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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cheers to the new bride and groom

As a father, it does your heart good to see your child so happy, even though you're scared half to death at the same time.   It's kind of bittersweet because it's like you're officially sending them off to the world.  I guess that's why the pastor asks "who's giving this woman away." 

My daughter got married yesterday and it was a lovely service.  During the father/daughter dance she told me her cheeks hurt.  No wonder, since she was beaming from ear to ear all evening.  What a lovely bride!
Everything went wonderfully, though there was a minor wedding dress malfunction; and I want to thank everyone who came and added to the special occasion.  Most importantly though, I want to thank those who put in many, many hours to make this happen:  Her mother, her stepmother, her stepfather, her sister, her Uncle Rick, her best friend's mother, the bridemaids and bridegrooms, as well as the Pastor and the parents of the groom.  Her dad helped some too.
Three daughters married and all grown to be wonderful women.  I couldn't be prouder, despite how bittersweet the process.
Congratulations, Emily and Peter.

PS  I will be posting an update, either here or on All Things Zebster, when more pics become available.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sacking of Shirley Sherrod

I've wanted to write something about this incident but working 8 straight evenings since last Tuesday and my daughter's wedding coming tomorrow, I haven't had the time to research and write a decent piece.  Let me say I share the thoughts of my friend, DCHomer whose post I'm putting here.

DCHomer:  "These are NOT my words. They are the blog comments of my fraternity brother, Attorney Chuck Hobbs of Florida."

The Sacking of Shirley Sherrod---President Obama should Reinstate Her Immediately

Posted 7/21/2010 12:44 PM EDT on

Reject! Repudiate! Condemn!

In today's 24 hour political news cycle it seems as if not a day passes without some politician, lobbyist or talking head making a statement that so vexes his or her ideological opponents that summary calls for rejection, repudiation or condemnation soon hail forth.
The latest example is Shirley Sherrod, a heretofore relatively obscure black employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who in March addressed a NAACP gathering and discussed her own peregrination toward racial enlightenment. The blog Big Government recently decided to cut and post only
part of her statement where she describes, back in 1986, how she nearly used her authority at the USDA in a wrongful and racially tinged manner.
In her speech, Sherrod describes how she felt that a white farmer “came in acting superior to her” and that “she debated how much help to give him.”  Sherrod also stated that "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with helping a white person save their land."
Standing alone, such comments certainly reveal racial bias by a government official charged to assist farmers regardless of color.
The problem, however, is that there was a second part of her statement that certain individuals, for reasons known only to themselves, conveniently chose to leave out.
Sherrod went on to state that the situation “opened (her) eyes…that whites were struggling just like blacks, and helping farmers wasn’t so much about race but about the poor versus those who have.”  Instead of Sherrod being hailed as a shining example of how one can overcome their own latent biases to treat people fairly, she was fired this week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, like the NAACP, rushed to condemn the partial statement without having the gumption to ascertain whether there was more to the story---which clearly there was.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Zebster's Maine Baked Beans

Since I'm going to be making my beans for my daughter's wedding next weekend and we're calculating how much of each ingredient we need to make essentially 8 batches, I thought I'd share my recipe again.  This was posted on All Things Zebster in July of 2006.

This recipe is for traditional Maine or New England baked beans, none of that crap with the soggy little beans in a tomato or bbq sauce. You can use a crock pot, do it in the oven inside a bean pot; you can even dig a hole in the ground and cook it in there for several days (hardcore and best, but I'm too lazy and impatient). So I use a crock pot. You'll only need about a half hour or so of prep time but you'll need to cook them all day.
Ingredients: One pound Jacobs Cattle beans, onion, 1/2 pound salt pork, 1/2 cup of BROWN sugar, 2/3 cup molasses, 1/4 cup of real maple syrup (honey works good too), 3 teaspoons dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
I think using the right beans is one of the keys. I prefer Jacobs Cattle or Yellow Eye or the like. You can use pinto beans, I suppose, but see above and don't tell me if you saddens me deeply. Let me amend that. If you want real baked beans, then find the good dry beans I've mentioned. Don't cheat and use canned beans or whatever. If you want it to taste right, like it's supposed to, then you need to start with the right ingredients. There's no point in doing it, otherwise.
You should check the bag of beans because occasionally there's a pebble or a bad bean. Then put them in a large bowl of water and soak them overnight.
In the morning parboil the beans until you can blow the skin off one, about a half hour, which gives you time to get your ingredients together. You'll need some salt pork (no bacon...this isn't breakfast), which you'll need to cut through the rind side about a half inch in a waffle design so it'll fall apart nicely when everything's cooked. Quarter at least one onion and place it in the bottom of the pot. Then drain and add your parboiled beans. Place the salt pork on top. In one pint of boiling water add your molasses, syrup, dry mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. I like mine peppery. I've been known to use Montreal steak pepper. But at least 3 teaspoons of pepper. Pour this over the beans, adding more boiling water, if necessary, to cover the beans...usually an extra half pint to pint. Then cook on low in the crock pot or 300 degrees in the oven for at least 6 hours.
When at all possible serve with red casing hotdogs and brown bread, also often served in Maine with coleslaw. Since you're going to fart like crazy after eating them, plus the cabbage in the cole slaw, you might as well go all out and wash it down with a hearty ale. You won't have any trouble being left alone after that.
And by the way, if I find out that you put ketchup on my beans, I'll hunt you down and shoot you! Ketchup is for hamburgers, meatloaf and bad french fries.
UPDATE 7/25/10:  Made a large batch (8X above) for my daughter's wedding and have a couple of important notes.  As Shelly has said, it's my best batch yet and I attribute that to using Grandma's Molasses, which was used because it's gluten free.  It's stronger in my opinion and worth using.  But if you're making this recipe for the first time and using Grandma's, I'd use 1/2 cup of molasses and perhaps a little more water.  It's always to taste anyway.  For this batch we ended up using yellow eye and great northern beans, which are smaller but I felt they needed extra soaking and parboiling compared to the soldier beans.
UPDATE 3/8/11:  Made a batch at my mother's this past weekend, this time cooking them in a gas oven using a cast iron dutch oven...another significant improvement, which is hard to believe as good as they already were.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Your insatiable appetite for crap

Warning:  Old Zebster rant.
When I worked in sales for a cable company, several times a day I would hear complaints that "there's nothing on TV," while you glance at their television to see it's on a "reality" show or some junk like Entertainment Tonight and copies of the worst tabloid rags are lying around their home telling you who's sleeping with who or who's pregnant with an alien baby or who has a crack habit.
America, you can complain all you want about what's on television but it's a simple matter of profit.  Media companies only deliver what you and your neighbors watch and read.  Advertisers will only spend their bucks on media that's being viewed by large numbers.  The more sensational and scandalous, the more likely you are to want to know about it and then to know more about it.  Your crap habit is out of control and the media companies don't mind as long as it's profitable.
Why are our television shows, newspapers and magazines filled with salacious stories about celebrities?  Because for some reason that I'm unable to fathom, you want to know about that shit.  Just last night my local NBC affiliate showed a segment during the 6:00 news where they were trying to get a peek of Taylor Swift filming a music video in Kennebunkport, ala TMZ.  At least they led with the fatal shooting by police officers of a Marine veteran shooting a gun outside the VA Hospital in Togus, but then again that still fits the profile.  To you sheep it's less a news story and more a sensational story.
Here's something for you to chew on:  In the three years I was selling cable I was in thousands of homes.  If I was in a home that had scandal rags lying around and they also had a cable news channel turned on, every single time it was the same one.  I'll let you guess which one and you can decide for yourself what to make of that.
You claim to hate the paparazzi but they're the ones feeding your insatiable appetite for crap.  There's obviously money to be made stalking celebrities.
So don't complain to the networks or your cable salesman, complain to your neighbors and take a look in the mirror.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Open discussion -- PFC Manning

Imagine for just a minute that you're 22 year old PFC Bradley Manning, a patriotic soldier doing your job and minding your own business, when one day the worst possible moral and patriotic dilemma falls in your lap.  You're working as an intel analyst when you see part or all of what's become known as the Collateral Murder footage, where it certainly appears that an Apache helicopter is firing on unarmed people trying to keep from being shot at.   So for the sake of this discussion, let's assume it is what it appears to be.
If you're unfamiliar with this issue, here's some background from the PBS show Need To Know that includes a videotape of the incident.
Now I could care less about the website Wikileaks or its founder, Julian Assange.  My concern is that the issue easily gets sidetracked when you talk about Wikileaks because, the Collateral Murder tape aside, most of us would agree we don't agree with their methods and their choices.
But just from a purely patriotic and moral standpoint, how do you feel about the fact that Manning released a sensitive US military "document" that plainly puts the US in a bad light? 
Is it that simple...thou shalt never release anything, no matter the circumstances, at any time?   No.
Is it worse because he was an active duty soldier as opposed to a civilian?  I don't think so.  You don't have to obey an unlawful order, for example.  The issue is certainly complicated by the fact that this whistle blowing incident takes place during wartime, where doing the right thing can often also be doing the wrong thing.  Yes, both at the same time in my opinion.
This is where I fall on this if I were to put myself in his shoes.  I know if I go against my government and cause this material to become public, I'm going to go to jail for a long time and rightfully so.  No matter the cause, I'm breaking the wartime laws of my country that I've sworn to uphold.  But I'd do it anyway.  The releasing of that material is detrimental to our country but the incident in and of itself is detrimental to this country and the ramifications of not coming clean (YET AGAIN) in these kinds of incidents is much worse. 
I can envision instances where during wartime I could witness a murder and still know that the right thing is to keep it a secret.  This isn't one of those instances.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

First remember, then let's get to the grub

Happy Birthday, America. Go out and have some fun.  Please remember, our differences are our strength and what make this great country the envy of all others.  On this Independence Day, it wouldn't hurt to revisit the document that starts it all, so to speak.  So thanks to the Boston Globe, here's a link to the full text of the Declaration of Independence.

Now, how about a little discussion about your favorite 4th of July foods.  For me it has to be something off an outdoor grill and nothing says America more than a great burger.  Is there any better burger than one off your grill on this special holiday?  I think not.  For me it's grilled medium, with cheese, tomato, lettuce and dill pickle, mayo and mustard.  My favorite grill side dish is a simple potato salad.  For a beverage, I find nothing goes better with a grilled burger than a cold ale and my favorite is Shipyard Export from right here in Maine.

UPDATE:  While tinkering with the blog, I came upon this piece I wrote for Independence Day four years ago.  I'm quite proud of this one.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.