Saturday, December 31, 2011

Continuing traditions: Nausea and bowling for the New Year.

Unfortunately, this year we have tried hard to truly celebrate Christmas with the stomache flu for everyone. Aleah, Colleen, and Kate each have thrown up in their beds now. I have felt car-sick nauseous all last night and today. Uggh

 On a more positive note, we had great fun bowling, thanks to Leila's parents. Definitely, a new holiday tradition. All of the kids scored higher than me though, but I am just waiting for the day when they don't have bumpers. I am a very erratic bowler. Either it goes in the gutter or I get a spare/strike.
Leila consistently knocked down 6-8 pins.  Somehow I still outscored her.  Aahahaha.
Aleah tried to throw the bowling ball like a shotput a couple of times.  But usually took advantage of the gutters to knock down the pins. 
 Emily was consistently the best bowler. I bet she would have won even without the bumpers.  Look at that good form. 

Kate camped out at the ball return and rolled each ball into place.  She also was the cheerleader.  She would cheer and clap for everyone.  

I helped Colleen roll the ball.  When she rolled it by herself so softly that it was not for sure that it would make it all the way down the lane.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Leila's trip to Abu Dhabi


Our good friends in Abu Dhabi were kind enough to host Leila for a visit before Christmas this year.  Here are some of the highlights.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nothing says "Romance" like a tire repair kit for Christmas

I debated what I should get Leila for Christmas this year.  I had told her that her trip to Abu Dhabi was her Christmas present when I booked the tickets, but it seemed kinda cold to not have something to unwrap.  Her bike has been broken for a long time and I thought I would put new tires on it and fix it up for her present. So on Christmas Eve, because I procrastinate everything, I went to Ames to get supplies and planned on finishing the job before she got back from visiting her friend in Des Moines.

I had visions of wheeling the fixed bike inside before she got up with a bow on it.  Then, in my mind, we all went for a ride on Christmas morning to exercise off gorging on cinnamon rolls and candy before we devoured Swedish meatballs and mash potatoes.

I stopped first at Kmart, because Kmart would be open on Christmas Eve.  I was in the store for 5 minutes and came out to the car and saw my back tire was almost completely flat.  I must have hit a nail or something.  I could here the air hissing out from a puncture.  No problem, I could fix this.  I went to the trunk and couldn't see where the spare tire was hiding.  I looked under the car.  No spare.  Then I took a deep breath, and got out the manual in the jockey box.  According to the manual the spare was between the seats and under the floor.  Of course.  I got it out and found the tiny jack and started turning it so that it would jack up the car.

That is when I realized I had no way to remove the security lug nuts. Leila told me there was a tool for that in the jockey box later, and that the proper name for them were "security lug nuts." In my mind they were the "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top." I looked in the manual and there was no mention of "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top."

A couple of people stopped and offered to help.  None of them knew how to get the "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top" off either.  It was getting dark.  I went back into the store and went to the automotive section.  No tool for "@#@#@#$*(&#$&$^^^ nut-with-the-crazy top." But there was a tire repair kit with a sealant and an air compressor that ran off of the cigarette lighter.  That could work I thought.

I went out, put the spare and jack away.  Poured in the Fix-a-Flat, plugged in the little air compressor, and waited.  Sure enough, it did blow up the tire.  The instructions said to drive around to spread the goop around inside to plug the holes.  I made it downtown and checked the hole.  It was still losing air somewhat. I thought I could make it back home, so I turned around to go home.

I made it to Target before I realized the tire was not holding.  At Ag, one of the production guys had fixed my lawnmower tire with a kit like this one.  I had seen the same kit used on tractor tires and for 2 dollars I bought one at Target. I also bought a small tool kit, just in case.

To fix the tire, you are supposed to clean it out with the awl/rasp and then coat the rubber plug with glue, plunge it into the tire with the needle-like tool and then pull out the needle leaving the plug in the tire.  I pushed and strained.  I could not get the needle with the rubber plug into the hole.  I tried to make it wider with the rasp and by pushing as hard as I could I got it finally in and plugged.  I filled the tire up again and drove straight home.

The tire has held air since then.  Amazing.  I was impressed by the number of people that offered to help me out on Christmas eve.  I was rather irritable when I got home finally, but since Leila looked so forlorn, I couldn't stay mad.  I did give her tire repair supplies for Christmas.  And she had the good manners to pretend to be surprised and to appreciate her gift.

That is why I married her.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas at the Gardunia's

Our tree this year

 When Leila and I were at BYU, before we got married, we often went out on double dates with Craig, my roommate.  She was usually Craig's date, but that is another story.  Before Christmas we went to Salt Lake to see the lights and eat Chinese food with Liesl Talbot.  After we dropped Liesl off, Craig, Leila and I were in the car, driving back to Provo.  Craig turned to Leila and said, "Leila. . . (Long pause in which I thought "please don't ask her what is going on between us, because I don't know quite how to answer that.") ...what are your Christmas traditions?" Leila audibly sighed with relief because she was thinking the same thing as me.  We still chuckle about it.

Ninja snow man and other homemade decorations. 
A for Aleah and marbleized ball. 

I think about that this time of year, because it was funny, and because we don't have really defined Christmas traditions still.  Let's scratch that  The more I think about it, we have great Christmas traditions, they just seem ordinary to me and I tend to be more like Eeyore.  Each year we have a tree. In Texas we cut down scrub cedar for our Christmas tree each year from the abandoned lot near my office by the railroad.   We give each other presents, that we open on Christmas, not Christmas Eve.  My siblings and I have a gift exchange mediated by my sister Anna.

We always have a family picture taken in November which is given to Grandparents as part of their Christmas gift and we often start Christmas cards or a letters, but often don't get them mailed out on time.  But we mean to each year, and we do think of all of our friends and family that live so far away.  We make cookies and pie for Christmas dinner.  We usually have ham, Christmas, ie funeral potatoes.

Aleah as Mary 2007 - she kept the blanket wrapped around her head for days.
On Christmas Eve the kids and I dress up and act out the Nativity scene.  I am the donkey and the girls fight over who will be Mary.  (Because secretly I think it is funny to be the ass). Leila traditionally gets overwhelmed by it all at this point and designates herself as the narrator.  After the kids go to bed, Leila and I stay up late wrapping presents and getting stockings done.  And at our house Santa brings you something in your stocking - traditionally olives for me.

Our house Christmas 2009 - no decorations or snow this year.
One of our Christmas traditions that I would like to get rid of is the Christmas stomach flu.  (Now, to me the flu is nausea and vomiting, not Influenza.  This started soon after Leila and I got married when we went to her folks for Christmas.  That was a rough trip.  On the way there we were in a car accident on the freeway up to Snoqualmie pass.  Then we got to Gig Harbor and it was a full house, and the then the throwing up started.  First Eric, then me, then Leila, and so on.  Another year we went to Utah and Emily and Aleah threw up Christmas Eve and Christmas.  This year, Aleah has started Christmas out with this tradition by throwing up all last night.  Let's hope it doesn't spread to the rest of us before Christ

She has

Photo of half finished christmas presents in the woodshop.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Goals - Guaranteed to fail

I have a bad history with goals.  Secretly, I feel like if I vocalize a goal, write it down, tell Leila about it, that pretty much is the end of that endeavor.  I have thought a lot about that this last week.  And the end of the year seems to loom larger to me than Christmas right now.  That and I am procrastinating finishing Christmas gifts.

My friend Erin wrote this year not on the goals she had, but the person she wanted to become over this next year. I love her goal to get "some swagger."  I love this idea and started writing a list of the things I want to become over the next year or the things I want to learn or do.  But they all distill down to daily, or repeated action, that end up not being sustainable, and I quickly drop them for short term time fillers.  If my goal were to watch Jon Stewart every day after the kids go to bed, I guarantee I could do it for a year.  If my goal were to read a SciFi book a week, you could bet I would do it.  Instead I, like most people, try to make goals that are good for me, and apparently I don't really want to do those things, or else I would, right?  I like sweets.  I love watching TV.  I don't really like to exercise. Apparently I don't like to read my scriptures every day, another goal I fail at repeatedly.

I envy people who have the strength of will to keep up a daily, good-for-you activity.  While thinking about how to make myself build good habits and improve myself, I stumbled onto a blog category of 365 day projects.  There are a lot of photo-a-day blogs.  The link is to a metasite that compiles these blogs; I bet Kodak's film department head curses the development of digital cameras every time they look at such a site. That is a lot of pictures, beautiful pictures.  I found a series of eat-better/local/organic/vegetarian-for-a-year blogs, many inspired by the book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which I read a few years back.  Here is another about a family's experiment of a farm for a year that turned into their life.  When I was searching for a list of blogs to write about it became a game to find a phrase and add "for a year" to it and see if such a site/blog existed.  For exercize buffs: Running for a year, yoga for a year,  or go the otherway with Daily Mcdonalds aka Supersize Me.  How about a "book a day for a year" - yep, someone has done that.  "No environmental impact for a year", someone has tried that too.  The list could go on and on.

Am I building up to making this blog a record of my Jon-Stewart-watching-every-day-for a year goal?  No,  but I do want to find a way to motivate myself to do the daily work that is required for many goals.  As Juma Ikangaa once said, "The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare. " I had that on a poster on my wall when I was 16.  I felt like I accomplished a lot of things that year.  I practiced every day.  I read my scriptures.  I fell asleep doing homework most nights.  I was a stress case though.

My goal for this year is to build good habits.  I would like to be the sort of person that can do something good, every day, even if it is hard.  I think I will try to find something small that I can do everyday, and I will try to report in periodically, but I will not inflict 365 days of blog posts to it.

As a postscript, I ran into a website of poems compiled by the US Poet Laureate for a poem a day, that I couldn't help sharing:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Scratch - Something worthwhile for kids on the computer.

My mom is working for NSF this year as an Einstein fellow.;  As part of her job she reviews grants and attends conferences focused on education of math and computer science.  When she came to visit for Thanksgiving, she introduced us to a program called Scratch for learning computer science methods.  My kids are entranced by it, and it is pretty cool.

My kids spend a lot of time using paint on the computer anyway, but now they can animate their digital drawings, add music, sounds, and automate actions of their characters.

Here are some recent Paint drawings from the kids, I will let you guess which one's were Kate's and which from Emily.

This is Emily's first project.  Almost every key does something to the character.  The middle keys play music and other keys change the character.  Emily has talked about doing an animated storybook with it. You have to give permission for the Java plug-in to run and then you can explore Emily's Scratch project.  The little kids also play around with it, but haven't run any commands, they are entranced by the enhanced paint options and  preloaded characters.  Kate just clicks like mad until the screen is a scrum of characters.

Learn more about this project

Monday, December 05, 2011

Jury duty

The phone rang at 7:30 this morning. My first thought was that I had forgot to call Aleah's school to tell them she was going to be late/absent.   She woke up in a dreadful funk and was coughing, wheezing, and oozing, so I sent her back to bed and figured I would bring her to school when she was feeling better.   The woman on the other end of the phone asked for me by my full name, like my mother would when I was in trouble,  and reminded me that I hadn't called in for jury duty on Friday.  The Judge was expecting me at 8:30 she said.  I told her there was no way I could make it.  I had the kids.  They were sick.  She said the judge could hold me in contempt and send the marshalls with a summons.  I decided I could try.

I called a couple of families with young kids from church and found no one that could take the kids on short notice.  Then I remembered the Shooks - no kids, but retired and home.  They agreed, I bundled them in clothes and coats, dropped them screaming at their front door, and drove to Des Moines.

I was already a half hour late.  I parked in the parking garage next to the courthouse, and then realized I needed to go another mile to the federal courthouse.  I didn't have time to hunt for more parking, so I ran.  Wheezing through security, the guard informed me that it was against federal law to bring my cell phone inside and I would have to return it to my vehicle.  I was over a half hour late and didn't want to run all the way back  so I stashed it under some dried grass next to the river.  I felt like I was burying evidence.

I raced upstairs, checked in, sprinted down to the courtroom for rollcall.  Made it.  Then waited for an hour until the judge, the defendent, the lawyers, and police settled in.  There were two plainclothes policemen sitting in opposite corners.  Each of them were checking their email on their blackberries.  Apparently the ban on cell phones only applies to civilians.

The judge was in his sixties.  He gave very clear instructions about the indictment, the commitment and responsibility of being a juror, and then they turned what looked like a wooden bingo contraption and drew names.  Only half of us would be chosen initially.  The rest would wait, and assuming that the lawyers didn't exclude all of the rest would be free to go.  Of course, my name was on the top of the list.

Each of us were asked about our age, jobs, family, places we lived the last 10 years,  and if we had any reasons for being excused.  I had already discussed my situation with the clerk and she told me that it probably wasn't good enough to keep me off the jury so I didn't mention it.  Then they followed up with specific questions about previous court cases we had been involved with.  One fellow had two felonies, he  was a little bitter about it.  Apparently the police overstretched their bounds, so he said.  Some of the jurors worked together in the same company.  One woman had a vacation in California scheduled.  He asked if she could rearrange her flights.  We had filled out forms and mailed them in weeks ago.  He asked me follow up questions about Nicaragua, my educational background in genetics, and whether I had ever been arrested.  I told them about getting arrested as a kid driving an ice cream truck and getting robbed in Nicaragua.  That got a chuckle.

Each set of lawyers asked further questions.  The prosecutor tried to exclude the felon.  His motion was denied since enough time had passed that he was eligible to serve.  The defense asked repeatedly to each juror if we understood that the defendant was innocent until proven guilty and whether we agreed that the burden of proof was on the prosecution.  He was a more personable lawyer than the prosecutor.  He asked me again about Nicaragua.  He asked us if we were biased by cultures or lifestyles that are not directly related to the case that may be distasteful for us.  I raised my hand and asked him if he meant that we were going to need to judge whether certain lifestyle choices were related to the case given evidence presented by the prosecution.  He clarified and asked me more questions.

Then we waited, while the attorneys passed lists of jurors back and forth between them.

The judge finally announced around lunch time the final jury selections.  I was free to go.  Thank goodness.  I didn't feel like arranging babysitting and spending this whole time off as a juror.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Looking back at November

From Nov 2011
Once data was rolling this fall, I let most things slide.  I tried keeping up at home by coming home at a decent time, but would go back after the kids are in bed.  Once advancements were done, there were winter nursery plots to put together, meetings in St. Louis, and reports to write.  I kept telling myself that I would update my blog, practice my violin, and a list of other things as soon as it was done.  Well, that part of the year ended with Thanksgiving, thank goodness, but my emergency work list is still quite long.  I have to get ahead this week because Leila is going to Abu Dhabi next week and I will be home with the kids.

Quick summary of our month:
From Nov 2011
Kate still is the cuddliest kid, but talks up a storm, hangs on her dad, sucks her thumb-while twirling her hair, sits on the counter while we cook, and would gladly eat fist fulls of bread dough.

From Nov 2011
Aleah has been sick this month, more missed school, but is excelling anyways.  She has lost teeth on the top and the bottom and turned 7 this month.

From Nov 2011

Tuesday, Bro.  Hawkins came over and helped me install a 220 electrical hookup for the new electric oven-gas range.  He is a retired electrician and with his help we were able to thread the electrical conduit between the walls of the basement to the breaker box and connect it to a 50 Amp breaker.  Then on Thursday we spilled cranberry sauce along the top of the stove and it managed to drip inside the guts of the machine and short out the electrical controls to the gas range so that it continually clicked and tried to light itself.  I stomped around and growled at anyone that came near me until I figured out how to take it apart and repaired it.  We are back in business, but need to rig some gaskets around the electrical controls so that future spills won't do the same.

From Nov 2011
After a bit of a delay, we had a great Thanksgiving Feast with all the trimmings, but only five kinds of pie: Apple, mixed-berry tart, cherry, pumpkin, and chocolate.  Next year with a working oven we will have to have everyone over for pie and there are a list of custards and puddings I would like to make also.

From Nov 2011

There were still enough pies for breakfast, lunch and dinner till Saturday.  I love pie for breakfast.

From Nov 2011

My mom came to visit.  The girls were giddy and tried to show their Grandma how much they loved her at all times.  Looking at the pictures, you can sure see the family resemblance between Emily and my mom.

She brought each of the kids the perfect presents.  Aleah and Emily got a paint by numbers kit.  Aleah immediately sat down and had her's finished by the end of the day. She used her birthday money to buy an even more complicated one that is almost finished also.  She has decided that she wants to be a painter when she grows up because it is so "awesome."

From Nov 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tony Jim

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When I read census records I feel like I am peaking in people's windows.  It is amazing how much information is captured there.  The political purpose of censuses is count residences of each state to determine the number of representatives to congress, money for schools, taxes, etc.  Over time they have also become a tool for understanding demographics and geneology.  

Census records can be searched online easily at and, especially if you are looking for people with unique names and know their residences at the time of the census.  I like to see how each household changes over time, children grow, move out, people's occupations, and relationships.  The info is not always correct.  Spellings of names are sometimes wrong and birthdates and entry dates to the US are not exact. 

I have been trying to track my grandmother's father, Tony Jim, through census records.  This is complicated because he has such a simple and probably common name.  This is odd to me because he is an immigrant from Turkey/Armenia/Bulgaria/Hungary - it depends on which records I find and when.  Some of the confusion about his origins are probably due to changing borders of Turkey during the early 1900s as the Ottoman empire waned and dissolved in the 1920s.  This is the map of the Balkans from 1910:

So, my running hypothesis is that he was from the Balkans.  In census records, I can find a number of entries each year for Tony Jims that could be my ancestor.  Each of them are working for the Railroad and living in work camps or boarding houses with groups of other Balkans in the same work camp.  From 1900 to 1920 I there are multiple entries for Tony Jim that fit this profile across the US.  I suspect that he changed his name when he entered the US, but I don't know that for sure.  The birthdates are about the same for each of the Tony Jims and their entry in the US is within a couple of years of each other.  It is possible that they are all for the same Tony Jim, depending on how much the work crew moved around during census years.  I have found other cases where people were censused more than once if they moved while the census was being taken. I need to tabulate the names of the other people in the work crew and see which times they are in common, that way I could track better the entire group across the US from Philadelphia to California and then north to Washington. I could also parse which Tony Jims are the same/different based on similarity of the other residents.  

The story this tells me about Tony Jim, which is not confirmed since my Grandmother is dead and I can't remember a single time she talked about her past, is that he came to the US and worked for the railroad.  The last census record I can find of him working for the railroad he is living in a boarding house in Washington.  Ten years later, He is married and settled in Idaho with children. 

It is sad that I know so little about him.  I don't where exactly he is from or what he was like.  I never thought to ask my grandmother about her parents when she was alive.  Why did he come to the US?  What about the rest of his family?  Siblings, parents, grandparents.  All blank. 

What I know:
Tony Jim
Birth: Aug 1883
Entered the US: ~1900
Married Amelia Frazier: 1924 in Caldwell, Idaho - Her second marriage.  She was married to Joseph Harris, had three children, and was divorced before remarrying.
Daughter: May 1928 - Lavena Jim, my grandmother
Died: September 1969 in Payette, Idaho. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Des Moines Regatta

From September 2011

This Saturday I was in two rowing races during the Des Moines Regatta.  In the morning, I rowed port in a novice mixed 8 with the crew that I have been practicing with on Saturdays. In the afternoon, I rowed starboard in a men's four that I had never rowed with.  Last week we practiced the race course in our lineup and cruised.  Our speed was enough that our cox felt like we could totally win it.  We had few problems and our timing and balance were good.  For practices we have been using the older, heavier, wider fiberglass and wood boats.  For the race, because we were doing so well, our cox arranged for us to get a carbon fiber sliver of a boat named Caliente.

From September 2011

The day of the race we had to row up from the dock a couple of miles to the start before the race.  Conditions really were perfect.  Cool, flat water. The mist rose up in thin tendrils from the river.  The sun was warm, but the air cool.  We wore our jackets rowing up, but it was comfortable in shirtsleeves once we warmed up.  The boat was light and thin.  Carrying it to the river was a breeze.  As soon as I started putting my oar in I could feel though how tippy it was.  When we were all in and pushed away from the dock, we all felt it as minute adjustments on one side buried the oars on the other side.  We had some trouble getting back in rhythm and keeping the balance on the way up, but as we rowed past the park and under the bridge it felt good.  We turned, chatted with the boat behind us in the lineup and got ready to go.

Then, it all fell apart.  The stroke seat sets the timing of the boat and he immediately got his oar stuck in the current.  It whipped behind him and he had to lay down and pull it back.  Then it happened again.  And again.  We got into a decent pace, but never really recovered.  The boat behind us passed us easily and we struggled to keep the boat balanced, tending to list to port, which made the stroke's ability to keep control of his oar worse.  So we lost.  Not horribly - 26 minutes for the course, but in practice we were almost 5 minutes faster.

I had the best cheer squad along the river though!

From September 2011

The afternoon race was with the same guy in stroke, we also had never rowed together, and we were in a different boat then planned.  The original boat actually sank during the women's race earlier in the day; so we dusted off an antique hanging from the ceiling and hefted it down to the river.  My seat was broken.  The footstretchers had odd leather straps instead of shoes that were held in place with ties that no one figured out. The whole boat creaked and groaned with every stroke.  To make it worse, our stroke was still nervous from the morning where his oar seemed intent on knocking him out of the boat, so he was very timid.  The guy behind him overcompensated pushing with all his might and veering the boat each time.  We were late getting to the start and then disqualified for basically rowing very badly.

Rowing back, we changed the person sitting in the stroke position and taped our feet in.  I kept my seat in the rails, and we were a creaky, but smooth boat.  We easily passed the boats ahead of us and slid along the dock, but it didn't matter by then since we were exhausted and out of the race.

A total blast though.  There were hundreds of people competing, from colleges around the Midwest and community clubs like ours. In the morning I helped unpack 4 bushel boxes of bananas by the registration booth along with 3 boxes of apples and a table of muffins.  I thought there couldn't possibly be enough people to eat all of that.  It was gone by 7:30.  The crowd was much larger than I expected, with lots of cheering and music.  It has been the highlight of my summer and I have had so much fun.

I can remember seeing a boat like these in Boise when I was walking home from school one day and wishing I could try one out. I put it on my "bucket" list, and it was awesome to be able to try.  Next year our crew has committed to practicing together again and plan on practicing on the carbon fiber boat and will be quite competitive.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The pickle experiment

My attempt at making senf gerkin was a failure.

From September 2011

When we looked at the jars and realized that the pickles inside were translucent and soft, Emily and I decided to try an experiment to test what we did wrong.  The recipe called for heating the cucumber slices in the brine/syrup/vinegar prior to sealing in jars.  Our hypothesis was that excessive heat cooked the cucumbers to mush.  Emily was my scribe for the treatments. So we tested 5 methods with the same brine/syrup/vinegar and an additional brine with the leftover cucumber slices:

  1. The original recipe, cooking the cucumber slices in the brine, and then sealing the jars in a boiling water bath.
  2. Adding boiling brine to cold cucumbers and then sealing in the jars in a boiling water bath, letting the cucumbers sit in the hot brine prior to sealing.
  3. The same as 2., but immediate transfer to boiling water bath..
  4. Adding boiling brine, but no boiling water bath to seal the jars
  5. Cold brine, no boiling water bath
  6. I had some cucumber slices left so I made a different brine recipe for refrigerator pickles.
From September 2011

Emily made daily observations of the jars and recorded details of the pickling process for each treatment.  One of the jars from treatment three burst in the rolling water bath.  After two days all of the jars tops were sealed, even treatments 5 and 6 which were not sealed in the water bath.  Only when the cucumbers were heated in the brine and then sealed, treatment 1, look like jars of gloop.  Treatment 2 is intermediate between 3 and 4.  Five is definitely the whitest.

 The original recipe called for 2 weeks of pickling prior to opening the jars. I considered opening each of the jars and having a taste test today, but then what are we to do with all of the open jars but throw the leftovers away?  So for conclusions of taste and texture we will have to wait until we have tried each one.  Emily has kept her notes and wants to record our observations when we open each.

Our preliminary conclusions support our hypothesis and suggest that our previous mushy pickles from two years ago had the same problem: excessive heat.  The brine and vinegar really are all that is needed to preserve the pickles, but sealing the jars with a rolling water bath certainly reassure me that they won't rot over the months between pickling and eating.  So, the cucumbers should be kept on ice until the moment they are added to the brine in the jars and sealed.  That way the heat of the canner won't have as much time to seep into the cold cucumbers.  They probably don't need very long in the canner either.

Update:  As I was cleaning up I opened the refrigerator pickles (treatment 5 and 6).  Nice and crunchy.  Touch of sweetness, but still tangy. They reminded me of the summer quick pickles I make with vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Work in Progress Weekend

Leila each week posts her "Work in Progress Wednesday" on her quilt blog.  It is linked to her other online quilt friends' blogs so they can cheer each other on.  Pretty good idea really. Here are some of the things the kids and I have in progress:

Senf Gherkin:
 My neighbor has been telling this last month I have the perfect cucumbers for senf gherkin, i.e over-ripe yellow monsters.  They look pretty good so far. I have never been a big fan of sweet pickles, but these have enough vinegar that I think they will be pretty good.

 Our monster yellow cucumbers next to Mike's perfect green ones.

 Kate helping me freeze green peppers from the garden

 Aleah sewing with the machine that Leila bought from the garage sale.

 I still need to paint my container I built for my work truck.  I have a bunch of safety supplies and things I bring with me to work and I got sick of them rolling out from under the seat.

 Here is the view from the side

I still haven't stained the benches I made for the Cook's visit.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Storm in Washington D.C. and the National Debt

There is a hurricane headed for D.C. right now. It has been downgraded to a category 2 storm and will probably blow through in a couple of days. There will be some flooding and some trees blown down and in a few more days everyone will go back to work.

However, the real storm is still yet to hit. (OK, so that was a gimmicky start. anyways down to business) The Congress and the president passed a stop-gap bill to raise the debt ceiling. This bill sets up a committee to decide what to cut and what to keep.  This sets a series of deadlines, outlined by the Washington Post:
The problem with this solution, is that it solves very little and drags debate about the solution out over the next year.  My frustration with this solution could be graphed in much the same way.  My frustration with the Republican and Democratic rhetoric and talking points about taxes and spending cuts would have to be a logrithmic curve.  The Republicans seem particularly unwilling to bend and I have struggled to see why.  The numbers are are convincing to me that a balanced approach with revenues needed to balance the budget and reasonable cuts, especially to the biggest expenses.  If you want to play with the numbers and get a feel for the effects of changes to the tax code, defense spending, etc., the New York Times in November 2010 had an interactive webplayer for playing with the budget that is great fun.

From this webplayer, it emphasized to me that the federal government takes in a lot of taxes and changes in the tax code results in drastic changes to budgets.  I was surprised to see how much of an effect it had on future projections ending the Bush Tax cuts and reducing defense spending.  I am going to insert a couple of other graphs from the New York Times, that show this.  I worried about putting them in here since they lay the blame for the deficits on Bush's shoulders instead of Obama's.  This is an oversimplification, not the whole story, and divisive.  I wanted to discuss this without the polarizing effect of Bush and Obama, because I think this is a bigger problem than these two presidencies.

Deficit and projections.  One deceptive piece on this graph is the projects are only from 2 years: 2001 and 2009.  It would be more informative to have the previous year's project on the next years actuals.  
The Blame Chart.  I think rather heavy handed and deceptive.   The healthcare bill is going to be very expensive.  Medicare is not getting cheaper.  We still are involved in two wars in the Middle East.  Yet, we keep cutting taxes. These tax cuts have a significant effect since budgets were not cut at the same time.     

In the end, it doesn't matter who did it.  We need a solution. Leila's Aunt Janie proposed that we show our support by donating to the national debt.  I was excited by the proposal, not because it would make a substantive dent in the debt, but because it expressed something that is lacking in this debate: Americans can band together and sacrifice to do the right thing.  It frustrated me that instead of asking us to sacrifice to support the Iraq War the federal government cut taxes and sent out rebate checks, while keeping the cost of the war off of the federal budget.  We should have been asked to buy War bonds,  ration food, recycle cans, something, anything, if the war was truly worth it!   The impression I got was that the federal government didn't believe that the public would support it if they had to sacrifice anything at all.  This is wrong.  We can do hard things.  We can sacrifice and all do our part.  

Leila and her aunt were interviewed by Cezary Podkul from the Washington Post. (Not only is Leila now a famous quilter, she is a national political commentator now)  His article appeared July 24th in the Post.  In his very informative article, he reveals that the cited law allowing direct donations to the Treasury for the National Debt is not what we thought.  The money does not go directly to the the debt, but into the general fund, which pays a little of everything.  You know, like taxes.  Leila was embarrassed by this, because we donated our money, and it felt like we had been hoodwinked, swindled by the Federal Government.  

I stand by the sentiment behind her post. The blame for the mess of our federal deficit does not lie with a presidency, a political party, or congress.  It is on our shoulders.  As a nation, we have not taken responsibility for paying our own debts and that bleeds into the actions of our governments.  This has to change if we are going to be successful as a country.  

At the heart of the Tea Party and Republican cry for smaller government is a distrust of government and many of the discretionary cuts show that.  I would argue though that the biggest expenses and budget problems we have are due the leaders of the government not trusting that the American public would support them if they had to ask us to sacrifice.  I think both should be wrong.  I would like to have a government I could trust.  I would like to be part of a country where people support the right thing, even if it requires personal sacrifice.  But we have become a greedy and selfish people, and that needs to change before we will be able to get our house in order.