Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Grabbing Nuts

Last year, for the first time, I made a batch of nocino, a liqueur made from unripe walnuts. I'm not exactly convinced that last year's batch was all that great (I think I used too many cloves), but my mom liked the stuff. This year, I'm going to make another batch, with fewer cloves and perhaps more vanilla, maybe a couple of coffee beans.

Anyway, today I stopped by the job early so I could gather some of the black walnuts from the two large walnut trees onsite. When I got to work, I shocked my co-worker by telling him, "I'm here to grab some nuts." Poor guy was the only other person present, so I think he was sweating a bit until I explained that I'd be harvesting some walnuts to make a liqueur. He was less perturbed when I returned with two bags of walnuts and asked, "Can you smell my nuts from where you're sitting?" Unripe walnut fruits have a pretty strong, almost citrusy, aroma.

I adapted my first batch of nocino from this recipe, but this time I think I'll halve the clove content and add a couple of coffee beans to the mix. Last year's experiment wasn't a complete success, but a promising start. The limoncello, in contrast, has always been a huge success, right from the start, and I have two gallons of the stuff just waiting to be bottled.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

America's Cafone Declares

Great, just great, Chris Christie, America's cafone, just announced that he is indeed running in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, or as Tengrain puts it, The Goat Rodeo. Although Christie is a mendacious bag of protoplasm, he's characterizing his run as "telling it like it is".

I have to confess that I have a fascination with Christie, much like I have a fascination with cane toads, which like Christie are bloated, venomous, and pernicious. I actually sat through his announcement speech this morning while pitting another haul of cherries. Most of Christie's announcement was a repeat of the self-hagiography he indulged in at the 2012 Republican convention, but there were a couple of things that caused my ears to prick up.

Christie, in a move that is sure to alienate the GOP base, paid lip service to diversity, in contrast with the other vulgar Northeasterner running in the primary:

See this place, this place that represents the most ethnically diverse state in the country. The most densely populated state in the country. We're all different and we're on top of each other like you're on top of each other in this gym. And what has come from that, what has come from that is the absolute belief that not only can all of us achieve whatever dream we want to achieve, because of the place where we live and the opportunities that it gives us, but not only can we do it together, but we have to do it together. We have no choice but to work together, this country needs to work together again, not against each other.

Chris, Chris, Chris, this is not going to win you friends in Iowa or South Carolina... it probably won't win you friends in New Hampshire either, seeing as it's the GOP primary you're running in.

Christie had some typical pablum about making the state work, even though one of his first acts as governor was to squash the construction of a trans-Hudson tunnel which would have provided numerous well-paying jobs and vastly improved the traffic flow in the New York Metropolitan Area:

When I became governor six years ago, we had a state that was in economic calamity and an eleven billion dollar deficient on a twenty nine billion dollar budget. A state that had taxes and fees raised on it one hundred and fifteen times in the eight years before I became governor. A state that no longer believed that any one person could make a difference in the lives of the people of this state so we rolled up our sleeves and we went to work.

Further on, Christie started talking like one of the Republican-funded "Third Way centrists" so beloved by the corporate media:

And both parties. Both parties have failed our country. Both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath and waited to get their own way. And both parties have lead us to believe that in America, a country that was built on compromise, that somehow now compromise is a dirty word. If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise was a dirty word, we'd still be under the crown of England.

I think Michael Bloomberg and the entirety of the Sunday morning talkers just got a "shiver up their legs". I don't see this playing well with the GOP base, though, and I don't see Christie running as a third party candidate, either. Like all "third way" types, though, Christie sure loves punching down on workers and retirees:

And now, as Livingston New Jersey turns it's gaze to the rest of America today, what do we see and what do we have to confront? We need a campaign of big ideas and hard truths and real opportunity for the America people. We need to fix a broken entitlement system that is bankrupting our country. We have candidates that say we cannot confront, because if we do we'll be lying and stealing from the American people. Let me fill everyone else in, the lying and stealing has already happened. The horse is already out of the barn. We've got to get it back in and you can only do it by force.

We've all heard this austerity pitch before, Christie, like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, must be heavily invested in cat food futures.

Christie then started talking about jobs (which he has a bad record on) and, even more hypocritically, as someone who thinks that eliminating college debt is wrong, started concern-trolling about college graduates:

We need to get our economy growing again at four percent or greater and the reason we do is because we have to make this once again the country that my mother and father told me it was. That as hard as you work, that's as hard and high as you'll rise. That's not the case anymore, we can't honestly look at our children and say that to them. Because we have an economy that is weak and doesn't present them with the same opportunities that Mary Pat and I were presented with in the mid 1980s when we graduated from college. When we graduated from college, we weren't worried about finding a job, we were worried about picking which job was the best for us. We didn't worry about whether we were going to be successful; we knew if we worked hard we were going to be successful. This country and it's leadership owes the same thing to my children and yours I'm ready to give it to you.

Of course, no Republican speech would be complete without a dig at the "Kenyan Usurper":

Well, here it comes. After seven years. After seven years, I heard the President of the United States say the other day that the world respects America more because of his leadership. This convinces me, this convinces me. This is the final confirmation that President Obama lives in his own world, not in our world. And the fact is this. After seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy, run by Barack Obama, we'd better not turn it over to his second mate Hilary Clinton.

I'd hate to break it to him, but President Obama is much more respected than his predecessor, and it's Christie who lives in his own world. In Christie's world, he thinks he has a shot at the presidency.

While listening to the post-announcement commentary, one thread that ran through the analysis is that Christie's real goal in 2016 is to position himself as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate. His geographic origin, his inability to speak in evangelical dogwhistles, and his suspect conservative credentials will sink his presidential ambitions, but his reputation as a bully and a bloviator will make him the perfect "attack dog" on a GOP ticket.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Pride Day!

Here's wishing all my LGBTQ readers and their straight allies a happy Pride Day. In light of last Friday's Supreme Court ruling, today's pride events are going to have an extra special resonance. Like James Inhofe, I have gay friends, and I'm glad that their marriages will offer them legal protection throughout these here United States.

I do a Pride Day post every year, but I'll give a short précis about why I do so. The primary reason why I support LGBTQ rights is that I believe that every single human being deserves a chance to live a life without fear, and to have the opportunity to live happily as long as their happiness does no harm to others. Opponents of LGBTQ rights continually lie about gay, bi, and trans*persons, accusing them of posing an existential threat to society... accusations that are patently false. I want people to live truthfully, not to hide who they love out of fear. I think this is crucial to an open, healthy society.

On a personal level, my first encounter with anti-gay animus took place when I was about six years old, when I intervened when an older neighbor kid was bullying the nice, well-mannered kid next door, calling him a "faggot" and threatening him. Never having patience with bullies, I went after the jerk and ended up getting knocked on my ass and down a hill, with a sprained ankle that had me off my feet for several weeks... in the summer. Nice gay kid or bully, who's side do you take? That question has informed my attitude to the LGBTQ community ever since I was old enough to understand it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Easy Listening Music

Wow, I never knew that I was into easy listening music... Mr Burns was right when he remarked that minstrels can soothe jangled nerves.

Without further ado, how about some easy listening music?

Ahhh... let the waves of relaxation wash over you...

It's like you're wafting around on a cloud...

Blissed out yet?

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's About Time, America!

As Joe Biden would put it, today's ruling by the Supreme Court is a Big Deal... namely, same-sex marriage is legal in all fifty states. Finally, our gay friends can get married without fearing legal problems if they relocate or travel. Congratulations, folks, you won a shot at equal treatment under the law, bigots get stuffed.

Predictably, the right-wing has had conniption fits over the ruling, as Roy and Tengrain have documented. Sorry, people, but cessation of your ability to impose your dogma on others is not oppression, so stop playing martyrs. It's comical to see the hyperbole and hyperventilation with which they have greeted this decision, Linda Harvey having one of the funniest lines:

“We need an Emancipation Proclamation now to free America from the tyranny of sodomy.”

In this case, I think she means an Eman-on-mancipation Proclamation, but I'd venture to say that, given the definition of sodomy, the average person is perfectly okay with the "tyranny of sodomy".

Of course, the craziest reaction to this ruling comes from the insane Bryan Fischer... once again, Tengrain is on the case. Here's Fischer himself, being completely insane and offensive:

Yeah, Bryan, keep on fantasizing about towers, ya perv, real people were killed that day, some of whom I knew, so you can get bent. Nobody's oppressing you, it's just your warped moral sense that's torturing you.

Meanwhile, on planet Earth, real people will have real protection. When same-sex marriage was legalized in New Jersey, a friend of mine, one of the nicest and most generous individuals I know, was able to marry his partner of thirty-four years. He and his husband are not getting any younger, and now they are protected under the law if they have to make hard decisions regarding healthcare. This is what the same-sex marriage debate is really about, it's not about baking stupid cakes, or as Roy reported NRO's David French writing, licentiousness:

This is the era of sexual liberty — the marriage of hedonism to meaning — and the establishment of a new civic religion. The black-robed priesthood has spoken. Will the church bow before their new masters?

The righties are the ones couching this in terms of hedonism and sodomy. The people whose marriages are now legal nationwide are thinking in terms of commitment and responsibility.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

If There's a Bustle in Your Hedgerow

It just might be a local goofball in a mask, making a ruckus:

Last night, I stepped out of my office for a walkabout and I heard an uncharacteristic racket, and saw that one of our shrubs was shaking as if it were being battered by gale-force winds. Apparently, this goofball got stuck in the middle of the shrub, which doesn't even have any appealing fruit on it. Peering closer at the shrub, I noticed the glow of a tapetum lucidum shining back at me. My close presence didn't make this raccoon comfortable, so it commenced some real thrashings and bashings, to no avail.

I decided that the better part of valor would be conducting my periodic inspection tour while formulating a plan to help my masked acquaintance out of the bush. Luckily, while I was contemplating the use of a long, forked tree branch to push it out, the critter managed to extricate itself.

I don't know what's going on, but the raccoons seem to be even more comical than usual this year... I've got to check the property for unusual mushrooms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

I'm going to preface this post with the declaration that I am against the death penalty. I feel that a nation should be judged by how it treats its most despised members, not its most beloved, and that the state should not punish evil behavior by engaging in evil behavior. Lest anybody comment that I'd think differently if a friend or loved one of mine were the victim of a crime, before I was thirty years of age, I lost one friend to a terrorist bombing and another one to an ambush by a guy he was going to arrest.

With that out of the way, I feel no joy that the Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death. I think that executing him would play into the "martyrdom" narrative beloved of fundamentalist Islamic extremists, while making our society more like that created by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Personally, I would force the Boston Marathon bomber to share a cell for the rest of his life with the Charleston AME Church shooter. Let the evil Jonas brother and the kid with Sandy Duncan's hair cohabit in an 8X10 for the next fifty or sixty years, boring each other to tears with each other's manifestos while arguing over choice of victims. Sure, that might be construed as cruel and unusual punishment, but goddamn it if those two young "holy warriors" don't deserve each other.