Out By This Poolroom Life

There are only so many minutes we can wring out of each day. The minutes I’d usually use tonight to pound out a post with both sticky paws might be packed with adventure and romance – or more likely with working at the food pantry and making yogurt at home. Either way: sticky. So you can bet I’ll be thinking of you, Poor Impulsives! How could I not? And speaking of me, I’ve been reading food preservation blogs. Did you know there are dozens of them? There are! And they are doing some really creative things like raising goats and pickling improbable pickles and farming fruits and praising raisins. And each of those blogs has a blogroll full of other preservation bloggers, many of whom are doing work just as interesting, by which I mean I want those bloggers to ship jars to my house for circumspect sampling. Is that too much to ask?

These bloggers are plainly not thinking of my needs. Hopefully soon, they will see the error of their ways. And speaking of me, I received a cookbook in the mail some months ago that sat on a table for weeks while I worked up the nerve to read it. Dad’s online foodie friends published their own cookbook with a section dedicated to Dad’s passionate pontificating. To my surprise, the writing sounds like him, the recipes make sense, the techniques he described were familiar enough that I could tell the editors had snipped a few words here and there but left his work largely undisturbed. His voice was clear and decisive, his opinions as firm as they’d ever been. One of our last conversations:

Tata: …I’ve been using bamboo cutting boards –
Dad: No!
Tata: (thinking of the three very expensive cutting boards aging gracefully on my kitchen counter) No?
Dad: (done talking about this or almost anything else)
Tata: Okay.

But he was like that. He read everything, formed an opinion and something drastic would have to develop or come his way to change his mind. I often wonder what he meant when he rejected the bamboo cutting boards. Yesterday, the Punk Domestics published When Is Content Original? I’ve been mulling over this, too:

Recipes – which is to say lists and quantities of ingredients – cannot be copyrighted, but “substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions” and images are subject to copyright protection. When using some or all of another’s recipe, including an image, there are some broadly accepted etiquettes about the use, attribution and adaptation of recipes.

First and foremost, cite your sources. If you are using a recipe from another source, it’s polite to get permission first, and top of form to give credit and link back. If you are adapting it or deriving a new recipe with inspiration from it, permission is not necessary, but the citation and link back are certainly good form.

I do not own the rights to the cookbook or to Dad’s writing and I’m the last person who’d fuck with someone else’s rights. For one thing, no one needs the cognitive dissonance inherent in being haunted by an angry dead atheist. For another, I have had about half a dozen conversations with people genuinely upset about chicken stock and there’s no need for that, either. Dad had a simple solution to – well, look: some folks want to cook with stock, but it’s expensive or it takes time to make or they don’t know how, and they feel judged about it. Making your own stock is not a moral obligation, but it is a good use of your resources, gets your money’s worth out of your groceries and improves the flavor of your cooking. Why are people anxious? I don’t know, but do you know anybody who isn’t?

In the cookbook, Dad says all you need is a large slow cooker. Put everything you’d put in a stock pot into a large slow cooker, set that bad boy on low. After an hour or two, check that the surface of the liquid ripples but doesn’t boil. Let’s say you do that after dinner. In the morning, you might need to add water. When you get home from work, strain out the bones and toss the liquid back into the slow cooker. Taste it. You might want to add some wine and a few pinches of salt. Let the liquid heat gently for another hour or two. Twenty-four hours in a slow cooker should do it. Let it cool, then store it in your fridge.

There you have it, without my stealing even a single phrase. Of course, I was thinking of your needs all along. Don’t we all feel a little less sticky?

You Shake Their Hands Off

Unless you live under a rock or in America, you’ve heard about this.

The Candidate Vow:
Therefore, in any elected or appointed capacity by which I may have the honor of serving our fellow citizens in these United States, I the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow* to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman. I vow* to do so through my:

* Personal fidelity to my spouse.

* Respect for the marital bonds of others.

* Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices.

* Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.

* Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy.

* Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended “second chance” or “cooling-off” periods for those seeking a “quickie divorce.”

* Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.

* Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.

* Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy – our next generation of American children – from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.

* Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.

* Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.

* Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.

* Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA?s $14.3 trillion public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit, and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.

* Fierce defense of the First Amendment?s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech22, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.

That’s not very exciting. Any moron with a full set of Crayolas can write a pledge, but it takes a special kind of moron to write this and demand candidates for the Presidency of the United States sign it.

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Ed, brilliant propietor of Gin and Tacos, says it best:


I’m still trying to find words for how completely I don’t. That’s what the psychopathic monsters writing pledges count on: that candidates will say anything to get elected and that people like me will be rendered speechless. So many people were rendered totally speechy and backlashy that the sponsoring organization (I’m not linking to those depraved motherfuckers) removed that paragraph about the relative merits of slavery on the African-American family. Michelle Bachmann signed that blood oath, then said she hadn’t read it. That’s…I don’t know.

I’m still speechless, but the words career-ending abomination spring effortlessly to mind.

You Will Know That I’m Here

Beets are sexay.

By the way: fuck you, Oak Park, Michigan, you dinosaur, you relic.

After her front yard got dug up for sewer line maintenance, Julie Bass decided to put in raised vegetable beds instead of reseeding the lawn. It was awesome – the neighborhood kids helped out, everyone got to see where their food came from, the Bass family got fresh cheap produce. Your basic home gardening idyll. But then some disgruntled neighbor, maybe someone who didn’t get enough free tomatoes, ratted Bass out to the city of Oak Park, which has rules about what kind of vegetation is allowed in front yards. When Bass wouldn’t move the beds, the city slapped her with a ticket and a misdemeanor charge. Bass is demanding her right to a trial – and if the city wins, she could legally get up to 93 days in jail.

With any luck, Julie Bass will sue Oak Park into well-deserved extinction.

You Won’t And You Don’t Stop

No surprises here:

[Dr. Jill] Litt’s research has shown that community gardens are affordable and accessible to people across the lifespan — regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status or educational background. She found that community gardeners cultivate relationships with their neighbors, are more involved in civic activities, stay longer in their neighborhoods, eat better and view their health more positively. In fact, 20 minutes of gardening a day translated to statistically higher ratings of health. Moreover, people who garden found their neighborhoods to be safer, cleaner and more beautiful, regardless of educational and income status. These differences were rooted in the cultural, social and ecological connections created within the garden setting. The co-benefits of gardens stem from their ability to support healthy eating and active living. More than 50% of gardeners meet national guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake compared to 25% of non-gardeners. Gardeners report they get 12 hours a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is about 30% more exercise than non-gardeners get.

Even if you have minutes to yourself each day, you can grow your own lettuce. Nothing could be simpler. You will need:

1 window box with reservoir bottom
1 packet leaf lettuce seeds
1 bag of organic potting soil

Open a hole in the corner of the bag and pour dirt into the window box.

Open a hole in the packet of lettuce seeds. Lettuce seeds are very tiny; the packet may contain a smaller inner envelope. If so: open that too.

Pour about 1/4 of the lettuce seeds into the palm of your hand. Close that hand. Remember to keep it closed until I tell you to open it. NOT YET, WISEASS.

With your other hand, draw two parallel furrows lengthwise into the dirt in the window box.

Open your seed-containing hand, take pinches of tiny lettuce seeds and sprinkle them up and down the length of the furrows. You’re going to think, Uh, heads of lettuce need room. But leaf lettuce is mostly little leaves and need almost no room, so sprinkle away.

Gently turn the soil over a little until it’s flat. Now water the dirt. Stop short of making mud.

Leave the window box where sunlight falls on it and critters leave it alone. Water it every third day or so unless you’ve left it somewhere it gets rain.

If the bottom’s sodden, dump out extra water.

That’s it. Lettuce will grow if you do nothing else to this. It’ll take you about as much time and effort as moisturizing a packet of sea monkeys. And who doesn’t love those? – Just not in salad.

He’s A Bad Comedian

Gentlemen, start your crime sprees.

Crime is on the rise in one small Texas city because the police department has been padlocked and the officers sent home.

The city of Alto laid off its entire police force about two weeks ago because the city council completely cut the department’s budget.

Wait: no one would be so stupid as to lay off an entire police department to save a little pin money, would they?

“We had to do something drastic,” Councilman Jerry Flowers explained to Forbes. “The police department being a non-money-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash.”


The city is facing a $185,000 budget deficit due to declining property and sale[sic] tax revenues. To make matters worse, the town hasn’t saved up to make the necessary repairs to a natural gas distribution plant.

“There have been accusations that the police department is not generating enough revenue,” [Police Chief Charles] Barron said. “Well, police departments are not revenue generators.”

Eliminating the police department should certainly improve the quality of small town life, not to mention generate piles of revenue. What with the Wild West atmosphere, I bet businesses are lining up to invest in savvy Alto, Texas!

“In the last 24 hours, we’ve answered 18 calls in the county; seven of them were in Alto,” Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell remarked. “When you’re sitting there needing help, it’s a lifetime.”

Last week, residents called law enforcement on four people allegedly attempting a bank robbery in the small town.

…Or maybe not so much and the joint’s a ghost town by this time next year. Either way: this should serve as proof that Flowers and the other councilmen have no fucking idea what they’re doing and deserve to be run out of what’s left of town on a rail.

Seek the Roses Along the Way

Write a post. Erase a post. Write a post. Erase it. Write one. Scrub it out. It’s been tough to find words for the depths of cravenness and stupidity we see here:

Sweeney has strong words for Christie

Do you get that popping in your ears and a spinny woo-woo when the barometric pressure drops? This is a lot like that.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.

He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

“This is all about him being a bully and a punk,” he said in an interview Friday.

“I wanted to punch him in his head.”

Sweeney had just risked his political neck to support the governor’s pension and health reform, and his reward was a slap across the face. The governor’s budget was a brusque rejection of every Democratic move, and Sweeney couldn’t even get an audience with the governor to discuss it.

“You know who he reminds me of?” Sweeney says. “Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ the mean old bastard who screws everybody.”

That is an adult speaking. I feel now the same way I felt each time a member of the Bush Administration said, “Nobody could have foreseen [insert completely predictable catastrophe.]”

Yes, that’s it, except without the corpse on the pool table. See, when you’re stupid and venal, you assume everyone else is too. You may not realize that some people see through you, see what you’re doing and see how it will end. Sweeney’s saying a few things at the same time here, all of which may be open to blistering comic interpretation, but one thing is not: Sweeney expects sympathy and forgiveness for his part in the life-changing disaster that he engineered.

Because he thinks we are stupid and venal.

Because his nature is to be unable to see anyone that isn’t, he has caused suffering that will unfold for decades to come for one in seven people living in the State of New Jersey.

I guess the joke’s on us.

To Forget, Learn To Forget

I’m not sure I have any talent for this jarring and canning biz, but I’m learning a lot at an ambitious pace. This weekend, I had the good fortune to have two days off work in a row, so I could plan my projects in small enough steps that I might actually take them. So: on Friday, I cleaned two healthy bunches of beets, steamed the greens and roasted the beets. On Sunday, it was simple to peel and slice the refrigerated beets. Infusing the vinegar solution takes about twenty minutes, heating the beets takes about ten and processing time is 30 minutes. In between, I was able to pursue my secret life of crime, so I felt content, looking at the beautiful jars filled with magenta beets and pickling liquid. Meanwhile, I kept staring at a pint-ish of raspberries in the fridge, going, “What the fuck am I going to do with those?” Yes, I felt smart.

Pete said something geniouser: buy some strawberries. I didn’t love the strawberries I was seeing but I was anxious to get those berries out of my damn fridge before they melted into disaster and reproach. I hadn’t found a recipe, but with Pete’s and Minstrel Boy’s help, I’d worked out the principles of constructing one. Next thing I knew, the tiny pint-ish of raspberries and the pint of strawberries became four 4 oz. jars of bright red goo. If the jars don’t pop and turn blue, I might really have learned something worth knowing.

The woman who gets us Jersey peaches informs us that only blueberries and cranberries are farmed in any real quantity in our state. Farmers grow raspberries and blackberries for themselves because it’s really difficult to protect the fruit from birds. I didn’t bother to argue about this. Farmers grow entire fruit orchards under sheer fabric and I don’t know why anyone would think that’s not common knowledge. But: she says she can’t get berries and I will take her at her word. Berry season is over in a snap, so hopefully by next summer I can find a farmer who knows how to put up a tent.