Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It Took Longer Than I Expected

Sean* and his wife are expecting their first baby, so a bunch of knitters in the department contributed 8-inch squares for a blankie.  I volunteered to sew them together.  I had help.

Lots of help.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It Was A Very Small Knife, Your Honor

I have been preparing my program's annual workplan, due on Friday, in which I am required to set out in detail, quarter by quarter, how we are going to meet all of the deliverables for the next grant year. Note that we have not yet been told how much money we are getting, only that it will be less than last year.  Further note that we have not been given the deliverables list.  Note also that budget is due the 31st AND this grant provides about 85% of my program's funding.  No grant = no job.

So I am attempting to create a plan that 1) will be specific enough to meet all of the as-yet unnamed grant criteria while 2) remaining unspecific enough that I don't actually have to commit any resources until 3) I know how much money we are going to get, after which 4) I shall probably have less than a week to figure out how the promised dollars are actually going to be spent.  This exercise, consisting as it does of equal parts creative writing, fiscal mendacity, and divination, has taken up most of my time for the past two days.  I have been here six years and it happens Every.  Damned.  Year.

Today is a senior staffer's birthday and her team has covered the floor of her office with brightly-colored balloons.  Shortly after my lunch hour, which I spend on a conference call during which a Federal person explains how the continuous quality improvement process will allow me to reach all of my program goals, I take out my Swiss Army knife, open it, and tape it securely to the ferrule of my umbrella.  I then walk down the hall to the senior staffer's room and harpoon a dozen of her balloons in quick succession. 

My colleague remains seated behind her desk wearing a carefully neutral expression.

Me:  I needed to do that.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pity It's Not Real

In response to Senator Ted ("I'm may be crazy but, hey, I'm not as batshit as my dad")  Cruz' letter of inquiry to the Pentagon about the Jade Helm exercise, three Huffington Post writers penned the following response.

It would only be better if Ashton Carter actually had written it as he would have officially become the Snarkiest SecDef EVAR.

("As someone who was not born within the borders of this country it might interest you to know --"  that's going to leave a mark).

Dear Senator Cruz:

Thank you for your inquiry into whether the Jade Helm 15 military exercise is the first wave of a federal takeover of Texas, the Trojan Horse, as it were, of the end of sovereignty in the Lone Star State. Our response, contrary to the long tradition of official correspondence and military bureaucracy, is concise: no.

But that's just what you would expect us to say, isn't it?

Perhaps, then, you would prefer not an official proclamation but a reasoned answer. As a master debater in college (Princeton, right?), you surely appreciate the reliability of logic, your public statements over the past few years notwithstanding. If you are disinclined to take the United States Armed Forces at their word when we promise no ill intentions towards Texas, then perhaps your considerable and vaunted intellectual powers, which once posited the regrowth of hymens as a guard against unauthorized incursions in domestic affairs, could be swayed by incontrovertible fact.

I know you think highly of our capabilities. Why else would you advocate for a short war with Iran? If we are indeed that powerful, we could probably launch an attack from any of the 15 U.S. military bases already within Texas' borders. While Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher may have found it necessary, even attractive, to invade countries that can easily be overrun, the present DoD considers such lopsided contests at best unsporting.

As someone who was not born within the borders of this country, it might interest you to know that Texas is already part of the United States. In fact, Texas has twice joined the Union. The first time your adopted state joined the USA in 1845 it set in motion events that led to the Mexican-American War. Later, when Union troops conquered the Southern rebellion, Texas rejoined the Union. It is not, therefore, farfetched to think that Texas' relationship to the rest of the United States could involve war, but please also keep in mind that when we refer to the United States of America, Texas is being implicitly included. We thought about calling it the United States of America and Texas, but we were afraid people might think Texas was a retrograde backwater of reactionary lunatics who think Moses was a Founding Father and laugh at you. This is way better.

Please also consider there are a great many things about Texas and Texan culture that could be threatened by another unnecessary armed conflict between Texas and the United States. We like Texas barbecue. That Green Beret who carried the flag out for the Texas Longhorn football team? That was pretty cool. The wildflowers along the highways are no joke. The late Texan Chris Kyle, the "American sniper," is a hero to many. Texas gave the world Lyndon Johnson, a staggering gift for which America was perhaps not entirely prepared. Without the Lone Star State, the Western swing band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys would have appeared under the performing name Robert Wills and His Playboys, which is ghastly, or not have existed at all, a possibility that DoD has officially classified as "too awful to contemplate". And we really dig the self-awareness, the love of self that, while occasionally metastasizing into paranoid delusions such as those that motivated your original query, also make Texas a culture with an indelible sense of place.

But, we reiterate, that place is in the United States. On previous visits, we noticed that many of your residents enjoy Social Security and Medicare (you're welcome), volunteer for the armed services, treasure federal parks, wildlife preserves, and wilderness areas, and earn and spend currency backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. With a quick Internet search, I also learned that nearly a third of Texas' total revenue is from Federal funding. In fact, millions of your schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America almost every day. And unlike yourself, they apparently mean it.

There is a fundamental misapprehension that we feel is at the root of your query about our intentions was revealed in a recent comment you made to the press.

We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don't trust what it is saying.

If, Senator Cruz, you believe that the United States military is a political tool of its civilian leadership, you have reached a conclusion unsupported by fact, history and good sense. The troops swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. To besmirch their loyalty to the country, even in the service of making hackneyed political points in the Republican primary, does not make you a patriot, but a partisan. Even a Princeton and Harvard Law man should know the difference.

Also, it makes you the rudest Canadian we've ever run across.

Sincerely Yours,

Secretary Ashton Carter

This is the sort of riposte that British government officials do so very well, but us Yanks never seem to be able to pull it off.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Posting has been highly irregular for a few weeks, but things at work were pretty hectic during April and my inclination on the weekends and evenings has been to read old Westerns online and sleep.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Quote Of The Day

SWEATER.  swedÉ™r/ noun.  What you put on when your mother feels cold. ~ Anonymous

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's Getting Old

I conducted orientation on two new employees today.  I want to state for the record that I am not scary.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Annis Mirabilis

I remembered the spousal unit's birthday.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Image from the Smithsonian's collection of seed company catalogs.

I went looking for a cream of lettuce soup recipe for last week and came across this one from 1900 on Click Americana.  Miss Crowley seems to be confident that her readers are experienced cooks and don't need any further instructions:


2 heads lettuce
2 onions
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoonful white pepper
Grating nutmeg
Pinch of soda
A little parsley
1 beaten egg

Put on and boil twenty minutes; also put on boiler half full of milk and boil.
Strain lettuce, etc. and put in a half tablespoonful of white pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Cream a one inch slice of butter (off the square) with two tablespoonfuls flour. Put half in the milk and half in soup. Mix all together, and just before serving add a pinch of soda. Salt to taste, and add a beaten egg.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Friday, April 10, 2015

Quote of the Day

photograph courtesy of the National Park Service

And Lee is in the mountains now, beyond Appomattox,
Listening long for voices that will never speak
Again; hearing the hoofbeats that come and go and fade
Without a stop, without a brown hand lifting
The tent-flap, or a bugle call at dawn,
Or ever on the long white road the flag
Of Jackson's quick brigades.  ~  Donald Davidson

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, The Joys Of Working Downtown

I am walking across the plaza on my way to work when I am accosted by a dazed but happy-looking young man who has just come out of the courthouse.

He:  (flashing a big smile)  I'm not going to jail today!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Dinner, 1913

Vintage Easter card from Dover.
                GRAPE FRUIT SALAD 
                CHEESE BALLS 
                RHUBARB TART—CHEESE 
                AFTER DINNER COFFEE 
             * * * * * 

BAKED HAM.  Select a lean ham, weighing from twelve to fourteen pounds, cover with cold water or equal parts of water and sweet cider and let soak (skin side up) over night. Drain, scrape and trim off all objectionable parts about the knuckle. Cover flesh side with a dough made of flour and water. Place in a dripping pan, skin side down. Bake in a hot oven until dough is a dark brown; reduce heat and bake very slowly five hours. Ham enclosed in dough needs no basting. Remove dough, turn ham over and peel off the skin. Sprinkle ham with sugar, cover with grated bread crumbs and bake twenty to thirty minutes. Remove from oven and decorate with cloves; place a paper frill on knuckle, garnish with sprays of parsley and lemon cut in fancy shapes. Serve hot or cold. 

          1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish. 
          1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs. 
          1-1/2 cups milk. 
          3 tablespoons butter. 
          1/2 teaspoon salt. 
          1/8 teaspoon pepper. 
          1 tablespoon vinegar. 
          2 tablespoons lemon juice. 
          1/2 tablespoon grated onion. 
 PROCESS: Cook crumbs, horseradish and milk twenty minutes in double boiler. Add seasonings, vinegar and lemon juice slowly, stirring constantly. Add grated onion, reheat and serve. 

          2 cups hot riced sweet potatoes. 
          3 tablespoons butter. 
          1/2 teaspoon salt. 
          Few grains pepper. 
          1/2 cup chopped walnut meats. 
          1 egg well beaten. 
PROCESS: Mix ingredients in the order given. If mixture is too dry add hot milk. Mold in cork-shape croquettes, roll in crumbs, then in egg, again in crumbs, and fry in deep hot Cottolene. Drain on brown paper and arrange around Baked Ham. 

GRAPE FRUIT SALAD:   Cut three large grape fruit in halves crosswise, remove the pulp and keep in its original shape. Arrange in nests of white crisp lettuce heart leaves, dividing pulp in six portions. Strew one cup of English walnut meats, broken in fourths, over grape fruit. Marinate with French Dressing, but with less salt and using paprika in place of cayenne, and lemon and grape fruit juice in place of vinegar. 

          1-1/2 cups grated cheese. 
          1 tablespoon flour. 
          1/3 teaspoon salt. 
          1/8 teaspoon mustard. 
          Few grains cayenne. 
          Whites 3 eggs beaten stiff. 
PROCESS: Add flour and seasonings to cheese, fold in whites of eggs, shape in small balls. Roll in fine cracker crumbs and fry a golden brown in deep hot Cottolene. Drain on brown paper. 

RHUBARB TARTS.  If rhubarb is pink, young and tender, simply wash and cut in one-half inch pieces; there should be two and one-half cups. Cover with boiling water and heat to boiling point; boil five minutes. Do not allow it to lose its shape. Drain off all the juice, sprinkle rhubarb with three-fourths cup sugar. Sift over two tablespoons flour and one-fourth teaspoon salt, dot over with one tablespoon butter and a grating of orange rind. Mix well and turn into a pie pan lined with Rich Paste. Arrange strips of pastry, lattice-work fashion, across the top of pie and bake thirty minutes in a moderate oven.

From 52 Sunday Dinners, the 1913 version; which was an advertising cookbook for "Cottolene," a vegetable shortening similar to Crisco.  The soup and the spinach recipes were not given -- perhaps it was assumed that they were common enough that no instructions were needed.  The free ebook can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Mere 100 Years Ago

Image from

"Table d'hote is the feature of San Francisco's restaurant life. It is the ideal method for those who wish a good dinner and who have not the inclination, or the knowledge, to order a special dinner. It is also the least expensive way of getting a good dinner. It also saves an exhibition of ignorance regarding the dishes, for if you are in doubt all you have to do is to leave it to the waiter, and he will bring the best there is on the day's menu and will serve it properly.

It is really something to elicit wonder when one considers the possibilities of a table d'hote dinner in some of the less expensive restaurants. Take, for instance, the Buon Gusto, in Broadway. This restaurant boasts a good chef, and the food is the finest the market affords. Here is served a six course dinner for fifty cents, and the menu card is typical of this class of restaurants. What is provided is shown by the following taken from the bill of fare as it was served us:

Hor d'ouvres—four kinds; five kinds of salad; two kinds of soup; seven kinds of fish; four kinds of paste; broiled spring chicken; green salad with French dressing; ice cream or rum omelet; mixed fruits; demi tasse.

With this is served a pint of good table wine.

As one goes up with the scale of prices in the restaurants that charge $1, $1.25, $1.50, $2, $2.50, and $3 for their dinners it will be found that the difference lies chiefly in the variety from which to choose and from the surroundings and service.

Take, for example, the following typical menu for a dollar dinner, served at the Fior d'Italia, and compare it with the fifty-cent dinner just mentioned:

Salami and anchovies; salad; chicken broth with Italian paste; fillet of English sole, sauce tartare; spaghetti or ravioli; escallop of veal, caper sauce; French peas with butter; roast chicken with chiffon salad; ice cream or fried cream; assorted fruits and cakes; demi tasse. Wine with this dinner is extra.

Now going a step up in the scale we come to the $1.50 dinner as follows:

Anchovies, salami (note that it is the same as above); combination salad; tortellini di Bologna soup; striped bass a la Livornaise; ravioli a la Genoese and spaghetti with mushrooms; chicken saute, Italian style, with green peas; squab with lettuce; zabaione; fruit; cheese; coffee. Wine is extra.

Let us now look at the menu of the $3.50 dinner, without wine:

Pate 'de foie gras—truffles on toast; salad; olives; Alice Fallstaff; Italian ham "Prosciutto;" soup—semino Italiani with Brodo de Cappone; pompano a la papillote; tortellini with fungi a funghetto; fritto misto; spring chicken saute; Carcioffi all'Inferno; Capretto al Forno con Insallata; omelet Celestine; fruit; cheese, and black coffee.

This dinner must be ordered three days in advance."

From Bohemia in San Francisco, by Clarence E. Edwards, published 1914.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2 Timothy 4:7

In seven hours and forty-five minutes.

You Know You're In For A Great Weekend When...

This is the first thing you see upon pulling into the New Mexico ("Land of Enchantment and Really, Really Big Poisonous Snakes") Welcome Center.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Knitting -- a Chair Set from 1945

A knitted "chair set" from the days when upholstered furniture had to last a lifetime.  McCall's Needlework & Crafts, Summer 1945.  The pattern is on my Flickr account.

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

I have managed to strain an oblique muscle, coughing.  The only thing that doesn't hurt is lying in the recliner (I am so looking forward to our flight to New Mexico on Friday).