Commandment #4: Be Frugal

Last night while cleaning the house, I found some old papers. Among the many memories, I found a document entitled “J.D.’s Ten Commandments”. I can’t tell exactly when I wrote this, but I’d guess it was back in 1992 or 1993, just after I’d graduated from college.

My ten commandments were:

  1. Be physically fit.
  2. Be attractive.
  3. Don’t waste free time.
  4. Be frugal.
  5. Maintain the automobile.
  6. Be curious.
  7. Be loving.
  8. Be productive.
  9. Have fun.
  10. Be rational.

The meat of this document are the supporting details beneath each commandment. They’re a fascinating glimpse at my mind from fifteen years ago. For example, under “be physically fit”, I wrote “eat food that will prolong life, not shorten it”. As part of my productivity goal, I aimed to “write for at least three hours a week”. (Ha! Now I write at least three hours a day.)

It’s fun to see which of these goals I’ve achieved and which I’ve missed. It’s also interesting to note which goals have made me happy and which have not. I met my writing goal, for example, and this has been a source of fulfillment. But I also “learn to program in C”. This wasn’t such a dream come true. I spent a year programming computers, and found that the work wasn’t meaningful or enjoyable.

I did a poor job at following some of my commandments. My fourth commandment was “be frugal”, under which I set the following subgoals:

  • Budget for a limit of $10 a week of personal entertainment.
  • For something more than $10, save.
  • Buy only Star Trek comics.
  • Don’t eat in restaurants.
  • Utilize a savings account.
  • Don’t use credit.
  • Pretend that life is a business venture.

I failed miserably at every one of these. In the decade after I made this list, I spent lavishly on personal entertainment. I never opened a savings account — if I wanted something, I usually just bought it on credit. I bought whatever comics I wanted, and ate in restaurants all the time. If I had followed my own admonitions, I might have been able to get a head start on retirement. Instead I found myself with more than $20,000 in credit card debt.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that eventually I figured this stuff out. Eventually I learned to be frugal. If only I had learned these things back in 1992!

I still make lists of financial goals (though I don’t call them “commandments”). Every few months, I draw up a list of my current income and fixed spending. I project big upcoming expenses (“plumbing repairs”, “vacation to Europe”), and then plot how much I need to save. This is as close as I come to creating a budget. The difference between 1992 and 2007 is that now I actually achieve most of the goals I set for myself.

If I can learn to handle money correctly, then anyone can.

The Early Bird

The last time Kris left town, I was a lonely man. I felt lost. She’s been gone all this week, too, but I’m not lonely yet. “Do you miss me?” she asks when she calls. I hesitate because I know the right answer. But I tell the truth.

“I haven’t had time to miss you yet,” I say. And I haven’t. I’ve been on the go non-stop ever since she left. If she were home, this would be one of those weeks during which it feels like we never see each other. In a way, this is good, I suppose, but ultimately it’s running me ragged.

I sat down at six yesterday afternoon to read Mark‘s story for the Woodstock Writers Guild. I dozed off. I slept for three hours, slumped in my easy chair. I woke at nine, cursed myself for missing the writers group meeting, and then trudged upstairs and went to bed.

My alarm woke me at four.

After some e-mail conversations with Leo, I’ve decided that best way for me to add time to write into my day is to build it into the front end. Leo suggests getting up at 4am, writing for a couple of hours, and then living life as normal, squeezing in extra writing if there’s time during the rest of the day. This may sound a little crazy to non-writers, but it makes perfect sense to me. I need a large block of uninterrupted time alone, during which I can get things done.

In order to wake up at 4am, though, I’m going to need to take a slightly different approach than normal. Usually I wake up, roll over, grab my laptop, and look at my site statistics and handle any e-mail crises. It’s 4:35 right now, and I haven’t checked e-mail or looked at stats. My goal is not to do so until 7. This may seem obsessive, but trust me: it’s a compulsion I have that I’ve been trying to break for months.

Instead, I pulled on some sweats, grabbed an apple and my pedometer, and headed out into the night. I took a walk around the block in the cool morning air. I communed with the morning cats; I listened to the Western screech owl in the neighbor’s tree; I watched a raccoon cross the road.

The trip around the block is one mile. I walked it in sixteen minutes. I munched on my apple and grogged awake. It felt good. I’ve been sitting at my computer typing for twenty minutes now. That feels good, too.

This plan holds much promise. Ten years ago, during the period in which I lost so much weight, one key to my success was that I got up at 5am most mornings to exercise at the high school track. I walked, biked, or ran a couple of miles, then went home and had a small breakfast. It was a great way to start the day.

I’m going to try something similar this summer. But most of all, I’m going to write.

101 Goals: May 2007 Update

Several weeks ago I shared my list of 101 things I wanted to do in 1001 days. I’m pleased with my progress so far. It hasn’t been stellar, but that’s because I’m not trying to overload myself. I’ve started by trying to tackle several health-related goals.

Tomorrow is the last day of my “one month drinking only water” challenge, for example. During the month of May, I’ve only allowed myself to drink water and two water-based derivatives: mineral water (including Talking Rain flavored waters) and non-caffeinated tea. At the same time, I’ve started my “three months with no alcohol” project.

These were easy at first. Water is fine for a week or two, and I don’t crave alcohol under normal circumstances. The past few days, however, has been a trial. More and more, I’m craving jazzier beverages. I want a diet Pepsi. Or some fruit juice. Or, especially, a glass of wine.

Actually, I’ve only craved the wine under two particular circumstances. Last Saturday, we held a small dinner party with the Bankses and the Jolstead-Woodruffs. Typically at events like this, I’d join in the wine-drinking. This time I didn’t. It was a struggle. Then on Monday, I went over to Craig and Lisa’s for a fine meal of salmon (and other tasty treats). Again wine was on the bill. Again I felt the urge to drink, and regretted that I couldn’t.

But otherwise the alcohol gives me no trouble.

But, as I say, the water is more of a problem. I only have a little more than a day left there, though, so I’m not too worried. I’m going to make it.

Meanwhile I’ve begun my “one week without sugar” experiment. Yesterday was fine. Today was fine until after lunch. After lunch I craved something sweet. In a bold and creative move, I discovered a way to have both something sweet and a non-water liquid, all without breaking my pact. Today at Costco I purchased some jumbo-sized grapefruits. “Those look sweet,” I thought to myself, and I devoured one in just a couple minutes. Then, as I do, I squeezed the juice into my mouth. Awesome! Buying juice in the store would be cheating. But drinking it from the fruit? Fair game, my friends, fair game.

So, after tomorrow, my progress on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list looks like this:

Health and Fitness: give up sugar for one week (3 days out of 7, in progress); drink only water for one month (complete); give up alcohol for three months (1 month out of 3, in progress). I’ve also begun biking again, and Mac has agreed to loan me his free weights.

Financial: fully fund Roth IRA (2006) (complete). No further progress.

Home and Garden: no progress.

Personal: purge wardrobe of anything I haven’t worn in the past two years (in progress); learn to shave with a safety razor (complete); hold a gourmet potluck (scheduled); create the indispensable comic strip library (sketched out).

Self-improvement: no progress.

Adventure: no progress.

Entertainment: a little progress on all three goals.

Photography: no progress.

Reading: I finished one more Pulitzer winner.

Writing: I’ve begun collecting recipes for the Friends Cookbook.

Work: the GRS forums have been implemented; I’m still working on a GRS podcast; Success Daily has a template, and I’ve even written a couple entries, but the site won’t launch for several months; I have some keen ideas for Vintage Pop; I’ve registered domain names for Too Much Cat.

I’ll post progress reviews every couple of months. It’s the only way to keep me accountable!

What We Are

One of the benefits of having many blogs with many readers is that these readers send me many, many interesting things. It makes my life easier. (Sort of.) Here’s a piece sent to me by David Hatch, who sends me a lot of good stuff (though it’s usually about personal finance).

This video pretty much sums up my world view.

“Laugh while you can, monkey boy!” — John Whorfin, Buckaroo Banzai

The Indispensable Comic Strip Reprint Library

As I get older, the more interested I am in comic strips instead of comic books. They’re more entertaining. There are fewer to collect. They’re less dominated by fanboy culture.

I’ve begun to collect comic strips at the perfect time. We’ve entered a golden age of comic strip reprints — there’s an embarrassment of riches. In fact, there are so many books coming out right now, that I’ve made the time to create a checklist. To the best of my knowledge, these are the in-print reprint projects, as well as some ancillary material.

The idea for this came from a discussion in the Marvel Masterworks forum. This research is merely the groundwork for what I hope will eventually be a subsection at Vintage Pop. I know this isn’t of interest to most people, but I want to get this posted someplace so that I have it as reference.

First, I’ll list all of the books that are scheduled to come out in the next few months. Then I’ll list books by strip name. I’ve placed a happy star next to particular favorites. (Happy stars reflect my personal taste, which probably is the opposite of yours.)

Upcoming Releases
Walt and Skeezix, book three (1925-1926) by Frank King (26 Jun 2007)
The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff by Bud Fisher (11 July 2007)
The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art by Jerry Robinson (08 August 2007)
Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty by George Herriman (15 Aug 2007) — daily strips
Sundays with Walt and Skeezix by Frank King, edited by Peter Maresca (15 August 2007)

The Complete Terry and the Pirates, volume one: 1934-1936 by Milt Caniff (25 Sep 2007)
The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966 by Charles Schulz (15 October 2007)
Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, volume one: “Into the Wild Blue Yonder” by Walt Kelly (19 Oct 2007)
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, volume three by Chester Gould (25 Oct 2007)
Popeye, volume two: “Well Blow Me Down” by E.C. Segar (19 Nov 2007)
Growingold with B.C.: A Celebration of Johnny Hart by Johnny Hart (25 November 2007)
Krazy and Ignatz 1941-1942: “A Ragout of Raspberries” by George Herriman (19 December 2007)
Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis the Menace 1957-1958 by Hank Ketcham (19 December 2007)
The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968 by Charles Schulz (19 May 2008)
Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays, volume two by Winsor McCay, edited by Peter Maresca (Summer 2008)
The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 by Charles Schulz (19 October 2008)

Dennis the Menace
Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis the Menace 1951-1952 by Hank Ketcham
Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis the Menace 1953-1954 by Hank Ketcham
Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis the Menace 1955-1956 by Hank Ketcham
Hank Ketcham’s Complete Dennis the Menace 1957-1958 by Hank Ketcham (19 December 2007)

Dick Tracy
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, volume one: 1931-1933 by Chester Gould
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, volume two: 1933-1935 by Chester Gould
The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, volume three: 1935-1936 by Chester Gould (25 Oct 2007)
DVD: Dick Tracy movie serial (1937)

Flash Gordon
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume one (1934-1935) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume two (1935-1936) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume three (1936-1938) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume four (1938-1940) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume five (1940-1941) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume six (1941-1943) by Alex Raymond
Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, volume seven (1943-1945) by Alex Raymond
Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon, volume one (1948-1953) by Mac Raboy
Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon, volume two (1953-1958) by Mac Raboy
Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon, volume three (1958-1962) by Mac Raboy
Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon, volume four (1962-1967) by Mac Raboy

Gasoline Alley
Walt and Skeezix, book one (1921-1922) by Frank King
Walt and Skeezix, book two (1923-1924) by Frank King
Walt and Skeezix, book three (1925-1926) by Frank King (26 Jun 2007)
Sundays with Walt and Skeezix by Frank King, edited by Peter Maresca (15 August 2007)

Krazy Kat
Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty by George Herriman (15 Aug 2007) — daily strips
Krazy & Ignatz 1925-1926: “There is a Heppy Land Furfur A-Waay” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1927-1928: “Love Letters in Ancient Brick” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1929-1930: “A Mice, a Brick, a Lovely Night” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1931-1932: “A Kat Alilt with Song” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1933-1934: “Necromancy by the Blue Bean Bush” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1935-1936: “A Wild Warmth of Chromatic Gravy” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1937-1938: “Shifting Sands Dusts its Cheeks in Powdered Beauty” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1939-1940: “A Brick Stuffed with Moom-Bins” by George Herriman
Krazy & Ignatz 1941-1942: “A Ragout of Raspberries” by George Herriman (19 Dec 2007)

Little Nemo
Little Nemo 1905-1914 by Winsor McCay
Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays by Winsor McCay, edited by Peter Maresca — the gold standard for comic strip reprints
Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays, volume two by Winsor McCay, edited by Peter Maresca (Summer 2008)
Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay
DVD: Winsor McCay – The Master Edition (1911) — a compilation of McCay’s animated pieces, including “Gertie the Dinosaur”
Winsor McCay: His Life and Art by John Canemaker

Mary Perkins On Stage
Mary Perkins On Stage, volume one by Leonard Starr
Mary Perkins On Stage, volume two by Leonard Starr

Mutt & Jeff
The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff by Bud Fisher (11 July 2007)

The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1957-1958 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964 by Charles Schulz
The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966 by Charles Schulz (15 October 2007)
The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968 by Charles Schulz (19 May 2008)
The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 by Charles Schulz (19 October 2008)

Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, volume one: “Into the Wild Blue Yonder” by Walt Kelly (19 Oct 2007)

Popeye, volume one: “I Yam What I Yam” by E.C. Segar
Popeye, volume two: “Well Blow Me Down” by E.C. Segar (19 Nov 2007)
Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History by Fred M. Grandinetti

Steve Canyon
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1947 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1948 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1949 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1950 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1951 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1952 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1953 by Milt Caniff
Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon 1954 by Milt Caniff

Terry and the Pirates
The Complete Terry and the Pirates, volume one: 1934-1936 by Milt Caniff (25 Sep 2007)

Modern Classics and Other Oddities
Growingold with B.C.: A Celebration of Johnny Hart by Johnny Hart (25 November 2007)
The Best of Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
The Complete Far Side 1980-1994 by Gary Larson
The Best of Hi and Lois by Mort Walker
Hi and Lois: Sunday Best by Mort Walker
Oh Skin-Nay! The Days of Real Sport by Wilbur Nesbit and Calre Briggs

Anthologies and Reference
100 Years of Comic Strips edited by Bill Blackbeard
The Adventurous Decade: Comic Strips in the Thirties by Ron Goulart
America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists: From the Yellow Kid to Peanuts by Richard Marschall
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 by Dan Nadel
Children of the Yellow Kid: The Evolution of the American Comic Strip
The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art by Jerry Robinson (08 August 2007)
The Comics: Before 1945 by Brian Walker
The Comics: Since 1945 by Brian Walker
Great Comics Syndicated by the NY Daily News and Chicago Tribune by Herb Galewitz
Masters of American Comics
Reading the Funnies: Looking at Great Cartoonists Throughout the First Half of the 20th Century by Donald Phelps
The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics edited by Bill Blackbeard
The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in Joseph Pulitzer’s Newspaper (1898-1911) by Nicholson Baker

Comics Revue reprints 64 pages of classic comics every month
Big Fun reprints classic American newspaper strips in a deluxe format (but on an irregular schedule)

Publishers, etc.
Checker Book Publishing Group
Classic Comics Press
Drawn and Quarterly
Fantagraphics Books
IDW Publishing
Ken Pierce Books
Pacific Comics Club
SPEC Productions
Sunday Press Books

Weblogs and web sites
Don Markstein’s Toonopedia
Last of the Spinner Rack Junkies
Vintage Pop will feature a lot of comic strip material when I launch it. Some of that material can be still be found at Four Color Comics

I could actually prolong this by adding movie serials to the list, and by adding Little Lulu. (Lulu was not a comic strip, but contains similar elements.)

Busy as a Bzz-Bzz Bee

It’s that time of year when Kris and I spend much of our time outside, working on the yard. We’ve tried to train the cats to prune and plant for us, but mostly they just lay around glowering at birds.

Kris is (jusifiably) proud of her flower beds, and lately she’s been grabbing my camera to take photos. “Post these,” she says when she’s done. Here are some shots from her most recent batch.

[photo of the front border bed, which is filled with colorful flowers]
The front border bed

[photo of a yellow rose]
The ‘Gold Medal’ rose

Kris loves bees. I was impressed that she was able to make some nice hand-held captures of honeybees at work. For example:

[photo of a honeybee flying among the lavendar]
Bee in flight

[photo of honey bee on lavender]
My favorite photo of the bunch

It’s raining today (Sunday), but yesterday we were able to do a lot of yardwork, pruning limbs, mowing lawns, and otherwise fussing over our plants. Very fun.

Concert Review: The Black Angels at The Doug Fir

I went to see a show with Paul and Susan last night. The Black Angels, a band from Austin, Texas, were playing at the Doug Fir Lounge. I didn’t know anything about the group going in — hadn’t heard a single song — but after the concert, I’m a convert. These guys rock.

Imagine James, Love and Rockets, and The Doors blended together and transported to 2007, and you might have some idea of The Black Angels sound. I suppose it’s easier to just post a video:

The Black Angels — “Black Grease”

Here’s a live performance of the same song recorded last July.

There are no singles here. No memorable melodies. Instead there’s a wall of sounds, a rich, complex and powerful sonic wave. It’s impossible to decipher the lyrics, but so what? It’s not about the lyrics. It’s about the sound.

(Actually, I was able to find lyrics to “Black Grease”!)

Black Grease by The Black Angels. You’re a storm. You’re so emotional, moody and controlled, sly and involved. You’re alright. You come to me in times. You make me realize I’m not the kindest guy, but I give give give give. I give what I can give. So just give give give give. Give me what you have, dear. Slow, you kept me in that storm. You showed me things galore, made me want much more. And now denied the things I saw inside (the things I saw inside) is what really caught my eye. And you give give give give, give what you can. And I’ll live live live live, live while I can, dear. You’re so surprised. You see me put up fights. You hear me realize. You come along for rides. You’re just so kind: the eagle with red wine. You made me see that bright eye between me and time to just kill kill kill kill. You kill what you can. And you kill kill kill kill anything you want.

This isn’t music that I normally identify with. I’m more of an ABBA Euro-pop kind of guy. But trust me: I can go for the deep, soul-stirring thrum of a band like The Black Angels. This is quality stuff. YouTube has several videos of the band’s live performances, such as:

The Black Angels — “First Vietnamese War”

Some bands are dull in person — you might as well have stayed home and listened to the record. The Black Angels were exciting, though, despite the fact they barely acknowledged the crowd. (And despite the fact that a couple of the members seemed completely wasted.) There are six members to the group (seven for one song), and they swap instruments back and forth. The percussionist becomes the drummer becomes the guitar player, etc. One of their main instruments is a “drone machine“.

In this video, the regular drummer is playing guitar center stage.

The Black Angels — “Snake in the Grass”

In that previous video, did you notice the video of lava projected behind the band? Last night while the band played, old grade school movies (including this one) were projected onto the stage. (I was standing just below the film projectors.) One film was about Native Americans, one about astronauts, one about health and hygiene, and one about geology. It was strange, but effective.

The Black Angels — “Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”

The band’s official site has more information, including some free downloads. The Internet Archive has a a few Black Angels concert recordings. Finally, here’s a recording from the band’s last appearance at The Doug Fir in July. Unfortunately, this video doesn’t capture the sheer wall of sound the band can produce:

The Black Angels — “Better Off Alone”

p.s. Despite lousy service, I liked the restaurant at The Doug Fir. The food was reasonably priced (and tasty), and the decor is awesome: a blend of Jetsons-style early-60s modernism and good old-fashioned Pacific Northwest log cabin. It sounds strange, but it works. It was fun to chat with Paul and Susan, killing two hours before the band took the stage at 11pm.

Ambrosia Pie, and Other Recipes from the 1940s

More and more, Kris is becoming my partner on these blogs. Here she provides a guest entry for foldedspace.

Over the past few months, I’ve entered hundreds of recipes into MacGourmet, a computerized recipe database. While working on my recipe project this weekend, I came across an old mimeographed and bound cookbook put together in 1947 when both my grandparents and great-grandparents were working for a naval base in California. I thought you’d get a chuckle out of these.

Ambrosia Pie (Great Grandmother)
1 pint heavy cream
16 large ginger snaps, + 2 extra for garnish
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
9″ graham cracker pie crust
This is an ice-box dessert and should be prepared 6-8 hours before use. Whip the cream so it will hold its shape but not be too dry. Break the gingersnaps into pieces about the size of a quarter and stir into the whipped cream. Add the sugar and vanilla and heap into your pie shell. Sprinkle with crushed remaining two cookies. Set in refrigerator until ready for use.

Chicken Chasseur (from Grandmother)
Take one stewing hen. Boil with 3 stalks of celery, 1 large onion, salt and 5 peppercorns. When tender, remove meat from bones, put in casserole with onions. Add parsley, sage and thyme. Pour over meat 1 cup dry white wine and 1 cup cooking liquor. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and add 2 lumps of chicken fat. Cook in 325 degree oven for a half-hour.

Chocolate Puffs (Great Grandmother)
1 large bar Baker’s bittersweet chocolate
2 squares baking chocolate
1 package Rice Crispies cereal
Melt chocolates together in a double boiler. Pour in the Rice Crispies. Stir until they are uniformly coated in the chocolate. Drop by large spoonsful upon waxed paper and put outside to cool. This is something a child can successfully make.

Boneless Birds (from Great Grandfather)
Split the flank steak or have the butcher do it, then cut each half in half again to make 4 6″ squares. Lay flat, season well with salt and pepper. On each piece, at one end, place a piece of bacon, a sliver of dill pickle cut lengthwise, some chopped onion and a slice of garlic salami (diced small). Roll up each steak and skewer neatly with toothpicks. Fold ends together and skewer to keep contents in.
Put a teaspoon of fat in a Dutch oven and brown the “birds” well on all sides. Then, add any leftover onion, a teaspoon of vinegar, a generous dash of Worcestershire sauce. a bay leaf and a can of tomato paste. Reduce heat and cook slowly for one hour. Add water if it gets too dry.

Fruit Salad Dressing (Great Grandmother)
1 egg, well-beaten
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch salt
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard, heaping
1 cup heavy cream
Cook all ingredients except the cream until they get quite thick. This must be done in a double boiler. Cool. Just before you are ready to use, whip the cream quite stiff and at the last few turns of he beater, fold in the cooked mixture. Pile on top of your fruit salad and top with a cherry. This makes an excellent tangy dressing.

These recipes are so, well, vague. What are you supposed to do with the Chicken Chasseur? Eat it over noodles? By itself? And what about the ingredients? There aren’t any amounts for anything! How much parsley? Where does the chicken fat come from?

It’s not just the vagueness that shocks our modern sensibilities. The very notion of eating some of these things puts my stomach ill-at-ease. Ambrosia pie? It’s just whipped cream with soggy cookies! And what’s up with that fruit salad dressing? (Just reading the ingredients makes J.D. sick.)

Aside from the “ick” factor, reading recipes like this should remind us that we need to provide specific weights and measures when we write things down for friends and family. (At least if we want our recipes to be prepared by our descendants.) Who knows if a package of Rice Krispies from 1947 is the same size as it is now. How much, exactly, is “one large bar of Baker’s bittersweet chocolate”? And how about “16 large ginger snaps”?

I’ve only posted the silliest recipes here, but I found my great-grandfather’s crepe recipe, which I remember eating in my grandmother’s house, and a braided Christmas pastry recipe that brings back fond memories. So many of our childhood memories involve food — it would be great if the recipes that we (not J.D. and I — but we as a generation) passed on were actually useable by our children. (Not to mention appetizing!)

Contest: The Cowgirls of Trace Evidence

Mike Banks writes:

Isn’t this photo worthy of a post? Maybe a “caption this” for a prize?

He’s right. Here’s the photo:

[photo of Rhonda, Celeste, and Kris posing as cowgirls]

Here’s the prize: your choice of one Bob’s Red Mill product. I’ll pick up a case of it from the Bob’s Red Mill store and either deliver it the next time I see you, or mail it to you (in case the winner is in Bogota or something).


Barack Obama and Ron Paul

I am largely apolitical. I have certain strongly held beliefs, but I am disenchanted with the American two-party political system. It doesn’t represent me. I find the Democrats as absurd as the Republicans, just in different ways. (And don’t get me started about talk show hosts. I listened to Rush Limbaugh a couple of weeks ago for the first time in years. The man is a fucking idiot. It scares me that he holds such influence over his listeners.)

Kris is sometimes frustrated because I don’t keep up-to-date on current events. I don’t know what has happened to whom. I do catch headlines via the web, and I’m forced to listen to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! every Saturday. (Kris is addicted.) But most of my political decisions come from reading statements in the voter’s pamphlet or from ignoring the crap and reading interviews with candidates.

Though it’s a long time before the 2008 Presidential elections, it has been difficult to miss the fact that the campaigns have already begun.

To date, the only candidate on either side that has appealed to me is Barack Obama. He first came to my attention (and to the attention of many) through his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Why do I like him so much? Because he cuts through the bullshit and supposes a United States that is actually united and not split in two. From the aforementioned speech:

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Right on.

I admit that Obama’s dream of unity may be a fantasy. The United States was built on a divided platform. Despite what some would have you believe, there’s rarely been a unity of purpose in this country. Our Founding Fathers did not all stand for the same thing, and when people claim otherwise they’re either ignorant or willfully trying to deceive you.

Still: Unity — that’s a nice goal. I like it. So Barack Obama has been my candidate of choice. Everything I’ve read by or about him has re-affirmed this. He’s an intelligent, thoughtful man. He truly believes in building unity, not just politically, but in daily life. When I listened to Rush Limbaugh a few weeks ago, he was ranting about how those who support Obama do so out of “white guilt” (or was it “Liberal guilt” — I can’t remember). This is ludicrous. Most of the time, I barely remember that Obama is black, and it has no bearing on whether I like him and will vote for him. (Rush used to argue that women voted for Clinton because they thought he was sexy, which is just as stupid.)

But I didn’t start this post because of Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama. I started this post because I just read a piece this morning that has put a Republican Presidential candidate on my radar. I have no idea who Ron Paul is but I’m going to find out. Here’s a piece from Radley Balko writes:

The reaction to the showdown between Rep. Ron Paul and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been fascinating. Paul suggested that the recent history of U.S. foreign policy endeavors overseas may have had something to do with terrorists’ willingness to come to America, live here for several months, then give their lives to kill as many Americans as possible.

Perhaps, Paul suggested, the 15-year presence of the U.S. military forces in Muslim countries may have motivated them. For that, Giuliani excoriated him, calling it an “extraordinary statement,” adding, “I don’t think I’ve heard that before.”

Let’s be blunt. Giuliani was either lying, or he hasn’t cracked a book in six years.

The “blowback” theory isn’t some fringe idea common only to crazy Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists. It doesn’t suggest that we “deserved” the Sept. 11 attacks, nor does it suggest we shouldn’t have retaliated against the people who waged them.

What it does say is that actions have consequences. When the Arab and Muslim world continually sees U.S. troops marching through Arab and Muslim backyards, U.S. trade sanctions causing Arab and Muslim suffering and U.S. bombs landing on Arab and Muslim homes, it isn’t difficult to see how Arabs could begin to develop a deep contempt for the U.S.

Why does this get my attention? Long-time readers know. I’ve been saying this same thing for nearly six years. On September 11th and 12th of 2001, I took it upon myself to do extensive research. I visited scores of web sites and printed out articles about Osama bin Laden and the Muslim complaints against the United States. I compiled a binder full of information. In April 2004, I posted a summary of this info in an entry entitled How did we get here?. At the time I wrote:

The results of this research still form the basis for my understanding of the situation in the Middle East. My opposition to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t so much because I think our actions are evil — though I do think this — as I think they don’t address the core issues. The people we’re fighting are only going to be satisfied if we remove all of our presence from the Middle East and if we decrease our support for Israel.

[A] U.S. withdrawal is not going to appease anyone now. We’ve gone over and thrown our weight around too many times; now people might just fight back for the sake of fighting back. This is true. But at one time, it would have been a significant step toward pacifying the anger fomenting against our country.

The Middle East has been a source of cultural turmoil not just for decades, not just for centuries, but for millennia. Think about that. Millennia.

It’s ignorant to think that we can go over there with our military might and moral rectitude and somehow make things right. We’re better off worrying about our own neighborhood.

So when I hear that Ron Paul, a man I know nothing about, has the balls to stand up and speak the truth, he earns my attention. Not one politician has said this stuff in the past six years. I’m going to go read more about him. Between Paul and Obama, I may actually break from my stance of always voting for the strongest third-party Presidential candidate.

Well, maybe not.