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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lions or Crucifixion?

Update: It's official. Murkowski conceded to Miller. So, the courts won't be deciding things after all.

Thanks for giving the Democrats a shot, Lisa.

________________________________________________________________________

Update: After today’s count, Miller still leads Murkowski by a full point.

Murkowski has called a press conference, and the pre-release is that she’s conceding the race.

I suspected from her lack of actual campaigning that her heart really wasn’t in it, and that she was looking for a way out. This appears to be it.

On one hand, I feel like calling her up and thanking her for giving the Democrat Scott McAdams a real shot. On the other hand, I simply can’t stand that smug bitch Palin gloating in Miller’s victory.

You can bet I’ll be doing everything I can to help McAdams.


Down in Anchorage they’re counting the absentee ballots.

As I write this, it’s Miller with with 50.66% and Murkowksi with 49.34% and Miller’s lead is shrinking.

Joe Miller is spitting mad and going publically paranoid.

Lisa Murkowski is cautiously optimistic.

There are maybe 15,000 ballots to go and it’ll be days before the results are known, officially that is. We should know who the republican candidate is later tonight.  Whichever way it goes, whoever comes out on top of Alaska’s Republican Senatorial primary, it won’t be by much. Likely less than one percentage point will determine the winner.

The results won’t be uncontested, you can make bank on that.

See, both Murkowski and Miller are lawyers. Whichever way the count goes, it’s a good bet it’ll end up in court.

Over the last couple of days a rather large number of folks have asked me who I’m rooting for.

That’s a lot like asking if I’d prefer the red hot pokers or to be pulled apart by wild asses.

I don’t want either one. 

Here’s why:

First, the incumbent: I have no use for Lisa Murkowski whatsoever. I’d like to see her gone and and it would not bother me in the least if the door hit her in the ass on the way out.  In fact, I’d be perfectly happy if the Murkowski Dynasty faded away quietly into the Alaskan wilderness like a lost bush plane, never to be heard from again. Understand something, I actually liked Murkowski, I might even have voted for her – once.  The fact that she came to the US Senate via a blatant act of nepotism doesn’t particularly bother me, there are far worse things in the cesspit of Alaskan politics. She won reelection on her own merits and she’s done a reasonably decent job for us Alaskans. More importantly, there was a time when Lisa Murkowski was a moderate republican, somebody whose actions in the US Senate made me think that she actually understood that her duty was to represent all of us Alaskans, all of us, not just those who voted for her, not just those in her party, not just those in the thrall of the oil and mining industries, and not just the uber conservative Palinites who surround me here in the MatSu. Alaska is a land of extremes, divided between massive-scale industry and the tree huggers, slash & burn and conservation & ecology  – a true Alaskan senator must represent both.  Murkowski walked a fine line down the political highway, often closer to the centrist middle than in the right lane – though it is almost impossible for a sitting politician to resist all those vast billions that flow through Juneau, a special interest siren call that eventually doomed Murkowski’s father, Frank.  She was often one of the increasingly scarce reasonable voices on the right side of the aisle, one of the few willing to compromise, one of the few who haven’t made a religion out of obstructionism,  one of the few Republicans without the fevered glint of Jesusland burning in their eyes and the purple stains of neoconservatism at the corners of their mouth.  If I had to be represented by a Republican, well, there were far worse than Lisa Murkowski.  She rejected the GOP’s threatened use of the so-called Nuclear Option, she supported stem cell and other scientific research, she voted her conscience on abortion issues coming down 50/50 sometimes for and sometimes against specific bills (i.e. she considered the merits of each bill, and didn’t vote based on dogma, I can live with this). On the other hand, while she doesn’t appear to be a religious climate change denier, her record on the environment is pretty damned miserable and like a lot of her conservative colleagues she seems to think the US would be better off without the EPA – a position that simply confounds me, given that Alaskans more than anybody else ought to understand what happens when you let heavy industry such as oil, mining, fishing, and the military wander around without a keeper.

I didn’t like Murkowski’s politics, but I didn’t hate them either. I saw her as a reasonable human being, the kind of Republican that I dearly wish there were more of.

Right up until Barack Obama was elected President.

It was at that point Lisa Murkowski started flirting with the far right.

And then came the current Alaskan primary.  Despite her vaunted experience and 2+ million dollar war chest, Murkowski didn’t bother to actually campaign. I never saw a sign for Lisa Murkowski until a week or so before the elections. I saw plenty of Joe Miller signs (and we’ll get back to that in a minute), but even now, there are damned few indicators that Murkowski even bothered to run an actual campaign.  She broadcast few commercials, she held few interviews, she wasn’t out on the street kissing babies and shaking hands and making the usual empty promises. She didn’t have a booth at the Fair. I got robo-calls from the goddamned Tea Party every day exhorting me to vote for Miller, none for Murkowski.  The implication is obvious, she thought she had it in the bag.  A tactical blunder of this level is astounding. Hell, her, mentor, Ted Steven, was a fixture of Alaskan politics for 30 years and he never stopped campaigning. Ever. And in this Lisa Murkowski is a lot like a democrat – she thinks her record should speak for itself, that it should be obvious to thinking people. What she completely failed to understand is that the vast majority of voters are morons with the attention span of a cocker spaniel and a memory packed full of basketball scores and Bud Lite.  They remember whatever Sarah or Glenn or Rush or the pretty Fox Anchor with the cleavage told them last.  The simple truth of the matter is that most voters are idiots (I didn’t say all of them, certainly not you, Gentle Reader, but a very large part of them are. This is democracy’s Achilles Heel), for a politician to forget that doesn’t speak well of either her insight or political savvy. You want to win, you better campaign, hard

But that’s not what lost her my vote.

No, the reason I won’t vote for Murkowski is that instead of appealing to me, to centrists, to moderates, to progressives, instead of playing to her strength, instead of standing on that line in the middle of the road, she veered to the right and pandered to the fucking Tea Party.

When the chips were down, she abandoned the very things that made her attractive to both the moderate right and the moderate left. She tried to out conservative Joe Miller.  She appealed to the far right, instead of those of us in the middle, and by doing so she made it damned clear that she fears the Tea Party, fears the right, fears being labeled a moderate – as if that is something to be ashamed of. 

You know, I have absolutely no use for people whose principles depend on the direction of the wind. 

And then, of course, there’s Joe Miller.  Miller has made absolutely no bones about who he intends to represent. He doesn’t give a damn about fifty percent of Alaska’s population. The tree huggers and the liberals and the moderates and the progressives and the apolitical can go fuck themselves as far as Joe Miller is concerned. Despite trading shamelessly on his status as a veteran, he doesn’t give a good goddamn about veterans like me, vets who served a hell of a lot longer than Joe.  He’s a Tea Party thrall, endorsed by Sarah Palin – a woman who quit on us and walked away from our state with her job less than a quarter of the way done, who endorsed Miller because of a long standing vendetta against Murkowski’s father, why in the hell any Alaskan would listen to that self serving childish bitch about anything is utterly beyond me. Miller is the kind of politician who’ll say anything to get elected.  He lied repeatedly during the campaign, even going so far as to claim Murkowski voted for “Obamacare” when in fact she didn’t. Obviously didn’t. No republican did. Joe Miller was forced to admit on public radio that he was knowingly misleading people, that he deliberately lied - and he just grinned and shrugged and kept right on doing it.  He’s the kind of slick lawyer who gives weasels a bad name.  He has repeatedly stated that he thinks social security and medicare are unconstitutional – despite years of court challenges, battles decided long ago, that say just the opposite. He wants to privatize retirement and healthcare for the elderly – and either completely misses the reasons those systems were put in place to begin with, or simply doesn’t care. After all, he’s fairly well off and doesn’t figure he’ll ever need either – Miller is the epitome of the conservative “fuck you I got mine” mentality.  He’s the kind of guy who can walk past the homeless elderly, and those without healthcare, and feel nothing but irritation because they’re more unfortunate than he is.  He’s exactly the kind of guy who spread Palin’s Soylent Green bullshit, that “Obamacare” would result in death panels - and yet he has boldly stated that given the chance he would return the country to a time when tens of millions of the elderly had no retirement plan or healthcare whatsoever (and it speaks to Palin’s own hypocrisy that she herself would endorse Miller on this). Miller has stated repeatedly that he wants smaller federal government, that he believes any federal agency not specifically mentioned in the Constitution is illegal and should dissolved. He’s talking about the EPA, the Fed, and the Department of Education of course - the Tea Party’s flavor of the week bugaboo - but you have to wonder why he doesn’t mention the Air Force or Veteran’s Administration or the National Weather Service as well, since none of those things, or the hundreds of other government agencies we depend on every day aren’t mentioned in the Constitution either.  See, either Joe is engaged in bald faced hyperbole and willful lies in order to placate the Tea Party, or he’s astoundingly naive and ignorant (Given his track record and profession, I’m leaning towards willful lies myself, but hey that’s just me).  This guy is exactly what we don’t need in the Senate, yet another obstructionist, yet another science denying creationist, yet another Senator who represents big industry and big money and the extremists and his own unfettered ambition and avarice instead of the people of his state. Since the primaries, Miller has been whining about “out of state influences” and calling foul as his lead disappears one fraction of a percentage point after another.  But what Joe carefully doesn’t mention is that almost all of his support came from out of state. Once Palin endorsed him, the Tea Party Express showed up and showered him with money and volunteers.  They waved signs and went door to door, they held rallies where they ranted about state’s rights – and never seemed to see the hypocrisy of interfering in our state’s right to select our representative without outside interference.

No, I have no desire to be represented by either of these people.

And it chaps my ass that this is the best we can do, but then again only 27% of registered voters actually turned out for the primary. That’s about average for Alaskans. They bitch and moan and rant and rave and complain bitterly about their politicians, but they won’t actually get off their dead asses and take fifteen minutes to vote. 

If I had to choose one, I’d grit my teeth and vote for Murkowski as I find her slightly less repugnant.

But, here’s the thing, see I’m sort of hoping Murkowski loses today.

Yep.

Recent poll results show that the democrat, Scott McAdams - who won his primary handily by the way - stands almost no chance against Murkowski if it comes down to it in November.

However, the polls show that he’s got significantly better than a fighting chance against Miller.

I’ll take McAdams over either Murkowski or Miller any day.

Of course, that depends entirely on whether or not Alaskans are willing to actually go to the polls and vote.  It depends entirely on whether or not traditionally red state Alaska will elect a second Democrat to the Senate (Mark Begich, our other Senator, is a democrat. He beat the legally troubled Stevens in the last election). It depends on whether or not enough liberals will actually put down their doobies long enough to pay attention. It depends on if McAdams can mount an effective campaign against Tea Party influence.

There’s a lot of ifs in there.

It’s a hell of a risk.

Lions or crucifixion, indeed.

In the end, Alaskans will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jupiter – Latest from the Shop

I mentioned on Facebook this last weekend that I’d cut a bunch of turning blanks.

That’s them sitting on the floor in front of the wood cart.

image

On the left is a stack of four large birch pieces, for which I have something special in mind.

That ugly knobby irregular piece on the right is a large burl.  It’s green, i.e. still wet. Very heavy. And the grain, the part that I could see anyway, looked very interesting. 

So I thought I’d start with that piece.

I had to do a lot of initial rough turning to get down to solid wood, but I was right – it was interesting. Very.

image

 

 

The grain was extremely difficult to work. But after three days, this is what I ended up with:

Vase 1

 vase 3 Vase 4vase 6

The base is walnut.  I like the contrast, I think it enhances the appearance of the burl without distracting from it.

vase 5 

I named it Jupiter, because the grain reminds me of those huge swirling storms in Jove’s atmosphere.

 vase 8 vase 9

 vase 10 vase 11

 

Because this piece is so unusual, I haven’t yet decided if I will make it available for sale.  It may go to a gallery. We’ll see.  It has to dry for a while anyway.

 

I turned the rest of those pieces tonight, the lathe is nearly buried in swarf.  Unfortunately, I managed to snag the big Sorby scraper and bash myself pretty seriously across the knuckles of my bad hand.  It’s black and blue and yellow already, the swelling is fairly impressive, but I don’t think I actually broke anything. Hurts like the very dickens though. So both typing and turning are likely to be in short supply around here for the next of couple days.

It was worth it though.

Now, anybody see where I left the bottle of Motrin?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ten Things Obama Can Do to Prove He’s a Christian

It’s always something.

Isn’t it?

I mean, it’s always some damned thing with these people. They’re just not happy unless they’ve got something to chicken-little about.

First Barack Obama was a community organizer, gasp! Conservatives pointed this out during the election with arched eyebrows and knowing smirks. How, exactly, being a community organizer is not American I’m not quite sure, but apparently “community” sounds a lot like “communism” or “Negros are eating our babies” or something. 

Then Obama was a member of the “Chicago Political Machine” – again, how that’s actually a threat to America I really have no idea. Honestly, if you think Chicago is any more corrupt than Juneau I’ve got an igloo to sell you. I checked the Constitution and wasn’t able to find a provision proclaiming Chicagoans as enemies of the state – though the Constitution did mention that Chicago style pizza is not as good as the more American New York style (hey, don’t yell at me, talk to Ben Franklin).  But you know, If Chicago politicians are such threat, you’d think the previous administration would have invaded Illinois or something. 

Then Obama was a socialist or a fascist or a fascist socialist or a social fascist – something to do with secret FEMA camps and universal healthcare, again I’m a little hazy on the logic here.  And frankly if FEMA’s performance in stacking sandbags, sopping up oil from Pensacola beaches, or providing Port-O-Potties in an emergency is any example of their competence, well I suspect when Obama finally gets around to herding us into FEMA camps it’ll be a lot like the Romans in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  Crucifixion or the lions? Uh, neither, they said I could go free. Oh, well, alright then.  No, no, just kidding, it’s FEMA death camps!

All along, of course Obama wasn’t really a natural born American citizen, but rather an illegal alien reptile in a rubber human suit, a foreign agent from Kenya – like some kind of Manchurian Terror Baby, inserted into this country five decades ago and waiting lo these many years, lurking unseen like a republican Senator on a gay porn site.

And now, of course, he’s not a Christian.

A recent poll shows that a significant fraction of Americans believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim (OMG! It’s Twue!). The results of the survey also indicate that a significant fraction of Americans are beer swilling simpletons who are in serious need of sedation and electro-shock therapy. Repeated high amperage electro-shock therapy. When questioned about Obama’s religious beliefs, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said forcefully, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute.” Except, of course, it is in dispute, Mitch, that sort being the whole point here – but, you know, way to definitively debunk that rumor, wink wink.  Barack Obama spent twenty years as a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, you know as a member of Rev Jeremiah Wright’s Fire and Brimstone Christian Brigade – but apparently a large number of folks believe that was just a smoke screen, protective camouflage if you will, and as you know black Christian Churches are all secretly Muslims anyway.  And in fact they believe Obama has been in engaged in a dedicated campaign to hide his true beliefs since birth.  He’s the Magic Negro! Imbued with inhuman animal powers long lost to our pale ancestors! He’s like a Jedi of deception. My God, the unbelievable focus of the man, too bad he’s not on our side, if only the CIA had folks of such caliber.   Evangelical leader, the right honorable reverend Franklin Graham, son of Billy Vanilly Graham, joined in with this pearl, “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim. He father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father, so he was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name. Now it’s obvious that the President has renounced the prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That’s what he says he’s done. I cannot say that he hasn’t.” Wink wink. Franklin would know, after all his father gave him a Liberal’s name – or did we already write FDR out of the history books along with Thomas Jefferson? Fortunately Franklin was able to overcome that and embrace Jesus and the GOP. At least that’s what he says he’s done.  Say, you don’t suppose Graham secretly supports universal healthcare, gay marriage, and a woman’s right to choose…  Hey I’m just saying, Franklin, it makes you wonder.

None of this garbage is true, of course.  Obama is a Christian and has been his entire life, provably so. He’s at least as good a Christian as Mitch McConnell is, and probably one hell of a lot closer to what Jesus intended than pompous overinflated hypocrites like Graham (and his pompous overinflated homophobic racist bigoted hypocrite of a father too, for that matter - who, if there actually is a God, will spend a significant fraction of eternity getting dunked repeatedly in boiling pitch).

But none of that matters. See, what Obama has is an image problem.

Image has been his biggest problem right from the start. He does a lot of things that could easily be confused for Islamaphilia. He probably doesn’t even realize how that comes across to real Americans. We’ll get to specifics in a minute, but in general there are a couple of personal habits Obama could change right up front.  First, he’s too dark. He’s half white, he should try to emphasize that – hey, it almost worked for Michael Jackson.  White people might not let him marry their daughters, but they might let him sleep with their underage sons…  (what? Too soon?).  He should only appear on Fox, and refer to all other media as “Lamestream.” Also, he should park the First Camel around back, instead of right out front where everybody can see it.  Better yet, he should replace the President’s Limo with a Hummer H1. Two words: Skoal hat. Alternatively: commemorative Dale Earnhardt NASCAR hoodie – Give Rahm a $20 and send him over to the Arlington County Fair to pick up a couple. Don’t lead off the State of the Union Address with “As-Salamu Alaykum, my Brothas!” that just puts people off.  He should change his middle name to Herbert Walker and refer to Michelle as “Babs.” And frankly, I don’t think he wears hunter orange nearly enough.  The White House could also mention how he beat a prescription drug habit “on his own.” And if he can’t produce an actual birth certificate, he should provide at least a couple of draft deferments instead. He could consult an astrologer in times of stress (the number is probably still in Nancy Reagan’s rolodex).

Also? More WWF, less Glee.

Now, while those kinds of things would help him connect to the heartland none definitively prove his Christianity.

No, for that he’s going to need to put the mental in fundamentalism.

If B. Hussein Obama really wants to convince America that he’s a Christian, he’s going to have to do more than just attend Christian churches and pray with Christian leaders and have his kids baptized by a Christian preacher man and pray to the Christian God ten times a day and carry around the Christian bible.  That kind of weak-assed conviction simply doesn’t cut it with a significant fraction of real Americans.  The following is a list of ten things Obama can do to definitively prove once and for all that he is bathed in the blood of the lamb:

1.  During an interview with Glenn Beck, proclaim proudly that God told him to run for President.  He should say it with a straight face and act like hearing Jesus in your head is perfectly natural. He could mention how he saw an angel hiding behind the Oval Office drapes.

2.  Pronounce it Evilolution.  Use every public speaking event as an opportunity to educate the masses on the scientific wonders of creationism. People really enjoy being held captive and witnessed. If you’re not annoying the piss out of people, you’re not really a Christian are you?

3.  Give rich people tax rebates and blame poor people for dragging down the economy.  Jesus once spent a whole afternoon explaining the theory of Reaganomics to the Pharisees.  It didn’t make the final edition of the bible, but it’s in the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can look it up.

4.  Deny gay people their fundamental civil rights.  And you know nothing says Christian like beating up a few queers.  That’s what Jesus would have done. 

5.  Institute a bi-Annual White House book burning, held right after the Easter Egg Roll and lighting of the White House Christmas tree.  Obama could invite the congregation of that Christian church in Florida what started National Burn a Quran Day. It could be televised via big screen right into public classrooms.

6.  Shoot an abortion doctor.  Oh, now don’t get all pissy.  I’m not suggesting Obama actually whack an abortion provider. That would be crass.  He could have the CIA do it…

7.  Blame the Jews for pretty much everything, then insist on unconditional support to Israel. Remember, it’s not hypocrisy if you’re doing it to bring about the End Times! And on that note, appoint Mel Gibson as Good Will Ambassador to Tel Aviv.

8.  Have a secret homosexual affair.  This one is basically a slam dunk.  Nothing says bestest Christian like snorting cocaine out of Rentboy’s sculpted belly button.

9.  Join the Party of God (i.e. become a Republican).

10.  Invade Iran (Just be careful not to call it a Crusade), kill another 6000 American servicemen. Blame Clinton for creating the conditions that led to war.  And remember, Jesus gave us nukes for a reason.

 

I’ll be mailing this to the White House Email Account via a hacked GOP server.

I figure it’s the least I can do.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In The Kitchen With Stonekettle Station

Today just felt like a soup day.

I mean, some days I just want soup. Now, when I say soup, I’m not talking soup from a can, a box, or a packet. I’m not talking about something you make in 30 seconds or less.  I talking about soup. Soup, real soup takes effort and hours, it’s homemade and full of goodness, liberty, and truth. We’re talking about a hearty soup that is a meal, not something you microwave for lunch and eat with a handful of Fritos.

Soup.

That’s what I’m talking about here.

Soup is something I do particularly well.  I start thinking about it days in advance. Hmmmm I feel soup coming on. Ooooo, what kind? What kind? Maybe broccoli? Or twice baked sour cream potato? Chicken with homemade egg noodles? Clam chowder? 

Today it felt like cheese.

Yep, the more I thought about it, it felt like a cheddar cheese soup day.

Now, there’s an art to making a decent cheddar cheese soup. There are a thousand recipes. Most suck. About half will produce something that strongly resembles the glop rednecks pour over nachos at a tractor pull and most of the rest gives you something that ought to be in a fondue pot or used to waterproof log cabins. Cheddar cheese soup done right has a smooth yet grainy mouthfeel and smells of perfectly aged cheese and freshly risen bread.

Here’s my recipe for Cheddar Cheese Soup.  Do not monkey with this recipe, for it is perfect. I’m warning you. Seriously, the Soup Nazi was a pansy compared to me.

 

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 small white onion (diced, about 1 cup)
5 carrots (diced, about 1 cup give or take)
5 big ribs of celery (diced, about 1 cup)
Crimini/Brown Mushrooms (diced, about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pinch of kosher salt

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth

1 bottle Newcastle Brown Ale (Don’t even think about trying to substitute something else. Newcastle or go home and open a can of Campbell’s).

1 cup thick buttermilk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 ½ pounds of Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar (shredded) (Yes, yes, sigh, if you can’t get Tillamook because you suck, well substitute a very good extra sharp cheddar. Also, you should weep for your misfortune. Personally, I’d move to the west coast, but that’s just me).

Directions
Melt butter in large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and salt. Sweat the vegetables for 5 to 10 minutes or until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and garlic, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, stir, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Gradually add the chicken stock and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and add the bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Remove bay leaf. Remove the bay leaf. Remove the bay leaf.

The following step can be done using an emersion blender, but I don’t have one of those. What I do have is a large countertop blender. Either method works fine, but personally I find the countertop blender easier since it leaves both my hands free to add ingredients. If you use the countertop blender, remove the broth from the heat first and allow it to cool for ten minutes before pouring it into the blender. Whichever method you use, puree the broth and vegetables, leave no chunk unliquefied. Once the broth is smooth, reduce speed and add the buttermilk (slowly), Worcestershire sauce, and the white pepper. Blend thoroughly.

Return to the soup pot and set over low heat.

Take a healthy slug of the Ale and slowly stir the rest into the soup.

Slowly bring the soup up to just below a boil. Let simmer for ten minutes. Stir periodically. Try to resist eating the soup as it is right now. Yes it smells good, but it will be better with the cheese.

Gradually add the cheese, one handful at a time sprinkling over the top of the soup. Then stir until blended before adding next handful. Do this until all the cheese is mixed in. RESIST the urge to add too much cheese at one time.

That’s it.  It’s soup. 

Serve hot with sourdough bread.

Or better yet, serve with crab cake sandwiches.

You’re welcome.

 

 

What?

You don’t know how to make crab cakes?

You’re like helpless children here. Seriously.

Fine.

Ingredients:

1lb lump crab meat. Pulled and picked. Canned is fine, but for crying out loud spend a little extra and buy the good stuff which should be mostly claw meat. (Also, turns out you can actually use those artificial crab legs, which are usually made from Haddock, they taste just fine. Be sure to pull the meat apart into small pieces though).

1 egg
¼ cup mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (don’t skimp, more is better)
¼ cup onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
1 cup small dried bread cubes (better yet, use a cup of Stovetop Stuffing, seriously)

Dried breadcrumbs for coating.

Did you say something? Well, speak like you got a pair, I’m half deaf you know.  What? Oh, yes, that. Green peppers. Yes, traditionally crab cake from misguided socialist shitholes such as Maryland have a big old helping of chopped green peppers added.  I hate that. I think the texture of green peppers are all wrong for crab cakes and the taste of the green pepper just takes over.  But if that’s what you want, by all means, toss in a 1/4 cup of chopped green pepper – then go out back and hit yourself in the head with a hammer, it won’t do much for the crab cakes, but it will amuse me and that’s what matters.

Directions

Sweat the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter until cooked through. Cool. 

Break the crabmeat into small pieces, pick through it for shell and gristle bits (remove those, just in case that’s not obvious).  In a large mixing bowl toss together the crabmeat, garlic, and Old Bay until completely mixed.  In a separate bowl beat together the egg, mayo, mustard, and lemon juice until thoroughly mixed. Then add to the crabmeat mixture and blend completely.  Add the bread cubes, mix completely.  Cover and let stand in the fridge for at least an hour.

Divide into six portions (I use a disher for this). Press together and flatten on a plate of bread crumbs, ensuring that each cake is fully coated.  Flatten and shape so that the cakes are a uniform thickness.

Fry carefully in a mixture of hot olive oil and butter, flipping once carefully with a thin flat spatula, until both sides are golden brown and crispy.

Serve on soft rolls with homemade dill/tarragon tarter sauce and a dark bitter green like arugula.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Made in America

I found your blog a week ago and have been reading your articles.  How did I know you would come out on the anti american side of the ground zero mosque today? You pretend to be so much smarter than the rest of us but you sure have your head up your ass.  I’ve never seen anybody so consistently wrong about everything. Have another cup of Obummer coolaid LOL!  I can’t understand how you can hate your country so much, but I can sure see why you worship your america hating president. You are so predictable. Non americans like you should just get out and move to france if you hate America so much.
Anti-American? Non American? Me?

I’m on the non-American side?

Really?

How the hell did that happen? See, somehow, I thought religious freedom was as American as NASCAR, shooting holes in road signs, and fear-mongering bigotry. Doh. I didn’t even know there were sides – well, I mean I knew there were teams, I just didn’t know we’d given them names.  Just so I’m clear, one side is the “Anti-Americans?” What’s the other one? The “Assholes?”

Non-American? What the hell does that even mean? As an insult?

The admiring email above got me thinking, I don’t know what non-American means but I think I can figure it out from the context.

But that begs the question, what does American mean? 

What exactly makes you an American? 

It’s certainly not geography. Canadians live in North America, but they’d sic their polar bear infantry on you and pelt you with empty Molson bottles if you called them Americans.  Mexicans live in North America too, nobody calls them Americanos, not even the ones that live in LA and make the burritos and mow the grass. Ditto for Central and South American countries. You never hear: I’m an American!” “Really, where are you from in America?” “Tierra Del Fuego!”

Is it skin color?  Once upon a time you had to be white to be a real American.  Or did you?  People of color, both free and slave, fought in the American Revolution – you know, the war that actually created this country.  And despite the fact that many of those people ended up as property in their oh so grateful newly formed homeland, a significant number were free Americans right from the start. They couldn’t vote of course, and often couldn’t own property if a white man objected – but right from the founding of the United States skin color wasn’t a defining criteria for Americanism.  Oh sure, there were plenty of tri-corner hat wearing assclowns who wanted it otherwise and we’re all familiar with what happened, the lynching and the KKK and Segregation and Jim Crow and Separate But Equal But Not Really.  Eventually, however, we got around to finishing the Civil War with the Civil Rights movement and we settled that question once and for all.  No specific race makes you an American.

Is it gender? Once upon a time you had to pee standing up in order to vote and own property, to be an actual American.  Surprisingly, women put up with that nonsense a whole lot longer than you would have expected, but eventually the suffrage movement ended such silliness and settled the question. Gender doesn’t make you an American.

Is it ethnicity? There was a time when it was deemed that German-Americans and Italian-Americans were real Americans, and the less-American Japanese-Americans got herded into camps.  Of course, those Japanese-Americans only got penned up for four years and in the end faired better than Native-Americans who got herded onto shitty reservations permanently.  We’ve spent a hell of a lot of time feeling guilty about that and numerous similar episodes, making insufficient reparations, and promising insincerely that it won’t happen again. It also turns out that we like ethnic food, and ethnic festivals, and ethnic holidays, and we consider those things as American as St. Patrick’s Day and fortune cookies.  So we’ve pretty much established that ethnicity isn’t a benchmark of American-Americans.

Is it moving and shaking? Used to be real Americans were well bred and high born and owned steel factories and oil companies and built railroads and were timber barons and lorded over whole damned towns. Everybody else just sort of worked for them.  After WWII though, we ended up with a middle class and it turned out that you didn’t have to be a tycoon to be a real American.

Is it culture? Is it the coast you live on? Is it your music? Is it the food you eat? Which is more authentic America? New York or Los Angeles? Deep dish or Chicago Style? Biggie Smalls or Tupac? Broadway or fish tacos?  Which is more American, Country and Western or Rock and Roll? Rap? Hip Hop? How about Bluegrass and the Grand Ole Opry? Is it your job? The car you drive? The beer you drink? All of those things are American, but none make you an American.

Is it your religion? There are a rather large number of folks, all of them Christian, who insist that it is. We had a president who said in no uncertain terms that if you weren’t a Christian, you weren’t an American – nice of him to make it clear that he only represented those Americans he thought were worthy of the title wasn’t it?  Texas erased Thomas Jefferson from their school history books, because he wasn’t Christian enough to suit them and therefore not a real American. Thomas Jefferson. Astounding, but then Texans tend to regard anybody not from Texas as somewhat less than American – pretty funny for a bunch of folks who keep threatening to secede from the Union every time we turn around.  But of course, being a Christian doesn’t make you an American, despite George H. W. Bush’s idiotic statement to the contrary.

Is it age? Do you have to reach a certain age to be an American? Is it military service? If you’re eighteen and can fight and die for America, are you an American then? What if you don’t serve, are you still an American? All those talking heads, Dick, Rush, Sarah, Glenn, Sean, Rupert, Michelle, not one them served, not one single day, are they Americans? Of course they are, military service doesn’t make you an American – otherwise a whole lot of very prominent conservatives would be shit out of luck.

Is it because you buy American? It’s a nice idea I suppose. Patriotic after a certain fashion. But of course nobody can buy only American, can they? So I guess that’s not it either.

Is it because you speak English? Is it your politics? Is it your driver’s license and the car you drive? Is it your school? Your haircut and the clothes you wear? Thirty years ago, when a bunch of long haired hippies camped out on the Washington Mall to protest the government’s actions, conservatives called them traitors and said protesting the government was down right un-American.  The shoe is on the other foot now, isn’t it? Guess we’d better be careful defining who is and who isn’t an American by who is calling the government a bunch of fascists, eh?

None of those things conclusively make you an American, do they?

So what does?

Point to one trait that decisively makes somebody an American.

Just one.


Wait, is it because you were born here?

It is, isn’t it?

For a hell of a lot of folks, that’s exactly what being an American is: an accident of birth. Nothing more.
They just happened to be born here. That’s all. They didn’t do a damned thing to earn it. They didn’t do a damned thing to deserve it.  They didn’t decide to be an American.  They simply came squalling into the world on American soil or were born of an American parent.  They could just as easily have been born Canadian or Mexican or Tierra Del Fuegan. They speak English because their parents spoke English because the majority of the people who founded America spoke English, it’s not better, it’s just an accident. Their birth, their language, their customs, their culture, their music, their religion, their gender, their race – none of it was anything they chose. It wasn’t a conscious decision on their part, they just happened to be American. 

Does that make them any more American than the next guy?

You know, the next guy who did choose to be here? Who sweated and worked and schemed and slaved and sacrificed to be here? Who was willing to break the law and risk his or her very life and freedom to be here? To have their children here.  Who believed in the opportunity of America so much they were willing to give up everything they knew and leave behind everybody they loved just to be here?

Does it? 

Is being an American defined by birthright?

A rather large number of Americans sure seem to think so.

But see, here’s the funny part, if birthright is what makes us Americans, well then it really can’t be all that damned special, can it?

After all, a bunch of real Americans seem to think you can just vote it away.

Answer me this: how can something supposedly so fundamental as being an American be something others can just take away?

Unless, of course, it’s not so special after all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Terrorists Don’t Hate Us For Our Freedoms

Really, they don’t.

But wouldn’t it be cool if they did?

Sigh.

Honestly, if there’s one giant fib about this whole damned War on Terror, it’s got to be “The terrorists hate us for our freedoms.”

They don’t.

They hate us for a hell of a lot of reasons, but our so-called freedom isn’t one of them.

They hate us because we support Israel. They hate us because we invaded their country (which country are we talking about? Pick one, there’s a dozen or so). They hate us because we gave aid and comfort to their recently deposed dictator (which one? Pick one, there’s a dozen or so). They hate us because we’re pals with their erstwhile colonial masters (which one? Pick one, there’s a dozen or so). They hate us because they see us as arrogant sons of bitches who meddle in their affairs. They hate us because we blew up their wedding. They hate us because we blew up the funeral that followed the wedding that got blowed up. They hate us because we killed their sister or their brother or their cousin or their folks or their goat. They hate us because we prop up the government that they hate. They hate us because they think we raped their natural resources and gave them a handful of shiny beads in exchange. They hate us because they want to impose some totalitarian dictatorship over some piece of desiccated sand and we won’t let them. They hate us because we tortured people, or disappeared them, or rendered them. They hate us because of some ancient blood vendetta that nobody remembers or cares about anymore, except them. They hate us because they want to make drugs and sell them to others and we won’t let them. They hate us because their parents hated us. They hate us because the Iman told them to hate us. They hate us because the King or the Shah or the Grand Pananjurum told them to.

They hate us for a whole bunch of reasons, but they don’t hate us for our freedoms.

 

But wouldn’t it be cool it they did?

Wouldn’t it be cool if George W. Bush was right way back when this shit started, and they really did hate us for our freedoms? Wouldn’t it be neat if it was really just that simple? If the talking heads and the Tea Party patriots and the right-wing pundits and political hacks were right? That the terrorists really did hate us just because of our freedoms?

Think about it.

No, really think about it.

They hate us for our freedoms.

That would be awesome.

Because, see, then the single biggest “up yer asses!” you could send to the terrorists, the thing that would just plain chap their ass above all else, the thing that would get their goat (so to speak), would be to grant everybody those freedoms.

 

If the terrorists really did hate us for our freedoms, they’d sure be pissed if we let Muslims build an interfaith center a couple blocks from Ground Zero without acting like total dicks.

Just saying.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Terror Babies

Here’s a question for you:

How come the same bunch of conservatives who’ve been calling President Obama Hitler and have done nothing for the last year but make wild accusations about how liberals are trampling the Constitution – I’m talking about the same bunch of jackasses who carry around little copies of the US Constitution in their Ben Franklin jacket pockets and hold it up like it was a holy book with little tears of patriotic fervor glistening in the corner of their eyes – are the very first ones every single time a Democrat is elected to office that suddenly can’t wait to start redlining that self same document?

This is the same batch of tools who thought it was just wonderfully patriotic when George W. Bush and his band of psycho sycophants pissed all over the Constitution with gleeful abandon in the name of national security. But now they’re wailing and moaning and gnashing their yellowed teeth about protecting that same Constitution. These are the same ignorant dimwits who said things like “if ya don’t have nuthin’ to hide, ya got nuthin’ to fear” when the Bush Administration used NSA to tap our phones and kick in our doors without a warrant or due process. These are the same fools who embraced torture and secret prisons as national policy and think that you can bomb the Taliban into democracy. They didn’t give a shit when the CIA and FBI were given the power to monitor internet connections and emails and snoop through your library list, again without a warrant. These are the same mindless dolts who nodded their heads when George W. Bush said, hey, the Constitution is just a piece of paper and then wondered around zombie-like repeating that statement over and over like a mantra.  These are the same traitorous sons of bitches who make up the ranks of the Oath Keepers – a group of so-called patriots whose loyalty and honor and courage depend entirely on which way the wind is blowing today and whose word means exactly jack shit.

But for the last year all they’ve done is scream in fury about protecting the Constitution.

Two years ago they didn’t give a flying fuck about the Constitution, now they act as if it’s some kind of sacred scroll - so how come they keep trying to change it?  First they wanted an amendment defining “natural born citizen.” When that idiotic bullshit fell through, they started harping on about states rights and modifying the Tenth Amendment (prior to Obama’s election, the vast majority of these Tea Party chowderheads couldn’t have told you which amendment dealt with federalism and state’s rights or even if there was such a thing in the Constitution, even if you’d exercised your Second Amendment rights and held a gun to their fuzzy heads). And now? Now it’s the Fourteenth Amendment they want to erase. 

For a bunch of people who claim to revere the Constitution, they sure don’t seem to have much respect for it as written, do they?

What do you call that again?

Oh, yes, that’s right – it’s called hypocrisy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Latest From the Shop – Lathed Turned Spalted Alaskan Birch

I’ve been out of town and away from the lathe for the last two weeks.

Right before I left I managed to finish a number of projects I’ve been working on.

Two of those projects are closed form bowls made from a fairly spectacular piece of spalted Alaskan birch burl that I’ve had working in my spalt pile for nearly a year. Spalting, for those of you new to my work and not familiar with turning or woodwork, is a fancy name for black leaf mold. Spalted woods are highly prized by turners for what I hope are fairly obvious reasons, but they can be difficult and dangerous to turn. You should use breathing protection with all turning, but most especially with spalted woods, the dust of which can make you very sick.

 

You can click on each picture to embiggen it.

 

This first piece is a large closed form, about 14” across with incredible grain and figure.  The wood was in an advanced state of decay, very very soft and difficult to turn. A bowl gouge, either a standard grind or a fingernail grind, would have simply torn the pulpy wood, so instead I used very sharp scrapers with a pronounced burr edge at low speed.  I turned the piece to final shape, reversed it and turned the foot, then allowed it to dry for several months. After drying, it was saturated with repeated applications of sanding sealer gel to harden the wood and finished with sand paper – ending up with 1200grit. The finish is ten coats of wipe-on satin poly.

 

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The second piece is also spalted Alaskan birch, cut from the same piece of burl as the first bowl. It’s an end cut and orientated 90 degrees away from the main burl – as such, the grain and figure are completely different from the first piece. The neck is a piece of Brazilian rosewood which I thought made an interesting contrast to the birch. The original blank was harder than the first piece, but very irregular and it was extremely difficult to shape initially without bashing my hands to pieces.  It was worth the difficulty though, I absolutely love the color of this piece and the contrast between the different sides. The schooling salmon are, of course, my signature design and in this case float above a textured opening in the piece.  It’s finished in simple Tung Oil. I’m very happy with how this piece came out.

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Those of you who happen to make it to the craft building at the Alaska State Fair this year, these two pieces will be part of my entry.

You may now commence weeping for the poor, poor competition.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The title says it all.

Christ, I hate air travel. Really, you have no idea how much I hate air travel.

Highlights involved:

1) Airplanes that were late. A lot. Apparently Delta airplanes are late so often that one should just take the airline’s inability to meet a schedule as a given.  We flew on four Delta airplanes during this trip, every single one of them was significantly late. Every single one.

Note: on our first Delta flight out of Anchorage, the general consensus was that Delta’s lateness was either somehow Barack Obama’s fault – or it should be. After we’d taken off (an hour late due to some kind of “maintenance issue”) and had finally achieved cruising altitude, the pilot, Captain Todd, came on the horn and sort of cheerfully apologized for his tardiness. Sorry about the delay folks and just so you know we’re pushing into a “headwind” so you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up when it comes to making those connections and thanks for flying Delta!” A bunch of unshaven types who smelled strongly of fish, campfire smoke, Viagra, Jack Daniels, and eau de midlife crisis offered up the following in loud outraged tones, “Fuck your apology! We all know what’s going on here! Hey, maybe Obama should take over the airlines next and give everybody universal air travel for free! That ought to fix it!” The shouted suggestions went downhill from there. Oh how I love Alaska tourists, the Palin Groupies are especially entertaining.

2) Sprinting. There was much more sprinting than I anticipated for air travel. The sprinting was related to the previously listed item – i.e. Delta’s institutional lateness. On the way from Alaska to Michigan my son and I sprinted through three terminals and down the length of two huge concourses at Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport and managed to make our connection just as they were closing the door.  On the return leg of the trip, my son and I sprinted through Detroit Metro/Wayne County Airport, and managed to make our connection again just as they were closing the door (though we mostly made the connection because there was some kind of problem and the crew was removing two women and their little dogs from the plane – if it had been on time, we’d have missed it).

I will say that, given the choice, Detroit is a better airport for track and field events. There are less obstacles and everything is laid out in a straight line. If you have to sprint, do it in Detroit, that’s what I’m saying. Also, if you fly Delta, you might want to join a gym.

3) Obnoxious flight crews. Did Delta’s flight attendants just lose a union negotiation or something? Because they are universally a bitter, surely, humorless bunch. It’s as if Delta aircraft are crewed exclusively by John McCain’s former presidential election committee.

4) Unbelievably overpriced food items.  It’s possible that the flight crews’ desultory attitudes stem from the fact that Delta has gone cashless in the cabin.  Flight attendants are now required to use a wireless electronic widget to take credit card transfers from passengers instead of cash.  I suspect this cuts into their take home income considerably.  We’re all used to $5 for a can of warm Lite beer from some discount brewery in Milwaukee that specializes in converting sewage treatment planet effluvium into ballpark refreshments, but now Delta is charging $8 for a “personal” sized can of Pringles, $8 for a bag of M&M’s (no, I’m not kidding), and $12 for one of those extra special airline sandwiches.  You can get better food at better prices at the movie theater.

5) This:

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It’s hard to make out, but you’re looking at the King, Queen, and the Royal Princes of Douchebagdom. This idiot had to be in his late 40’s. His trophy wife, which I’m guessing was either a stripper or a paid employee of Donald Trump or both, was wearing a tiny, tiny scrap of cloth under that jacket around her waist.  She apparently thought it was a miniskirt, but only in the Kit Kat Klub or a Republican Fund Raiser would that thong be considered appropriate covering for her nether regions. Let’s just say that when she periodically removed and retied that jacket, you could tell her religion – which I’m guessing was Hare Krisna, though they usually shave their heads and not their, uh, never mind.  Also? Really cute tattoo. She must be very popular at the local PTA meetings.  The kids were exactly as you’d expect, loud, obnoxious, and unrestrained in any fashion whatsoever. Note the pile of carry-on luggage. Four huge backpacks. Four giant bags. Four tennis racket bags (Nothing says douche bag like a tennis racket bag, folks, just sayin). Two giant poster tubes. A huge camera bag.  And two miniature poodles, which roamed cheerfully unfettered around the concourse at the Gerry Ford International Airport, even venturing into the men’s room, the entrance of which this band of idiots was blocking. These people took up two entire luggage bins. But, you know, next to crying babies, I really enjoy a good background of fighting children and barking poodles. Yes.

 

Have I mentioned how much I hate air travel? Have I?

More later.

After I have food, coffee, and a hot shower.