Giblets and necks

Hi all,

My annual Thanksgiving preparations are ongoing. I’ve learned that starting on Monday means I can actually enjoy Thursday. We generally invite a few friends over to our place for Thanksgiving meal. Most folks bring a side or an appetizer (and wine!) Complicating the annual preparations is that two of our friends are vegetarians. Stuffing is a high light of the meal for me, so it’s gotta be made. I like to have all my guests able to enjoy it, so that means two batches. One turkey flavored and the other not.

Likewise, gravy. I made a mushroom gravy one year. Good, but a little complicated. This year I had an interesting idea. Mashed potatoes made with roasted garlic are tasty, so why not make a roasted garlic gravy? I have an Indian recipe for a garlic curry (cook garlic, onion and chiles in clarified butter until brown, add spices and coconut milk). I toned down the heat a bit and pureed the mixture.

I’ll have to think about the turkey alternative. It seems a shame to just eat sides and I’m sure fish has graced more than one holiday table. I roasted a rock fish one year, which turned out well. It’s fairly easy to do (salt and paper inside out out, toss herbs in the cavity and roast in a hot oven). It is, however, something that requires attention right when everything else is coming together. I actually made a lobster risotto another year. I’m tempted by the lobsters as they were $5/pound at the market and looked pretty frisky. Problem being that risotto is relatively time intensive. I might just try a makhni sauce (used for Indian butter chicken). Cook the lobsters, take the meat off the shell and toss into the sauce. I can make the sauce ahead of time and it’ll be tasty.

So, Monday night was stock night. I made a turkey stock from roasted neck bones. Well, it was a hybrid stock as turkey necks are $2.20 per pound and chicken necks are $0.69/pound. While that was going on, I also made the absurdly complicated vegetarian stock from Cooks Illustrated. The first time I made it, I swore I’d never do it again. In addition to the usual suspects, there’s a pound of collard greens and a cauliflower. All that work to produce a quart of stock. I’ve found that the recipe doubles just fine and makes a quite tasty stock. Still, I’d rather just use chicken stock.

Not much to do yesterday. I made the roasted garlic gravy and roasted some beats. I dice them up for a salad with yogurt, some spices, and some cilantro. Thanksgiving with a side of Mumbai. I took the bird out of the fridge this morning and put it in the brine. I’ll take it out of the brine this afternoon and leave it in the fridge to air dry. Life is also easier for myself if I do a lot of chopping tonight. Carrots, onions, and celery are pretty hard and it’ll save me time tomorrow.

Well, I’d best get to work, go home, and get to work.


The New Monopolies

Just a quick post on something I’ve been thinking about in the last few weeks. With my publishing project, I’ve had a more first person experience with some of the big monoliths in today’s world—Google (AdWords specifically), Amazon, and Facebook, though a friend took on the Facebook role as it was an odd fit for me and not something I had time for in any case.

I have to admit to being in awe of the reach of these big companies that have become so important in our lives so quickly. I won’t go into all the very real benefits they’ve brought because we know what they are. But the smaller comment I want to make is that in a service age, these are not outfits that are particularly good at helping the people who use them. They count on users to know what they’re doing or to figure it out. For instance it’s easy enough to sign up for AdWords in hopes of a marketing boost. For a person who doesn’t have a starting knowledge of all the kinds of data it generates and how to use it effectively, it’s tough and time-consuming to figure out all the ins and outs of how it works and if it works, even if you check on it daily.

With Amazon KDP, you can upload things quickly but if you hit submit before you should, you won’t be able to fix a mistake with the same speed. If you send an email for help, you’ll hear back, but not quickly. As often as not, it’s assumed you’ll have your questions answered in forums by other people who’re also trying to navigate the system. I know very little about Facebook, but I have learned that there’s not a lot of software flexibility. You can have five pictures at the top of your page, or you can have five pictures at the top of your page. If you mistakenly link your page to another page, it’s apparently stuck that way.

My personal concern is with what’s essentially customer service, although it feels bigger than that. When an outfit is as huge and dominant as any of these are and still seeking to expand its reach, even if it’s relatively new in the marketplace, it’s still a monopoly with all the dangers that implies. We love the services and sometimes breathtaking opportunities we get from companies like this, but in some fundamental ways, I think we should be wary. I’m just not sure how.

Racism in the dark corners of one’s soul

Hi all,

This spins off of the recent megathread about the teleprompter and racism. There was a separate discussion amongst a few of us in which a liberal had described Herman Cain as a minstrel. I think that was an ugly comparison, but no more so than some of what I read when Obama was running himself. But that’s not what I’m posting about tonight.

I’d never considered myself to be a racist. I grew up in a proper liberal household. My dad was a professor at a small college (Hastings, Nebraska) and my mom was a speech pathologist. It would be accurate to say that I had a non-racial upbringing in that there wasn’t much racial diversity in Hastings, Nebraska (where I grew up) or Pocatello, Idaho (where I spent my teenage years). The only kid I remember spending time with who wasn’t white was Triet Huen (I’m going phonetic here–Tree-ET, Huyen). He was a Vietnamese immigrant. This would have been around 1976, so I’m guessing his parents left before the end. So, I’m just establishing that my interactions up to going to college were almost exclusively with other white kids.

I had an eye opener the summer after I graduated from college. I went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wound up renting an apartment for the summer after I graduated with three friends. Two of had just graduated and the other two were between junior and senior years. We rented a place on Marshall Avenue. There’s a striking shift in income within just a few blocks. Summit Avenue is mansions. Marshall, about a half mile to the north, is the “hood”.

Our place on Marshall was just off Victoria, about a half mile from Victoria Crossing, where Victoria crosses Grand Ave. It’s a place with some posh shopping and once had a great book store (Odegards). I particularly liked going to Chocolate & Bread as well as Coffee & Tea, Ltd. In order to get there, one walks about a half mile south on Victoria, past a youth center. Outside the youth center, there would often be a group of young, black men. I felt nervous every time I walked past. Know this. Up to that point, I’d never been assaulted by a black man. [I grew up before African American became proper usage, so I’ll stick with black and white for the purpose of this discussion.] I’d had virtually no interactions. And still, I felt nervous every time I walked by.

Without realizing it, I’d absorbed something in our culture. I know that had it been a dozen white teenagers hanging around outside the center, I wouldn’t have felt nervous. It was solely because of their race. It was an eye opening moment for me.

We all make judgements. We all react to race. I think that is equally true, regardless as to one’s ethnic background. That doesn’t make you or me a racist. In my case, I chose to keep walking past that place (corner of Victoria and Selby) as I refused to give into that visceral reaction. I don’t think that I’m a racist, but I am not immune to racial judgements. The struggle against those judgements is something that I face.

Many years later, I faced a little of what it feels like to be judged. I lived in England for four years as an American. Every so often, I’d be hanging out at the pub and someone would make a crack that made it clear to me that I wasn’t local. That’s only a shadow of what others must feel, but it was a valuable lesson.

Good night to all. And just ’cause….


Got a pumpkin? Stuff it!

Fall is my favorite time of year. Don’t get me wrong. Lazy summer evenings are nice, but DC is too warm for my taste. Fresh tomatoes almost make it worthwhile. Wintertime has its own pleasures, particularly snuggling under the comforter. Spring is a wonderful awakening and I love the arrival of fresh greens and strawberries.

Ah, but fall. It’s relief from that long, hot summer. I can enjoy the clear warm days and love the cool rainy ones. And comfort food comes back on the menu along with those fruits and vegetables that have been growing all year, just waiting for me to happen by.

We went apple picking out in Front Royal last year. It’s a long trip, so we’ll see if we can find something closer this year. One of my favorites is homemade apple sauce. It’s so easy. Good apples, a bit of sugar and spice, heat and plenty of time. This stuff is to the jarred as a summer tomato is to the ones you see in the supermarket. I bought a food mill specifically for the aim of making apple sauce. I used a potato ricer last year. It works, but it’s messy.

I’m looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving bash. That’s a post in and of itself. I tried my first organic turkey last year. It was pretty good, though I think my favorite of the meal was the beets I picked up a MoM’s (My Organic Market) in Del Ray.

Perhaps the purest fall food for me is the pumpkin. I remember that I used to make an occasional pumpkin pie and have it for breakfast for the better part of a weak. There are other things you can do with it, though. My favorite of these is to stuff it. Here is an absurdly simple recipe a former Post food writer (Kim O’Donnell) clued me into three years ago.

The first time I ever made this, Primo and Secondo were sick and so I had to leave the pumpkin in a warm oven. An interesting thing happened. The skin began to fall away from the pumpkin, so I peeled it and served it all mixed. It’s cheesy, pumpkin goodness. Here are a few of source links:


Stuffed Pumpkin

1 sugar pumpkin, 2 – 3 pounds
4 – 6 oz. of stale bread, cut into ½” chunks
4 – 6 oz. of cheese, cut into chunks
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
½ – 1 cup whole milk
Seasoning (nutmeg or herbs)
Cut a cap off the top of the pumpkin. Cut off any seeds and strings off the cap and scoop out everything from the pumpkin. Give the inside of the pumpkin a good rinse.
Combine the stuffing and, well, stuff that pumpkin. Put the pumpkin in a baking pan (or oven save pot) and place into an oven at 375 degrees. Bake for about an hour or so.
The seeds are a great snack if you wash them off and roast them.
Go with whatever you like for the cheese. Gruyere works well. I love a good blue cheese in this recipe. I’m guessing that some cooked bacon, broken into pieces, would add additional yumminess.
The recipes that I’ve seen call for using half and half, but I think it works fine with milk. You can also mix the dairy with chicken stock.
I’ve seen nutmeg used for the seasoning, but I prefer to use a dry herb mix such as Herbs de Provence.
I’ve seen different cooking methods to be used. One can go with a higher temperature oven and that’ll add a nice char to the pumpkin. Just keep an eye on it and reduce the temperature as needed.

Into The Mystery

Case closed
I was certain in my youth
God knows
Had my scientfiic proof
And in my mind
I thought I saw the truth
I never looked beyond my lenses
Never saw that it was you
I mentioned that I am a father of children with autism in my introductory post. I thought I might write a little about that. Both of my sons have a diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. PDD NOS is a bit of a mouthful, so I like the new term—atypical autism. AA is a lot easier to say, even if it does give rise to some amusing images.  Having twins meant that one saved the other who then returned the favor. We’ve used Primo and Secondo, characters from the movie Big Night, as their pseudonyms, so I’ll keep to that.
I’m a let them get dirty, don’t sweat it if your child doesn’t hit the milestone from What to Expect kinduva guy. Kids seemed to thrive pre-Dr. Spock, so let them grow at their own pace. Still, at some point you realize on a deep level that something’s not quite right. We brought up our concerns at their 2 year check-up and got some reassurance. To my everlasting shame, I held back on evaluation. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal. That isn’t the case for my sons.
It was in their second year of life when our concerns grew serious. I’m tempted to say it’s like a stomach ache that doesn’t go away. That happened to the husband of a friend of mine. His stomach troubles turned out to be pancreatic cancer. He didn’t make it. Our children are seen at an excellent pediatric practice. There’s a developmental specialist every other Friday. Once those concerns wouldn’t go away, we made an appointment with her. Incidentally, there’s no coverage for that initial screening. $100 is no big deal for us, but it’s gotta be hard for parents who are just getting by. We quickly got the word that he’s delayed and possibly autistic. I can’t say as it was a shock at that moment.
Out of the Question
Can’t catch the wind inside my fist
No, it’s Out of the Question.
Try to trap you and I know I missed
Out of the Question
You’re closer than the air I breathe
but Out of the Question
and Into the Mystery
I do not know if getting a diagnosis four or five months earlier would have made a difference. Here’s two things that a parent of a developmentally delayed child learns quickly. Every second counts. It is important to get therapy yesterday. Hell, do it in six months ago! Here’s the other thing that you’ll learn. You’ll be waiting months for an appointment. Following that initial appointment, we had a few words of advice, whatever books we could find. We were on our own for a few months, but I think they made a difference. The big point was to engage Secondo. Get him out of his world and into ours.
I wound up inventing a game they still love, though it’s harder on my back now. Hug, beso (kiss), blast-off. The idea being that Primo or Secondo runs from the kitchen to me sitting on the sofa. I give him a big hug, then a kiss, then toss him onto the sofa. It’s a lot easier with a 2 year old than a kindergartener! That summer was pretty much a matter of teaching what should come naturally. It felt great to finally be doing something.
We then got in line. We were told to contact Dr. Jean Thomas, who was head of psychiatry at Childrens National Hosptial. Trust me folks, if you’re told by a professional that this is the specialist you should see, you get in line. It doesn’t hurt that Dr. Thomas works at a premier hospital for pediatric care. At one point, I’d actually given up on getting through with them. The gates may not be barred, my friends, but they’re sticky. Fortunately, Dr. Thomas left a message with us and we got through to Intake.  One also leans the magic words to get past the gatekeepers.
My heart
Brings me to my knees
There’s God
Forest before the trees
Move me
Like the wind will stir the leaves
I give way to the Mystery
Like the Branches in the breeze
The initial evaluation was an interesting experience. You have two terrified parents and a clueless toddler. The team consisted of Dr. Thomas, a colleague, and what I presume were a couple of interns. One problem was that we had to sit in the waiting room for a better part of an hour. Secondo wasn’t at his best by then, which may not have been a bad thing. At the end of it all, we got the news that he had autism and to make a follow-up appointment. My wife broke down upon getting the news. Not that she was crushed by the news, but it was almost a relief to finally have it verified. The hospital isn’t that far from where she used to work frequently, so I dropped her and Secondo off on my way back to work. I’m not sure how I felt that day. I knew it would be a long journey, just didn’t know the path.
We had a follow-up appointment a couple of weeks later. Dr. Thomas introduced us to Dr. Bhavin Dave (he’s Indian). Dr. Dave had interned at Kennedy Krieger (another fine institution in this area) and was about to take up the position of head of Pediatric Psychiatry. Here’s a tough choice. You’re directed to this one person. Mind you, we knew relatively little about the developmental specialist. Still, when you’re clueless and told this is THE PERSON, it’s a tough decision. t was a difficult choice at the time, but we figured it’d be good to get in on the ground floor. We were one of his first patients. He’s become a valued family friend. Early on, I think it was more about keeping my wife and I in the game than counseling Secondo.
And I’m Out of the Question
Can’t catch the wind inside my fist
No, it’s Out of the Question.
Try to trap you and I know I missed
Out of the Question.
You’re closer than the air I breathe
but Out of the Question.
and Into the Mystery
In parallel with this track, I learned a lot about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I’m not necessarily a small government guy (big shock there), but I have always been deeply skeptical of a federal role in education. Some of this comes from having a mother in the primary system—she’s a semi retired speech therapist. It seemed like massive amounts of paperwork for modest amounts of funding. Education has always seemed like a local responsibility to me.
Well, my sons would not be thriving in kindergarten were it not for federal interference in education. To be exact, something called Child Find. It’s a system designed to detect developmentally delayed children and get them services so that they can thrive. My wife and I are pretty well prepared for educating kids. I have a BA in Physics and Mathematics and a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics . My wife actually trained for elementary education before finding her calling as an interpreter. [Bachelor’s at Redmond in Education and a Masters in Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute for International Studies). I’m not throwing the degrees out there to brag. Rather to note that we’re two highly educated parents who are well prepared for the task of getting our children ready. And we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were getting into.
I think we could have cobbled together something, but it wouldn’t have been close to what the “system” did for them. I’m overwhelmed by the care given to my sons. And yeah, it’s because of that interfering federal government. We probably could have worked out something. We both make good money and probably afford specialized schooling. Providing we had a clue what to get. My best friend at work has a son on the spectrum. They didn’t realize his needs until he was hitting kindergarten and dealt with a serious quack. Then I think about parents of delayed kids who couldn’t afford expensive services and specialized education. There was a story in the Post a few years about a woman whose son was “cured” of autism. They went through enormous stress and bankruptcy. How the hell could a family of limited means thread this gauntlet?
OK. End of political sermon. This is one case where I came in general agreement with small government conservatives. Then I saw what effective government could do. It opened my eyes.
Truth is there for finding
But the logic that’s involved.
It’s a mystery unwinding
Not a problem to be solved
I have twin sons. To my thinking, they saved each other. We picked up on Secondo’s delays a lot faster because of direct comparison with Primo. At the point when Primo’s language took off, Secondo seemed to plateau. We pushed for an evaluation earlier than I think we would have had it not been for the comparison. Primo helped to save Secondo. Secondo later returned the favor.
Coming into their second year of life, we had a family friend caring for them in our home. We got Secondo into a pre-K program for developmentally delayed children. It seemed unfair for Primo to stay at home on his own, so we enrolled him in the neighborhood preschool. I think it was two or three days a week, several days a week.
Now, Primo is brilliant. I know it’s natural for a dad to brag, but I don’t know of many kindergarteners that understand exponents. [I’m not kidding. He wrote 6 squared and I assumed that he’d seen it somewhere. He informed me that it meant 6 times 6. OMG.] He was an early reader and has been obsessed with symbols from an early age. We assumed that we had a very bright boy, clueless to the fact that wasn’t all that was going on.
In the first week at the neighborhood preschool, the teacher had concerns. Primo was the old child in his class and was totally freaked out. He’d obsess on the calendar. He wouldn’t join in circle time. He eventually got to the point where he would be willing to sit on a little chair outside the circle. By now we were “pros” at the system and so called Child Find. The plan was that he would continue at the neighborhood preschool and go to the special needs program on other days of the week.
I got a call in August two years ago. They asked why we were going with the morning program. It was mainly to try and match the schedules of the special needs program and the regular preschool I was told that Secondo could continue with his previous teacher (yay!) and asked if we’d be interested in enrolling Primo in a new class that would be half developmentally delayed children and half “peer models”. Yay!!!!!
Out of the Question
The wind inside my fist
No, it’s out of the Question.
Try to trap you and I know I missed
Out of the Question.
You’re closer than the air I breathe
But out of the Question.
And Into the Mystery
Since then, Primo spent 2 years in Bridget Mancke’s class and Secondo joined him the following year. It is overwhelming to me how far they have come. It is not easy raising kids with autism. I want to post about that at a later date. I figured that the story of getting into the system was enough for one.
My kids are in kindergarten now and I think it’s going OK. We’ve had some relapses related to potty training, but I think we’ve got it under control. Other matters are really tough right now. Still, they’re in regular classes and thriving. I’ll take it for now and tell you about day to day at a later date.
Oh yeah, you might be wondering why I keep lapsing into verse. The lyrics are from a song by David Wilcox, Into the Mystery. I was introduced to David Wilcox by my wife almost ten years ago. We’ve seen him perform three or four times. I was searching for the right metaphor and then I realized that David had it right ten years ago. I’m almost 6 years Into the Mystery. It’s a rewarding journey, but oh can it be tough.
Update: thanks to whoever (Kevin?) fixed the link. I also meant to add a picture. This was taken this past summer during their annual Costa Rica vacation. You talkin’ to me?


My Sign-Off

I totally missed the point of Goose’s question on a previous thread. I do respect Troll and the Tea Party. I’d like to relate my experience of being a Washingtonian during the TP rallies. I saw a lot of folks out and about. My impression was that they were simply good people who care about their country. They’re not my enemy, even though I think they are profoundly mistaken.

So, why does the Fairlington Blade sign his posts with BB? It’s shorthand for buh-bye. Also for BuckyBall. Kraetschmer and Huffman first figured out how to synthesize buckyballs when I was a graduate student. My first big paper was on magnetic resonance spectroscopy of buckyballs and they’ve come back in my career. I recently submitted a paper on a study of zinc phthalocyanine and buckyballs. [Note – if you’ve used blue paint, you’ve used a phthalocyanine.]

Buckyball is shorthand for Buckminsterfullerene. Put in your mind a soccer ball. Black pentagons and white hexagons. Put a carbon atom at every corner. You’ll find that there are 60 corners. A buckyball is a geodesic sphere. It’s also a truncated icoshedron (a 20 sided die for us D&D geeks). Buckminster Fuller was an architect who invented the geodesic dome and so this molecule is named in his honor.

At some point, I decided to have a sign-off. My favorite might be Chevy Chase (I’m Chevy Chase and you’re…. not). Dennis Miller had a pretty good one too (I am out of here). Mine is succinct and says a little about me.

Wait for it.


Stepping away from The Pledge

Back in July, Tom Coburn raised some eyebrows when he suggested on C-Span that tax increases couldn’t be avoided forever in solving the debt problem. Coburn said:

“I would rather fix the country and lose a battle with Grover Norquist than send our country down the tubes and pay attention to a point of view that is just suicide,” Coburn said. “And the fact is that there’s a lot of ways to enhance the revenue to the federal government. Reforming the tax code is a way to do it but we have to get $4 trillion.”

Not unexpectedly, Grover was less than pleased with Coburn’s stance, and replied:

“The Republican leadership in the House have made it very clear that if Coburn continues to be for tax increases, he’s by his lonesome on that and nobody else has joined him.”

Over the summer recess, a few GOP congressmen were confronted at town hall meetings with constituents about signing Grover Norquist’s tax pledge. Freshman Chris Gibson from NY, Lee Terry from Nebraska, Rick Berg of North Dakota, and Dan Lundgren-CA, all faced constituents questioning their signing The Pledge.

Looks now like Grover is losing a little more support.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota suggested that antitax pledges ought to be revisited, because they can be interpreted too broadly in closing loopholes or eliminating tax deductions. “We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform,” he said.

“There is pledge fatigue,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, who signed the Norquist pledge when he first ran for office in 2004 but has since jettisoned his support. “Many Americans are very cynical about the motives of politicians, so they want something harder to be able to believe in a person. But the pledge turns the power over to someone else to interpret whether what you did was right or wrong and limits your creativity.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who also signed it, said in an interview: “I’ve signed more pledges than I should have over the years. All of us ought to be somewhat reluctant to make these pledges. I think people who have been here longer do fewer.”

All the GOP POTUS candidates have signed Grover’s tax pledge with one exception: Jon Huntsman. From where I sit, he’s the only one who got it right when he said: I’d love to get everybody to take a pledge to take no more pledges.”

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