Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The musical fruit

Fall is coming and it's time to dig out the cooler weather recipes. One of my many cookbooks is one I got this past summer from America's Test Kitchen called The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue. I've used it a lot over the past couple months.

One of the chapters is about side dishes to go with all that luscious meat. In that chapter is a recipe for Boston style baked beans, which while they go good with barbecue, the long baking time puts a lot of heat in a summer kitchen. It looked very intriguing in that they don't require you to soak the beans overnight first. (One of the things I like about America's Test Kitchen publications is that not only do they do a lot of experimenting to make the recipes come out right, they explain the results and why a test did or did not work. I'm always fascinated by how things work.)

So this simple recipe involved rendering some salt pork and bacon, softening an onion in that fat and then adding water, dry beans, molasses, brown mustard and salt. Nothing else. Bake for about 5-6 hours and voila! They came out very, very good. The only thing is... they were, shall we say, potent. Thank heavens I don't work in a tightly closed environment! While they were much less work than other recipes I've tried, I'm wondering if I should blend the recipe with another one I have that involves soaking in such a manner to turn down the volume of the music.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Planning ahead

Last night, I attended a retirement party for a close friend of mine that is retiring at the end of the month. I am SO jealous. Dick is like a brother to me (which only makes sense; he's a month older than my own brother) since we have so many common interests.

His retirement has gotten me to thinking about what I want to do when I retire, which if all goes according to plan, should be in about 4 years.

So here's a list of the things I'd like to do after retirement:

Move to a rural location - We've talked about Vermont, but western Massachusetts has it attraction as well. I'd like a place with about an acre of land, maybe a little more, that has some attraction to a wooded area, so that there is a chance of seeing wildlife in the yard. A place that has a sunny area to have a vegetable garden. I'll probably have lots of flowers, too. A mountain view or a broad valley view would be nice, but not necessary. Heat will be provided primarily by a wood stove. The kind that takes real logs, not wood pellets. I want the ambience that comes from the occasional wisp of smoke that escapes and reminds you where the heat is coming from.

The place will have to have a large, well laid-out kitchen. I love to cook and can't wait to try some of the many recipes I've found that take more time and effort. It's tough cooking for two, but lately we've found that it's just as easy to cook for 6-8 and freeze the leftovers for other, more hurried days. I'll probably keep that up, but I'll change 'hurried' to 'lazy'.

I want to preserve the produce from the garden; make pickles, can string beans, tomatoes, freeze berries. There's just something about the fact that later in the year, when using these products, knowing that they came from your own labor, makes them better than anything bought at the store.

Travel a bit - I love to fly, but unfortunately, that costs money, but I'm sure I could afford it once in a while. In the meantime, we've suddenly come across the idea of getting a 'teardrop' trailer. That's more than a pop-up tent trailer, but not all the way up to being a travel trailer. In most that we have seen, the galley is under a hinged awning that opens up from the rear of the trailer, so that using it is outdoors, but under a cover. In considering this, a nice pick-up truck with a cover over the bed to hold all the incidentals that go along with a camping trip would be nice to pull the trailer with.

There are so many places we'd like to go in the United States and Canada that it's almost impossible to start naming them. And most of them aren't 'tourist destinations', just some place I'd like to visit. Seattle, the northern plains states, the plains provinces, Prince Edward Island, Louisiana, parts of Texas, British Columbia. Oh, the list could go on forever. Not to mention, returning to Scotland, southern Germany and the southern parts of England we never got to on our previous trips over the Atlantic.

Obviously, I plan on reading. I do that now, but I'll have time to do even more. I'd like to take some college courses. Some of the things that I'm interested in are the same subjects that I hated when I was in school before: History, particularly 20th century; Math, another try at figuring out what is so confusing to me about Trig and Calculus, perhaps even some classic Literature.

I think I'll also have time to improve my skill at stamp-carving. After doing letterboxing for a year, I started carving some of my own stamps. It's easy to do, but hard to do well. And some of the work I've seen others do just blows me away.

And mostly, I want to just sit and watch the weather, the change of the seasons, the birds on the feeders and just reflect on life and how good it's been to me.

New member of the family

At the end of August, we lost an old and trusted friend. Our Golden Retriever, Cinnamon, had been a part of our lives for 13 years. But just like us, old dogs don't last forever. We had to say goodbye.
We had already decided that the hole in our hearts would be re-filled with another dog when the time was right. So after much searching at shelters (it's so much easier now with the internet) we found Agatha.

Aggie is about 10 months old and was born in Puerto Rico. We got her from the Worcester Animal Rescue League, which is one of the many outlets that Save-A-Sato (a rescue league in PR) uses to find homes for the many street dogs they round up.

According the nice letter we got with her, she was orphaned when her mother was hit by a car and was not being well cared for. That's all changed now.

She has made friends with our three cats (actually two are ours and the other is a long-term boarder that belongs to our son and his daughter) and has already become Mom's shadow. Her training is a little rough around the edges, but she does behave well, for a youngster.

Today, she became 'legal' as I went to City Hall and got her licensed. On the way home, I surprised her (and Mom) by stopping by Petco and getting her a new red collar to accent her jet-black coat. With the license and the rabies tag jingling, she just looks so proud.

I think she'll fit in here real well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New employment opportunities

So, yesterday, while standing at a service counter with my son, we were noticing and commenting on the fact that on the TV's that were on to entertain the customers waiting for their number to be called were all tuned to FoxNews. After we made a few snide remarks about why FoxNews and not CNN or MSNBC or any other news outlets, comments which may be fodder for another of my rants, we both noticed that reporting from the field in Afghanistan was one Col. Oliver North (ret.).

Immediately what popped into my head was a new addition to an old adage I have heard:

"Them that can, do. Them that can't, teach. Them that are experts, but got fired or resigned and now can't find work doing what they did, become expert reporters."

Think about how many ex-NFL head coaches are on ESPN and CBS Sports now. How many ex-MLB managers and general managers are on the sports shows as well. And Ollie North ain't the only expert reporter on network news. Am I wrong?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Some things never change.

I saw this quote just the other day in a book I'm reading. I wondered if it were something I wanted to say something about, but I couldn't figure what. Then Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina opened his mouth and bingo! It hit me that some things just never change.

"It looked to me as though those men were saying to the country as a whole, 'we are Republicans first. We represent you here in Congress not as citizens of the U.S. in a period of crisis, but as members of a political party which seeks primarily to promote its own partisan interests.' This is to me shocking and terrifying. There was running through my mind as I watched them, in what would have been an act of childish spite, if it had not been such a serious moment in history, the lines of a song which was popular when I was young: 'I don't want to play in your yard. I don't love you any more."

Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day January 6, 1941

Now, I'm not saying that the Democrats are all lily-white and innocent, but it sure seems to me that the Republicans sure have a thing for saying 'No' just for the sake of it. If a Democrat pointed out that the sun comes up in the east, you could probably get a complete episode from Rush Limbaugh explaining why that's just liberal untruth. It's almost as if ER had known Rush 10 years before he was born!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This will only hurt a little bit.

$2.3 billion = Fine against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for improperly marketing prescription drugs -- the largest settlement of its kind in US history.

TIME Sept. 14, 2009 edition.

Shares of Pfizer (PFE 16.21, -0.18, -1.10%) were down a fraction Wednesday morning, after the Justice Department announced what it said was the largest health-care-fraud settlement in the agency's history. 9/2/09

Now, I don't know everything about stocks and investing, but if a company has to pay a nagging little fine of $2.3 billion (with a 'b') and the stock's value only drops a shade over 1%, that tells me that the investors realize that this is really only a drop in the bucket for Pfizer. For years, we have all been hearing that the high cost of pharmaceuticals in this country are because of the high cost of meeting federal drug safety standards and testing. Well, if that were true, how did Pfizer have so much money they could afford to pay this fine so easily? Those high prices they were collecting should have already been spent on that testing and regulation.

Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but perhaps the high cost of drugs is so that the company can line its (and its investors' pockets)?

That issue of TIME I quoted above has 10 1/2 pages of ads for 5 prescription-only drugs from 4 different manufacturers (none of them Pfizer; they must be broke this week). TIME doesn't do that for pennies! Why advertise to the public? If I have to see a doctor to get these medicines, just tell HIM about them. That's what I pay him and the pharmacist for: to tell me what medicines are available for my particular condition and to prescribe what THEY feel is the best treatment for it.

I drive a train for a living. Yes, the company I work for handles only freight, but if I was running a passenger train, I really wouldn't want my doctor, who happened to be riding that day, give me suggestions as to how to run the train. In the same way, I'm not sure he would be real receptive to me 'asking my doctor' about Drug X or Treatment Y. So why do the pharmaceutical companies spend all this money on advertising in non-medical journals? To get more people to pressure their doctor to prescribe over-priced medicines! So they can line their pockets some more! So when they get caught doing something the FDA doesn't like, they can pay a fine without hurting the stockholders!

And one other thing. What line in the budget in Washington gets the $2.3b? I'll bet it would make a nice down payment on the proposed health plans Congress is supposed to be working on!

Apparently, she takes after her mother.

'I think one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded.'
Jenna Hager, daughter of former president George W. Bush, on becoming a correspondent for NBC's Today show.
TIME Sept. 14, 2009 edition.

What more can I say?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I am

In thinking about what I want to do with this blog, I had to take stock of myself to make a place to start. I thought I'd share it with you, as a way of getting to know me.

I am:
  • A son, brother, father, grandfather, nephew, cousin, uncle, husband, friend.
  • Almost 56.
  • 5'10"
  • Overweight.
  • Balding.
  • A locomotive engineer.
  • A reader.
  • A pet owner.
  • One who likes to travel.
  • A letterboxer.
  • A railfan.
  • Interested in how things work.
  • A foodie (but not a gourmet).
  • A cookbook collector (kinda goes with #7 and #13).
  • Sarcastic.
  • Somewhat cynical.
  • A should-be citizen of Missouri (Show me! Prove it to me!)
  • A union member.
  • A list maker (you noticed?).
  • A baseball fan. (Red Sox mostly, but not completely fanatical about that.)
  • A nature watcher.

There may be a few more things, but they aren't coming to mind right now. I'm going to use this list to come up with ideas of what to post about, so you can expect to see some expounding on this list.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Geezers in the 21st Century!

Hi! My name is Dave and I am a geezer in the 21st Century. I admit I am powerless over my geezerdom.

Oh, wait. Wrong forum! Anyway, welcome to my blog. I was urged to start this by one of my sons when I complained that something I said as an original idea was posted the same day by a 'professional' blogger. He said I should quit my day job and become a rich blogger myself.

I'm not thinking of going that far, but upon further thought, he was right. Why not share the thoughts going through my head at different times? So here it is.

What you'll see are stories from my past, random thoughts (and rants) that come to mind, opinions on current events, etc. (with plenty in the etc. department).

Your feedback will always be welcome. Even if I don't agree with you, I always enjoy a good discussion.

So let the fun begin!