Diary

Storage options

Aging comes with a slow-down of metabolism. Some people’s bodies seem to deal with this process better than others. And then there are folks like us who can gain weight on even minor caloric deviations.

We gave up a long time ago on 10 lb. bags of potato’s. Now even 5 lb. bags want to sprout before we can get through them. I don’t eat many, but my wife still likes them so I still cook with them for her.

A greater issue has been what to do with onions? With us spending time at home AND at our place in the Dells those onions seem the bigger sprouting problem. We used to follow the accepted wisdom and store them in the coolest, darkest cupboard we have.

Recently, however, we tried putting onions in the hydrator drawer of the fridge and for us that has been just the trick! They don’t sprout, and for some reason they seem to peel more easily. I only ever have whole onions. I have never quite understood why some recipes call for 1/2 of an onion. I like the flavor and because we don’t care for RAW onions the flavor of a whole cooked onion is not as objectionable as that of a whole RAW onion.

If you haven’t checked you storage options, consider the chart above.

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Diary

Peas, Geez

Love / Hate: I suspect we all have relationships of some sort that fit the bill. For me, one of mine is that ham/pea/cheese cold salad that seemed a staple of picnics and pot lucks of my youth.

As I remember them it seemed like cooks would use frozen peas that had never seen even as much as the heat of a matched and sort of crunched when you bit down on them. Eeeeewwwww!

And yet there IS something pleasant about the flavors. Although as long as I’m doing the Leto diet thing peas won’t pass my lips: too high in carbs. Oh well../


Ingredients:

  • 2 packages (16 oz. each) frozen peas, thawed and drained
  • 1/2-1 cup diced Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2-1 cup diced Mozzarella cheese. (I prefer Swiss, but the “classic” recipe always used mozzarella)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.Refrigerate until serving.

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Diary

We Are Who We Are – A Nation of Self-Indulgents

The obstinate refusal by COVID deniers to act in the best interest of the larger population is not a new phenomenon in the U.S.. There is a direct comparison to be found in citizen behavior during World War II.

Refusal to comply with government requests for blackouts in coastal areas were directly contributory to loss of life among the U.S. merchant fleet trying to supply the allied war effort.


If anti-maskers existed during WWII

Okay, here’s the thing though. It isn’t a question of whether. They did exist and this is exactly what they did.

After the United States entered World War II at the end of 1941 and Germany subsequently declared war upon it, Great Britain recommended several steps the United States should take in order to safeguard their ships from Nazi u-boats. Recommendations included sailing ships in convoy (preferably with escort, but records proved ships in convoy without escort were still safer than ships sailing alone), if a ship had to sail on its own, it should avoid known navigation routes and markers, and towns and cities along the East Coast should adhere to strict blackouts at night. These recommendations came from the previous two years of experience in which u-boats absolutely ran wild in the North Atlantic and North Sea, obliterating British shipping. This period of time was referred to by Nazi u-boat captains as “The First Happy Time”. 

Despite British warnings, the United States was slow to follow them and impose restrictions. Ships continued to sail along marked navigation routes and run standard navigation lights at night. Boardwalk communities along the coast were only requested they turn off their lights at night and the cities weren’t even asked that because they didn’t want to offend the tourism, recreation, and business sectors

Blacking out coastal communities would have made it infinitely harder for Nazi submarines to find and sink targets. A ship running with no lights is still visible against the backdrop of a lit city.

Conversely, a dark ship running against a dark coast is virtually invisible.

But because citizens living on the coast refused to adhere to wartime suggestions for amenity reasons, merchant ships sailing up and down the East Coast became sitting ducks of u-boats. The US government did not begin strictly enforcing blackouts until roughly August 1942. By then, the Nazis had been given 8 months to run rampant along American shores. This time period was referred to by u-boat captains as “The Second Happy Time” or “American Shooting Season”. 

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By August, Nazi u-boats had sunk 609 merchant vessels, totaling 3.1 million tons and costing thousands of lives, mostly of merchant mariners performing their essential jobs. 

By comparison, only 22 u-boats were sunk.

While the failure of coastal blackouts were not the sole reason the Nazis had such success during this time period (the Navy was slow to implement convoys and remove notable aids to navigation along the coast), I do not think it can be argued they did not contribute significantly to such great loss of American lives.

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Diary

The Toast Rack: A History and Appreciation

It’s funny the way the strangest passing thoughts can trigger the most curious memories. I was in my thirties, on a speaking trip in the UK before I had my first interaction with a toast rack.

It was brilliant! Finally a logical way of handling toast that didn’t result in two pieces having one soggy side each from being piled one-on-top-of-the-other. my British friends had changed my life for ever.

That trip I found a little store that had a two piece, lightweight, rack I could squeeze into my carry-on luggage and I was happy as a pig in mud!

My first toast rack looked pretty much like this!

Since then I’ve had several others and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

From personal experience I don’t recommend the carved wooden ones where the toast sets in a groove. Crumbs get stuck in the groove and the part sitting in the groove tends to get moist again.

Anyway… you might enjoy this little trip into a more gentile era of elegance and time taken to do things right…


Raise a toast to this odd, excellent object

By Julia Bainbridge

The first toast rack I ever received was sterling silver. It had five rings with one smaller handle ring perched like the head of a snowman atop the central base ring, and four paw feet. It wasn’t particularly ornate—the rings were smooth and devoid of any decorative etchings—and its maker wasn’t apparently of particular note, but it was being placed into my hands because it was to be mine, and that was an exciting enough proposition to attribute to it fine worth. I was fifteen, and the toast rack looked like the kind of formal tabletop item for which a bride-to-be would register—a marked difference from the the wooden or plastic toys of what was at the time my not-so-distant childhood. As the youngest of the four Bainbridge children, not to mention the only female, anything that made me feel more adult was a very welcome thing indeed.

But what was it? Like Ariel the mermaid furrowing her ginger brow at a dinner fork before using its three prongs to detangle her hair, I wiggled the metal contraption, expecting it to somehow speak to me, revealing its purpose.

“It’s a toast rack,” my mother said. “I use it to hold letters, as my grandmother did with hers. Put it on your desk!” Apparently I come from a line of toast rackpeople.

According to Cynthia Harris, who runs Sotheby’s silver department in London, the earliest print reference to a toast rack was in 1789. The rack in question belonged to John William Anderson, a City of London alderman, and along with a significant amount of other domestic silver, it was stolen by two burglars, John Cave and John Partington. “The report includes that the toast rack was valued at two pounds, which was probably quite high at the time,” says Harris.

Anderson was later knighted, but Cave and Partington were tried at the Old Bailey and condemned to death. (Cave was ultimately spared for whatever reason.) From then on, numerous references to the toast rack, a normally silver or silver-plated item that consists of vertical partitions, usually five or seven, connected to a flat base with four to six feet and a handle, appear in 18th and 19th century cookbooks.

“Dry toast may be made before it is wanted, and should be set up in the toast-rack the moment it is done,” reads page 11 of The Housemaid’s Complete Guide, written by A.M. Sargeant in 1851. The toast rack’s purpose: to prevent bread soggery. Page 341 of Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-Day Cookery, published in 1865, points out that “to make dry toast properly, a great deal of attention is required; much more, indeed, than people generally suppose.” The toast rack, said Mrs Beeton, is paramount to the process.

“American toast lacks reserve and dignity: it is too sweaty and indiscrete and emotional.” 

“The English would rather have their toast cool and dry than warm and damp,” anthropologist Kate Fox writes in Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. In fact, you still see toast racks around the U.K., mostly in nice hotels and in restaurants that serve breakfast. Fox continues, “American toast lacks reserve and dignity: it is too sweaty and indiscrete and emotional.”

Buttered fresh out of the toaster so that the solids turn melty and seep into the toast’s epidermis—that’s how we like it. In recent years, we Americans have even taken to giving our toast avocado treatments, mashing thick slices of the fruit into one side of the bread. That requires a rather sturdy piece of toast, especially if it is to support additional toppings beyond the avocado, which it’s often required to do. Our tastes along with our casual and busy modern lifestyles have been shooing toast racks out the back door since the end of World War II.

Those that have stuck around are either the rare versions, destined to be auctioned off to collectors or museums by Sotheby’s and the like, or are part of a larger silver collection being sold in an estate sale. At Hartman Rare Artin New York City, I found two Georgian-era toast racks, two from the Victorian era, three from the mid-19th century, and one silver-plated toast rack that the shopkeepers didn’t care to date. It was priced at around $150; depending on the ounces of silver in the item, the notoriety of its maker, and its age, toast racks at Hartman can sell for up to around $1,800.

I know this because I make it my business to know it. The whiff of maturity I caught when I received my first toast rack was so heady that it still hasn’t faded, and I keep it fresh by making a new purchase here and there. I wouldn’t say I’m a collector, but I would say I own more toast racks than the average American woman in her early thirties.

That first one, which has now been with me for eighteen years, would probably sell for less than $150. It sits prominently on the first bit of counter surface any guest of mine sees upon entering my apartment, and I’ve given it a second life, just as my mother did hers, as a letter holder. Never in this century has it been used for toast—I’ve always lived alone, and I only make one piece at a time—but it’s an efficient and attractive tool for organizing mail. Anyway, I’m an adult; I can do with it as I please.

Julia Bainbridge is an editor, writer, and host and creator of The Lonely Hour, a podcast about loneliness that’s not a bummer.

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Diary

The Infamous 1972 Report That Warned of Civilization’s Collapse

Problems, problems, problems.

Wherever one looks in the world there are problems which at first glances] seem insoluble. ARE THEY INSOLUBLE? Or are we just making a big deal out of trivialities.

In my mind, the first notable addressing of the question was in the 1972 book The Limits of Growth. It’s now 50 years later and what of the predictions made there?

The following is a look back on the predictions that appeared in the journal WIRED. This article written by Matt Simon is worth a read by any thinking individual.


The Limits to Growth argued that rampant pollution and resource extraction were pushing Earth to the brink. How does it hold up 50 years later?

The computer modeling made it plain: If people continued to overextract finite resources, pollute on a massive scale, and balloon the human population in an unsustainable way, civilization could collapse within a century. It sounds like that modeling could have been done last week, what with climate change, water shortages, and microplastics corrupting every corner of the Earth. But in fact it dropped in the 1972 book The Limits to Growth, published by the Club of Rome, an international organization of intellectuals founded in 1968. 

The book sold millions of copies and was translated into at least 30 languages, attracting a storm of controversy. It was, after all, very early computer modeling—completed on a punch-card machine at MIT—and a highly simplified simulation of complex global systems. And it was making rather grand and consequential predictions. (As the old quip goes: All models are wrong, but some are useful.) That model spit out scenarios in which humanity either got more sustainable and equitable, and thus flourished, or continued letting capitalists plunder the planet and our civilization to death.

“What came from the simulations is that most of the cases—but not all, and it’s important to say not all—the evolution of a number of variables like population, production, pollution, was showing that around the mid-21st century, we would have a scenario of collapse of human civilization,” says Carlos Alvarez Pereira, vice president of the Club of Rome and co-editor of the new retrospective book Limits and Beyond: 50 Years on From The Limits to Growth, What Did We Learn and What’s Next? “The whole thing was framed into doomsday prophecy. We didn’t succeed in bringing the message that it was not about that. It was really about: We have the capacity to choose. We have, as humanity, the capacity to decide what kind of future we want.” 

To mark the book’s 50 year anniversary, WIRED sat down with Alvarez Pereira to talk about how that future is shaping up, what’s changed in the half-century since Limits, and how humanity might correct course. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Carlos Alvarez Pereira: It was an attempt to open the space of possibilities for the future of humanity. In the ’60s and early ’70s, the fundamental question was: Is it possible to expand the concept of human development we had at the time to the whole planet, without negative consequences? 

Limits to Growth was, I think, a serious and rigorous attempt to use the best, not only knowledge, but also computer tools, which at the time were quite primitive, to simulate a number of scenarios for the future, to inquire on this big question. In some scenarios it was conceivable to find a balance between human well-being or human development, and the finiteness of resources on Earth.

CAP: The main variables are a set of five: population, food production, industrial production, natural resources, and pollution. What produces collapse in most of the scenarios is the combination—it’s not all only one thing. In the case of fossil fuels, it’s both the consumption of the reserves of fossil fuels and the pollution. 

What could lead to a more sustainable scenario, or a scenario of balance? Fundamentally, it is about equity, managing the resources in an equitable way, knowing in advance that they’re limited. Realizing that it’s not higher and higher consumption which makes us live in a good way, have a healthy life and well-being. It’s the quality of our relationships with other humans, with nature, that makes possible the scenarios in which you can decouple well-being and the growth of consumption.

We have incredible capacities to develop new technologies, but the point is that we don’t use them under the assumption that they should reduce the ecological footprint. This is not a criteria of design. And let’s remember that ecological footprints are extremely unequal. Typically, the average footprint in the US is 20 to 40 times the average footprint in Africa. 

WIRED: Right, there’s this notion that first and foremost the problem we have is population growth. But that ignores the fact that the United States alone is responsible for a quarter of historical emissions. It’s not so much the fact that we have more people, it’s that we have unsustainable lifestyles.

CAP: We already have an ecological footprint that is far too high compared to what the Earth can carry. It’s a matter, in my view, of considering that well-being comes with relationships, not necessarily a high degree of material consumption. It’s a matter of considering that we can dramatically reduce the ecological footprint of the so-called rich countries. I know that it sounds weird, because we are so used to associating well-being with material consumption. Saying this is like, “Oh, we are proposing going back to the Middle Ages.” No, not at all. 

WIRED: I think you could safely characterize the reaction to Limits to Growth as an uproar. Did that come from scientists or capitalists or politicians? Or maybe all of the above? What were the main points of contention?

CAP: We have to be in a good balance with the planet where we live. And that part of the message was completely lost, very rapidly. Jimmy Carter, when he was president, was listening to this kind of approach. And then of course, the political mood changed a lot with the rise of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Reagan himself has a discourse in which he says, literally, there are no limits to growth. So from a political point of view, there was a complete denial of what the book was saying.

What creates a little bit of frustration is that in the scientific domain, there was not enough controversy, because somehow the book was discarded by many. Not by everybody. By many, it was discarded as a doomsday prophecy. And for sure, we were not successful among economists at the time. 

WIRED: Presumably economists weren’t too fond of it because growth is inherent to capitalism. And unchecked growth really, a kind of maniacal, ecologically-destructive growth at all costs that’s built into the system.

CAP: What the system has done, as a mechanism to continue with growth at all costs, is actually to burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. There is no way that we can reuse the time we had when we started this conversation. And by building up a system which is more debt-driven—where we keep consumption going, but by creating more and more debt—what we’re actually doing is burning or stealing the time of people in the future. Because their time will be devoted to repaying the debt.

WIRED: It seems obvious that we’ll eventually run out of finite resources. But there was even pushback against that idea when the report came out. Where does that insistence come from?

CAP: The paradox is that capitalism is also based on the notion of scarcity. Our system is organized around the idea that resources are scarce, then we have to pay for them, and people in the value chain will profit from this idea of scarcity. Conventional capitalism is saying that while these resources might be finite, we will find others: Don’t worry, technology will save us. So that we continue in the same way. 

WIRED: 50 years on from the original report, are we on the right course as a species?

CAP: No, if you look at the reality. And no, in particular, if you look only at what governments and corporations do, if you look at what the decision makers decide, and the systems of governance we have, whether national or global. We’re not better in terms of pollution, because we have climate warming, an existential issue. We’re not better in terms of biodiversity. We are not in terms of inequality. So there are plenty of reasons to say no.

But there are also good reasons for optimism of the will. And those reasons are possibly less obvious, less evident, less in the headlines in the media and elsewhere. We definitely think there is an ongoing cultural change often hidden in plain sight. Many are experimenting, often at the community level, trying to find their own pathways towards that balance of well-being within a healthy biosphere. A change that brings hope to me is the change in the status of women, the increasing roles of women. And I would say that if you look at what’s happening with the younger generations, there is a big change as well. 

So politically, at the level of corporations, at the official level, things are going pretty much in the wrong direction. Culturally, below the line, my bet is that a lot of things are happening in the good direction. The human revolution is already happening—it’s just that we don’t see it. And maybe it’s good that we don’t see it yet, until the very moment where it makes a lot of things shift.


Without optimism we stand zero likelihood of changing anything. The fact that Capitalist powers will forever be resistant to any change that reduces their income is pretty much a given. Even the most forward looking corporations — those willing to sacrifice short term profit for guaranteed longer term profit will struggle with many of the challenges and choices that lie ahead.

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Motivated Corpse

One of my pet peeves on almost every competition — whether sports or food or even scholastic — is the guy/gal who is supremely confident bragging about how they are super motivated and they never fail and they are just going to demolish their competition.

The thing is, being motivated isn’t the be-all, end-all of life — or of competition. It’s a difficult and expensive thing to get a permit to climb Mount Everest, but nearly every year there are physically and financially motivated individuals who die attempting to reach the summit.

  • Sometimes you need a certain level of skill — which a climber may think they possess but which in fact they do not possess.
  • Sometimes you need a little bit (or a lot of) luck. Weather is unpredictable. Sometimes a clear day turns stormy. Sometimes ice cracks and leaves unseen crevices. Sometimes avalanches occur. Some things you simply can’t predict.

My point in all of this is simple. Life is all about balance. Motivation is extremely important. But motivation alone does not guarantee success. Motivation, skill, luck, and probably a few other factors impact us all and just because we want something really badly, or just because we visualize ourselves winning doesn’t mean a doggone thing. It takes what it takes to succeed. Sometimes it’s easier; other times it’s harder. But don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash.

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Diary

Distrust For Cause

We were driving to the Wisconsin Dells for some time together with our daughter at our trailer. It was a gorgeous day; we seemed to have timed our trip between bouts of cloud cover and rain, so the skies were high and bright. Unfortunately, also out on the road we’re selfish, rude, and inconsiderate drivers.

I’m going to make this a short post because I really don’t like whinging and whining. But I have a reputation for not having a lot of trust in others and I have to say that during any drive I’ve made in the last year there have been multiple drivers who simply have not done what the rules of the road would require you to do. It’s simply foolish to expect ANYTHING of other drivers.

Drive safely for yourself and your family. Protect yourself and those you love.

I an era where everyone seems to drive 5 or even 10 MPH over the limit I have given up trying to KEEP UP. I routinely drive a couple MPH below the limit because— without causing a traffic hazard — I would rather see cars pulling away from me than have cars right in front of me hitting their brakes.

During the years I drive semi I could not speed. My truck was governed at 62 MPH and no matter what I wanted the truck did not go faster. When I was in traffic — like congested rush hour in Chicago — I would watch the speed demons who tried to zoom and swerve from lane to lane and inevitably if they were taking the same highways as I, by the time we reached the other side of town I could usually seem those zoomy cars not all that far ahead of me.

Nowadays, more often than not in town the guy that passes me on the right (in the bike lane) ends up stopped at the same light as me. Where did their risk taking get them. 5 seconds sooner to the RED light? So many stupid and ineffectual risks.

I know I’m a dinosaur. But rude and risky driving is a big part of why I don’t trust very many people. If they are willing to risk their life for NOTHING, what will they do for an actual CAUSE?

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Zeit Geist Or Welt Schmerz

Yesterday while running errands around town I put a Beach Boys playlist from my iPhone on the car stereo. We had been sitting on a park bench on the shoreline of Lake Michigan and the sun was warm — bringing back a lot of great memories.

It’s summer. In my mind, and being of “that generation” summer is Beach Boys time. I wasn’t super into music in my teens — I was way too serious way too young in life — but the music that I have fondest memories of was all about the lads of Summer.

The thing is, in English we lack words for what I really have in mind for today.

I was born in ‘49; a baby boomer. “My” music was different than my parents. Our daughter was born in ’72; her music is very different from ours. Today the music is very different from anything that went before it. There are periods of time in music that reflect the social climate in the world around the musicians who make the period memorable. Anyone can tell Bach from the Beach Boys, or the Grateful Dead from Beethoven.

In German there are two terms that have been on my mind: Welt Schmerz and Zeit Geist — sometimes written as one word, other times as two words (each).

Welt·schmerz
(noun)
A feeling of melancholy or world-weariness

And

zeit·geist
(noun)
the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time: “the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s”

Without a doubt, a great many people have been feeling weltschmerz. The last few years, specially in the U.S. have been a time of angst and trauma. There’s good reason to be weary of the world when lawmakers do nothing but argue and courts strip away the rights of the people. But life was not always thus. And I for one great up in a time of very different zeitgeist. I grew up with bubble gum music and rock and roll.

I make no attempt to keep abreast of current music. Oh, when our grand daughter talks about a musical group they love, or a group they’ve been to hear I check out their sound — sure. If it’s of interest to the family then I care but in the same way I don’t watch TV programs that I feel are a waste of my time, I don’t go shopping for music that has no melody, or songs with fewer than 15 words in the lyrics. Some things I enjoy; others I don’t — and I’m old enough now that I have decided I’m not going to waste my time on things I don’t like.

But the question still comes to mind about what manner of “spirit” does the music of today show? I think the young folks in our family have their heads pretty much screwed on straight. They are employed, building a family, have their finances mostly in order — we’re pretty proud of who they are turning out to be. But I see a lot from other Millennials that is a lot less encouraging and I wonder what — on the macro scale — the average attitude about the world might be.

After WWII there were problems — sure — but there was a we-can-do-it attitude all around. The country was booming and the sky seemed to be the limit — in fact with astronauts and moon travel it was literally the limit. Today it seems that space is only for the super rich, the economy is whacked out of shape, the environment is crashing. How do the people of this age feel about all that? If you listen to what I hear of the music I have no idea at all. I hear lots of songs with repetitious lyrics. I hear a lot of what used to be called trance music — which to my ears sounded like something to take when you’re high on drugs and aren’t actually “thinking” about anything at all.

I accept that I’m an old dinosaur, and that I’m out of touch with this generation. But I sure wish I could still be here 50 or 100 years from now to see that the evolution of this age’s music will be seen as when that time comes. To me the Big Bands and Rock and Roll and Bubble Gum music are part of my makeup — I can no more divorce myself of their influence that I could survive without eating. But I wonder what melodies successive generations will hum in their old age when I have the likes of Kokomo playing on the cassette recorder in my brain.

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