Friday, September 22, 2006

Cheap red pasta sauce

The world has waited for this long enough. Here's my basic red tomato/meat sauce for spaghetti; what they might call "gravy" on The Sopranos:

* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 lb lean ground beef (but not TOO lean)
* 2 28oz cans tomato puree
* 1 28oz can italian plum tomatoes
* 1 tbsp ground oregano
* 1 tsp dried thyme
* 3 bay leaves
* 1 tsp dried basil
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp sugar
* black pepper to taste
* olive oil

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent. Remove to bowl and reserve.

Brown ground beef in same pot. (This is, ideally, an enameled dutch oven or a stainless-steel pressure cooker.) Add half the oregano while the beef is browning. Drain any grease you consider to be excessive.

Add everything else. Simmer slowly several hours, or pressure-cook 1/2 hour, release pressure, check for sticking and taste, pressure-cook an additional 1/2 hour if you think it needs it and can take it.

I'm pretty sure this is the same recipe my dad made going back to when I was 4 or 5 years old.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Expectations of privacy, and granting of same

I had an experience yesterday and today that gave me pause to think about what we've come to expect from society in terms of our expectations of privacy, and the lengths to which we'll go to honor those expectations.

My boss never showed up for work on Monday. This is quite out of character for him; a classic workaholic. And even if he were ill, or had gotten called out of town, he'd have left a message for one of us via email or the like.

We emailed him. We called his cellphone. We called his home phone. We checked with the department secretary. No info.

Finally, about noon, a coworker and I printed out a Google map to his house and went over there. Both of his cars were in the driveway, and all the doors were locked. No answer to our rings and knocks. I gained access to the back yard and searched it thoroughly. No sign of him. And his family left for an overseas vacation last week, so he would have been home alone.

For any random individual, you might think this was a case of him taking advantage of having the wife out of town to catch a flight to Vegas or the like. Not P___. Completely out of character. And remember how he's a workaholic? We're currently very much under the gun; trying to get a chip finished and out the door for manufacture. There's no way he'd take off at a time like this unless there were some really good reason.

Given all the above, we came very close to breaking a window. But as we were there not only as individuals, but also in some sense representatives of our employer, we felt the best course of action would be to return to the office and ask our superiors for direction.

The upshot: they called the police, who made pretty much the same search we did, and refused to go further.

Finally, after office hours, I returned to P___'s house. A couple of other senior engineers were there, along with a guy from Human Resources. We conducted a more thorough search, going so far as to search a nearby creekbed - even though going for a walk near a dirty creek in midsummer would have been even more out of character for P___ than any of the other possiblities already mentioned. One of the others was tall enough to see, once I gave him a boost, through part of a window not obscured by blinds. No sign of anybody.

The Human Resources guy, however, had a cellphone full of phone numbers available to him, and one of the people behind those numbers apparently had some pull. About nine in the evening, the police entered the house. And found P___ dead.

No details yet on how, or when.

That second factor is kind of important to me. In retrospect, the obvious thing to do, in the face of all the wrongness of the situation, would have been to enter the house. But even given all that, we did not. P___'s presumed expectation of privacy, and our respect for that expectation, held us back. I have to believe that in other cultures - say, those of totalitarian states, or those otherwise not accustomed to such niceties of civilization, entry would have been accomplished in short order, either by my companion and me or by the police.

And, if the time of death turns out to have been sometime between noon and nine- well, you can kind of see why it's important to me.

I still think I did everything correctly. But I have to say that I'll be pretty unhappy if it turns out that P___ was alive and retrievable during my first visit.

UPDATE: It turns out that he most likely died about 36 hours before our initial visit to his house. That makes me feel slightly better, but only slightly. I haven't heard any official word, and (again!) that respect for privacy has kept me from asking, but the most likely cause of death appears to have been heart attack.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Credit where credit is due dept.

Remember back during the early stages of the active part of the terror war, when Geraldo Rivera was expelled from the theater of operations for drawing a map in the sand - on live TV - depicting the deployment of America military assets? Most people with a clue reacted to this with a round of huzzahs, of course.

Now here's a video of Fox News - of all people! - doing pretty much the same thing with regards to our allies the Israelis, and taking a bit of instant heat for it. And to add stupidity to sliminess, neither the field reporter nor the talking heads back in the studio seem to be able to understand what the hell the big deal was.

I'd also note that the nature of the fire the field reporter takes seems more harassing than anything else - a couple of warning shots, if you will. Certainly if it was the IDF firing on him, and they wanted to kill him, they would have done so.

(I owe a hat tip to another blogger for this. Since he didn't provide it on his blog, however, he may not want the tip - so I'm not giving it at this time. If he would like it, he knows how to get in touch with me.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"Truth, Justice, and...

... all that stuff."

Huh? the latest film incarnation, scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris sought to downplay Superman's long-standing patriot act. With one brief line uttered by actor Frank Langella, the caped superhero's mission transformed from "truth, justice and the American way" to "truth, justice and all that stuff."
Story here.

The sad thing, I guess, is that this isn't really particularly surprising.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Waiter Dream

Everyone I know who's ever carried a tray has this dream from time to time.

You arrive late for work, due to circumstances out of your control. There are a lot of people in the restaurant, and to handle them the boss has had the busboys set up a number of tables in odd places - such as the parking lot, the alley behind the building, etc. You are responsible for most of them.

The bartenders are all drunk. The cooks are all stoned. The other waiters and waitresses are all playing grab-ass with each other. The busboys are all in hiding.

Every customer asks for something weird, like putting the mayonaisse on the outside of their sandwich, which you can't quite seem to get quite right. You forget about almost every table, and then remember to go check on them about an hour later, at which time they just sort of glare at you. Oh, and of course there's three feet of that mysterious dream jelly on the ground - the invisible stuff that somehow prevents you from moving at more than a slow, deliberate walk.

Then you wake up in a cold sweat.

When you get back to sleep, you most likely fall right back into the same dream, only now you're even more behind because of your little trip back to the real world.

This is why I tend to overtip in restaurants.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Religion Of Peace

So, it appears that an Afghan man is on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity. The possible penalty? Death.

Yale must be so proud.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What's Iran really up to?

It may not be the destruction of Israel; or at least not primarily. From "Spengler" at the Asia Times:
Iran needs nuclear weapons, I believe, not to attack Israel, but to support imperial expansion by conventionalmilitary means.

Iran's oil exports will shrink to zero in 20 years, just at the demographic inflection point when the costs of maintaining an aged population will crush its state finances.... Just outside Iran's present frontiers lie the oil resources of Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and not far away are the oil concentrations of eastern Saudi Arabia. Its neighbors are quite as alarmed as Washington about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and privately quite happy for Washington to wipe out this capability.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yeah, sure, gun "control" works

Our friends in gun-free Great Britain are experiencing a 50% jump in crimes involving firearms:
Figures published this week by the Home Office are expected to show that offences involving guns have soared by as much as 50 per cent in some parts of the country.
And, of course, they have a predictable solution:
There have been widespread calls for tighter gun controls in Britain....

I think it was Einstein who said that the habit of trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a good indicator of insanity.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clinton eligible to practice law once again

This news from the New York Sun.

Money quote: "Since leaving the White House, Mr. Clinton has shown no sign of being encumbered by his lack of a law license."

Monday, January 16, 2006

First Robertson, now Nagin

Looks like Ray Nagin is taking a page from Pat Robertson's book:
Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America"
and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart
with violence and political infighting.
Both of these guys are idiots. Guess which will get more press, though....

Attention parents! Have some damn consideration!

What is it with people pushing strollers and those stupid oversized grocery carts with kiddie seats in them? Do they leave their brains in their minivans? Or just their courtesy and common sense?

Yesterday I'm shopping for weekly groceries at Central Market in Plano, Texas - a kind of upscale supermarket - and the place was full of them. I can't go one way because someone's blocked the aisle, so I go the other way - and that way's blocked as well. The aisles are a bit narrow, but that's not the real problem - rather, these people have parked their SUVs - uh, I mean, strollers and carts - crosswise in the aisle, and are just looking around with stunned expressions on their faces as though they're surprised that the kholrabi isn't just jumping out of the bins for them. You say "excuse me" and they might move very slightly out of the way like so many cattle, but that's pretty much all you can expect - they're definitely in a different world; one where nobody outside of them and their brood even exists....

At one point I got a bit too close to one of those enormous strollers and bumped it a little, and the guy who was supposed to be handling it glared at me as though I'd given his kid the back of my hand. What, was he going to start something with me right there next to the celery? Sheesh!


Humor break!

The wags at Fark are satirizing Teddy Kennedy's entry into the childrens' book market.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why (many of) the childfree hate people with kids

Entitlement attitudes. Mostly they're not this bad, though.
PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- Fetuses do not count as passengers when it comes to determining who may drive in the carpool lane, a judge has ruled.

Candace Dickinson was fined $367 for improper use of a carpool lane, but contended her unborn child qualified to use the lane. Motorists who use the lanes normally must carry at least one passenger during weekday rush hours.
I mean, really.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And now for something completely different

Joe Bob Briggs has what he claims is a canonical list of euphemisms for the human female breast.

A sampling:

  • Ben and Jerry
  • Dagmars
  • Flopdoodles
  • Huggy Bears
  • Magnificent Pontoons of Love (!)
  • Paducahs
  • Sweater Puppies
  • Warheads

There's a joke to be made about Joe Bob having too much time on his hands, but I can't quite put it together....

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The coming collapse of western civilization

Mark Steyn's latest column should be required reading for every thinking human being in the West. There's a lot to find controversial about it - it's quite a bit long on religion and social conservatism than I personally care for, specifically - but his demographic information seems solid, and the likely consequences of the trends he descibes are horrifying.

The refined antennae of Western liberals mean that whenever one raises the question of whether there will be any Italians living in the geographical zone marked as Italy a generation or three hence, they cry, "Racism!" To fret about what proportion of the population is "white" is grotesque and inappropriate. But it's not about race, it's about culture. If 100% of your population believes in liberal pluralist democracy, it doesn't matter whether 70% of them are "white" or only 5% are. But if one part of your population believes in liberal pluralist democracy and the other doesn't, then it becomes a matter of great importance whether the part that does is 90% of the population or only 60%, 50%, 45%.

Since the president unveiled the so-called Bush Doctrine--the plan to promote liberty throughout the Arab world--innumerable "progressives" have routinely asserted that there's no evidence Muslims want liberty and, indeed, that Islam is incompatible with democracy. If that's true, it's a problem not for the Middle East today but for Europe the day after tomorrow. According to a poll taken in 2004, over 60% of British Muslims want to live under Shariah--in the United Kingdom. If a population "at odds with the modern world" is the fastest-breeding group on the planet--if there are more Muslim nations, more fundamentalist Muslims within those nations, more and more Muslims within non-Muslim nations, and more and more Muslims represented in more and more transnational institutions--how safe a bet is the survival of the "modern world"?

Read, of course, the whole thing.

A personal note: as one who has chosen a childfree life, I can't help feeling partly responsible for this sort of thing - but, then again, do I want my descendants living in the 9th Century?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Blogworld News

Looks like Ana Marie Cox is leaving Waonkette.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Guess what the latest revelation from Pat Robertson is.

Give up?

Ariel Sharon's stroke is divine retribution for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

Practically every day that goes by, I'm more and more convinced that we're living in Heinlein's Crazy Years.

Fascinating bit of Churchilliana

The Brits have declassified some documents that reveal some of the inner workings of Churchill's war cabinet. Among some of the things Churchill proposed were the idea of executing Hitler in the electric chair, and bombing German villages in counter-reprisal for the Nazi destruction of the Czech village of Lidice.

Here's a pointer to the source documents themselves. From p. 44:

W.M.(42)74th Meeting 15th June 1942

Reprisal for German Massacre of Village

P.M. Conversation with Benes about possibility of reprisal for savage cruelties now being practiced by Germans in Czechoslovakia. Suggested wiping out German villages (3 for 1) by air attack.
View of A.D. in C. Bomber Command. 100 bombers wd. be required. Low attack 2/3rds incendiaries. Bright moonlight wd. be reqrd. Objection & reasons shd. be announced aftwds.

F.O. in favour.

If thought worthwhile, give RAF discretion to fit it in when they can.

L.P.S. Is accuracy of report beyond doubt?

P.M. Germans announced.

S/S.Air. Disliked it. Diversion of effort fr. military objective. Risking aircraft & crews. Wd we not be led on to do it more & more – if Germans knew we wd. answer thus.

S/Doms. Doubt if it is useful to enter into competition in frightfulness with Germans.

H.O. Wd. like to consider – reprisals on English villages, where no shelter, & low scale a.r.p. Public wd. say “why did you draw this down on to us?”

C.A.S. If they came in low & not far inland they wd. run v. small risk.

F.O. Even so, there might be a deterrent element in this.

M/L. German responds to brute force & nothing else.

Bruce. It might lead to even greater atrocities in Czechoslovakia.

General view that it wd. be wise to think this over.

L.P. Danger is that it costs us something & them nothing. Against it.

General feeling of Cabinet – against doing this. (i.e. L.P., M/Inf., CO., H.O.)

PM My instinct is strongly the other way.

F.O. Strongest argument against – waste of a moonlight night. Bigger diversion than I had thought.

Amery. Why a village? Why not a quiet residential town?

L.P.S. Operational argument against is v. strong.

P.M. I submit (unwillingly) to the view of Cabinet against.

This may be a consequence of Brooks's shorthand, but note the rather dry and humorous - except for the context - tone of "Doubt if it is useful to enter into competition in frightfulness with Germans."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Conservatism Today

A couple of interesting links, provided without much comment, mainly because I understood pretty much none of it:

I plan to seek out the entire Hart series referred to by OpinionJournal, but that may take some time because their search engine absolutely sucks. As it is, though, I understood maybe a quarter of what was expressed in the material behind the two given URLs (and thanks to reader Paul for those), so I don't know if obtaining yet more undigestable verbage is really all that great an idea....

I'll let y'all know.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Heck of a good shot

The Telegraph has a story about an American sniper who's made a really incredible shot.


Gazing through the telescopic sight of his M24 rifle, Staff Sgt Jim Gilliland, leader of Shadow sniper team, fixed his eye on the Iraqi insurgent who had just killed an American soldier.

His quarry stood nonchalantly in the fourth-floor bay window of a hospital in battle-torn Ramadi, still clasping a long-barrelled Kalashnikov. Instinctively allowing for wind speed and bullet drop, Shadow's commander aimed 12 feet high.

A single shot hit the Iraqi in the chest and killed him instantly. It had been fired from a range of 1,250 metres, well beyond the capacity of the powerful Leupold sight, accurate to 1,000 metres.

"I believe it is the longest confirmed kill in Iraq with a 7.62mm rifle," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, 28, who hunted squirrels in Double Springs, Alabama from the age of five before progressing to deer - and then people.

"He was visible only from the waist up. It was a one in a million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again."

Later that day, Staff Sgt Gilliland found out that the dead soldier was Staff Sgt Jason Benford, 30, a good friend.

The insurgent was one of between 55 and 65 he estimates that he has shot dead in less than five months, putting him within striking distance of sniper legends such as Carlos Hathcock, who recorded 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam.

Whoof. I love shooting, particularly at long ranges. I earned a Marksman medal in high school ROTC for some of them. This, however, is two or three leagues higher than I'd ever expect to play.