convincingly scared during the initial filming of the scene on the train tracks.
  6. The setting of the movie would become the name of Rob Reiner's production company - Castle Rock
  7. River Phoenix originally auditioned for the role of Gordie - Reiner (correctly) saw he'd make a better Chris. 
  8. The four boys were troublemakers at their hotel.  Wil Wheaton fixed the video games in the lobby so that they could play for free, the boys threw all of the pool furniture into the pool, and River Phoenix covered Kiefer Sutherland's car in mud. (Phoenix unfortunately didn't know it was Sutherland's car until an angry Kiefer confronted him. This may explain number 2.)
  9. Jerry O'Connell accidentally got very high. According to Kiefer Sutherland, there was a Renaissance Faire near one of their shooting locations. One day everyone went to the fair and bought cookies. Unfortunately people didn't realize they were pot cookies. They discovered Jerry O'Connell hours later high and crying. 
  10. Stand by Me was the first Adaptation that Stephen King really liked. King was famously disappointed in almost every single film adaptation of his work (most notably Kubrick's take on The Shining), but he loved Reiner's take on Stand By Me so much that Castle Rock has had the first crack at adapting all of King's work. (And did handle the adaptations of Shawshank Redemption and Misery).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fly! at Ford's Theatre

Tomorrow night I will be at Ford's Theatre for one of the last few performances of Fly!, based on the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.  If you haven't seen it yet and you are in the DC area - you should (hurry! you only have a week left - show closes October 21).

The next show on the Ford's lineup is the return of A Christmas Carol, with Edward Gero returning as Scrooge.  One of these years, I will bring LBA to this show - SoBA is still a few years away from this dark rendition of the Christmas classic.  Following A Christmas Carol, the Ford's stage will be transformed to Grover's Corner for Our Town.  So I will be sure to be crying when I'm watching that one.  The Spring musical this year at Ford's is Hello Dolly!

There is a plan afoot to go see My Fair Lady which is playing at another of Washington's theaters.  So i've got that going for me.

Finally, yesterday, a very special friend of mine celebrated her wedding anniversary and tomorrow she will celebrate her birthday!  She's been having a rough year, but indications are that she is on the mend - which is great, because I am looking forward to seeing her next year, when I travel to New Orleans for a conference in August.

So, if you have the chance go over to her website / blog ( hope she still sees checks in there) and wish a Happy Birthday to Lana!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

South Dakota - #40, November 2, 1889

South Dakota, the state that contains Mount Rushmore (see? it's right there on the flag) finds a huge portion of its revenue from tourism, generating over a billion dollars' worth of economic activity each year.  But it is also the second-largest producer of sunflower seed and oil in the nation.  Its Black Hills are the highest mountains east of the Rockies.

Other tourist attractions include the Badlands; the World's Only Corn Palace, in Mitchell; and the city of Deadwood, which was an awesome television series on HBO.

The current Governor of South Dakota is Dennis Daugaard (R).  The senior Senator for South Dakota is Democrat Tim Johnson and the junior Senator is John Thune, a Republican.  Like North Dakota, South Dakota has only one At-Large Congressional member, Republican Kristi Noem.

  • State Capital - Pierre
  • Largest city - Sioux Falls
  • Date of Admission - November 2, 1889
  • Area - 77,116 sq mi (17th) 
  • Population (2011 est.) - 824,082 (46th) 
  • State Motto - "Under God the people rule" 
  • State Nickname - the Mount Rushmore State; the Coyote State
  • State animal - coyote
  • State bird - ring-necked pheasant
  • State dessert - kuchen
  • State fish - walleye
  • State flower - American pasqueflower
  • State grass - Western wheat grass
  • State insect - honeybee
  • State tree - Black Hills spruce
  • State University - South Dakota State University is the largest university in the state while the University of South Dakota is the oldest.
  • North Dakota State Archives are part of the The South Dakota State Historical Society (like their relatives to the North)
Prominent South Dakotans - (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Being Left Handed

Yesterday's post revealed my allergy weaknesses.  Today, the Brave Astronaut shares with you that he is left handed.

I have long said that things my mother taught me to do - I do left handed (she was left handed).  Things I taught myself to do - I do right handed.  I play sports right handed, golf, bowl, baseball.  I eat with my right hand, I'm not one of those who cuts food with their left hand and then switches to eat with their left hand.  I use a knife right handed.

In my profession, I know more left-handed archivists.  I don't know what that says, but it says something.  I will also point out the President is left handed.  LBA is clearly right handed, but I still have hope for SoBA.

Some time ago, I spotted this list about left handedness.

#5 - We evidently die sooner.
Studies have shown that the number of left-handers who make it to old age is drastically lower than the number of their right-handed peers. In short, lefties tend to check out earlier. Why? Well, for one, lefties just have more accidents. Lots more accidents. One study surveying nearly 2,000 college students found that lefties report far more accidents than righties, especially car accidents. And another study of around 1,000 people living in Southern California showed that the risk of getting into a fatal accident was nearly six times higher if you were left-handed, and the risk of getting into a deadly car crash was four times higher. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was also found that right-handed people usually make it through nine more birthdays than left-handers.

So why are left-handed people so much more likely to kill themselves accidentally? Are they just fatally clumsy? Are they, as many cultures believe, such an affront to nature that nature actively seeks to destroy them? The most agreed upon explanation is that lefties get in more accidents simply because they're trying to maneuver in a world that's upside down and backward to them.

Probably the most notable example of dangerous right-bias is United States road laws -- we travel on the right side of the road, right-hand turns are acceptable on red lights and even parking lots are designed with the right-handed flow in mind. Imagine that you're driving to work during peak hours when a squirrel (most likely a right-handed squirrel) darts into the middle of the lane. If you're right-handed, your response is likely to swerve to the right, up onto the sidewalk, causing a potentially hilarious scene like hitting a fire hydrant. But if you're left-handed, you jerk the wheel left into oncoming traffic, resulting in a situation with far less comedy potential.

Southpaws also get sick more often, possibly due to left-handers' lopsided brain chemistry. Research done on "true" left-handers (excluding those fence-sitting ambidextrous types) showed that lefties were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from immune disorders and 2.3 times more likely to have been hospitalized at some point. It's not their fault -- the double curse of left-handedness and the risk of spending your life in a plastic bubble likely came from your mother stressing out during pregnancy. Ironically, she may have been stressing about the possibility of pushing out a left-handed freak of a kid.
 #4 - We're more likely to go insane.

Here's a fun fact that you can share on your next socially awkward date: Although left-handed people make up only 10 percent of the population as a whole, they compose a full 20 percent of schizophrenics. If you like those odds, you should know that left-handedness is also associated with dyslexia, ADD and some mood disorders.

Is it because all those right-handed can openers slowly drive them mad? Possibly. But Clyde Francks, a researcher at Oxford University, believes that it might have something to do with a newly discovered gene. Unimaginatively called LRRTM1, the gene is closely linked with left-handedness, as well as being related to increased odds of mental illness. You wouldn't think those two things would be related, but Francks believes the gene affects the symmetry of the brain.

You've heard about how different sides of the brain control different functions in the body -- scientists have known for a while that schizophrenia and other disorders are caused by a kind of confusion between the two about which side should handle what. Now they think that a similar glitch in brain symmetry is one reason people might favor their left hand over their right.

Metten Somers, a psychiatrist and brain researcher in the Netherlands, suggests that most of the left-handed population still have normal brain symmetry. It's the other 30 percent who are more likely to fling cats at passersby and scream at their dumpsters.

#3 - We're screwed in school
If you think about it, it's kind of surprising that left-handers are as emotionally balanced as they are. Right out of the box, left-handed kids realize the world wasn't quite made for them. At school, they do worse on timed exams and suffer awful back and neck cramps in the process. Why? Freaking right-handed desks. And scissors. And everything else.

If you're one of the 90 percent or so of people who were born right-handed, you probably weren't even aware that there was such a thing as a "right-handed desk," but in fact most school desks are biased toward right-handed people, forcing lefties to contort themselves uncomfortably in a desperate effort to reach across and take notes in our awkward left-to-right written language, their hand smudging everything they write, on a desk designed for their reflection.

There's no grand conspiracy involved -- left-handers just tend to fall through the cracks, being that there are so few of them. In a recent survey of left-handers in 50 different countries, the number of lefties who were ever taught how to operate as a left-hander in a right-handed world sits frequently around 10 percent -- everyone else just has to work it out on their own, until they finally try to drown the pain by spilling beer down their shirt from a right-handed beer mug.

And we're just barely kidding there -- pens, pencil sharpeners and other tools are also designed for the right hand, making life difficult (and even painful) for lefties. On computers, the mouse is set up on the right side. Interested in wood or metal shop? Be careful! The safety switches on all those spinning and stabbing blades are set up to be quickly accessible to right-handed people.

Of course, being a left-handed student in this day and age isn't as bad as it used to be in your grandparents' time, when teachers tried to solve the problem by beating left-handed kids with paddles. Still, it wasn't the worst thing they did to minorities.

#2 - We're more easily scared.
OK, so being left-handed can be a hazard to your physical and mental health. Can you at least be emotionally well-balanced? Come on, look at what website you're on. Do you really think we have good news for you here? Studies have shown that, if you're left-handed, you're twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

They did a study to test left- and right-handers on their tolerance for terrifying shit (because torturing people weaker than themselves seems to be all scientists do these days) and forced a test group to watch a gruesome eight minutes of The Silence of the Lambs. They then measured the emotional response. What they found was that reactions differed depending on which hand the subjects used to cover their eyes during the gory bits. Right-handers were usually able to recount details of the entire scene they just watched, while lefties were more likely to give fragmented accounts.

More surprising, left-handers actually tended to exhibit subtle symptoms of PTSD. That's right -- a disorder commonly suffered by first responders, combat veterans and escaped victims of serial killers actually began to emerge after watching eight minutes of a movie that isn't even a horror film so much as a taut psychological thriller.

According to the researchers, this is once again because of that left-and-right-brain thing. In left-handers, the right brain tends to be dominant, and you guessed it, that's also the side involved in the shit-your-pants response.

It gets even worse: Studies agree that the opposite-side dominance in lefties tends to make them more inhibited, spending hours making basic decisions and then worrying that they've made the wrong call. To test her theory, behavioral psychologist Lynn Wright of the University of Abertay Dundee conducted a series of behavioral inhibition tests on 46 left-handers and 66 right-handers. On the tests of restraint, both left-handed men and women scored higher than their right-handed counterparts, while on tests monitoring lack of inhibition, to the surprise of no one, the opposite held true.

The left-handed responders were also more likely to agree with statements such as "I worry about making mistakes," "Criticism hurts me quite a bit" and "This interrogation is making me shit myself with fear."
 #1 - We're evidently hated in popular culture
Left-handers in the Western World are kind of lucky that they only need to worry about annoyingly awkward tools. In certain parts of Africa, Europe and much of the Far East, it's actually offensive to do anything with your left hand besides wipe your ass. For this and other reasons, the left hand is considered unclean and carries a cultural stigma. This makes being left-handed especially perilous in social situations, since waving hello or (God forbid) trying to shake another's hand with your left is akin to dick-slapping them in the face.

Lefties also have to be careful not to use their left hand to give or accept gifts, eat, or pass food. If they forget, it's not uncommon to see their dinner partners gaping in abject horror, like they just passed them a steaming bowl of their own feces, which isn't far from the actual implication.

Even in countries without strict social codes for wiping, the language of the left has always had negative connotations. A backhanded compliment, when you deliver an insult disguised as flattery, is also known as a "left-handed compliment." Even the dictionary defines being left-handed as something that implies being "clumsy and awkward."

And this goes back a long way. The word "left" derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "lyft," which meant "weak." And "sinistra," the Latin for "left," is also where we get the word "sinister." "Gauche," which we use to refer to a social faux pas, is actually French for "left." And in the Akan language of Ghana, to say that someone has "slept on his left side" is a euphemism for death. Why do you think your partner in crime is your "right-hand man?" It's because the guy on your left can't be trusted.

With all this history to contend with, it would be better for you if, instead of being born left-handed, you were just born with a huge dick-shaped birthmark on your forehead.

If you're one of the 10 percent of the population who have become progressively more depressed reading all this, for obvious reasons, then you should know that there's an upside -- you're more likely to be president. Of the seven U.S. presidents since Nixon, only Carter and Bush Jr. were right-handed. So good luck, but don't get your hopes up!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Allergic Reactions

Tomorrow, LBA will see a new allergist.  We learned when he was just about 18 months old that he was allergic to peanuts.  I may have let him have a piece of my english muffin that had some peanut butter on it.  The tiniest morsel made it into his mouth and suddenly he was wheezing and flushed.  Off to the emergency room we went.  So he was indeed allergic to peanuts. When we went to the allergist is was also determined that he was also allergic to pistachios.  His allergies are slight - he can be around the nuts, he just can't eat them.  He knows this and knows to ask about things before he eats them.

To my knowledge, I have only one allergy - it's to penicillin.  As an infant, I was given penicillin and broke out in a roseola rash.  The family doctor decided it was easier to just declare I was allergic to penicillin and I haven't had it since then.

I read somewhere a while back about the "explosion" of childhood allergies and how it might have come from the exponential rise of anti-bacterial soaps and lotions.  It is believed that we are washing off some of the "good" bacterias that help us to fight off reactions to items that are introduced into our bodies.

Mrs. BA and I are hopeful that LBA grows out of his allergies (it appears that SoBA is not allergic to anything).  Let's see what the allergist says tomorrow.