Archive for November, 2008

Marriage and those Queers –

29 November 08

While I haven’t reached any final conclusions myself, I have been thinking about this gay marriage business a good bit lately. Now, we really need to define some terms and set up some parameters so that we are all on the same page.

First, I am a Russian Orthodox Christian, so I will look at marriage there first. In the Orthodox Church, marriage is a sacrament. The priest marries you. In this country, for convenience, clergy are licensed by the state. In other countries, this is not so. Some places the couple goes to the local state bureaucrat who performs the state business, and then immediately to the Church, where the priest marries them. You can readily see that there are two functions – the Church marriage, and the state civil union (we will use that term for convenience).

The view of marriage is somewhat different in the west. I’m sure you have all heard the business that the clergyman usually gives in his talk about the couple marrying themselves, that he and all the guests are only witnesses. There is a further blurring of lines here. In the view of the west you have the church contract (marriage) and the civil contract (civil union), and the clergyman, being licensed by the state, can witness for both church and state.

Now I know that some of the more rabidly liberal churches are just chomping at the bit to do same sex marriages. That is none of my business, I don’t belong to their church. They should likewise have no say in the beliefs and sacraments of my Church. And the Orthodox Church will never have same sex marriage.

Now, to the secular laws of the country. I do have a say. I am a citizen. So are the radical liberal protestants. So does the reactionary “religious right”. So are the gays. Now people, I know that you fundamentalists and gays hate each other. That’s your business. But – chill. We need to have civil discourse here. Fundamentalists – quit putting words in God’s mouth. Especially hateful words. He is a loving God. Check the same Scripture you like to bop on people’s heads. Gays – get your obnoxious public behavior out of our faces. You are not the arbiters of morality and taste. Behave like civilized human beings in public (for a change).

Now then that we are all calm and rational (I hope), let’s look at few things. There is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. Sorry libs, it ain’t there. That was a flawed ruling by the 1947 Supreme Court. What the Constitution does say is that the state shall not set up a state religion. Period. This means that you shouldn’t be crapping on people who do believe in God. Well, actually, most of you don’t mind if it’s not a Christian. It’s mostly Christians that you hate. Get over it. Now righties – before you Hosanna too much. They have a bit of a point here. You should not try to make your church law the law of the land. Believe me – you would not like living under Orthodox Church rules, fasting for half the year, just for starters. There is no value to God in forced obedience to His law – it must be voluntary. I do not want to live under your interpretation of the Scriptures. Many, many of you have shoved your flawed understanding of the scriptures into peoples faces whether it was appropriate or not. Your behavior in this manner is just as rude as the more obnoxious gays who “get in your face” with their inappropriate public shenanigans. “Witness” does not supercede consideration for others and good manners.

I have to come to the preliminary conclusion that “marriage” of same sex couples must be left up to the regulations of the particular church at hand. On the other hand, the practice of a given church may have no legal standing. As long as no one is harmed, the state may not dictate dogma and practice to any church. This may or may not have long term ramifications. Polygamists, for instance – oops, there’s already a church that advocates that.

Now, the “civil unions”. Uncomfortable, that. Look here, the state allows all other forms of contracts between two individuals with no reference to gender. Civil union is just another contract, as far as the philosophy of civil law can take us. Now, the logic of the situation says that the state must either allow civil union (contract) between any two (or more?) people with no regard to gender. Or it must terminate special privilege to couples simply because they are “normal”. It is not up to the state to determine what is normal and what is not. The state must not favor one group over another. The state may not regulate belief or morals. It may (and should) regulate public behavior and private protection.

There needs to be a good deal more civilized discussion of this issue. Not two groups of loud assholes disturbing the peace and waving placards at each other. Dammed nuisances. We do not seem to have properly and impartially investigated the long term implications of what making or not making this change would be. Or maybe we should look at the whole civil union bit and see just what the position of the state should be. There are other forms of households than the standard – one of each and baby makes three model.

Obviously, one of the ramifications that we will have to figure out is what the correct social response will be when these couples inevitably want to adopt. Leaving out the partisan rhetoric – what are the long term effects on the children raised in such a situation? Do we really know? Any society that places political ideology above the welfare of its children is doomed. (And should be). And so on.

Of course, we could chuck the whole thing and say that the state does not recognize marriage, that it is up to the churches and has no legal meaning. Bad juju. There are other considerations. Children. Property. The kiddies and the property must be protected. If there’s a dissolution of the civil union contract, there must be established ways of protecting these. So – we’ve got to have something to define the contract. And we’re back to civil unions.

Fundamentalists – I hate to say it – but – the queers may be right here. And do ask yourself this: which causes more pain and suffering, two guys kissing or adultery? I submit that the pain and anguish caused by adultery is far worse. But see here – Our Lord forgave the woman taken in adultery. His words showed that He did not condemn her, nor did He condone. And nowhere did He say that she would burn in Hell, while He has that power – you don’t. And yes, I do know what the Scriptures and the Fathers had to say about homosexuality – probably better than you do. However, most of these people are not Christian and the Church has no relevance to them – other than something to hate. Partly because of the abominable way some of you have treated some of them. We do indeed hate the sin – not the sinner. But if the sinner does not acknowledge his activity as a sin then we can only point to Christ – we cannot drive him to Christ.

And you gays – do try to behave like ladies and gentlemen in public – for a change. There is no reason to force your lifestyle choice in the faces of people who find it offensive. Exercise your individual lives with some dignity, please.


The mighty hunter –

27 November 08

. . . has just returned from slaying the fatted Costco. I don’t know if you have them in your neck of the woods, but for us, the savings are tremendous. I suppose a Sam’s Club would be somewhat similar. The kick is that it is rather in bulk and you have to cut and package your own when you get home. Big deal (Does take more energy than we have sometimes).

Good beef tenderloin for $3 a pound. Good pork tenderloin for $2 a pound. Triple cut lamb chops for $6 a pound. Bacon wrapped fillets for $2 apiece. And so on. I got a little over 6 months meat supply for $172. Good stuff, too. We eat high on the hog.

The local Honey Baked Ham store sells “soup bones” for $4 apiece or 3 for $10. These so-called bones have at least 3 lbs of good end meat on them. It is just not pretty enough for them to make sandwiches from. Super bargain for split pea soup or anything requiring the bone and/or some hacked or ground ham. May have to write some of those up some day. {{7/07}}

Herself Sez: Himself is not writing much at the moment, so some of the posts are older – I’m mining his hardrive for his older, but unpublished goodies!

I went to Publix yesterday and it is definitely time for the Ol’ Curmudgeon to get himself to Costco and fill up the freezer again. GOLLY! the prices for meat are out the roof! $8/pound for salmon fillets, $14/pound for beef tenderloin, $4/pound for ground beef. UGH! I remember being able to get a really good top round roast for $1.50/pound – no more. It’s $6/pound. YIKES!

Costco, here he comes!

Liars and Blame Gamers –

22 November 08

This current financial mess is generating more lies and finger pointing than I can believe. The Democrats are trying desperately to wiggle out from under and responsibility. They are lying through their teeth.

The first point that the Dems try is the lie that de-regulation is responsible for this. The second is pointing fingers at the Bush administration. The fact is that the sub-prime mess is as a result of the libs noticing that black borrowers got approved 70% of the time and whites got approved 80% of the time. No one ever commented that Asian borrowers generally got approved 90% of the time. The immediate liberal reaction was that this just had to be racially motivated and that only nasty racial bias could be blamed. Nonsense. The only color sense that money people have is green. The fact that the black community is more concerned about identifying with baggy-drawered rap punks with poor attitudes than with learning good life skills doesn’t seem to compute. Money people don’t care about the color of someone’s skin. They care about their track record of repaying loans in a timely manner. It costs money to go after bad payers or slow payers. It costs money to deal with the whole repossession bit. Repossessed property generally can not be sold at any kind of profit.

Lenders also did charge higher interest rates to people in neighborhoods that had track records of poor repayment practices. They were vilified for “predatory” lending practices. The fact is that it costs more to do business in bad neighborhoods than in good ones. Since libs do not seem to think that people should pay the penalties for their own actions and decisions they didn’t think that the people receiving these loans should pay the price of doing business in their neighborhoods.

Be that as it may. The Congress passed legislation to force lenders to offer “fair” loans to sub-prime borrowers. This was done by the Democrats. Now when Congress passes laws a couple of things happen. First, the business community has to figure out a way to implement the new law. Second, they have to figure a way to make a profit doing so. Poorly thought out and poorly written laws which address huge amounts of money generally attract all kinds of opportunistic people. It is of interest to note that the majority of the bribes – sorry contributions – that came from Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac, and others which have benefited from these laws have gone to Democrats who are on the committees that oversee these programs. Dodd and Obama have been the majority recipients of these bribes.

Early in the first Bush administration there were reports and warnings that we were headed for a mess. The Democrats on these oversight committees pooh-poohed and denied these reports.

Now, there are those who think that the government can solve a depression – which we do not have yet. In fact, we have not had a recession yet. But anyway, government can do nothing to make a depression better other than get out of the way. Those who worship FDR have not studied history very well. Even those who lived through it don’t seem to understand economics. FDR and the New Dealers did not make the depression better, they made it worse and prolonged it. The stock market crash of the late 1980’s was worse than that of 1929. The standard response of the left was to become hysterical and cry out for “the gummint to DO SOMETHING”. Ronald Reagan – the only president who actually studied and understood economics – refused to let Congress do anything rash and stupid. The economy recovered quickly and we had lower unemployment and greater prosperity than at any other period in our history.

Now we are faced with a 700 billion dollar bailout. Just how much will wind up in the pockets of Congressmen as bribes so that the fleas and ticks that feed off government programs can gorge at will.

Only thing I can say for sure is it won’t benefit thee and me. And we will ultimately wind up paying for it.

Last point. Financial decisions made to appease some politically correct bunch are suicide.

Creamy Drunken Shrimp –

18 November 08

A rather nice variation for shrimp when your taste buds are bored and limp.

For 4 people, scale as necessary.

½ stick unsalted butter
1 minced shallot
thick sliced mushrooms
some broccoli florets or chopped Brussels sprouts

Melt the butter in a good iron skillet, lower the heat and sweat the shallots, mushrooms, and veggies for 4 to 5 minutes, turning and/or stirring to keep even cooking. If you don’t have shallots handy you can use an equal volume of mild onion, minced. If your broccoli or sprouts are fresh then drop them into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes before adding. If they are frozen let them thaw before adding. It may be good to add a little more butter as this cooks, just use your own judgment.

Add a cup of either champagne or some decent white wine of your choice, raise the heat and boil rapidly for about 4 minutes until the liquid is pretty well reduced.

Add in about a pound of uncooked, peeled, deveined shrimp and 2 cups of heavy cream. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring quite often for 10 minutes or until the shrimp are nicely pink and the cream good and thick.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. If you are doing this for presentation use white pepper, otherwise good freshly ground black is fine. Garnish with a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

Serve over whatever suits you. We rather like rice, you may like some kind of pasta. If you are not familiar with cooking rice, see the previous discussion on Japanese Rice.

This is one of those cooking methods where just about anything can be added, subtracted, or changed to suit your taste and current cupboard supplies. You could substitute scallops for the shrimp. You could chop up some chicken instead. You could use some local fish that has a fine taste and texture. You can use whatever vegetable is good to you, just make sure that it will come done about the same time as the rest of the ingredients.

Memory Lane [1]

15 November 08

Herself sez: The Ol’ Curmudgeon has a stock of posts that are slightly dated. But they are still interesting. So from time to time, we will stroll Memory Lane. This one comes from July 2007.

Conundrum –

If we are invaded, do we have the right to forcibly resist? If the Germans had occupied us would the correct response have been to try to throw them out a la French Resistance? Would we not rejoice if we won our freedom and killed and drove out the conquerors? Is it morally correct if we can do it to the original invaders? Is it still correct if it takes a generation to get rid of the bad guys? Two generations? Four? 200 years? 400 years?

A good term for taking the country back and driving out the invaders might be ‘ethnic cleansing’. Think about that.

If it is morally correct, as some of the more radical left states, to give the US back to the Indians – oops, pc = ‘native American’. Or to the Mexicans – who took it from the Indians, who took it from the previous occupying tribes, ad nauseum. Mostly you will notice that they hate the country and that the operative word is ‘give it back’. Now, as I say, if the preceding is morally correct, then why do the same aforementioned leftists get their panties in such a wad over the Serbians? It was their country for quite a while. As in centuries. As in longer than some of the Indian tribes occupied their territories. The Bosnians are Moslem invaders. About 400 years ago the Moslems came in and raped, murdered, pillaged, and occupied. They didn’t go home. To drive people out usually takes a bit of force. I will not defend torture and other such heinous acts. But let us remember, the Bosnians are equally guilty of atrocities against the Serbs. Today. Now. Yesterday. And for the last 400 years. Yet, thanks to the left, the US sided with the Moslems, bombed and invaded the Serbians and forcibly stopped them from driving the invaders from their homes.

Where is the cutoff? When does an occupying people become the native people? Is it ok for one Indian tribe to conquer another? Is it ok for Moslems to conquer and hold territory? Or is it that it is only wrong for European (white) Christians to occupy territory?

There is a marvelous scene in Shogun, both the book and the mini-series. What a concept – a movie that pretty much followed the book! Anyway, Toranaga asks Blackthorn if the Dutch were not vassals of the Spanish throne. Blackthorn allows that this is true. Toranaga states that it is unpardonable for a vassal to rebel against his lord. A true betrayal. Blackthorn insists that there is a case when it may be considered moral. Toranaga queries. Blackthorn’s response – “…if you win!” After a stunned moment Toranaga laughingly admits that Blackthorn has the right of it.

In his Starship Troopers – the real thing, the book, not the movie. How unusual, a movie that has damn near nothing to do with the book. There is considerable philosophy in the book – none in the movie. There is a discussion of the role of force in the history of the world. The upshot is that the drivel about force never solving anything is just that – drivel. The fact is that war – force, is a necessary part of the political process. When discussion, compromise, and diplomacy have failed, then a people can (and will) resort to force to gain their ends. If the opposing group is bent on the destruction of one’s group, either to take all of the food (a rational reason) or for pure hatred (a psychotic motivation), the only choice may be for one’s group to resist with force, or to just surrender and die. I suppose that it is my narrow and provincial attitude, but I prefer for my own group to survive. I think that if we defend because of rational reasons, it will be better for the future if our seed is preserved rather than that of psychotics. Do you lefties want the future to be populated by rational, peaceful people who only use force to defend? Do you want it to be populated by those driven by hatred that will kill anyone who thinks differently? Your choice. Right now you are not headed down a path of survival, for those who will not defend and their offspring will die. Those who are tougher and more determined will populate the future. Think about it. May not be fair. You may want to take your toys and go home. But – that is the way the world works. Think about it.

When the other guy’s goal is your death, non-resistance is always fatal. This may fit your individual philosophy. It doesn’t fit mine. I don’t think it is very noble to let a serial killer get his perverted sexual thrills by one’s pain and death. I would resist. I would not stand by and let a member of my family die horribly and painfully to satisfy another’s wishes. I would resist. I will not stand by while my fellow citizens are brutally butchered because they do not agree with some sick, mad bastard’s view of what their religion should be. I will resist. I will not stand by while other people are enslaved or tortured or brutalized to satisfy another group’s whims. I will resist – with force.

Hey lefties – a question. Why are you all emotional about Darfur? Yes, the Moslem Sudanese government is sponsoring horrible acts of brutality. You know – the standard mix – rape, torture, murder, on men, women, children. So. I see. OK. But why was there no outcry from the left during the Second Sudanese Civil War when 1.9 million were brutally slaughtered and over 4 million driven from their lands? Is it because the victims at Darfur are Moslems and the victims in the Second Civil War were Christian? I hope you guys see that I don’t object to going in to kick the Sudanese Government into some kind of civilized behavior, or changing it. I don’t mind protecting the innocent of Darfur. I do object to not being consistent. I do object to your – I hope unconscious – bigotry against Christians. There’s a damn sight more Christian victim of Moslem cruelty than there have ever been Moslem victims of Christians. I do want to see some of you libs that want us to send the military into Darfur to get off your sanctimonious asses and put your lives on the line for the protection of these people. Enlist. Put your life where your mouth is. Sauce for the goose.

Here’s a lovely quote from George Orwell:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …

Notes on Nationalism, May 1945

The only addition that I would make is that the thing admired now seems to be the failed socialist system. The libs in this country are still hoopee-hollering for socialized medicine and the Brits are drafting ways to return to private medicine. There is no country practicing socialized medicine successfully today.

It seems to me that Amnesty International talks more about US ‘atrocities’ than they do murder and torture of the innocent practiced as policy by other nations. I will not pay any attention to this crap nor believe them until they start impartially reporting facts instead of showing their hatred of our western democracies.

Hey righties – (you didn’t think I only kick lefties, did you?) – yes, you are on the right general track. Protect our own. Good. Defeat those who would kill us. Good. But – don’t demonize anyone who disagrees with you. This leads you to think that the end always justifies the means. That is true – only if you are a soulless animal. Your opponent is not necessarily your enemy. It is ok to have civil discourse with opponents. It is ok to disagree. Is also ok to kill those who would kill you. But – remember – the populous does not always reflect the murderous desires of their mad leaders. They may be ordinary people caught up in a tidal wave of insanity. Fight to victory – yes. But be rational and compassionate when the victory is won. Be greater in victory than in battle. Don’t try to shove your beliefs on everyone. We are not robots. We have free will. Let us exercise that as civilized humans. A civilized human will fight to victory in response to aggression, but is not the aggressor.

Gyro –

12 November 08

In ancient Attic Greek the g is hard, so that it is gyearow. In modern Greek things have softened a bit so that it is more nearly like gyroscope, a j-ish sort of sound. Either way it is γύρος, which means “turn”. Most of us have seen the large piece of meat on a vertical spit turning in front of a vertical burner.

There are a couple of misconceptions regarding this tasty delicacy. First off – it is not particularly ancient. It is, in fact, a relative of the Turkish doner kabob, which is 19th century. Remember – the Ottoman Empire occupied Greece until 1821 or thereabouts. Now none of the participants will admit it, but 90% or better of Middle Eastern culture is a derivative of Greek and Persian with local traditions for flavor. The Achaemenid Empire was only the first of many. The Achmaenids firmly imposed their culture on others, thereby giving a consistent base to the region. Ever wonder why Jesus and the rest spoke Aramaic? That was the court language of the Achmaenid Empire. The Empire of Alexander and his successors had a firm policy of integrating Greek and local custom. The Ottoman was the last of a cruel succession of Moslem Empires which mixed with the local customs. Anyway, the point is that the cultures and foods of the modern Middle East is an amalgamation of all of the previous occupiers and most of them are similar culturally and culinarily (and hate each other’s guts).

Secondly, people think that this thing is some sort of lamb roast. It is not, it is a lamb (usually) meat-loaf. There are three main parts to the construction of a good gyro as we tend to think of them in this country: the meat, the sauce, the bread. So, let’s tackle them one at a time.

The meat can be considerably varied, but here is one fairly easy method that will produce a satisfactory result. This will make a small loaf, just scale it up as necessary.

½ medium onion rough chopped
1 lb ground lamb (better if you grind your own). Do keep a fair amount of fat in the mix or the loaf will be dry.
3 fair sized cloves minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1-1/2 tsp dried, crushed rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt
6 or more grinds black pepper

Put the onion in a processor and turn into a mush. Put the mush into a tea towel and wring all the juice out of it and discard the juice. Throw the onion back into the processor and add all the rest of the ingredients and process for a minute or so until you have a paste. Put the mix into a meatloaf pan and really mash it down. You might also want to try weighting the mix down with another pan with a weight in it. Put the pan into a water bath and cook for about an hour and 15 minutes in a 325°F oven. This should put you around 165°F internal temp. Let the thing sit for about 20 minutes or so. This should get you to about 175°F internal temp. For the nice crisp brown outside that you get from the vertical roasters run the meat under the broiler for a few minutes per side. Get it nice and crispy but not burned.

Next, we will look at tzatziki sauce. Greek: τζατζίκι.You will want to make this ahead of time. If you can find Greek yogurt then there is no need for the first step. This stuff is also dandy over souvlaki or any other meze (appetizer). You can add other herbs at will. Particularly nice with dill or parsley. Think of it as Greek mayonnaise, they use it about the same way we do the mayo.

½ lb plain yogurt
½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped fine
pinch kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp good rough red wine
4 to 6 mint leaves, shredded

Spread a non-fuzzy tea towel over a strainer over a bowl, put the yogurt into the towel and let it drain for 2 to 4 hours in the refrigerator. You don’t need the preceding if you have found Greek yogurt. Mix up everything and let it sit covered in the refrigerator until needed.

Pita bread. You can buy this if you want, but the fresh made is better.

1 pkg. Yeast
1 Tbs sugar
½ cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs olive oil

Bloom the yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and set aside, covered, for 15 minutes. Dissolve salt in the remaining 1 cup of warm water. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture and salt water. Knead with hands for 10 minutes in the bowl. Alternately put everything into a mixer with a dough hook for 3 minutes or until the dough climbs the hook. Add olive oil and continue to knead until all oil is absorbed. Shape into a ball in a greased bowl, cover, and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in volume, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead for 5 minutes more. Preheat oven to 350°F, and lightly oil baking sheets. If you have a baking stone it is better, use that and forget about the baking sheets. Take pieces of dough slightly larger than an egg and mash out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. (For larger or smaller pita bread pieces, take more or less dough). 7″ rounds. After the initial shaping it is easier to pat the rounds back and forth between your hands like mini-pizzas. Place on baking sheets and cook on the lowest oven rack for 2-3 minutes, then turn the pitas over and bake for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a tray covered with a clean dishtowel, with another clean towel on top. When thoroughly cooled, pitas can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or frozen. They are better fresh.

Gyro assembly:

Slice up some onions thin. Shred some lettuce. Slice tomatoes into thin pieces. The bread should be room temp, the sauce cool, the meat warm and crispy. Cover the center of the bread with thin slices of meat and a bit of the veggies with a spoonful of sauce. Roll up the bread into a cylinder that can be handled. Enjoy.

Gender and the IRS –

8 November 08 … argues that because gender-identity disorder is a recognized mental disorder that is generally treated with hormones and surgery, the costs are legitimate medical deductions.

I don’t know that I buy this argument. At the moment this accomplishes the desired goal. But classifying this as a mental disorder ignores the medical aspects of having one gender brain in an opposite gender body. If male/female are exactly the same other than the externals and the hormones produced by those physical glands then this is indeed a mental problem. And a curable one at that.

However, if male/female are different because of real physical brain differences, then incorrect gender is a physical defect no different from any other and could/should not be treated any different than any other surgery to correct any other genetic anomaly. If this is not imagination then no amount of head pshrinking is going to mean a thing.

Brain scientists seem to be more and more convinced that there are subtle but measurable differences among male, female, gay, and lesbian brains. Are these “non-standard” brains defective? Are they normal? Where do these differences originate? From stresses in the womb? From external chemicals ingested while growing the fetus? Genetic inheritance? Chance mutation? Or are they normal products of normal reproduction? These questions really should be answered before we decide the wrong gender is a mental problem.

This is hardly in the same boat as choosing to have lips puffed up (which looks like hell, anyway). It does not seem to me to be in the same league with vanity surgery at all.

Now the whole gay born/made argument has to be reexamined. I had a very well known, somewhat liberal, psychiatrist wistfully tell me years ago that he was sorry gay had gotten popular and pc. He had never seen anything as easy as “turning” something like 90% of the gays who came to him for that in very short order. I had to point out that the ones who came to him already had the desire to be turned. And the will can overcome a boatload of adversity.

So, I will state what should be the obvious. Some gays are made. Whether self-made or “mama made him that way”, or whatever. Some are just situational. And some are “born that way”. Eventually a simple gene read should be able to tell which is what. But right now, a little rationality is called for.

Likewise we will possibly be able to diagnose the gender misplaced and correct it while young. One of these days. But, for now, anyone who is desperate enough to survive the whole gamut of testing, head shrinking, and the painful surgery involved damn sure ain’t kidding. A bit more drastic than just sticking some silicon in a boob. So, IRS, back off.

Of course, if we had something rational like the fair tax, the damned IRS would not need to be informed of the private affairs and motivations of citizens anyway.

Irish Soda Bread –

7 November 08

Irish Soda Bread

275 g Irish whole wheat flour (2 cups)
6 g salt (1 tsp)
5 g baking soda (1 tsp)
30 g honey (2 Tbs)
235 g buttermilk (1 cup)
1 egg

Use a standard paddle, not a bread hook, or mix by hand in a bowl. Mix up the dry stuff, then add in the wet stuff. Stir it up until reasonably well combined and just wet. This is a pretty wet and loose batter, more like a mush than a bread batter.

Bake in a well-buttered 1-quart casserole dish. Bake about 30 minutes in a 375°F oven. Treat it like a cake and use a toothpick to test for done When the toothpick comes out clean it is done.

Cool completely before slicing. Serve well buttered. Also does well with honey-butter.

You can get a rather decent Irish whole wheat from the King Arthur Flour website. If you don’t have Irish you can also use any decent whole wheat bread grade flour.

This is not the 100% genuine stuff, since there is no way to get real Irish buttermilk in this country, but this does come pretty close to the real thing. I realize that this is a rather small amount, but the temptation to make large batches should be avoided. This doesn’t keep or freeze particularly well.

Sourdough Olive Bread –

5 November 08

Fair warning: this is a slow bread to make, but very much worth the time.

The Americans did not invent sourdough, it has been around for centuries. The French have a nice fancy word for sourdough, they call it levain. Really the same thing. Levain is frequently made up with a higher hydration than standard sourdough. So, here is a French-style variation on the ancient Mediterranean olive bread:

Liquid Levain (Sourdough)
134 g Bread Flour (1 cup)
167 g water (3/4 cup)
28 g starter (1/8 cup)

Final Dough
533 g Bread Flour (4-1/2 cups)
74 g whole wheat flour (3/4 cup)
301 g water (1-1/4 c)
9 g salt (2 tsp)
301 g Levain (all – 1/8 cup for next starter)
185 g Pitted Olives (1 cup – packed)

I should mention that the weights are exact, the volumes are kind of guestimated, I weigh, I don’t measure.

If you’ve never done a pure sourdough with no additional yeast the timing of things may surprise you. As in it is really long compared to standard baker’s yeast breads. Start your final sourdough build either first thing in the morning or just after dinner, depending on what is more convenient. You want the culture to mature for 12 to 16 hours – it should be nicely bubbly.

Add everything except the olives. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Mix on second speed 3 minutes. If you are a glutton for punishment, mix and knead by hand at least 20 minutes.

Olives: Any good grade olive that you like: black, Kalamata, or green. You may be able to find some really nice olives, but good stuff is usually not pitted, which is a pain to do yourself. You can use a standard 7 oz. jar of pimento stuffed olives, just split the olives in half (I just use my fingers) and rake out the pimento and discard. However you get the olives, firmly press them between layers of paper towels to get all the excess liquid out. Add olives – drained and squeezed dry, mix low speed until evenly incorporated. By the way, do not chop up the olives or the texture will be wrong and the bursts of olive flavor will be lost.

Let rise in a lubed bowl covered with plastic for 1-1/2 hours. Fold. Rise 1 hour. Alternately, if time is going to be a problem, let rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Shape into 2 equal loaves (somewhere around 1.5 lb): bread pan, round or oval loaves. I personally prefer the small bread pans for this loaf as it is easier to cut into sandwich-sized slices.

The final rise can take 4 to 9 hours.

Bake at 460°F for 40 to 45 minutes with steam.

If patience and/or time is a problem, a packet of standard yeast can be added and the rising times taken back to standard. Mix, rise 1 hour, fold, rise 1 hour, divide, shape, rise 1 hour, bake. It will be pretty good, but you will not get the full sourdough flavor.

You could also substitute various other veggies for the olives, just use your own taste and judgement and get about equal weight.

Corporations and Morality –

2 November 08

We humans have created the very interesting entity known as the corporation. Among the marks of the business corporation are:

  1. Transferable shares (think stock market)
  2. Perpetual succession (just because the president dies, the corporation does not)
  3. Limited liability

The corporation has several characteristics that legal types like to talk about, among them are the ability:

  1. To sue and be sued
  2. To hold assets in its own name
  3. To hire agents
  4. To sign contracts
  5. Make its own internal laws to govern itself

The corporation provides “limited liability” for the owners of the stock. Basically this is supposed to mean that a stockholder cannot be held liable for more than the value of the stock owned.

Now another characteristic or two that seem to be overlooked in discussion are the fact that no matter what the intentions of the founder(s), the only purpose for existence of the modern business corporation is to make money. This not necessarily a bad thing. Without the modern corporation we would not be able to have the production and economy that we do. Corporations provide a living and retirement for millions. This is a good thing.

However, the second characteristic is a result of the first. Employees can distance themselves emotionally from the consequences of other corporate employees. Like this: a company make a potentially useful product that may have unforeseen long-term consequences. Years later the consequences emerge. The people directly responsible are gone, dead or retired or just move on. The current crop of employees had nothing to do with the development of the original product and feel no need to accept responsibility. Now the lawyers get rich, and frequently the injured parties do not have the resources to fight lengthy and complex court battles. This is a bad thing. The corporation gets by with no penalty for the consequences of the past actions. Individual people may be moral. Groups of people are amoral. I might also point out that the corporation, particularly chemical, may have put out a decent product and that people down the line misapplied it. If we humans have an opportunity to screw up, we will.

Now, as I said, corporations are necessary to the modern world, but they sure have drawbacks. Congress tends to try band aids for problems that frequently make things worse. After the scandals of the 90s, and early 2000s, Congress tried a band aid in the form of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Now SOX, as it is known, is one horribly complex set of regulations which boil down to making corporate executives personally responsible for the accuracy of financial statements. Now this sounds like a really good thing. However, there are unseen consequences. First major hitch: never again will a technical person ever head a major corporation, or even be in the upper tier of management. Sounds OK until you realize that no financial type ever created or inspired or approved a major technological innovation. OOPS! We will have increasing profits by job cutting, corner cutting, whatever makes a quarterly short term profit. There will be no investment in long term returns, and strong technical people will have less and less say in the future direction of the corporation. More and more jobs will go overseas. The labor is cheaper even if not as good. And the stockholders will fiddle while Rome burns, as long as there is a dividend. Thanks, SOX!

Obviously, the above is a rather quick and dirty description of a tremendously complex problem. Several things are readily evident:

  1. We must have corporations unless the population of the world goes back to pre-industrial agrarian support levels and people work long hours just to eat.
  2. We have to figure out how to make corporations responsible for the consequences of their actions.
  3. We must protect the investors.

These are some tough questions. They will require tough answers that have been thoroughly thought through. We already have bad legislation that is stifling American industry. We don’t need more. We need some far-sighted long-term legislation for a change. And we definitely need to properly regulate corporations because – the title is misleading. Corporations are amoral.

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