Monday, August 25, 2008

Tomato Season

sometimes seems as if it will never come, especially with a cool, rainy Summer such as this has been. Nine pounds (8.98, to be precise) may seem like a lot at once, but after slow roasting half, and making Ratatouille with the rest, I may have to get a few more by Friday. Oh, yeah, Gazpacho: make that maybe five pounds more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Meaning of It All, Courtesy of Mr. Idle

The Expanding Universe song from "The Meaning Of Life"; click on the post title to view it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

My first reaction was, "Why does that dolt want to take over South Ossetia? Does he think the Russians won't intervene? Or does he think the Americans will intervene on his behalf?"

The historical background is that Ossetia, and the other autonomous areas Georgia attempted to invade, have been independent and at odds with Georgia since before the Russians showed an interest more than two centuries ago.

The economic context is equally plain: the Russians furnish Europe with oil and natural gas. With Ukrainian independence, Russia lost most of her Black Sea ports; Georgia provides an avenue for Caspian oil while leaving the Russians out, which gives other major interests (can you say "Exxon Mobil?") an opportunity to deal from a position of dominance.

The Georgian President clearly decided to end a long standing border feud, which may very well have included Ossetian irregulars taking advantage of Russian protection to engage in provocative acts. Unambiguous information about the deployment of troops and their potential on both sides is lacking; Georgia claims to have withdrawn, and to have been invaded by Russia, but, given the distances involved and the effective range of modern weapons, "withdrawal" and "invasion" mean relatively little at this point.

The Russians, to their credit, have already called an emergency meeting of the Security Council to intervene, which the U S later urged as if it hadn't already happened. The French are working "on the ground" to appeal to both sides for a cease fire. And contradictory statements as to the facts come from both sides, as civilians die, and flee, and weep.

"Great power" theory, developed in the late stages of Western Imperialism, does allow for the sponsorship of small, relatively weak states by the powerful. It does not follow that the powerful should choose whom they will sponsor foolishly, with only one factor predominating. Especially, it does not allow the weaker state to determine the course of the Great Power, by sending a brigade in support of other foolish adventures, nor to entice the Power into a conflict far greater than the interests at stake. The morons directing U S foreign policy appear to be committing both these errors here, at a time when their ability to back up such idiocy is grievously lacking.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Little Late Night Fun

The dance group Pilobolus with a piece to The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City". If you're almost that old, but not quite, you may remember the group leader, John Sebastian, doing the theme to the TV show "Welcome Back, Kotter."

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Casualties of War: Rape

I accepted Military duty for two reasons: to insure I would be able, in the future, to visit my mother in the U.S., and to avoid being raped in prison.

Since my era, when most women in the armed forces were nurses and therefore officers, whom enlisted swine were not to think about, on penalty of violating The Military Code, much less touch, the integration of women in "non-combat" roles (Tell that to Major Tammy Duckworth, who ran for Congress without legs) has changed the interaction of male and female service members. I would feel more sympathy for military supervisors, who must struggle with protecting rights on both sides, while dealing with ambiguity and getting on with a very difficult task, except that rape is a matter of power, and they have the power, and are often the guilty parties.

Anecdotally, a friend is a victim of such circumstances. She is multi-lingual, forceful, and directed; she now finds it nearly impossible to leave her house, to drive is impossible, and using public transport is planning a mission, with plenty of prescription help. The Army (she's a reservist) and VA deny she's got any reason for PTSD, in part because the 24 hour battle she was in, with ammo running low, doesn't count 'cause she's a girl. Girls aren't supposed to be in combat, therefore it didn't happen.

I'm brought back to this shameful horror, not that it's ever very far away for me, because of a report in the Sacramento Bee (part of McClatchy; if this doesn't work, use the link to the right under "U S news source worth reading": ) for the testimony before the California legislature of a sailor for Veterans' rights. You will also find the story of the female "contractor" who was gang-raped by her co-workers, and kept in an eight foot metal box, until a sympathetic guard gave her a cell phone to call her father.

Whether I agree with their commitment to the military or not, these are dedicated and responsible people who have been brutally treated, denied, and cast aside to defend the indefensible. Clearly, the U S armed forces need a thorough housecleaning, which will not happen without the persistent, active investigation of such wrongs. This will be possible only with the active interest of the public.

With the oceans of horror this maladministration has brought us, we may want to allow ourselves to overlook one or another example; we cannot allow ourselves to overlook this one, for it is a part of a much deeper systemic evil: the denigration and suppression of women, the silencing of their voices. The U S military has failed, grossly and dishonorably, to address this evil; however, I think they may, if firm direction comes from the ultimate civilian authority. The military heard Truman say "Blacks are an equal part of the armed forces", and subsequent administrations continued it. It only takes a boss who says "Cut this shit out, and I mean it." for it to work.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pillar of Fire

A volcanic eruption with a lightning storm at Chiat, 1300 km. south of Santiago, Chile. Our place is fragile indeed, but in the hands of El Shaddai.

H/T AZ Dollar Bill, Combat Medic, and good person, who is also the source of the Swan picture.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OK, OK; Here We Go Again.

Above: tonight's supper: Rockfish (very much like Red Snapper) with sauted Fennel and Red Onion, leftover potato salad (which didn't go well), and snap beans with Roasted Red Peppers. The wine was a rich Alvarinho from Portugal: Auretus 2005 from Trajadura, the color of honey and almost as rich, but with the varietal acidity and minerality which makes it so good with seafood. This one would also match very well with Roasted Chicken and other dishes I would hesitate to put an Alvarinho with; thus far I had only drunk the Spanish Galician version of the grape, Albarinyo, which has decidedly less weight and depth.

Below: supper a night or so ago: Seared Lamb with garlic and Ratatouille, with a little too much squash. I have several variations of this classic dish running in my head, now that tomatoes are in; nonetheless, to not abandon the concept altogether, there must be eggplant, plenty of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and basil. After that, the discussion may begin: are you an innovator or just plain whacko?

All of it was pretty tasty, aside from the usual post-mortem of "less of this, more of that". All of it is relatively quick and easy, without processed ingredients, because a) I'm lazy, b) I'm convinced it's good, and c) only rarely do I get so curious (Duck Confit, for example) that a & b get overwhelmed.