Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sorry to See Beau Go, Joe

I don't mention Joe Biden all that often in my blog, though I sometimes reference him indirectly. For the record, I like Joe Biden, he's the sort of working class guy who never forgot his roots after he made it big... I picture him waking up most days and saying, "Wow, I can't believe that I'm here". While Biden is generally thought of as being gaffe-prone, he was always eloquent and compassionate while speaking at funerals, whether of fallen soldiers, assassinated police officers, or deceased statesmen. Biden has long known when he had to bring his linguistic "A game", because he has long known bereavement. Here is Biden delivering a speech about grief back in 2012:

Now, with the loss of his son Beau to cancer, Joe once again has to deal with bereavement. Beau Biden, a public servant like his father, was a contemporary of mine, so this particular death hits home, especially since I recently lost two friends and contemporaries this year. Beau Biden died all too young, like my recently departed friends Valerie and Richard. I'm sure that Joe Biden will be stalwart in the wake of his son's death, the guy has character. In response to the death of the Kennedys, Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared "To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart." I'm more of the opinion of the departed Phil Chevron, also Irish, who noted that hearts just crack, they never really break. I don't think Joe Biden's heart will break, he's too resilient for that to happen. It will definitely ache, but I have no doubt that he will continue to be a comforter of others suffering from heartache.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lunching with Alicurati

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of having lunch at Pho Vietnam with Alicublog commenters Derelict (who is anything but), gocart mozart (who needs to update his Weather Chart more often, and mds (who works on the campus of the Prestigious Bastion of Prestige that I attended). I love putting the faces and the names to the 'nyms, and having an opportunity to hang out with three of the smartest snarkers of one of the smartest snarkpits on the intert00bz was an absolute joy.

Oh, and the pho was delicious as well, a nice fragrant broth fortified with noodles and beef (I got the variety with the tripe and tendons, because I'm a "rooter to tooter" diner) and flavored with a handful of basil, cilantro, and bean sprouts. The service was impeccable, and we weren't rushed out of the place after our lunch- we did linger for some excellent Vietnamese coffee (I had the iced coffee, and gcmz had a hot cup of coffee, brewed to order using a cup-top filter that I now covet- I love coffee paraphernalia, and one of these cute little filters would be a great companion for my French press, espresso pot, and mundane American coffee maker.

Thanks to Derelict for putting together this little get-together, I enjoyed it immensely. If any readers are ever in the general vicinity of New York City, please mention it. I love these sort of meetings.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hastert the Unspeakable

Tengrain has been working the Hastert scandal beat, which has morphed from an indictment for lying to the FBI about suspicious cash withdrawals to a full-blown sexual scandal involving at least one schoolboy. Tengrain notes a particular irony about Hastert's indictment:

Essentially it sounds like Hastert was being blackmailed by Person A (and the indictment uses the masculine pronoun) and was paying him off in multiple payments to avoid detection (“structuring,” which ironically is a War on Drugs requirement to track large cash withdrawals and deposits enacted during the Bush Years when he was Speaker of the House) and of course, lying to the Feds about it, too.

Looks like Hastert was hoist on his own pedotard.

It's been a crazy week for Conservative sex scandals, from the Josh Duggar diddling scandal to this current hastertion. Is it any wonder that teens are fleeing religion like alert Duggar girls flee Josh? In the face of this embarrassing implosion, certain righties are trying to build an unconvincing "both sides are equally bad narrative by dredging up an article that Sanders wrote for a Vermont publication in 1972. The shocking statement from Bernie back in the post hippie-era hangover?

A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.

A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.

The man and woman get dressed up on Sunday — and go to Church, or maybe to their "revolutionary" political meeting.

Have you ever looked at Stag, Man, Hero, Tough magazines on the shelf at your local bookstore? Do you know why newspapers with the articles like "Girl 12 raped by 14 men" sell so well? To what in us are they appealing?

A simple Google search should be enough to demonstrate that Bernie was exactly right about the sexual fantasies of some people, and as long as it's all done in a consensual fashion, with respect for limits and personal safety, it's all good. Hell, the kinks Bernie described were pretty pedestrian compared to stuff like vore and furry sexuality. Besides, Bernie was not approving of this kink:

Women, for their own preservation, are trying to pull themselves together. And it's necessary for all of humanity that they do so. Slavishness on one hand breeds pigness on the other hand. Pigness on one hand breeds slavishness on the other. Men and women — both are losers. Women adapt themselves to fill the needs of men, and men adapt themselves to fill the needs of women. In the beginning there were strong men who killed the animals and brought home the food — and the dependent women who cooked it. No More! Only the roles remain — waiting to be shaken off. There are no "human" oppressors. Oppressors have lost their humanity. On one hand "slavishness," on the other hand "pigness." Six of one, half dozen of the other. Who wins?

This reads like something which wouldn't be out of place in the Meese Report, so what's the fuss? At any rate, trying to kickstart a false scandal involving something Bernie wrote shortly before the future Speaker did something unspeakable is insincere and unconvincing. Simply put, Bernie was a bit of an alarmist, but Hastert was a monster.

Post title references this. For some extra Erol Otus-y goodness, there's always this lovely rendition- which happens to be a lot less creepy than Denny.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I'm scratching my head about the hard line the U.S. Department of Justice is taking with FIFA officials who were arrested for racketeering conspiracy and corruption. Given the DoJ's inaction on the multi-TRILLION dollar credit default swaps industry, the FIFA bribes and kickbacks look like such small potatoes that the DoJ should have punted (to mix "football" metaphors with "football" metaphors):

The US justice department said 14 individuals were under investigation worldwide for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.

I often joke that one should never steal unless it's enough money that the thief can scarper off to Paraguay and never look back. Hell, the asshole who was arrested for killing his employer in a $40,000 ransom scheme could have made more money honestly than he got illegally. The FIFA guys didn't get enough money in bribes and kickbacks to buy off the right people, so they were nabbed.

Contrast FIFA with the NFL, which sucks up billions in taxpayer dollars, while the owners walk free. The FIFA fools should have stolen more money, and used some of it to buy some congresscritters. Meanwhile, how much of the American taxpayers' money is going to be used to prosecute these foreigners whose crimes have absolutely no impact on the American public?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Whine All You Want, the Guy is Right

The latest post-tempest tempest in a teapot was set off by Bill Nye, who had the temerity to connect the recent Texas flooding to climate change. As is usual these days, the "controversy" was initiated by a "tweet": Billion$$ in damage in Texas & Oklahoma. Still no weather-caster may utter the phrase Climate Change.

Put in layperson's terms, warming fosters evaporation, and allows the atmosphere to retain more water vapor (also a greenhouse effect contributor), leading to increased precipitation. Even the typical conservative "durr hurr, why did the Northeast get so much snow if the planet is warming?" bit is foolish- climate change can intensify snowstorms... it still gets below freezing, and more atmospheric water vapor can mean more snow.

Besides the ad hominem attacks on Nye, the general consensus among the twits was that Nye is an "alarmist". Hell, people have died, the flooding continues- is that not an alarm? Too bad the dupes of the Fossil Fuel Industry and its PR flacks refuse to wake up. As the redoubtable Smut Clyde once noted, the rubes will use the last can of petrol to burn the last climate scientist at the stake. I hope that our coleopterous successors are better stewards of the planet.

As a postscript, let's check out what the loons who have tossed Occam's Razor out the window have to say about the Texas floods: yep, Obama's using HAARP to attack Texas... that perfidious Kenyan is using his weather smurfing machine to soften Texas up before the Jade Helm jackboots trample Texas freedom. Yeah, that antenna array up in Alaska has a greater capacity to change climate than the fucktons of pollutants we're constantly emitting, now that's scientificismication.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

American Boozehounds

In a comment on my last post, Vixen Strangely notes:

One of the weirdest things I've ever noticed, and I am probably at least somewhat a drunkard, is that our US holidays often end up skewing towards drinking occasions. I'm amazed we haven't finagled Groundhog Day into a reason to have "the usual" over and over again. But New Years', St Valentines (for the vino), St Pat's (for the Guiness and Bailey's cocktails), Cinco de Mayo (for everything that Coronas and Tequila can make), Memorial Day (to drink at BBQ's), Father's Day (buy Pops a case or a bottle), 4th of July (drunken fireworks), Labor Day--hoist a few beerskis for the working man), Oktoberfest, Halloween--dress as a sexy rocket scientist and get polluted, Thanksgiving: totally cider up or at least have a spumonte with your Turkey Day--which is what my parents' do, and Christmas means wassail your face off.

I submit that all US holidays are mostly get drunk off your face and buy stuff days.

We are not the greatest at remembering stuff. See: our getting totally 'faced on the regular.

I would guess that this is because booze is relatively cheap, and drinking an affordable form of recreation that people who can't afford jaunts to the Caribbean (where the rum is really good, BTW), yachting excursions, or, hell, even tickets to a professional sportball spectacular. Yep, tying one on is Joe and Jane Schmo's one affordable form of entertainment these days.

By historical standards, though, we're a bunch of temperance advocates- historically, an overabundance of corn and a paucity of preservation techniques led to the widespread production of whisky, and the ancestor of the morning coffee break was the elevenses, which in the 'States was a whisky break.

If this post seems pretty perfunctory, I'm in a bit of a rush- I'm going to meet my friends to chug a few beers at a local bar's "Trivia Night".

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Accordance with Our Memorial Day Tradition

As I have typically done on Memorial Day, I am embedding a video for Eric Bogle's Green Fields of France:

Memorial Day is a strange affair here in the 'States... it falls on a late May day and is considered the unofficial "first day of Summer". Most people have barbecues or hit the beaches, and it's a big drinking day. A lot of stores have Memorial Day sales. There are parades, but for most people, it's a party or a shop-til-you-drop day. Perhaps the holiday should be moved to a drearier month so it can be commemorated with solemnity.

Perhaps there should be more than eight or so national holidays, so people can have time for remembrance as well as recreation... as if that would ever happen.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Rare Egg, a Rattlin' Egg

While on my locking-up tour yesterday, I found a lovely, snug little nest on the verge of a field by our auxiliary parking lot:

I didn't see a parent around, but I did take a careful peek inside:

If I had to guess, I'd say that they are probably mockingbird eggs. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for the parents.

Regarding the post title, it's from a whimsical Irish folk song. My worksite is in a valley, and the ground gets pretty marshy in this area when it rains, but alas, it's no bog. Anyway, here's a version of this song by the Makem Brothers:

I have a friend who plays a lot of "family friendly" events and the cumulative nature of the song makes it great for sing-alongs. I can't find a video of him playing it for a crowd of grade-schoolers, but it's a sight to behold. Seeing a crowd of drunks singing it is even more entertaining.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Up the Irish Voter!

As a beloved Irish-American would put it, this is a big f'n deal: the voters of the Republic of Ireland legalized same-sex marriage by a wide margin (62.1% yea, 37.9% nay). For a country with a populace that is over 80% Roman Catholic, this vote constitutes a real wake-up call for the Roman Catholic Church- there is a wide gulf between the pulpit and the pews, with the laity tending to be kinder and more tolerant that the clergy. Here in the 'States, approximately 54% of Roman Catholics support same-sex marriage. Even the Pope has lightened up on LGBT people.

It is hard to predict the effect that such an overwhelming rejection of Church dogma by a population that has traditionally been seen as orthodox will have on the Church as a whole. In Ireland, though, evidence of horrific abuse on the part of Church-run institutions probably played a factor in the vote, as did the sheer fact of demographics- in a society in which large families were the norm, everybody is bound to have at least one LGBT relative.

The one blot on this otherwise outstanding day is the fact that Phil Chevron didn't survive to see this day. His song Under Clery's Clock was a tear-jerker that described the risks inherent to same-sex attraction in a society which made such relationships illegal:

Good on the voters, now let's hope that this vote is just the start of a worldwide human rights campaign for LGBT folks.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Caught in the Act

A couple of nights ago, while I was receiving the start-of-shift briefing from the evening guy (I'm the night guy), I noticed that a VERY cheeky raccoon decided that it would be a good idea to rummage for dinner though a trash barrel not ten feet from where we were standing. I had meant to take a picture, but mistakenly took a brief video instead:

There was no way this furry goofball couldn't have noticed us standing nearby, conducting a conversation. At one point, while the beast was completely inside the barrel, I contemplated kicking the barrel to see if it would freak out, but decided that being a leg's length from a freaked out raccoon really wasn't a pleasant place to be.

In the daytime, we have a comical squirrel that hovers by the trash barrels, waiting for an opportunity to dash inside for a snack. I guess the squirrel's the day shift... I wonder if it and the raccoon have change-of-shift briefings too.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

19 Indictments and Counting

One aphorism I firmly believe is "scratch a moralist, reveal a pervert". Well, once again, this adage is proved true- one of the Duggar children is a child molestor. As if that weren't horrific enough, via Tengrain, we learn that Bad Touch Duggar had a job that he was particularly unsuited for:

You cannot make this shit up: Josh Duggar is now resigned from anti-gay Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council, where he was a lobbyist working on keeping predator gays away from kids

Leave it to a bunch of fundies to hire an actual monster to perpetrate character assassination on "undesirables". I can't even muster any schadenfreude here because of the hideous nature of Duggar's crimes. I sincerely hope that his sisters find the courage to leave the fundamentalist fold. In the meantime, all of those "family values" candidates who have been photographed with the guy are going to have a hell of a time shoving all of their adulation for the Duggars down the memory hole.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: Reconstructing Human History, Understanding Health Variants

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring computational geneticist Dr Joe Pickrell of the New York Genome Center and Genomes Unzipped. Dr Pickrell's subject for his lecture was the use of genome sequencing for reconstructing human history and for understanding health variants.

As of 2015, approximately 1% of the population of the United States has undergone genome sequencing. It is technologically feasible to sequence the genomes of hundreds of millions of persons.

Dr Pickrell gave us a quick overview of human genetics- a typical human's DNA is contained in 46 chromosomes, 23 of which are inherited from each parent. There are four distinct bases in a DNA molecule: Guanine, Adenine, Cytosine, and Thymine. The human genome is composed of 3.3 billion bases, and different people vary at millions of these sites. Most of these genetic differences do nothing, therefore most genome variants are not informative about an individual's ancestry, but some differences are indicative. In one case, African ancestry can be inferred when an individual has an A-allele while individuals of East Asian descent tend to have a corresponding G-allele. It is useful to focus on a single "piece" of DNA- each piece has a different geneology. One question which can be asked is, "In each part of my genome, who are my closest ancestors?" The DNA record is valuable because it goes back further than the historical record, and can reveal much about what happened during human prehistory.

One promising area for the use of genome sequencing is elucidating the spread of agriculture from the Near East to the rest of Eurasia- agriculture reached as far as Scandinavia by approximately 4,000 BCE. Archaeological evidence, in the form of pottery styles, was used to make inferences about prehistoric cultural groups, with the dramatic spread of the Corded Ware Culture from 2,900-2,400 BCE being seen as evidence of a possible conquest. How does one interpret the spread of technology and languages? Was agriculture spread by conquerors who had the advantage of farming know-how, or was it simply a great idea that spread from group to neighboring group? Archaeologist M. Dores Cruz observed, "Pots are pots, not people." With genome sequencing, DNA can be connected to pottery types.

In order to determine the affinities of Neolithic populations, DNA samples were taken from different timepoints from a variety of archaeological sites. An ancestry analysis of modern Europeans indicates that they are the result of the mixture of several populations over the last ten thousand years- hunter-gatherers, Neolithic farmers, and Yamna invaders (known for their Kurgan... insert Clancy Brown reference... burials). These invaders came from the Eurasian steppes during the early Iron Age. Further back in prehistory, genetic analysis indicated that the genomes of Europeans has an admixture of Neanderthal DNA. The focus on Europe is because there has been a lot of collaboration between archaeologists and geneticists.

Evidence for migrations in Africa is largely linguistic, with the Niger-Congo language family being spread widely throughout Western and Southern Africa, with the Bantu languages being particularly widespread. In contrast, the Malagasy language has its roots in Borneo (which prompted a snarky bastard in the audience to joke to his drinking buddy about Lemuria).

The Neanderthal genome has now been sequenced, and it was discovered that non-African peoples have approximately 2% Neanderthal DNA, and it is possible that certain African populatiojns have .02% Neanderthal DNA. Dr Pickrell showed a hilariously "spicy" promo from a Sex in the Stone Age documentary to highlight the Neanderthal admixture. At any rate, everyone's ancestry involves population movements and mixtures.

Dr Pickrell then shifted to the topic of understanding variations in health- for instance, genetic predispositions to conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. There are genetic variants which are associated with disease. Among populations of African descent the Duffy null allele (which is absent from European and Asian populations) plays a role in resistance to malaria.

In the case of earwax, individuals of Eastern Asian tend to have dry earwax while populations of European and African descent tend to have wet earwax. Variation in the ABCC11 gene determines whether the earwax is wet or dry. Another genetic variation prevalent (a change in the EDAR gene) in populations of East Asian descent is associated with thick growth of scalp hair.

Genetic variants influence all traits- hundreds of genetic variations influence height, thousands of variants influence a predisposition to schizophrenia. From a therapeutic standpoint, the task is to find the important genetic variants and figure out how they work.

One important recent study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente, which sequenced the DNA of 100,000 of its members. In the case of Alzheimer's, allele frequency was graphed with age to predict the onset of death or incapacitation. Knowledge of the effect of different alleles could potentially lead to the ability to "edit" DNA in order to deliver a genetic variant more conducive to good health. The genome isn't the only factor, of course, epigenetic factors such as environmental conditions, smoking, and exercise also play a role.

After the lecture, there was an extended Q&A session. One audience member asked about the oldest usable DNA that has been found, which belonged to a 700,000 year old horse (alas, no pet dinosaurs... yet). Another audience member asked about the genetics of autism. Dr Pickrell indicated that the most severe forms of autism are due to de novo mutations, but that other forms of autism result from a combination of different alleles. My friend Neil, who has his ear to the ground regarding all sorts of events, asked about genetic differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, given the relatively small population size among their 2,000 year old ancestors (I'd chalk most population differences to epigenetic factors, such as the role of couscous vs latkes in the diet). Another audience member asked about the possible use of retroviruses to insert "corrections" into the DNA of individuals with genetic diseases. Riffing on this, some bastard in the audience asked about the timeline of the action of endogenous retroviruses- did they tend to accumulate early on in primate evolution? Did any significant retrovirus accretion take place after the big "out of Africa" movement of Homo sapiens? Dr Pickrell indicated that most of the endogenous retrovirus accretion took place long before H. sapiens made its debut, with a burst of activity occurring early on in primate evolution. Yet another audience member asked about the possibility of "genetic memory". Dr Pickrell noted that it is hotly debated, and that there is evidence that the Dutch famine of 1944 did play an epigenetic role that may have altered the genomes of its survivors' children.

Once again, the Secret Science Club served up a fantastic lecture, followed by a particularly spirited Q&A session. Dr Pickrell and his wife hung out at the bar for a good long time after the lecture, continuing the discussion. Kudos to the good doctor, the staff of the beautiful Bell House, and Margaret and Dorian!

Here's an hourlong lecture by Dr Pickrell for your education and enjoyment:

Crack open a beer or six and attempt to capture that Secret Science vibe...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Texas Prognostication

Reading about the Waco, Texas biker shootout that just took place, I have to predict that conspiracy loon Alex Jones is going to claim that the shootout was a pre-Jade Helm 15 false-flag operation that serves an amorphous, poorly defined purpose.

I have to confess that I listened to a show about the "Jade Helm" conspiracy on late-night Sasquatch radio last week (hey, I work overnight shifts, DON'T JUDGE ME!!!)- plus, I was really curious to hear what a lunatic evangelist millennarian who believes in the existence of giants had to say about a not-unprecedented training exercise that has taken on the stature of an "end of freedom" Ammopocalypse. It was a farrago of Russian troops, Chinese operatives disguised as Mexicans (ermagherd, MARXICANS!!!), drug cartels, and sinister UN forces. Seriously, Texholes, nobody's going to grab your guns. Of course, when all of this asshole's predictions come to naught, he won't even acknowledge that he was, at best, wrong (Eh, why mince words? he's a dangerous liar).

I don't seek out content by Alex Jones, but I will monitor Right Wing Watch to see if Jonesy has proven me right. As far as Jade Helm goes, a jade helm would probably protect one better than a tinfoil hat, but it's got to be a hell of a lot more expensive.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jerkass Dad is the Jew of Injured Toddler Fascism!

Via Roy, we have a horrifying anecdote recounted by Melissa Langsam Braunstein of "The Federalist" about the dumbest pundit in history in his role as (horror of horrors) a father:

Jonah Goldberg sounded endearingly clueless– since we gather his daughter’s alright now – as he described a fall she took during toddlerhood that resulted in a sizable forehead gash. Apparently, Goldberg was still new enough to parenting that he didn’t realize his daughter’s bloody face needed to be stitched up professionally. Luckily, his sister-in-law was able to advise via telephone and pass along the good advice to wait for a plastic surgeon at the hospital.

If his daughter hadn't have been alright, would Melissa Langsam Braunstein have found his cluelessness endearing? Better yet, if she were describing an African-American father treating his daughter with such callousness, would she have given him a "pass", or would she have spun out a screed about "pathologies" in the African-American community? Also, for all the whining righties do about the Dumb Dad stereotype, is this anecdote not a perfect example of paternal idiocy of the worst sort?

In the comment thread, I spun a yarn about Doughbob being too engrossed in a computer game to take his bloody-headed daughter to an ER that he was afraid would be overrun by "thugs". Now, I am picturing the dumbass trying to close the gash on his daughter's forehead with paste, but ending up eating all of the paste while his daughter screams on the floor beside him. "Hush, child, daddy's eating paste!"

It's amazing to think that this oafish fool has a well-paid job as the editor of a publication, even one as mendacious as National Review Online, and that such a tale of inepitude can be jokingly related by a fellow-traveler. Party of Personal Responsibility, my ass!

Post title taken from Jonah's magnum dopus.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bye Bye, B.B.

One of my co-workers is a huge blues fan. When I got to work tonight, we discussed the long life and storied career of the late, great B.B. King. King's DNA is interspersed throughout today's popular music- with a career spanning the 1940's to the 2010's, he was a bridge between the era of pre-WW2 blues greats like Robert Johnson and the Rock and/or Roll era.

In the early days of his career, B.B. King almost died in a building fire- the anecdote sounds like something out of a movie:

Coincidentally, the year that King made his first recording was also the same year that he named his beloved guitar. King attended a dance in Twist, Arkansas, that had a barrel lit with kerosene in the middle of the dance floor, used to keep the crowd warm late at night. While there, a fight broke out and the barrel was knocked over, causing a fire to spread throughout the venue. Everyone evacuated, including King, but he rushed back inside to retrieve his prized guitar.

Luckily, he managed to escape with his guitar as the building collapsed around him. King later learned that the fight erupted because of a woman who worked at the venue named Lucille. From then on, King named his guitar "Lucille" to remind himself never to do anything so foolish again.

In our conversation, my friend and I discussed the predicament that would send a man into a burning building to grab his guitar... he knew that the guitar was his meal ticket, indeed his ticket to greatness. I can't even think of an equivalent possession in my life- an inanimate item that I would even think of risking my life to "rescue". Anyway, it's a great story, and spawned a signature tune:

It's tales like this that mark a true legend, events like the Twist, Arkansas fire that lend a raw authenticity to music. There won't be another quite like B.B. King- in this age of entertainment-like substance extruded by corporations, a man like King just wouldn't be polished enough for the A&R suits.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tree Sperm on My Car!

Gino Vannelli observed that black cars look better in the shade, advice that I take seriously because (you got it) I drive a black car. This Spring, though, my car is absolutely covered in tree sperm:

If you look closely, there are two sets of tree genitals on the hood of my car. My poor car has gotten a treebagging!

Fucking trees!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Assholely Owned Subsidiary

It's nice when a bit of truth penetrates the media bubble, so I am really pleased that a college student told Jeb Bush to his face that his brother George created ISIS. I'm in total agreement, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bush Maladministration- an assholely-owned subsidiary.

Who could have predicted that creating a bunch of heavily-armed, unemployed men who were now subject to a hated Shiite majority could have gone wrong? Who but every single individual outside of the maladministration's bubble and their media enablers?

It'll be interesting to see how Jeb Bush's campaign team will attempt to counter this sort of criticism. Even Chris Christie has hammered Bush 2.Big Zero on the Iraq War. It's going to be an ugly primary, and that a beautiful thing.

Monday, May 11, 2015

I Don't Worry, I've Got Slurry

There are few things more delicious than a fine green curry, but that's not the subject of today's post. Rather than writing about green curry, today's topic is a green slurry, composed of foraged greens, that makes up a large component of my Spring diet:

This particular slurry contains about fifty percent stinging nettle, and about forty percent garlic mustard, with the remaining mix being curly dock, dandelion greens, and a wild Allium that grows all over the place. While the slurry doesn't look auspicious or delicious, it has a fine flavor. I've already used it as the base for croquettes (adding eggs and bread crumbs), and for a pasta sauce (adding a roux, some milk, and pecorino Romano cheese). The latest use for the slurry is a batch of hortopita, rolled up "cigar style" for ease of snacking:

If I had to guess, I'd bet that the butter/olive oil mix that I brushed the filo dough with has more calories than the rest of the ingredients put together

As the season progesses, the composition of the "slurry" will change. I'm planning on freezing some nettles to tide me over when the plants flower and develop phytoliths, but the main base for the slurry will shift to chenopods and garlic mustard. The current batch of foraged greens is about 50% nettles, 40% garlic mustard, with ten percent a mix of dandelion, dock, alliums, and a hint of plaintain (an herb I'd previously used only as a topic itch reliever).

A spoonful of slurry will cure what ails you!

An entire summer's worth of slurry, and I'll be unstoppable.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

I just got off the phone with mom, having called her as I was doing the "locking up and checking out" tour at the beginning of my shift. Mom is doing well, as usual, and all four of my siblings called her over the course of the day. She also got a visit from a neighbor of hers who she has "adopted"- he lost his mom when he was twelve years old, and my mom has taken him under her wing. Hilariously, my adopted brother often involves mom in all sorts of escapades- "Ma, do you know how to operate a rollback? I have a piece of equipment that's stuck." Even in her mid-seventies, mom is tough and competent, the kind of person you'd trust to operate machinery after a quick tutorial. Yeah, she's always been a badass lady.

Here's wishing a happy Mothers' Day to all of the moms out there in the blogosphere. The world depends on you, moms, you're the best. To all of my readers who still have their moms around, here's some great advice from Johnny Cash:

You wouldn't want to upset either the Man in Black, or your mother.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's Up? Dock!

This year, for some reason, we have a bumper crop of curly dock (Rumex crispus) on-site. Curly dock is another of those pernicious invasive species (it's listed as a noxious weed in 46 states by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), much like its Polygonaceous relative, Japanese knotweed. Like knotweed, it's delicious.

While the young leaves can be eaten raw, the older leaves are best parboiled before consumption in order to reduce the oxalate levels. This sucker has a date with my stewpot:

Later in the year, the curly dock plants will produce edible seeds which can be ground into a flour, much like the seeds of dock's relative, buckwheat.

Like redbud, this is a plant that keeps on giving... and by taking, I'm helping to reduce its spread.

Edit: I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the juice of the curly dock is commonly considered the "antidote" to the sting of the nettle. I haven't put this to use because I have a pretty high pain threshold (I'm a fighter, so it's a necessity), and the burn of the nettle isn't all that bad.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Why Doesn't Hannity Have Him on When They Agree?

If you want a little bit of your soul to die, just watch Sean Hannity interacting with Islamophobic loon Pamela Gellar and Islamic fundamentalist loon Anjem Choudary. Despite the fact that Choudary is a bloodthirsty loon, Hannity has given him a platform so he can reinforce the Fox audience's fear and loathing of Muslims.

The truth is that Choudary and Hannity would agree on a lot of subjects, such as liberalism and modern western sexual mores... but Hannity never has Choudary on to opine on subjects on which they agree. Why doesn't Hannity ever invite Choudary to participate in his annual "tsking titillation" Spring Break exposes?

Seriously, Sean, invite him in on the slut-shaming cum soft-porn fest, own up to the fact that Choudary is just another liberal-bashing conservative.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


I typically have Mondays and Tuesdays off from work, so I decided to take a drive to Connecticut to purchase grain alcohol in order to make a batch of limoncello. The day being Cinco de Mayo, I decided to stop in the village of Port Chester to get lunch from one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. On a whim, I called one of my uncles and asked him if he was interested in a having a couple of tacos for lunch... need you ask what his answer was?

My uncle and his wife own a couple of Irish water spaniels. I'd describe the Irish water spaniel as looking like a chocolate lab with dreadlocks. When I arrived with lunch, I was happy to learn that one of their dogs had given birth to a litter of puppies, one of which was present, along with a half sibling. Get prepared for some serious cuteness overload!

Look at the face on this little guy... isn't he precious?

He's a comical little fellow, don't you just want to scratch his belly?

Longtime readers will know that I am partial to cats, but I have always liked these smart, active dogs.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Proposal for "Doctor" Ablow

Via Tengrain, we have the latest atrocity from TeeVee "psychologist" Dr Keith Ablow. It's been a while since I've taken Ablow to the woodshed...

Anyway, Ablow proposed that men be able to "veto" women's abortions:

I have a proposal for Dr Ablow- if a man wants to veto a woman's abortion, he should have to carry a succession of objects the size of the developing fetus up his ass for nine months.

Being the guy who proposed the idea, Dr Ablow should be subject to this policy as well, with the proposal that he cram objects equal in mass to the aggregate of "vetoed abortion" fetuses up his poop-chute.

On a serious note, isn't it time that Ablow has his medical license revoked?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Noxious Nosh

This year, I added a new plant to my foraging repertoire. One of my favorite websites is Eat the Invaders, a listing of edible invasive species. One of the most noxious invasive plants in North America is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), known as Jack-by-the-Hedge in England, a Brassicacous Eurasian plant which is supplanting native woodland herbage throughout the continent. The plant has a tendency to kill the native fungi which have mutualistic symbiotic relationships with native plants. By killing the beneficial fungi, the plant can take over habitats that it is introduced into. It's also delicious.

Like a lot of foragable edibles, garlic mustard was initially introduced to the New World as a vegetable and medicinal plant. Foraging maestro Steve Brill compares the long taproot with horseradish, hilariously noting:

Use them like horseradish, grated into vinegar, as a condiment. I love chopping these roots into thin slices, and handing them out to children during classroom visits. Overwhelmed by the pungency, chaos reigns as the kids rush to the water fountain. Then they all want seconds.

I'd have to concur. The greens taste a lot like broccoli rabe, having a pungency which I particularly like, but which might not please all palates. The immature flowers even look like broccoli rabe flowers:

The mature flowers are white and cross-shaped:

Once you can identify the plants, you will see them everywhere, which is why you must eat them... if you want to save the forest, grab them and devour them.

I grabbed a bagful of garlic mustard and a bagful of nettles, plus a handful of young dandelion leaves. I am planning on making a hortopita with these greens. Mixing the greens is a good idea, because I forage opportunistically, taking whatever is available, and because mixing the greens tempers the pungency or bitterness of the more "challenging" ones- the nettles are tasty but somewhat bland, the perfect foil to the dandelions and garlic mustard. Additionally, some of these greens contain high amounts of oxylates, so it's good to mix them up.

This time of year, I almost never buy salad greens, because there's such a bounty of feral foods. Most of these plants are "forgotten" vegetables, once valued culinarily, but now sadly neglected. In their neglect, they've "left the farm", usually to become pests. If more of us valued them, and used them, we can stop them from being so pernicious.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Thanks for the Redbud, Bud!

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, Thunder left a comment on a post:

Sounds pretty good...sending redbud blossoms north!

Thunder is my go-to guy concerning all things redbud, and his redbud salad is something that I have added to my culinary repertoire. Last year, I decided to try stir-frying the seed pods. Well, the redbud is finally coming in, adding bright magenta swatches to the spring landscape:

It's also adding some deliciousness to my foraged menu. This year, I might branch out, heh heh, and try redbud in other ways, such as an addition to dessert. I'm glad that Thunder sent the blossoms north- thanks for the redbud, bud!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Season Opener, or Busy B.B.B.B.

What a busy day! Today marked the first day of our regular tourist season, and the second day of a major Spring fundraiser. Needless to say, staffing was an issue for the day shift. Additionally, the funeral for the father of our Chief Operating Officer, who is universally well-regarded by her co-workers, took place at 11AM. The funeral took place one town over from my principal work site- I slept for about four hours, put on the charcoal gray suit, and drove up to the funeral. My co-worker's father was a pillar of the village in which he'd lived for the bulk of his eighty-eight years- a volunteer fireman, a respected professional, a fixture in his church choir, and the guy who put on the Halloween display to beat all Halloween displays. The funeral was a celebration of the man's life- the church was packed with a standing room only crowd, there was a salute from the assembled volunteer fire corps, a processional and recessional by a local jazz combo. Needless to say, the man was a stellar individual, and I am happy to say that his daughter is the proverbial chip off the old block.

I decided before leaving the house this morning that I'd pack for the long haul, it not being worthwhile to drive home and drive to work. I drove straight to work after the funeral, knowing that I'd cause a bit of a stir by showing up in a suit and tie. I think all of the clocks stopped when I walked through the door. I was glad I showed up early, so I could get some feedback from the crew that opened the place up in the morning. There were a couple of "hiccups", but nothing major, and nothing that couldn't be worked out.

I'm here until after midnight, so it'll be a long day- it's a good thing that I'm used to keeping outrageous hours. Getting up to teach kids how to fight on Saturdays throughout the winter has its benefits. I'm glad that we're open, I'm glad that we're busy. I'll be glad to sleep until noon tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mayday M’aidez!

May first has traditionally been celebrated as International Workers' Day in countries besides the United States. In the U.S., Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September... can't have the Mayday celebration, with its socialist roots, in these here United States. Today, there was a Mayday rally in Manhattan for workers' and immigrants' rights. This year, the protests also encompassed an anti-police brutality agenda.

In one particularly repulsive trifecta of police misconduct, kleptocracy, and racism, a Long Island police officer who stole from Latino motorists will finally be facing his day in court. The Baltimore police officers in whose custody a young black man was killed are facing charges. Meanwhile, almost 400 individuals have been killed by the police this year- a low-grade civil war that is largely unnoticed because most of the victims are minorities.

I've long maintained that, despite the right-wing characterization of minorities as a threat to "mainstream" society, they are actually the canary in the coalmine- ignore their victimization at your peril, white working class people, the regressive policies that are currently used against them may someday be employed against you.