Thursday, January 28, 2016

New Thursday Series: Signers of the Declaration of Independence

It's time for a new list series!  2008, I covered Presidents of the United States. In 2012, I did a series on the States of the Union.  In 2014 it was Countries of the World (UN Member States).  Here in 2016, when we will elect a new President in November, and to commemorate the 240th Anniversary of the Republic - I have chosen to look at the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Now those of you who have been paying attention will note there are only 52 weeks in a year - so 56 signers doesn't work out uniformly.  There was at least one signer from each of the 13 colonies - so one state a month doesn't work out either.  I guess I could do two at a time, which would amount to 28 weeks, which leaves some play in the calendar as well.  Well, I'll figure it out.  We could also abbreviate the run to coincide with Independence Day, some twenty-two weeks away.

Next week, I'll start with the Declaration Committee.  That will get five out of the way right off.  Any guesses before next week?  While you ponder that here's a list of "awesome founding father facts" from BuzzFeed.
  1. Two days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention threw a party where they consumed 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of porter, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 bottles of beer and 7 bowls of alcoholic punch.
  2. Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 – John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Pretty much everyone else signed it on August 2nd. 
  3. The Founding Fathers thought Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2nd. John Adams wrote a letter to his wife that said “the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable in the history of America.” 
  4. Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay encouraging scholars to find a method for “improving the odor of human flatulence.”
  5. At 16, Benjamin Franklin regularly published editorials under the guise of Ms. Silence Dogood, a middle-aged widow character he created. 
  6. Benjamin Franklin was not allowed to write the Declaration of Independence because everyone thought that he’s try to slip a joke into the document. 
  7. Benjamin Franklin wasn’t very good at math. Most of his experiments with electricity relied on trial and error.
  8. Benjamin Franklin coined a number of electrical terms we still use today. These terms include: battery, brush, charged, condense, conductor, plus, minus, positively and negatively. 
  9. Benjamin Franklin was an early supporter of abolishment. He tried to abolish slavery in 1790 with a petition to congress. 
  10. Benjamin Franklin enjoyed “air baths” – reading or writing in his house completely naked. 
  11. Benjamin Franklin thought the Bald Eagle was a bad national symbol because it was “a bird of bad moral character that does not get his living honestly.” 
  12. He felt the Turkey would be better because it was a “Bird of Courage”, and “would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards.” 
  13. Benjamin Franklin purposely misspelled “Pennsylvania” on the state’s currency. He did so to deter counterfeiters. 
  14. Benjamin Franklin thought America should use simplified English spellings. He said words such as “though,” “through,” and “night” should be spelled “tho,” “thru,” and “nite.”
  15. Benjamin Franklin was the first to bring tofu into America. 
  16. It’s said that about two-thirds of Philadelphia showed up for Benjamin Franklin’s funeral in 1790. 
  17. John Adams had a dog named Satan. Satan lived in the White House with the president. 
  18. John Adams was the only president from the first five to not hold any slaves. 
  19. Alexander Hamilton wasn’t born in the American colonies. He was born on the island Nevis in the West Indies.
  20. When he was orphaned at age 13, Alexander Hamilton lied about his age, claiming he was 11 years old in order to make himself a more desirable candidate for a business apprenticeship. Historians still can’t agree on his true age. 
  21. Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Post.
  22. Coincidentally, Alexander Hamilton was also the first American politician to have his career ruined by a sex scandal. 
  23. Alexander Hamilton famously died in a duel with Aaron Burr in Weehawken, NJ. His eldest son, Philip, also died in a duel just three years earlier, also in Weehawken, NJ. 
  24. Thomas Jefferson thought the Constitution should have been rewritten every 19 years. 
  25. While in England, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams visited William Shakespeare’s house together. They vandalized a chair by chipping off chucks to keep as souvenirs. 
  26. Thomas Jefferson could read and write in six languages: Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and English. It’s thought that he might have known Arabic, Gaelic, and Welsh too. 
  27. Thomas Jefferson introduced macaroni and cheese to the United States. 
  28. Thomas Jefferson told Lewis and Clark to keep an eye out for giant sloths while they were on their expedition.
  29. Thomas Jefferson donated his own collection of books to start the Library of Congress. He was paid $23,950 for 6,500 of his own books, which he had been collecting for over 50 years. (That’s about $250,000 in today’s money.) 
  30. Despite popular belief, Thomas Jefferson probably didn’t smoke marijuana. 
  31. James Madison was the smallest President ever. He was 5’4” and only weighed about 100 lbs.
  32. Contrary to a rumor started online, James Madison did not appoint a Secretary Of Beer. 
  33. When George Washington died in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte gave a eulogy and ordered a requiem that would last ten days. 
  34. George Washington currently has over $300,000 in overdue library fines.
  35. George Washington’s wooden teeth were actually partially made from human teeth, which he got from his own slaves. (He paid the slaves for their teeth.) 
  36. When he was elected president, George Washington owned the largest whiskey distillery in the country. 
  37. George Washington didn’t know that Chinese people weren’t white. He was surprised when he first encountered a Chinese person. 
  38. When George Washington found a lost dog during the battle of Germantown, he returned the dog across enemy lines to the dog’s owner, his opponent from the battle, General Howe. 
  39. George Washington was afraid of being buried alive. In his will, he asked not to be buried until three days after his death. 
  40. It’s Paul Revere, not Sam Adams, on the label of Samuel Adams beer.
  41. The Boston Tea Party wasn’t really a protest against over-taxed tea. In fact, the Tea Act actually made legal tea cheaper. It was actually a protest led by smugglers of Dutch Tea, led by John Hancock, who couldn’t compete with legal tea prices. 
  42. John Jay didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence. He is thought of as a Founding Father because of his contributions to the framing of the document. 
  43. Jay Street in Brooklyn, NY was named for John Jay.
  44. Francis Hopkinson was most likely responsible for designing the first U.S. flag. For his work, he asked the government for “a quarter cask of the public wine” as a “reasonable reward” for the job. They never gave it to him. 
  45. Robert Morris, Jr. died shortly after attempting to clear a blockage in his penis caused by a urinary tract infection with a whalebone, likely taken from one of his wife’s corsets.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chicken and Bacon? Sign Me Up

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to make chicken (in the family cookbook - chicken by far has the most recipes).  Someone showed me a way to incorporate bacon AND brussel sprouts AND mashed potatoes!  From a list of chicken recipes from BuzzFeed, this recipe is from Vodka&Biscuits and I am grateful.

Roast Chicken Breast & Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4
Prep Time 25 min
Cook Time 35 min
Total Time 50 min

  • 4 chicken breasts 
  • 4-8 pieces of bacon 
  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts 
  • 1 leek 
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 3 lemon slices 
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth 
  • salt and pepper 
  • 3 sprigs of thyme 
  • canola oil as needed 
  • 2 T. olive oil 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 
  2. Prepare the brussels sprouts by cutting off the stem end then cutting each in half. 
  3. Prepare the leek by cutting off the stem end, then slicing the leek into rounds using the white and light green parts only. Add to a bowl of water to rid any dirt, then dry and transfer to a baking dish with the brussels sprouts. 
  4. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.
  5. Add enough canola oil to coat a saute pan, then heat to medium. 
  6. Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper then transfer to the hot oil. Allow to brown 3-4 minutes on each side. 
  7. You can wrap the bacon before or after this step, totally up to you, just allow the chicken to slightly cool if you're doing it after browning. 
  8. Transfer the bacon wrapped chicken to the dish with the vegetables. Add the garlic, lemon slices, thyme, and chicken broth. A splash of wine wouldn't hurt either! 
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until your meat thermometer reaches 160. If you want your bacon to be extra crispy, crank up the broiler and allow to cook under the broiler for a few extra minutes. 
  10. Serve over creamy mashed potatoes and enjoy! 
To help get the bacon super crispy you can wrap it around the chicken before browning, you may just need a toothpick to hold it together!

If you want to make this a true one-dish meal, just add the vegetables, wrapped chicken, and remaining ingredients to the pan and throw it in the oven. The baking time will increase about 20 minutes. You don't have to brown the chicken prior!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowzilla 2016 by the numbers

The DMV was slammed with a major snowstorm this weekend.  We got two seasons worth of snow in two days.

100 - the amount of dollars it cost me to get the driveway shoveled.  The best money I ever spent.

41 - the number of Twitter / FB posts during the storm duration.  3 were not storm-related.

36 - number of hours that it snowed, at least.  From 1;15pm until 1:15am Sunday.

23 - the number of inches recorded on the table on the deck - recorded at 11:00pm on Saturday night.

17 - the number of inches recorded at National Airport, the official recording station for the DMV - the number is under scrutiny as they feel they may have not measured correctly.

8 - the number of hours I teleworked on Friday - when the government opened and then closed at noon.

8 - the number of storm-related photos that I posted, 5 from the apocalypse-emptied Shoppers on Thursday night, 1 of knee-high snow, 1 measurement, and 1 of the new deep fat fryer that was purchased to ride out the storm.

5 - the number of times LBA and SoBA went out to play in the snow.

4 - the number of shovels used in clearing the Launchpad.  2 were my own, 2 were brought by the nice folks who came to shovel me out.

4 - the number of onions used to make onion straws on Friday night in the aforementioned new deep fat fryer.

3 - and counting, the number of snow days for LBA and SoBA.  They were off on Thursday after the mini-storm on Wednesday night, then Friday, and school has been canceled for tomorrow.

0 - the number of hours we lost power at the Launchpad, Thanks be to God.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Donut Holes

Today is the day set aside for the "Federally Mandated Playdate" in which several friends and their families come to the launchpad for dinner - today's menu - Chili!  We have dessert - but I would make these - if I had a deep fat fryer, which I still don't.  via BuzzFeed.

Cinnamon Donut Holes
  • 150g flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 55g melted butter
  • 240ml milk
  • 1 egg
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add melted butter, milk and egg and whisk to combine.  Heat oil in skillet.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop dollops of dough into hot oil.  Turn over once browned on one side.  Remove from oil and place on paper towel.  Sprinkle with cinnamon / powdered sugar mix.

Monday, January 11, 2016

FUDGE! With Mashed Potatoes!

We have a saying at the Launchpad - "don't yuck someone else's yum." For those in need of gluten-free desserts.  Mashed Potatoes!  Who Knew?  From Saveur, via this list on BuzzFeed of gluten-free desserts.

Mashed Potato Fudge

Makes About 1 1/2 Pounds

  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped 
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing 
  • 1 (1-lb.) box confectioners' sugar, sifted 
  • 1⁄2 cup plain mashed potatoes 
  • 2 tsp. milk 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1⁄8 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1⁄2 cup finely chopped walnuts 

Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted, 3-5 minutes. Remove bowl from pan and let cool slightly. Stir in sugar, potatoes, milk, vanilla, and salt until dough forms. Using hands, knead dough briefly in bowl until smooth. Press into a greased 8” square pan; sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Chill fudge 1 hour before cutting into squares.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

On the Importance of Diners

What defines a Diner?  Growing up in New York, specifically on Long Island - diners were everywhere and everyone had their favorite.  More often than not, a Friday night at the movies led to me and my friends at the Syosset House Diner for a late night snack.  I even wrote a story about it - but I can't seem to find it.  We had our favorite waitress and the owner always greeted us warmly and most of the time by name.

Heading to a diner after church was a big treat, too - but that didn't happen all that often.  It was nice to be able to get breakfast at any time at the day.  There are no good diners near the launchpad and the few that are around are not good "New York Diners."

What constitutes a diner?  Ed Levine from Serious Eats offers a list (via kottke).
  1. Operating hours - if it ain't open 24 hours, it ain't a diner.
  2. A common menu - and it better go on for about 50 pages
  3. A democratic reception - see my note above, a warm "Hiya Fellas" is essential
  4. Quick service - too often, the diners around here have lines, why?
  5. Low price point - again, non-NY diners didn't get this memo
  6. Seating - I'm a booth kinda guy, especially if they have one of those jukeboxes
  7. Familiarity - again see my note about having a favorite waitress and them knowing what you want before you order it
  8. All-occasion places - anytime you go there, you don't have to be there for a reason, you're there for good food
  9. Parking - have some
  10. Culinary anonymity - you don't need to know the name of the guy making your eggs, in fact you may want to just take it on faith that he knows what he's doing

Monday, January 4, 2016

Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

Mrs. BA makes a mean chicken wing.  If she were interested, here's another variety that would be welcomed at the Launchpad on Wing Night.  From a whole list of Chicken Recipes via BuzzFeed, this recipe is from The Endless Meal.

Sticky Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

  • 2 lb. chicken wings 
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper 
  • Cilantro and sesame seeds, for garnish 
For the glaze: 
  • ⅓ cup honey 
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely minced 
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil 
  • ⅛-1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. 
  2. Place the chicken wings in a large bowl and toss them with the 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, sea salt and pepper. Place them on the prepared baking tray and put them in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until they are crispy. 
  3. While the chicken wings are baking, make the glaze. Add all the glaze ingredients to a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Boil rapidly for 3-4 minutes, or until the glaze has reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from the heat. 
  4. Once the chicken wings are crispy remove them from the oven and toss them with the glaze. Sprinkle some cilantro and toasted sesame seeds over top and serve immediately.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #12

This year the Brave Astronaut Resolves:

1.  To yell less.  I work on this one every year.  It's possibly the hardest one.

2.  To work on the Launchpad.  I am proposing one room a month - and somewhere in there - working on the outside.  Check back here for progress updates.

3.  To do my jobs better.  Be a better husband, be a better father, be a better government worker.

4.  Lose weight.  My goal is to lose enough weight that my sleep apnea will not be an issue and I won't have to bring my sleep machine with me on the family trip to France, scheduled for May.

5.  Make a better daily schedule.  I'd like to start my work day earlier - which would lead to changes in how the home morning routine is managed - and then hopefully be able to get the boys from school earlier and not be having dinner at 7:30-8:00 each evening.