Sunday, September 17, 2017

All the Wrong Lessons

If history teaches us anything, I would say that it teaches our society -- at best - very little.



In reading the (somewhat lengthy) introduction to Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, the editor,  Frederick Starr ("Formerly Professor of Anthroplogy at the University of Chicago") describes the lengths the Roman elite went to, in order to properly feed their guests. In doing so, he makes it clear that, in our own modern age, much of what we eat – flavors, sauces, prepartion techniques – has direct ties to the Romans, and their Greek slave cooks.

He also points out that this slave-dependent society meant that labor was cheap, and that the Roman middle class, such as it was, usually lived at a lower level of access to many things – especially foods – than household slaves did. This, of course, led to ill feelings between the classes (to say the least!). When it was evident to the entire of a city that a few were enjoying imported foods with exotic seasonings and rich, flavorful sauces while everybody else was suffering with the ancient equivalent of Top Ramen and an occasional boiled egg, one might expect some people to demand that "there ought to be a law".

I came across this passage, describing the official response to class envy over that very common brand of conspicuous consumption (emphasis mine):

During the reign of C├Žsar and Augustus severe laws were passed, fixing the sums to be spent for public and private dinners and specifying the edibles to be consumed. 
These laws classified gastronomic functions with an ingenious eye for system, professing all the time to protect the public’s morals and health; but they were primarily designed to replenish the ever-vanishing contents of the Imperial exchequer and to provide soft jobs for hordes of enforcers.
The amounts allowed to be spent for various social functions were so ridiculously small in our own modern estimation that we may well wonder how a Roman host could have ever made a decent showing at a banquet. However, he and the cooks managed somehow.

Does this taxing and restricting use of perishables, to make the hoi polloi feel better about themselves, sound familiar?

But, wait. There's more:
How did they do it?...

Difficile est satyram non scribere! To make a long story short: The Roman host just broke the law, that’s all. Indeed, those who made the laws were first to break them.

In other words, laws were for the little people.

We really are learning all the wrong lessons from ancient Rome, aren't we?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lesson learned

Today I was reminded of the hazards of sleeping late...

When I got out at first light to take my morning constitutional, I was ahead of most people, so I could walk in the street without worrying I'd disrupt automobile traffic. Today, I walked the city's uneven sidewalks, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- between an upraised square and basic laws of physics, I will be running out of acetaminophen and Myoflex this week.

Sum total human damage: scraped palms, scraped and bleeding knee, scraped cheek (yes, I did an actual, literal faceplant), slightly sprained right elbow and wrist, and popped shoulder (it does that. It took less than a second to put it right), all of which will provide me with hours of grumbles and some added color, tomorrow, but not much more than that.

Also, I scratched my favorite cheaters. Unlike me, their scraped surface means a prognosis of death.

On the plus side, I made my spectacular pratfall in front of a witness who *actually stopped and got out of his vehicle* to check on me! He waited until he was sure I could make the walk home, before he went on to his destination. I love small-town people!

But tomorrow, when I go walking, I will either go much earlier again, or find another stretch of sidewalk to venture down. Also, the cane is coming back out of the corner...for safety's sake.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vocabulary Cop on Patrol

I am judging you


I know it's been a long while since I posted anything here. It's not for lack of time or interest, but a failure to focus which kept me away.

I'm easily distracted by all sorts of small things. (It's why I have more or less constant adult supervision.) I'm also, therefore, easily irritated by small things.
Take, for example, vocabulary use. Like the Grammar Nazi, I take umbrage at laziness in applying the standard tools of communication. And, under normal circumstances, I will leap upon the offender at the drop of the first apostrophe, the first obvious malapropism.

This year, however, something began as a niggling disquiet, and only recently have I found it to be an honest-to-Roget hair shirt, sending me snarling from the room.

My issue? The increasing use of the term, "abdicating responsibility" for people who fail to perform their duties, when context implies no stated intent. The word they're looking for is "abrogating".

In the dictionary, the two mean almost the same thing. The difference, though subtle, is enormous in context. To abdicate is to formally step aside, with stated intention that one will no longer perform the assigned duties. To abrogate is to evade.

Abdication is public announcement that you will not accept the duties, or even the role. This generally allows the affected parties to find a replacement for you, to fulfill your duties. Abrogation is to accept the title publicly, but just not allow yourself to be bothered with the terms of the contract (implied or written). A government agent who announces he will not accept a title of office he would be entitled to, under normal circumstances, abdicates. But if that same official takes the title, and then proceeds to draw a paycheck while doing none of the actual work of the job, he abrogates. Abdication of responsibility can be honorable. Abrogation...not so much.

Call me an angry old pedant, if you will, but I just want communication to be as clear and refined as is humanly possible -- not fancy, just lacking smoke and smudge.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Just Stop With the World Apologies Already

Note: I posted this to my Facebook timeline earlier today, & enough people asked permission to share it that I've brought it here to my cobwebby blog, as well.

To all the people who were so desperate to see Hillary win: please stop apologizing to the rest of the  world for the election of Donald Trump. You helped it happen. You chose the worst possible candidate to lead your party (outside, possibly, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi), meanwhile looking the other way while evidence stacked up as to how she and her boss destabilized the world with their inept and/or crooked policies.

The POTUS you gleefully elected these last two cycles enabled both the expansion of corruption in our federal government and the escalation of racial mistrust and rage throughout our cities, culminating in riots and murder.

You looked the other way when every other racial and social group went out of its way to savage the middle class working white guy.

You supported the passage of laws which stifled free expression of religion (because, you claimed, "intolerance must not be permitted." How tolerant of you to not tolerate somebody's differing beliefs). You forced people to pay out of their hard-earned wages for the products of your own excess.

You encouraged members of your element to menace those who voted against you, even going so far as to publish addresses for the homes of private citizens -- and their children! -- who had expressed differing views, for all the world to harass.

Had you been capable of the same tolerance you demanded of others, you might, today, have no cause for trepidation from a backlash.

Had you supported a percievably honest-ish candidate, such as Bernie Sanders, you might not be crying in your trendy little vintner's cabernet, tonight.

No exalted platform awaits you for your sactimony.  You helped build this house. You get to live in it with the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

There had better be a boy and several human-sized arthropods in each one

In my mailbox recently was an advertisement from one of my favorite cooking sites (their recipes are usually not entirely about exotic ingredients and three-day preparations). Now, I know that many of the items they promote are, to put it mildly, a little outside my price range, so seeing a pretty mortar and pestle going for $65 doesn't shock me.

However, their special was six New England peaches for $31 plus $8 shipping and handling.

For those of you too lazy to do math any more, that's six dollars and fifty cents per peach. I can get a whole peck of good pie apples, three pounds of fresh grapes, a dozen oranges, or two pounds of fresh bing cherries for the price of one peach.

The ad promised that said peaches would be large, juicy, and full of flavor.  But at $6.50 per globe, I'd be looking at the bottom of the shipping crate to see if Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker were squished into it. Anything less than full Roald-Dahl-scaled impressive, and I'd rather fork out that kind of cash on my own gol-durned peach tree.

Come to think of it, maybe that's what I'll ask for, when my birthday rolls around…we need to take out the dying crabapples, & find a proper replacement. And there'd be fresh peaches every summer and homemade pie very year for the rest of my life.

Mmm…peach pie. Any pie.

Dang it! Now I'm going to have to bake something I shouldn't eat.

Meanwhile, I'm going to reread that awesome book, and dream of trans-oceanic fruit flights.

Back Off, Boogaloo

I wonder if this bumblebee knows Winnie the Pooh?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I heard you the first 20,000 times you said it

This is to every Trump stumper whose sole argument for the conservatives to cast aside their principles and vote for their man is this : because Hillary.

You have repeated this, as you say, ad nauseam (when you had the wherewithal to use the Latin, let alone spell it correctly). You say we aren't listening. You say, "Get in line or else."

Well, bucko, your arguments have not fallen on deaf ears. We have heard you, loud and clear. And our answer is a resounding, thund'rous, "GET STUFFED!"

Your choice for candidate is, insofar as both his and your  behavior indicate, precisely zero improvement over the frail, senile female crook the other party is offering as its choice. He, like her, is a proven liar and a kleptocrat. He, like her, promotes vast expansion of the federal government. He, like her, behaves as though people were put upon this earth only to serve his immediate desires. And you would hand over the security and safety of all of us in what is left of the free world "because Hillary."

In other words, out of fear that a nasty, senile old crook and her cronies might be put in the White House, you have demanded we support a nasty, insane, slightly younger crook and his insider cronies.

Well, I've listened to that argument enough. Neither of your disgusting options will receive my vote. If it means the White House is lost to the Republican party -- again -- so be it. That was YOUR choice, when you foisted that orange-skinned, tiny-mitted vulgarian thug upon the rest of us.

I will vote for every conservative and Republican I can, down ticket, but as far as you and your Cheeto Jesus are concerned, I am moving to Fukthatistan.

Are you listening to me, yet?

Friday, April 01, 2016

How to Keep a Nerd Out of Trouble

My family has a habit of collecting books. I get this from the distaff side, since Pop buys his history books, reads them, uses the data for his fun activities on the internet and touring, and then gives the books to the local college library, where he used to teach and I once attended a class or two. (I suspect, therefore, that my alma mater has the best Civil War and WWII selection of any school its size.)

Meanwhile, The Bat and I amass volumes. Between us, we managed to fill the pantry and kitchen with over a thousand cookbooks, and quite a few craft and art manuals. The downside to this is, one can never quite recall on short notice where a certain article or recipe is, and, if one does find it, one has to worry about smudging the pages or breathing in large volumes of accumulated allergens (yes, I have a dust allergy).

So, while my health is still fairly good, I decided to do something about both issues. Page by page, I'm putting the Bat's and my libraries into a digital form and storing it outside the house, in an online cache. I have a scanner, I have an internet connection (such as it is) and I'm not afraid to use it. This means stirring up all that dust, and even some mildew, so that all I will need for reference will be a phone or tablet.

I'm making myself sick for the greater good. Or, at least, for my own future well-being and comfort. I'm not sure how much of what I scan will fall into the category of public domain, so most will be stored behind internet walls. I hope to share my favorite pages with anybody who surfs into one of my public blogs, though. 

Besides the books, though, we have several ring-binder notebooks filled with pockets, each filled with loose-leaf projects, recipes, etc.

Like this one.


Click any image to embiggen




Because you know we all want to make an 18th-century-style wooden "fashion baby".

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Mom? Mom? Mom?

Ahhhh...nothing like a small creature to help you relax and sleep in, in the morning...

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Toy for the Cat

She played until she wore herself out... and then she sat and watched the little mousie scoot across the screen.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

One-Eye lives in peace

Little guy who feasts outside my bedroom window every day... I have no idea how his face got mangled, but he's getting along pretty well despite his loss.