Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Weighty Matter

I have to admit that during the entire time we were away, I was a murder trial junkie.  While our TV selections were limited, we did have HLN (CNN Headline News) so that even when we were in sunny Mexico, I was watching the Trial of the 21st Century back home.  Since arriving home, I have (of course) checked the news, both written and video, and oh boy, this is bad - Judge Perry raised the issue of incompetent counsel as a basis for future appeal if a certain line of questioning is pursued. Apparently Jose Baez "opened the door" to questioning regarding Casey Anthony's felony charges regarding her theft and use of checks belonging to a former best friend, and while the Judge was prepared to allow the state to pursue what would have been devastating testimony for the jury to hear, he did so with the caveat about possible future appeals. There is no doubt that Jose Baez is stepping on the Chief Judge's last good nerve. There is also no doubt that he is an embarrassment to the legal profession.

I would like to know how Giada deLaurentiis grew up eating, at least according to her, copious amounts of Nutella without turning into a very chubby individual.  I love the stuff, but it has the same calorie count as butter, so I limit my intake.  Like peanut butter, I could eat Nutella out of the jar using a spoon or my tasty index finger, and if I were to indulge in that too frequently, I can only assume I would come to regret it.

Giada and her mother are making (and eating!) Fried Nutella Ravioli. 

Speaking of regrets, I have none.  About eating, that is.  It felt as though all I did was eat for the past seven days, but that was apparently as imaginary as Casey Anthony's nanny, because when I got on the scale this morning, I had lost a pound and a half.  Rob is the same weight he was before we left.  After the last full day on the ship, when we made sure to try everything we had not drunk or tasted before that, I figured I'd have to be rolled down the gangplank.  I guess that perception came from the same part of my brain that fears I am going to wake up one morning 140 pounds heavier than I was the night before. 

From our first full day on the cruise:

May 29, 2011

There ought to be a law against indiscriminate breeding by annoying people. Look, when there are 4500 people on board, excluding the crew, you have got to indulge in some bitchy people-watching. You can't help it - whiny parents with whiny kids. Morbidly obese women sporting heroic breasts, searching out the legendary "midnight buffet", only to be disappointed by the relatively Spartan nature of the 21st century version. Jeez, lady, you already ate enough to save a third world country from starvation - are you saying that 24 hour pizza, ice cream, and coffee, plus late night snacks of huge hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries is somehow not enough?

Breakfast at "The Gathering".  I kept expecting the cast of Babylon 5 to show up.

We are sitting by the window, enjoying a post-breakfast respite, now that the whiny kid has been spirited off for delivery to Camp Carnival. The food has been rather good so far. Ahh ha ha, whiny kid has been replaced by sullen teenager. It's a good thing we never raised a girl.

This morning we are going to check out a cooking demonstration by the Steakhouse chef. The weather is glorious, and sometime today we're going going to sit out on the deck like proper tourists, soaking up sun, sights, and tropical libations. I like this ship!!

Cooking demonstration held in the Chef's Art Steakhouse.  That's Rajesh on the right.  The fellow on the left better watch his hair extensions; apparently there's a big market for those, and they've become the top target of thieves and ruffians who would do harm to possess them.

We're at the cooking demonstration. We all get samples to taste and they are awesome. A lot of garlic, truffle oil, exotic mushrooms, and mac and cheese to go with a grilled free range chicken breast. A tiramisu to die for. Fun with yum. And recipes to bring home.

More from the cooking demo.  I have to admit the creamy mac and cheese tucked under the chicken was awesome and the tiramisu was ethereal.

I don't know if my hearing is going or is merely dyslexic, but I was sure the onboard shopping director was exhorting us to head over to the Burnt Flounder Lounge. Never did find it, but we took our own tour of the ship, checking out the tax and duty free stores and taking pictures from the highest decks. Pretty and mesmerizingly peaceful.

High Noon
So we manage to find some deck chairs in Serenity and settle down to read and relax. I am very proud of the fact that I remembered our hats, even if Rob's does say "Grumpy" on it. But guess what we DID forget? Oh yeah, the sunscreen. Since we are essentially cave dwellers, it is doubtful our fish belly complexions can withstand too much more of this. But the heat feels marvelous and I can put on my Fashion Police hat, which looks a lot like my favorite straw hat, with cheerful anonymity. Like, "Girl, I know you're not pregnant, because if you were, you wouldn't be jiggling like that. I would like to send out a message to my sisters everywhere: bikinis and bellies don't work well together. And guys - I know you CAN take your shirts off, but that doesn't mean you should. If you've got man boobies, please keep 'em covered. If you were a girl, you'd be wearing an underwire bra to support those babies."

Miniature golf on deck

Apparently our cruise director's name is Butch. Cute. Butch, not his nickname. And hyperactive, but I think that is a prerequisite to holding that position. Butch has an assistant named Alan or George or something perfectly normal, but for the purposes of this voyage is wearing the unfortunate sobriquet of Baby Butch.

Hmmm ... I've been on this ship for 24 hours and I have yet to have any alcohol.

Midnight in the Garden of Food and Evil:

Took care of that alcohol thing. I had forgotten just how good the cosmopolitans are on these cruise ships. Tonight was "formal" night, and that means one thing: lobster. Never mind taking pictures in a formal gown, or shaking hands with the Captain - it's about my favorite food, the food I have designated for my last supper. I was actually able to hang up my Fashion Police hat for one evening.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie ...

Dining onboard is always an adventure. We acquired another couple at the table tonight. The gentleman apparently hates the city of Atlanta, which ought to be a crime. Our maitre d' sounds like Bela Lugosi. The entire waitstaff sang "That's Amore!" which was especially sweet because they are all Filipino. It was a good night.

From our table - Gloria, Ilia, and Bob

Tomorrow we dock at Cozumel, and we're going ashore to participate in a Mexican cooking class. No Mayan ruins for us this stop, unless I burn something.

If you have ever sailed on Carnival, then you know that all of their ships, regardless of size or age, are essentially the same.  This is a good thing, as far as I am concerned.  Think about it - it helps to know that Deck 5, the Promenade Deck, has all the shops on it, plus affords access to all the stairwells and elevators, front to aft, without interruption.  You can always orient yourself on Promenade Deck to find where you are trying to go.  At the same time, each new generation of ship has something even better to offer to guests, and the Carnival Dream is at the top of the food chain.  An example is again, Deck 5, where in addition to unfettered interior access, there is an uninterrupted exterior deck wrapped around the ship.  This is where the Lanai is located (good eats, plus a couple of whirlpools) and you can enjoy a stroll or jog without having to climb to the nosebleed section on Decks 13 and 14.  The ship has also incorporated bells and whistles that were first seen on ships built during the previous decade.

Each ship does adopt it's own theme.  When Rob and I were on the Carnival Triumph in late 2008, it was the Great Cities of the World theme, with dining rooms and lounges named accordingly.  On the Carnival Dream, it was about the color red, which was weird.  The Scarlet Dining Room, the Crimson Dining Room, and the Burnt Flounder Burgundy Lounge.  Weird.

Also weird - we just got back, but I've got to bust a move and finalize our plans for Little Rock.  Somehow I let it get past me just how soon the departure date was coming up.

I have to make a trip to Publix and do some cooking to feed the family, and I think I'll take an opportunity to participate in my self-styled "I can make it better" recipe contest.  As I had said throughout the trip, the food was really good.  Having said that, there were a few dishes that I tried (or in one case, had Rob describe to me) that I felt I could definitely do better.  One of those was the Cream of Sun Ripened Tomatoes with Herb Croutons.  My creamy tomato soup is better, in my humble opinion, and I have provided the recipe over here.

The other recipes that I have, or can do better:  West Indian Roasted Pumpkin Soup; Assorted Seafood, Newburg Style; Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella Cheese (an appetizer), served with a green pea fondue and Romesco sauce; Baked Alaska;  Stuffed Mushrooms.  Not sure which one I'm going to pick to make today - it will, as always, depend on what strikes my fancy once I get inside my favorite palace of provisions.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mi casa es su casa, and there's no place like home

Back from our cruise, back from Mexico.  It was terrific.  As soon as we walked in the door, I put down my purse and landed on the couch.  Slept for hours.  I'm in between naps now  ;-)

As you can imagine, I got a lot of pictures on my iPhone, which I will have to gradually move over to Facebook so I can post them here.  I also used my iPad to create blog entries, albeit offline, and those have to be moved over here by a multi-step method that is awkward but necessary.  I had no time to set up 3G on the iPad before we left, but I did have wi-fi capability - however, one pricing area where the ships are absolutely mercernary is with their internet access, and I just could not bring myself to spend it.

Let me just say that I have been waiting my whole life for the iPad.  It is everything I have ever wanted or needed in a portable computer.  I carry it in my purse.  It has 3G and wi-fi.  It has sufficient word processing ability, for my needs, on it's Notes app, which comes with the iPad.  Before I left, Cory set it up for my and sync'ed it with my iPhone.  There's still some more syncing to complete, but the fact it can sync through my main computer, which is Microsoft rather than Apple-based, is a joy.  I have all my iPhone apps, and then new iPad apps.  Extended battery life.  The screen is clear, colorful, and gorgeous.  With this, I have no need of a laptop.

One thing I did do when I got home was check my BlackBerry to see what had transpired in the office in my absence.  Nothing horrible, or even awful, and all I can say is that I still work with the best group of people in the world.

And the Dallas Mavericks kicked the Miami Heat's sorry asses beat the Miami Heat in Game Two of the NBA Finals.  Go Mavericks!

Food was a big part of this vacation, as the number one activity on a cruise ship is eating.  We also had the opportunity to take two cooking classes, and having done this for the first time would really love to see the cruise lines do more of it.  We can't all afford those wonderful 12 day celebrity chef cruises to Alaska or the Mediterranean or Italy, but I think cruise lines like Carnival can incorporate some more classes and programs into their onboard and offshore schedules.  Trust me, there is a substantial audience for this type of thing.

Here's the first blog post from our cruise:

Approaching the Carnival Dream at Port Canaveral, Florida

May 28, 2011
11:30 am

We are in the car, packed and poised to head out to Port Canaveral. The weather is beyond perfect. Since it was raining cats and dogs last night, that is a relief. Speaking of cats and dogs, our Gang of Eight is moping around. Situational depression caused by the sight of the suitcases. By tonight, when they realize they have the entire bed to themselves, they'll be getting over it.

So we've moved onto State Road 528, which gives me a chance to bitch about the name change. As far as I am concerned, this is the Beeline. I traveled on the Beeline every work day for four years as I headed to the DCF Legal office in a particularly funky section of Cocoa. The name of the city seems so innocuous - cute, even - and that is probably true if you limit your exploration to Cocoa Village. But Monroe Center, the truly decrepit facility used by the agency formerly known as HRS, was in a section of town so horrible, even the drug dealers did not hang out there after dark. So riding to work on a road called the Beeline, marked by signs sporting a cute little bumblebee, took away some of the sting - ha ha- of practicing law in a condemned building while paying law school loans that raised my personal debt ceiling into the stratosphere.

And then, several years ago, somebody proposes renaming it to the "Beachline" because - are you sitting? - it takes you to the beach! Dude, all the roads into Brevard County take you to the beach! From whimsical and charming to merely utilitarian - beach line . . . Sounds like a BMT subway line, and twice as boring.

Casual Dining on Lido Deck - "The Gathering" - Silly name, good food

So we took this boring road all the way to the beach and beyond and now we are on the ship, which is anything but boring. This is our fourth cruise, and our third on Carnival, and this is the most amazing ship so far. I took some pictures, but won't be able to upload them until we return home. The ship is pretty new and tricked out like Mrs. Astor's pet horse. Embarkation was reasonably painless. Hot and cold running food, drink, and music, and we're still sitting in port. I could get used to this.

Pool area, aft  deck  

The other pool area on the forward deck, with crazy slide and "Serenity" area on upper decks  

Rob and I took a stroll on the upper decks and found a child-free zone, called "Serenity." Very nice place to sit with your sweetheart in the whirlpool or in those special wicker chairs for two while clutching a cold drink sporting fruit salad on a stick or a paper umbrella. There is something so inoffensively festive about a drink wearing that paper bumbershoot, especially if it contains some of that there Kickapoo joy juice with a splash of something sweet and fruity. I've yet to have a Cosmo thusly embellished, and I'm wondering if I could enjoy it even more, decked out like Carmen Miranda, when I already enjoy it so much. Post gastric bypass, it just takes half a drink for me to slide into the toasty zone. Wheeeee!

4:26 pm

And the Carnival Dream is is moving gently out of Port Canaveral . . . (click on the link for more info on the ship)

Port Canaveral from the ship - just left of middle on the horizon, you can see Kennedy Space Center

Our first night out, we met our table mates - Denise and Terry from Indiana, and Gloria and Bob from Oviedo - and our wait staff, Ilia (I think - I could never see her name tag well enough) and Desirta.  I actually enjoy the traditional cruising dinner experience, which now that I think of it goes back to my summer vacation days at Kutsher's in the Catskills, when you were assigned to a big table with a bunch of strangers and made a whole bunch of new friends.  First night dinner I chose the tomato soup and the tilapia.  The tilapia was delicious, nice and moist (tilapia can dry out if you're not careful) and the tomato soup was good, but - I can make it better.  I'll even give you the recipe over at the recipe blog.  Rob ordered the St. Louis spareribs (which I ordered the last night) and they were incredibly good.  The St. Louis-style rib is my favorite cut of slab rib, but difficult to find.  These were expertly prepared.

Although I missed my furry babies, I managed to sleep well; in fact, except for the small, noisy and inconsiderate group  of young hoodlums adults who created minor disturbances at 3 am, I slept through the night and but for two of the nights, did not need any OTC assistance. 

Our room steward was Ricardo.  Like our wait staff, he was kind, efficient, and extremely personable.  A good crew can make or break a cruise, and I don't think there was one person working there who did not enhance the experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mind Blowing

I am officially on vacation! I am also for the first time, blogging from an iPad. The convenience is amazing. The size of the keyboard relative to the instrument is amazing. I got this because my laptop suffered an embarrassing end to an illustrious career (one of the cats peed on it, and the insides sort of fried) and I really wanted something smaller than even my carefully chosen Acer. This does seem to suit my mobile computer needs.

Despite this, I won't be blogging while we're away, as the cost for accessing online service is prohibitive. I am going to try to take some offline notes for later publication, but I may decide to remain completely incognito like my Aunt Ceil. Take my word for it, I will be having a wonderful time.

To all of our veterans, please enjoy this Memorial Day, with great thanks from all Americans. We thank you and honor you for your sacrifices and your service to this country and it's citizens.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Touching the Adventures and Perils

Soon I will be sailing on a ship, a BIG ship.  Big ships used to be my business, mammoth behemoths so big that they were never referred to as mere boats.  These were VESSELS.  Ocean-going, bluewater hulls, plying the seas with cargoes of every imaginable type.  Great Lakes vessels, moving ore and other bulk between ports in that insular environment.  OBOs, Ro-Ros, Lo-Los, container ships.  Passenger ships.   Fascinating stuff, even though I worked the insurance end of it.  Unlike the rest of insurance, this marine insurance was great stuff, steeped in history, and replete with the high-falutin' phraseology of another era.

File:United States and America.jpg
The SS United States and the SS America

The stately policies, used all over the world, owed their classy-sounding language to the great-granddaddy of all insurers, Lloyds of London.  "Touching the adventures and perils which we the assurers are contented to bear and do take upon us in this voyage: they are of the seas, men of war, fire, enemies, pirates, rovers, thieves, jettisons, letters of mart and countermart, surprisals, takings at sea, arrests, restraints, and detainments of all kings, princes, and people, of what nation, condition, or quality soever, barratry of the master and mariners, and of all other perils, losses, and misfortunes, that have or shall come to the hurt, detriment, or damage of the said goods and merchandises, and ship, &c., or any part thereof."

Turns out the inclusion of "pirates and rovers" in the perils clause was more than just a nod to olden times, but back in 1981, the idea of pirates plying their anti-social trade across the high seas was merely amusing.  Pirates in this day and age?  And those letters of mart, countermart, and K-Mart?  Sure, we were young and silly and enjoyed a good giggle.  Now that I am old and decrepit and dead serious, I do worry about Pirates of the Exotic Western Caribbean sneaking up behind us in line at the midnight buffet.  That would surely put a damper on what promises to be a swell time.

Arrrrr ....

Thursday, May 26, 2011


My friend and co-counsel Charles and I were chatting briefly after hours and he asked me if I was already packed for my cruise. Well, his friendly question unintentionally sent me into an emotional tizzy, because not only am I not packed yet, I still haven't decided what knitting projects to take with me.  Okay, I thought about packing early for the cruise - and then I laughed at the thought.  My idea of packing early is doing it the night before I go on a trip, instead of waiting until that morning.  My excuse is that if I pack too early, like a couple of days or even a week, it gives the cats too much time to freak out over our impending absence. 

If you travel, and you have cats, then you know what happens when you set an open suitcase on your bed.

Cat in suitcase

For the last few weeks I have been noodling around on what knitting projects to take on the cruise, and I'm still undecided. I really really really want to finish the baby hoodie and matching blanket, but I need to finish the Cat's Paw Scarf so I can move on to my favorite summer project, socks.  I've already got four or five different sock projects on needles in varying stages of completion and I have to finish them before I can try some of the new patterns that have caught my eye.  UPDATE:  I'm going to take all of them.  Well, not all of the socks, but at least one or two along with the baby stuff and the scarf.  Heaven forbid I should run out of projects while I am in the one place I cannot run out and buy some yarn.

Getting there ...

I've also been seriously contemplating whether I need to bring my own supply of Hershey's kisses on the cruise.  Don't laugh.  Lack of chocolate caused a minor crisis in Korea, and since then I've always brought my own wherever we traveled.  And while a cruise is not a place normally lacking in food, my eating habits are kind of odd.  It is going to be tough enough not having ready access to Diet A&W Root Beer.

Speaking of emotional tizzies:

DCF Agency Cuts Nearly 500 Jobs

This can't be good.   By the way, Governor Voldemort campaigned on a promise to CREATE jobs.  Call me crazy, but I think by cutting 500 DCF jobs, he is breaking his promise. 

Gov. Rick Scott and $69.7 billion budget tanking with Florida voters

Gov. Rick Scott is increasingly unpopular with Florida voters, and a majority don't like the $69.7 billion budget the governor will sign Thursday that cuts funding for schools, health care and the state's social safety net, a new poll has found.

A new Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday found 57 percent of voters disliked Scott's job performance compared with 29 percent who approved — worse than his 48 percent-to-35 percent disapproval rating in the school's April poll. The results are the worst rating for any governor in the 10 states that Quinnipiac surveys.

Let me ask this question one more time:  who actually voted for this dude?  What the heck were you thinking when you voted for him?  Does Florida really need it's own Rod Blagojevich-like drama?

On to happier topics ... so Rob and I set sail in just 3 days, and if ever two people needed a vacation, it is us.  I am so looking forward to this, I don't mind all the crazy last-minute catching up stuff I'm doing in the office to make my absence as smooth as possible.  It helps that I work with an exceptional group of people. 

So I headed to the Hurston Building to attend a training I can't attend tomorrow in my own office because I have a TPR trial scheduled. Which put me nicely nicely near Colonial Drive, and the new Hobby Lobby.

New -- Hobby -- Lobby -- in -- Orlando!!!

I wasn't sure exactly where it was, and thought it might have taken over the space vacated by the late, lamented A.C. Moore, a terrific crafts store with the best selection of Red Heart yarn ever.  Plus a lot of other good stuff.  But as I drove east on Colonial, I noticed a sign for Hobby Lobby at the open air mall whose name I can never remember.  So I pull into the parking lot, and realize the juxtaposition of the Hobby Lobby with a Starbucks and Toojays.  Right across the parking lot from each other.  Whoa.  This is too good to be true.  For just a few moments, I was so suffused with joy that I forgot about Govenor Voldemort and my ever-decreasing paycheck.

So I bought myself a new row counter widget, and size 9 rosewood needles, some new kind of knit clip for holding seams in place while you sew them together, and a zipper for the hoodie.  And a brand of chocolate I can only find in Hobby Lobby, which is why I usually stock up when I'm in Little Rock and Panama City Beach.  Nothing feels as good to a knitter's hands than rosewood needles. 

It's the little things that make my day.

By the way, while watching Nancy Grace (mea culpa) and "Criminal Minds" (unrelentingly violent) I finished the baby hoodie.  For a while though, I have been suspecting that the arm length is not sufficient, and I was right.  Fortunately, I did not seam the arms, so I can frog them back a bit and do-over ... sort of like that Harold Camping dude is trying to pull with Apocalypse Later Not Now routine.

Will somebody please slap Casey Anthony and tell her to drop the Angelina Jolie imitation?  That pouty-lip look isn't helping your case, toots.  But then neither is your defense attorney.

Testimony: No talk of missing daughter

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The rest of this work week is gonna be a doozy.  You know how it is when you are taking a vacation, and plan on being out of the office for more than a day or two ... the good news is that I'll be leaving my office Blackberry at home, because no one is going to be able to reach me out there on the high seas ... the bad news is, no one is going to be able to reach me, so when I return I'm going to have to deal with a couple of hundred emails.  Normally, I check the Blackberry several times a day, whether it is a weekend or a local vacation, because I don't like surprises and would rather take a few minutes to deal with any issues right there and then.  But starting Saturday, and for the entire following week, I am going to be in a Dead Zone, sort of like that strip of Irlo Bronson Highway where almost all of the restaurants and businesses have closed down.  Now that's a cheery thought.  No really, it is.

The other good news is that I do not practice in Orange County and therefore have no reason whatsoever to be anywhere in the vicinity of the Orange County Courthouse, because Tuesday is the day that the Casey Anthony murder trial begins.  If you are a local, you know more about this case than you ever wanted to know.  If you are not local, consider yourself lucky, because this has been dragging on for almost three years, sucking the life out of the court system and the media.  Also consider yourself lucky that you are not one of the 17 people who are going to be sequestered for the next two months.  This jury of 12, with alternates, was chosen from a pool out in Pinellas County, in an attempt to find jurors who had not been inundated by the never-ending news reports.  It took eleven days to complete jury selection under the watchful eye of Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry.  Now these folks are coming to Disneyworld, so to speak, except they're not going to be able to see Mickey Mouse.  Or the evening news, for that matter.

The grieving mother

I have two half day trials of my own this week, involving no juries and no media blitz.  That's the way I like to practice law.  Flying under the radar.  That doesn't mean I won't be following the Casey Anthony trial ... it just means I'm damn glad I'm not one of the participants.

Which moves me towards another topic - television ads for lawyers.  I hate them.  Same thing with billboards.  Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think attorneys should involve themselves in that sort of advertising.  It just seems so very demeaning to our profession, which has already taken more than a few shots over the years.  Some of those attorneys develop a REALLY big head over time.  If you live in Orlando/Kissimmee area, I think you know exactly who I mean.  You simply can't miss his REALLY big head. 

Back to attorneys with REALLY big heads - well, Jose' Baez has given his opening statements in the Casey Anthony murder trial.  Let me just say that there was nothing reasonable about the doubt he was trying to create.  It was a fairy tale for the jury, but if he can't prove his assertions, his client is going to the Big House.  The only way I think he can even try to prove what he claimed he could prove during opening would be to put his client on the stand.  Which would open her to cross examination by one of the state attorneys.  Which would guarantee she'd be going to the Big House.  Incidentally, I loved the grades that commentator/attorney Mark NeJame gave to Baez ... A- for the first part of his opening, C- for the second part,  and an F for his cross examination of George Anthony, the state's first witness.  How the hell does an experienced attorney get an F in cross examination?  Cross is every attorney's dream ... you can ask leading questions, for one thing.  According to another commentator, Baez was all over the place with his cross, and seemed to be totally unprepared.  Oh, great.  So now Casey is going to have a grounds for appeal:  incompetent counsel.

There is no doubt in my mind that my dogs are all geniuses.  After all Woody can talk and also takes taekwando.  Tuffy spoke two languages!  Teena was capable of raising six kittens!  And now, Indiana has proven his skills as a spectacular judge of character.  We were all sitting and watching the news.  When Casey Anthony's face filled the screen, Indiana started to growl and snarl.  When the picture changed, he stayed quiet.  A few minutes later, they showed a close up of Jose' Baez in the courtroom.  Indiana growled and snarled again.  When the picture changed, so did his attitude.  I told you, that dog is SMART.

Does Harold Camping think we are all idiots?  Apparently so, and he has revised his apocalyptic calculations to push the Big Day off until October 21, 2011.  Hey Harold, you don't get a do-over!  This dude is making a mockery of Christian Biblical prophecy, and making fools out of certain believers.

Oprah Winfrey's last show ... since I never watched her, not once in 25 years, I won't miss her.  TV personalities.  Feh.  They start to believe all the hype about themselves.  And in a country where Hollywood performers and sports figures are considered royalty, they can get away with it.

And that is a sorry state of affairs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A fire in her belly

(CNN) – "Sarah Palin has given few indications in recent weeks she is still actively considering a presidential run, but the former Alaska governor said Thursday she has the “fire in my belly” to mount a bid for the White House."

Sarah Palin: Midterms 2010: Sarah Palin tells Obama 'you blew it?

If I could communicate directly with Ms. Palin, I would recommend that she try extra strength Zantac.  Works for me, every time.  I would also tell her to take a page from Mike Huckabee's book, recognize that you've got a good gig going on over at Fox, and don't jeopardize it by making a run for the White House.  There is no way your family can be shielded from the media vampires, and it can only get uglier.  And let's face it, you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  If you couldn't answer Katie Couric's question about what newspapers you read, it is doubtful you could set forth a clear plan for America that wouldn't send the Democrats and the media into hysterical laughter.

Ms. Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton, and even that brilliant lady could not get elected.  This country is still not ready for a female President, but if the time ever comes (and I hope I get to see it in my lifetime), you are not going to be anyone's first or last choice.


I am struggling with lamb chops.  I'm not sure why this is so.  I love lamb in just about any form, and any cut.  I know that a lot of folks don't like lamb, because they find it strong-tasting or gamy.  But I grew up eating prodigious amounts of lamb chops, so for me it is one of the most natural tastes in the world, like liver, herring, lox, smoked whitefish, tongue, and kasha.  For people who keep kosher - which did not include my family, by the way - lamb is Jewish pork.  Sort of.  It was a welcome respite from brisket, chicken, and ground beef.  Never mind that my mother also cooked pork spareribs with her marvelous sauce, fried fish with crispy onions, steaks as big as your head, the best cabbage soup in the world, and spaghetti with a meat sauce so good I would eat it without the spaghetti. Lamb chops were always welcome for dinner. 


We always ate shoulder lamb chops with the long bone, and they were always prepared the same way: sprinkled with a little garlic powder, and then broiled.  And to tell you the truth, that is exactly the way I have cooked them for the past 40 years.  Like a good steak, they are simply perfect that way.  But unlike my mother, I've branched out, and moved into ovine exotica like my mother-in-law's lamb shanks (she also served lamb tongue) and leg of lamb stabbed and then stuffed with enough garlic cloves to ward off the entire vampire population of Transylvania, Romania.  I am not at all embarrassed to admit that I enjoy neon green mint jelly with my leg of lamb.   In fine restaurants, I've been able to sample rack of lamb so sweet and so tender, it is worth the sticker shock.  Many restaurants coat the racks of lamb with a little mustard or other flavorful goop, then press bread crumbs against them, and finish in the oven.  This is really good eats.

After preparing the country-style lamb "ribs" the other night, I was really surprised at how crazy my boys were over them.  They actually preferred them to the beef ribs, and loved the use of the mustard-based sauce.  Well, slap my face and call me Sally!  As I pulled two packages of lamb chops from the freezer today, I realized I had to do something new ... something different ... something daring ... just something with those lamb chops.  Therein lies the source of my struggle.

Almost nobody seems to do anything different with shoulder lamb chops.  Broiling and grilling are still the top choices, and for flavor infusion, the recipes I've seen rely on marinades which feature a lot of garlic, lemon juice, and oregano.  Very delicious, very Mediterranean, very uninspiring for the purposes of my  project.  Steven Raichlen "America's master griller" has some very interesting recipes in his book Ribs Ribs Ribs, but as you can imagine, his lamb recipes are all about ribs, and neither Denver lamb ribs, or lamb riblets have made an appearance in my grocer's meat case.  Apparently, Denver ribs are from a trimmed lamb breast, but I haven't seen lamb breast since I moved from New York 20 years ago, and when I could get it, it was very fatty.  I guess that means it was untrimmed.  But the ribs weren't all that meaty, and I was never able to make a really great meal out of them.

After some online and offline research, I decided to bake, rather than grill the chops.  I wanted the flavor infusion to come from a dry rub rather than a ho-hum marinade.  Of course it was virtually impossible to find a recipe for dry rub for lamb, so I invented one.  Don't know if the rub is good, because the chops are now sitting in the refrigerator after being patted dry and won't be cooked until much later today.  I did find a recipe for lamb chops which featured as a side dish "minted apples"  and the ingredient list includes neon green mint jelly.  I can't wait.

Now that I've got that decided, what the heck should I do with the chicken drumsticks I defrosted?  Jerk!  (No, not you ... the seasoning!) And mussels!  Garlicky, winy, savory mussels!  Got it.  The menu is in my head; now I've just got to get off my butt and get started.

If you should try one of the recipes, please let me know how it came out and if you enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Saturday, May 21, 2011, 2:48 AM, EST:

By now, you all know what I'm going to tell you.  The world did not end as predicted by Camping the Crackpot:

Christmas Island and other locations near New Zealand, where self-styled scriptural scholar Harold Camping predicted that the apocalypse would strike by Friday night Los Angeles time, so far remain free of "super terrible" earthquakes.

The 89-year-old Oakland-based doomsday predictor told his followers that destruction would begin on May 21, wherever it happens to be 6 p.m. New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Saving Time.

As of 10:30 p.m. PDT -- 7:30 p.m. May 21 on Christmas Island, also known as Kiritimati -- no earthquakes had been reported within the last hour and a half, according to theU.S. Geological Survey, which tracks seismic activity worldwide.

It is times like this that I think my atheist friends have the right idea.

In the United States, where Camping's evangelising organisation is based, some people had been quitting work and hitting the road to urge others to repent before it's too late.

Gregory LeCorps left his job weeks ago to take his wife and five young children on the road and warn others that the end really was nigh, the Journal News in New York wrote.

"We're in the final days," LeCorps, who said he hoped to be on a beach in South Carolina by Saturday, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

It's not just us goofy Americans who bought into this nonsense:

In Vietnam, thousands of ethnic Hmong converged on northwestern Dien Bien province a few weeks ago after hearing broadcasts on Camping's global religious broadcasting network that Jesus was coming on May 21.

Hundreds were believed to be hiding in forests after security forces dispersed those who were awaiting the supposed return of Jesus Christ on Saturday, a resident told AFP.

Right now, there are millions of people the world over who are saddened and depressed because the Rapture did not occur today.  No earthquakes, no other destructive forces of nature, no dead rising from the graves.  So many disappointed people ...  so many victims of a world wide scam ... yeah, I'm talking about YOU, boy ... good thing this Camping dude was just interested in your life savings rather than your life, because if he had been Jim Jones, you would have willingly drunk the Kool-Aid.

It's all about the money, stupid ... you've been scammed.  Didn't you put 2 + 2 together when you saw this?

Despite his latest prediction, as of 20 May 2011 Family Radio's website was offering special promotions which expired on 28 May 2011.

According to their most recent IRS filings, Family Radio is almost entirely funded by donations, and brought in $18 million in contributions in 2009 alone.

Camping first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. Even so, he has gathered even more followers -- some who have given up their homes, entire life savings and their jobs because they believe the world is ending.

By the way, as of 11:49 AM EST, Camping's Family Radio site is down.

I was wondering, how do evangelists like Camping reconcile the whole Armageddon scenario with the story of Noah and the Ark?  If I remember correctly, the rainbow that appeared when the weather finally cleared was a sign of God's covenant with Noah that he would never again destroy the world by flooding it.  Camping specifically stated that the End of the World would begin with a massive earthquake that would travel from time zone to time zone.  Now I am neither a meteorologist nor a seismologist, but it seems to me that when Japan was recently hit by earthquake, the greatest and most long lasting damage came from the accompanying floods.  Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, dude.

At any rate, I'm relieved because I had already purchased the tickets for our cruise onboard the Carnival Dream starting next week.   And for all those New Yorkers who were looking forward to Mayor Bloomberg's suspension of alternate side of the street parking in the event of Armageddon, I am truly sorry.

So Rob and I are sailing off to the "Exotic" Western Caribbean, leaving Cory home to fend for himself.  Oy, the guilt!  Well, the very best way for a Jewish mother to assuage the guilt is to cook, and that, my friends, is what I have planned.  Heaven forbid my child should open the refrigerator and not find it stuffed with all sorts of precooked hot meals.  But it is Saturday, and I am feeling exceedingly lazy, so rather than get dressed and head out to Publix, I'll work with the contents of my refrigerator, freezers, and pantry.  More on that later.

I am getting very excited about the cruise.  Today I bit the bullet and booked all of our shore excursions and a dinner at the steakhouse.  Needless to say, I did not book any of the scuba, snuba, snorkel, or beach trips.  Swimmers we're not, and if I wanted sun and sand, I would have stayed home.  I also did not book one of those zipline tours - crashing through the jungle suspended from a clothesline looks like a lot of fun on TV, but so does bungee-jumping. 

By the way, I just posted a recipe at the recipe blog site, for a mac and cheese with attitude!  The boys both really liked it, although Cory expressed doubt over some of the stuff I was adding to his notion of a basic, good mac and cheese.  Once he tasted it, thought, doubt evaporated like a puddle on the streets of Little Rock in the middle of the summer.  Rapidly.  How does it get to be 104 degrees in the mountains???  When I was a kid, we went to the Catskill Mountains to escape the heat!

Let me end this with a little something from one of my junior cuzzes.  I think she's got it all figured out.  So Victoria wrote:

"i figured the end of the world would be more chaotic then this, you know maybe some destruction, fire, screaming, etc. but no this is an upsetting disappointment...or maybe we are all just living in hell already. you never know this could all be a dream of some random person in the 1700s and we all don't actually exist."

Now there's something to chew on ...

This is the way the world ends ...

PETA members waited outside the Family Radio headquarters to deliver vegetarian Last Supper meals in Oakland, Calif., on Friday.

I had a last supper, so to speak, and it was anything but vegan.  A few days before my gastric bypass surgery eight years ago, we headed over to a very fine steakhouse where I shkoffed down Oysters Rockefeller, a large steak with sides, home baked bread, and some kind of dessert involving chocolate.  I might have also had a salad.  I know I had a drink.  Today, I would have problems getting down any of that foodly bountitude.  Seriously, half a drink, one cooked oyster, and a bite of steak. Is it worth it?  Yeah, it's worth it.  It's just not always comfortable.

Whether tomorrow is Judgment Day, or the world ends on December 21, 2012, or I die at my desk at age 100, I really would like to have a last meal worthy of the occasion but in keeping with my altered gastric state.  There is one food I can eat reasonably well with a minimum of discomfort, and that is lobster.  I want lobster, lots of lobster with lots of butter, and more lobster with that white sauce they serve you at Kobe's Japanese Steakhouse, and then more lobster the way they used to make it at Al Steiner's on Chestnut Street in Cedarhurst, stuffed with exquisite crabmeat.  Lobster and butter, is there any better way to go out?

Dystopia are a writer's best friend.  For some reason, almost everybody really gets into those stories about the future where everything goes wrong.  Some disaster flicks are awesome.  Others are barely so-so.  My all-time favorite disaster flick is the appropriately named "Armageddon", with Bruce Willis and a disturbingly normal Billy Bob Thornton.  Runner up is "I am Legend", a film so frighteningly real that I've only watched it once.  The scariest part for me, besides the zombies, is the price of gasoline at the abandoned stations.  Is it just coincidence that the price of regular gas is approaching $6.66 a gallon?  I think not ...

To a great number of Christians, however, the story of Judgment Day is not a work of science fiction, but a future event as real as death and taxes.  The thing is, God is a bit whimsical, and to keep his children on their toes, he left clues to all these signs and portents but failed to provide the date and time of the main event.  So for over two millenia, humans the world over have been trying to parse the truth out of Biblical passages which can be read any number of ways.  Apparently, there is one dude who is so sure that his truth is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he has spent a good part of his fortune on getting the word out:

The end of the world will be at exactly 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, says (89-year-old Oakland-based Harold) Camping, who along with his organization, Family Radio, are behind those billboards across the country forecasting the Rapture this Saturday. The Rapture, the Last Days, Armageddon and the Final Days of Judgment are all interchangeable. It's when God will destroy the Earth to show his love for humanity. . .

The Rapture is at 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011, where ever it's 6 p.m. first, with the "fantastically big" world-ending event taking place on a time zone by time zone basis.

That means we can expect the Rapture to start when it hits 6 p.m. at the International Dateline at 180 Longitude -- roughly  between Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Nuku'alofa, Tonga. We'll know it's Judgment Day because there will be an earthquake of previously unprecedented magnitude, Camping predicts.

So, according to these calculations, the Rapture will actually begin like a rolling brown out across the globe at 11 p.m. PST on Friday, May 20th. "Everyone will be weeping and wailing because they'll know in a few hours it'll come to their city," said Camping.

Which I think makes it 2 a.m., EST on Saturday, May 21st.  Since I'm almost always awake at that hour, I'll let you know what happens.

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river . . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

                                             - T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

Friday, May 20, 2011

Brave New World

Thursday I had an obligatory visit at my doctor's office.  Obligatory because if I do not show up at least once a year, the doctor will not issue a prescription for the medication I have been taking, successfully and with no side effects, for thirty years, and which keeps my heart from over-fluttering.  The ARNP who checked me out was a very pleasant and professional young lady who confided in me that she had been working on her mother for ten years, and apparently mom still was refusing to go have a colonoscopy done.  Maybe refuse is too strong of a word.  Decline is better.  That's what I did, decline.  She asked me when I'd had my last mammogram and Pap smear, and did not pass out when I told her it must have been early 2006.  Then she mentioned the colonoscopy, and I politely demurred, adding "I don't take flu shots either."  To her credit, I did not get a lecture, but just a gentle reminder that she hoped I would think about having these things done.  Then she gave me a scrip for a panoply of blood tests.  I'm anemic, so taking my blood doesn't make my day any better.  Those are fasting blood tests, so after midnight I can have nothing but water, although she did say that in the morning, I could have water and black coffee.  I might consider it, since the black coffee was thrown in.

I suppose there are very good reasons for my submitting to being prodded and poked, and in no way do I want to encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps.  I am all for preventative medicine ... for other people.  Oddly enough, needles don't bother me, and my experience with the medical profession has been, for the most part, positive.  I don't fear doctors or nurses or phlebotimists or even technicians who turn my chest into a bosom pancake. My bosoms always bounce back, so to speak.  No harm, no foul.

What I dislike is getting caught up in an endless cycle of doctor visits, laboratory tests, and prescription medication.  My personal manner of preventive medicine has been benign neglect, and so far it has worked.  The few times I have had real health issues, I went to a doctor and took care of it.  I take two prescriptions, and two only, and that is only because they are vital to my ability to function.  I respect and envy people who have the discipline to take supplements that improve the quality of life, but I won't even take a vitamin pill.  I realize that one day this pigheadedness is likely to get me into trouble. 

On the other hand, I don't smoke, I rarely drink and never in quantity, and I don't abuse drugs, legal or illegal, so that should count for something.  Genetically, I stand a chance of hitting my century mark.  My biological relatives on both sides had long life in their genes, and despite having been born at the turn of the last century without the advantages of modern medicine, all lived well into their eighties and nineties.

I think that the "better living through chemistry" mindset has overtaken our society.  We drug our kids when they are young, and then we wonder why they turn so easily to street drugs in their teen years.  There are legitimate uses for medication in kindergarten, I suppose, but a burnt out teacher with a room full of boisterous kids isn't one of them.  (Neither is a foster parent who can't be bothered to try to work with a child the old fashioned way before screaming for the child to be put on meds).  I'm still annoyed that my son's kindergarten teacher suggested Ritalin because he was a bit of a motor mouth.  Imagine that, a five year old boy who talks a lot and doesn't enjoy sitting  at his desk like a little soldier for six stultifying hours, listening to La Vaca Grande drone on.  After Rob asked when she had gotten her medical degree, we had his classroom changed. 

When the time comes, when I have no other choice, I'll take my medicine, but until then, I'll take my chances.  At least my mind is clear and my kidneys aren't overworked from processing poisons.

It's a wonder my blood pressure hasn't gone through the roof ... the cat got at my knitting again.  Fortunately, I had not switched over to my brand-spanking new size 9 bamboo needles, but he messed with the yarn to the extent I had to frog back several hours of work.  Bummer. 

In the news:
  • The Food Police are trying to get Ronald McDonald fired.  Why should I care, I hate clowns.
  • The CDC has warned the public to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse.*
  • A mother in California has been injecting her 8 year old aspiring beauty queen daughter with Botox to improve her looks.  Fortunately, child protective services removed the child from her custody.
  • An organization in San Francisco has gathered enough signatures to put a proposal banning circumcision on the ballot.  All the Jewish residents are going to have to flee to "haven cities" to get their kids snipped on the eighth day.
  • Newt Gingrich steps on his own ... *ahem* ... while wearing golf shoes, after attacking his party's economic program.  If you like train wrecks, this is the candidate to watch
  • Is Saturday, May 21, 2011 "Judgment Day"?  If it is, my courtroom bud Trish has the right idea in holding off paying her bills until Monday.
  • President's Mideast Discourse Elicits Dissonant Responses in U.S. and Abroad - oops, looks like Obama just borrowed Newt's golf shoes.  Quel mistake, Mr. President.  You can't fix things in the Middle East by forcing Israel to return to pre-1967 borders.  Hope you have other sources of campaign dollars, if you know what I mean.

*If zombies ever start taking over the planet, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says we'd better be prepared for it.

If the undead really start roaming the earth looking for fresh brains to eat, we can't rely on our ability to shoot 'em dead the way people do in video games or in horror flicks. Instead, the agency says, we need to treat it like any other disaster.

"So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house," Dr. Ali S. Khan, assistant surgeon general of the United States, wrote in a blog on CDC's web site. "This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp."

When I mentioned this article to my son, he became quite animated.  We all agree that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, the emergency kit should include water, food, medication, and ordnance - you know, military supplies like weapons, ammunition, combat vehicles.  My son, the Eagle Scout, still lives by the Boy Scout motto:   

"Be Prepared."

 Or maybe that should be "Live long and prosper."  

Have a happy happy joy joy day.  Let's hope the evangelists are wrong about the Rapture, but if they are correct, it has been a pleasure blogging with you.  See you on the other side.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The dog ate my homework, the cat ate my knitting, and the family ate my split pea soup

Tuesday was a pretty good day, but Wednesday, which started immediately after I posted the May 18th post, is already down the tubes.  I'm in a funk, a fury, and a bad mood (reminds me of a scene from Howard the Duck, but I won't even go there), and it's not even 2 AM.

I committed the cardinal mistake of leaving my knitting on the couch while I worked on the computer.  When I came back, the knitting was on the floor, one of the needles was missing, and the project was half off of the remaining needle.  I found the missing needle, plus the missing endpieces from both needles, and what looked to be the remains of my row counter widget.

Wait, it gets worse.  Some years ago, I switched from metal knitting needles to bamboo (with an occasional foray into rosewood) for most projects.  Wooden needles are warmer to the touch, much easier on the hands, and less likely to drop a stitch like those slippery metal needles.  That's the good part.  The bad part is that some of my cats are fatally attracted to the wooden needles, and love to chew on them.  I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but Dora was the prime offender.  I suspect that her twin, Dejah Thoris, has taken up Dora's cause, perhaps with the assistance of a certain playful pup named Indiana.  Once the needles are chewed on, they are useless ... the yarn gets caught, pulls, and the project is ruined.

I got started on a search and rescue mission, but nothing was salvageable except the project itself, which needed to be brushed off and put back on a pair of intact needles.  Of course, I did not have a spare set of size 9 single pointed wooden needles, so I had to resort to metal.  The cat hates metal needles.  And I managed to scare up one ill-fitting widget.  So after court, I'm taking my lunch hour down the road to Joann's to pick up size 9 single point bamboo needles and a proper widget.  UPDATE:  still using the metal needles.  They work with this type of yarn, and I have been too busy to shlep to Joann's or Michael's.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I want to be done with all my scarves and little sweaters, and switch back over to knitting socks.  Nice, small projects which don't take up a lot of room on one's lap, or smother one in unwanted warmth.  Living in Florida during The Menopause Years is quite enough warmth for me, thank you.

Which hasn't stopped me from craving a bowl of homemade split pea soup, so that is what I put on to cook when I got home from work.  You will be able to find the recipe with all the other recipes at the recipe blog.  Sydni, I hope you are reading this, because when I made it, I was thinking of you.  No meat whatsoever, my dear.  This is the way my mother always made it when I lived at home, and I didn't realize people put ham bones or frankfurters into their pea soup until I went to college and got out in the world.  But really, there are so many soup recipes that have meat or chicken or seafood in them, it is nice to really taste just the veggies once in a while. I can assure you, this soup is so good you will not miss the meat (and with the price of meat these days, that is, as Martha would say, a good thing.)

In the beginning, there were vegetables and dried legumes in one pot, and onions with butter in another ... and it was good

I have been getting ready for my cruise, and one item of importance is reading material.  Since I equate relaxation with reading, and since I read at a frightening rate, I need to be prepared by having with me at least one book for each day of travel.  So I have been having fun downloading ebooks into the Kindle app for iPhone.  Part of the fun is finding new authors and finding good bargains.  Since I stick to one genre for entertainment - mysteries - I spend a lot of time perusing through old favorites, new favorites, and those endless lists of recommendations.  I love recommendations.  I have found a bunch of new authors by checking out those recommendations.  The best part is that in order to get you interested in a new series, Amazon will offer the first book for free or some ridiculously reduced price.  So in addition to the usual suspects: Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, Patricia Cornwell, Lilian Jackson Braun, Janet Evanovich, Kathy Reichs, Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter, Sue Grafton, Jane Haddam, J.A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Diane Mott Davidson, Sara Paretsky and Linda Fairstein, I have been introduced to a veritable pantheon of mystery-writing giants.  Lee Childs is at the top of that list, and J.A. Konrath (Jack Kilborn) is a gem.  Another nice thing is rediscovering the golden oldies, and that brings me to the book I am currently reading - The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie.  This, the very first Hercule Poirot book, was published in the U.S. in 1920, and when reference is made to the war which affected the lives of both Poirot and Hastings, Dame Agatha is, of course, referring to the Great War, the War to End all Wars.  What is absolutely wonderful, to me anyway, is that although the book is set almost a century ago, and in England of all places, there is nothing stuffy or even old-fashioned about it.  Her writing feels contemporary, despite the lack of DNA evidence or other CSI-type wonders now taken for granted.

Crap, I forgot all about Ngaio Marsh and P.D. James ...

Never mind ... this soup is so good ...

Heaven ... I'm in heaven ... indescribably delicious.  Comfort in a bowl. 

Later, came crashing to earth.  On the Cooking Channel, "Iron Chef" is showing Battle Natto, with a much-younger Morimoto being targeted by the infamous "Ohta Faction."  Natto beans are one of the more disgusting foods in the world, and without a doubt the most disgusting secret ingredient.   I keep thinking they must mean "snotto beans" because ... well, a picture really is worth a thousand words:

I'm sure I can get those beans a guest shot on the SyFy Network.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good One

Tuesday was a lovely day.  It was warm and breezy.  I had a full morning in court, which I loved.  I found a place where I could get Hostess Sno-Balls and Drake's Cherry Fruit Pies.  I spent my lunch hour on the banks of a retention pond, reading, knitting, and enjoying the breeze.

Not such a good day for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Apparently, he finally came clean about a child he fathered about 14 years ago while the mother worked in the home he shared with his wife and children.  How utterly tawdry.  Why is it that politicians and actors or any combination thereof, cannot keep their pants zipped?

And while we are on the topic of politicians who cannot keep it zipped - Newt Gingrich, twice divorced for cheating on the spouse of the moment, is already in trouble with his own party for dissing their budget, publicly, loud and clear.  I love to see Republicans eat their own.  I also love to see Democrats eat their own.  Remember, I'm a rational anarchist and I think both major parties, as well as the Libertarian party and any other organized political party, are a blight on America.

The Final Chapter:  Osama in the Ninth Circle of Hell

Well, Mr. Bin Ladin, here we are at long last.  The Ninth Circle of Hell, as conceived by Dante Alighieri, was reserved for the worst sinners in history, those who are guilty of treachery - treachery to family, state, guests, and to God.  Let's skip Rounds 1 through 4, and get to the main event.  I know you have been anxious and excited about meeting the Main Man of Hell.   You know him as Shaitan or maybe you prefer Iblis.  Not that it matters what you prefer, and he's running the show now, and he prefers to be called "Lucifer." 

So now, you have reached the center of Hell.  There have been some changes since Dante "built" this place in the Middle Ages, and I think you'll like the new accommodations.  Here's how it works ... oh, are you cold?  Sorry ... according to Wikipedia, Dante decided that contrary to the conventional vision of Hell being a pit of everlasting flames, Satan, who has somehow acquired two extra heads, is waist deep in ice, weeping tears from his six eyes, and beating his six wings as if trying to escape, although the icy wind that emanates only further ensures his imprisonment (as well as that of the others in the ring). Each face has a mouth that chews on a prominent traitor, with Brutus and Cassius feet-first in the left and right mouths respectively. These men were involved in the assassination of Julius Caeser—an act which, to Dante, represented the destruction of a unified Italy and the killing of the man who was divinely appointed to govern the world. In the central, most vicious mouth is Judas Iscariot—the betrayer of Jesus. Judas is being administered the most horrifying torture of the three traitors, his head gnawed by Satan's mouth, and his back being forever skinned by Satan's claws.

What we do now - there being so many new sinners to deal with - that the worst of the lot (and that includes you) will rotate into the Inner Circle on a regular schedule.  The rest of the time, you will be assigned to an appropriate upper Circle, so in your case, you can expect to spend a good deal of eternity dog-paddling in the boiling blood and fire of the River Phlegethon.  But as the new sinner on the block, so to speak, you are going to get first crack at a place by Satan's side, or under his wings.  Sorry, bad joke.  So say a quick hello to Adolf Hitler, to your right, and Vlad the Impaler to your left.  You lucky dog, you get to take center stage for the next millennium or whenever you rotate out.  Don't worry about that turban, Satan likes to constantly gnaw on the head of whoever occupies that spot. 

I'll be taking my leave of you now, Osama bin Ladin.  For the rest of eternity, you may think on the irony that you were led to the very center of Hell for an eternity of torturous punishment, by an American Jewish lady from New York.  Well, gotta go, back to the sun and fun of Florida, back to America, the land of opportunity, fast food, and religious freedom.  But let me leave you with a little eternal earworm ...  "no phone, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury; like Robinson Crusoe, as primitive as can be."  Now THAT'S torture!

For the memory of Michael Opperman

Monday, May 16, 2011

If at first you don't succeed

I just realized that during Blogger's maintenance down time, the internet managed to eat my post from Thursday, May 12th.  It is gone forever, and I am saddened and a little annoyed.  All I can remember is that I was ranting about passwords and PIN numbers.  If you try to click on the link from Facebook, you will be told the page does not exist.  I am sincerely sorry about that.

Why I love Sunday:  my boys are watching "Tron Legacy" after a Big Breakfast of eggs scrambled with tri-color bell peppers, onions, and sausage crumble, and a pound of bacon sprinkled with brown sugar and baked off in a 425 degree oven.  I am enjoying my second cup of coffee.  The hallmark of a really good cup of coffee is how it tastes when you drink it black, and that is the only way I have drunk coffee for many years.  This coffee, the Lady's Double Chocolate Cream, is exceptional, and we picked it up at the Paula Deen store in Savannah and had it ground there.  I've always been wary of "flavored" coffees, as I can usually pick up an off-taste from the flavoring, but this is so smooth and natural I have been drinking it every morning since we came home after our weekend there.  I am also very wary of products that are hawked by celebrity chefs, and it sometimes looks like Paula Deen has put her name on every conceivable type of marketable product, but all I can tell you is that the coffee is superb.  I feel an online order in my future.  I also feel relaxed, at peace with the world.  Call me a homebody, but as far as I am concerned, this is what it is all about.  Life is good.

The loaf is upside down

I developed a recipe for what I am calling "Out of Season Peach Bread", extrapolating from my recipe for cranberry nut bread.  I am hoping that a quick bread works even better than the pound cake (although everyone who tasted it thought it quite good), but will have to let you know later.  UPDATE:  I OFFICIALLY GIVE UP ON PEACH BREAD.  I am not pleased with the taste, nor the texture.  Despite being a heavier quick bread batter, the damn peaches sank again, and while it came out of the pan without difficulty, the bottom of the loaf was unpleasant.

Christopher Eccleston, Matt Smith, David Tennant - the Ninth, Eleventh, and Tenth Doctors

Change can be good:  I hate to admit this, after my online rants, but the Eleventh Doctor is beginning to grow on me.  Maybe it's just that I like the Doctor Who franchise so much that I will go with Whoever plays the Doctor.  Perhaps it is because the writing remains top notch and the stories hook me in.  Or it could just be that I need a break from endless reruns of Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

I caught this news article today.  Could not miss the headline: 

Boy abused by mother, then child-welfare system

"The torture started before the Leesburg boy reached his second birthday. His mother severely beat him for crawling into another child's crib.

For the next several years, she ground the soaring spirit of that child into ashes. She and her boyfriend slapped, punched and hit the boy. The couple drank, did drugs and got into fistfights in front of him. They made sure he knew that he mattered to them about as much as a pile of stinking garbage.

Eventually, the boyfriend left, and other men started coming around. His mother let them have sex with his 9-year-old sister, and he got to watch. He remembers it. And he remembers his mother forcing him into sex acts with some of the men.

State child-protection workers would investigate complaints of filthy conditions, bruises and welts from excessive corporal punishment and lack of supervision on four occasions between January 2000 and November 2003, when they finally took him and his sister away and put them in foster homes.

The healing should have started there, but the state Department of Children & Families sometimes dispenses its own barbaric brand of neglect. And this unfortunate child came in for a heaping measure."

This is the world in which I work.

I don't know who bears the majority of the blame (other than the mother), but there will no doubt be a major administrative review of everything and everyone touching that case.  It is particularly disturbing that this happened in Lake County, the site of two of the most egregious cases highlighting the state's failure to protect it's children:  Bradley McGee in 1989, and Kayla McKean in 1998. 

The reason I bring this up is to point out that in the case discussed in the above article, it was not DCF that was responsible for monitoring the child's placement in foster care, and therefore was not the "dispenser of barbaric neglect" as alleged by the reporter. Thanks to the Legislature passing laws requiring privatization, those responsibilities were farmed out to case management organizations, in an attempt to save money and strip DCF of the tremendous power it had once held as the umbrella agency known as HRS (the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services).  Of course, if the child was not timely removed after the earlier investigations, that may well have been the responsibility of DCF, as they are still doing child protective investigations in most counties. Or it could have been the county sheriff's office, and DCF not involved at all.  It would be nice if just once the media got it right.

Here is the problem, as I see it, with all this privatization jazz: the CMOs, as we call them in our alphabet-happy world, are not uniform in quality across the state, or even within a particular county where more than one CMO may be providing services.  Balkanization of protective services, foster care, and adoption services has been, in my opinion, a failure.  CMOs and/or their lead agencies (yet another level of privatization - pray, tell me where are those savings?) are particularly reluctant to criticize a foster home that they have previously vetted and licensed.  The result is substandard foster homes, plain and simple.

The other reason I bring this up is to point out that the budget for child protective and other social services is being slashed mercilessly by Governor Voldemort and the Florida Legislature.  I have been through these cycles before.  No good can come of it.  If DCF and the CMOs are struggling now with overworked investigators and case managers, resulting in an escalated employee turnover problem, leading to a bunch of new workers without sufficient training or resources, cutting the budget can only make it that much worse.  The other result of a ravaged budget is a reduction in available services to children, most importantly, psychological services of varying sorts (including the sexual trauma counseling referred to in the article.)

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I have seen some very positive changes in Florida's child protection over the past twenty years, but privatization is not one of them.

Sporting chance:  It's the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls competing for Eastern Conference winner.  Guess who I'm rooting for?  Big hint:  it's the team without the bad sport, foul-tempered bully.  UPDATE:  the Bulls swamped the Heat.  They tromped on their heads.  They kicked their butts.  They ... you get the idea.  Go Bulls!

True confessions:  I cheated.  (I had to put this up.  I am crazy about Mary Astor.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was juiced to try out some recipes from Jane Butel's book Finger Lickin' Rib Stickin' Great Tastin' Barbecue.  Specifically, I wanted to prepare "Terry Johnson's Hawaiian Luau Barbecued Beef Ribs" and "Steve's Bermuda Lamb."  By the time I got back from Publix, I was in no mood to start slicing, dicing, chopping, and measuring the ingredients for the two different sauces.  So I cheated ... threw the lamb in a ziploc bag with some Sticky Finger's Carolina Classic, a mustard based sauce, and did the same to the beef, using Sticky Finger's Carolina Sweet Sauce.  Next stop, the oven.  I'll let you know how it all turns out.  UPDATE:  Very good!  I'll post the instructions on the recipe blog.

Beef back ribs on the left, country-style lamb "ribs" on the right