Thanksgiving Stuff(ing?)

I’m going to have dinner with my cousins and their Greek relatives.  Their dinners are usually big, delicious and LOUD.  Should be fun.

I found this recipe from the guys at Sorted for barbecued turkey, not to be mistaken for deep fried turkey that you have to cook on your patio to keep your house from going up in flames.  My family used to barbecue turkeys in the summer for parties.  On a per pound basis, turkey is pretty cheap and when it’s barbecued over charcoal, it takes on a southern smokey flavor.  Weber kettles are the best for this because of their round shape.  They still need to cook for a good long time but the good thing is that it’s hard to overcook them.  My mom tends to like her meat totally exsanguinated, dejuiced and toughened by exposure to prolonged overheating.  Sure, it’s good to make sure your poultry is thoroughly cooked but you can take it too far, which she does.  Oddly, this is harder to do when you’re barbecuing it.  So, I recommend this method if you’re dealing with cooks or guests who like super, extra well-done meat and everyone else, um, doesn’t.

 

Serve that baby up with some mashed sweet potatoes with smoked paprika and ancho chili powder and a gravy boat of mole sauce and that is one delicious dinner.

One final thing, that concoction that goes into the bird (or used to until people started freaking out about germs).  I like  mine with sausage, apples, golden raisins, celery, onion, walnuts and seasoning.  My nephews HATE that combination.  Give them StoveTop and they’re fine.  But whatever you choose to serve, what do you call it?  I’ve always called it stuffing.  When I lived in Ballston Spa New York as a kid, everyone called it filling.  Yes, technically, it is filling a cavity but filling somehow fails to convey the essence of the dish.  Then there is dressing.  That one makes no sense at all but it sounds a bit like what Jane Austen’s family might have done to the pheasant that Mr. Bingley shot.

Anyway, what do you call it?  And what’s your favorite dish?

Happy T-day!

 

Joy in the Morning

Joy Womack quit the Bolshoi a few days ago.  For those of you not following this story, Joy Womack was one of the first Americans to graduate from the famed Bolshoi training academy last year.  She got a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet shortly afterwards.

Her director Sergei Filin was attacked by a couple of thugs earlier this year who threw acid in his face.  He suffered third degree burns and lost the sight in one of his eyes.  It was a shocking event not only because of the viciousness of the attack but because it was apparently organized by a dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, in revenge for the poor treatment his girlfriend was getting from Filin.  The trial is going on now.  Apparently, Dmitrichenko asked the guys he hired to rough Filin up.  He never asked for the acid treatment.

Anyway, long story short, this week, Joy alleges that she was told by a higher up in the company that if she wanted to dance a solo she was going for, she’d have to fork over $10K.  She didn’t say who asked for the money but it’s interesting to note that Filin is back and 300 Bolshoi dancers have signed a petition in support of Dmitrichenko.  Filin, in response to Joy’s resignation, says that she belongs in the Corps.  And you know, at her age with her experience, it wouldn’t be strange to find her in the corps.  The problem is that she is getting paid very sporadically, if at all, and the terms of her contract are pretty strange.  But dancers at the Bolshoi are paid very poorly in general and are encouraged to get “patrons”.

I’m sure that suggestion didn’t go over well with Womack, who calls herself a “dancer for Jesus”.  Other than that annoying little tidbit of religious smugness, I think Joy is a talented dancer and Filin’s remarks about her were harsh and unfair.

Here’s an example of Joy’s dancing from her graduation ballet from the Bolshoi, La Fille Mal Gardee (The badly guarded girl).  Womack and fellow American Mario Labrador danced the leads.  There’s a pretty little pas under an umbrella that starts at minute mark 3:00 that shows Joy off nicely if you don’t want to sit through the whole thing. But if you have time, it’s a nice morning diversion.

EnJoy!

Heartbreaking, preventable things that piss me off

In no particular order today, these are things that make me want to choke someone because there’s no good reason for them:

1.) Check out today’s Doonesbury:

Yes, this is really happening.  How do I know?

2.) There was a message on my phone at work when I came back from lunch.  It was from a youngish woman with a softly accented voice.  The call was for my predecessor who left 4 months ago.  The voice sounded a little desperate.  She wanted to know how to apply for the jobs the department has posted on the website.  I could have just ignored the call.  It wasn’t for me.  But something made me call her back.

It turns out that she’s a scientist from another department.  She got laid off because her grant was not renewed due to the sequester.  She told me she was very good in the lab and listed a number of things she could do.  I didn’t doubt her.  I told her I wasn’t the best person to ask for assistance for a variety of reasons and pointed her to a website she could check out for current positions and the temp agency that hires too.  But the more I heard, the sadder I got.  She’s a loooong way from home.  The job she had was the only one she’d ever known.  It occurred to me that her visa status might not allow for her to apply for just any job or unemployment or even to stay in the country.  I just hope she has money to get home.  I felt so bad about it that I kept her number.

3.) 24 year old Gus Deeds shot himself to death and seriously injured his father Creigh Deeds in Virginia today.  Sounds like a typical murder-suicide attempt, right?  Not at all.  Here’s what really happened:

The day before he stabbed his father at the family’s home, the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D) underwent a psychiatric evaluation but was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

We’re not talking about no beds available at the hospital where he had his evaluation.  We’re talking about no beds available in that part of the state at ANY hospital.

People, that is a sad, tragic, preventable story.  The father will recover and I hope that he and incoming governor Terry McAuliffe use their political skills to advocate for greater resources for the mentally ill.  They need access to safe places and medical care.

Behavioral health care isn’t even covered by many insurance plans and is almost totally absent from plans on the individual market. That will change next year.  But even with that change, beds in safe facilities are hard to come by even on a good day and treatment is much shorter than it should be.  What a waste because with good treatment and medication, the mentally ill can lead normal, productive, creative lives.

In this day and age and in this country, there is absolutely no excuse for letting a tragedy like this occur except that we simply do not care enough to give the sick the treatment they deserve because we fail to see mental illness as the manifestation of a physical problem, just like every other illness we treat.

My thoughts are with the Deeds’ family tonight.

Mandelbrot Birthday Set

Meant to play this last year on Mandelbrot’s birthdays but forgot so I’m doing it early this year.  Unfortunately, Mandelbrot is in heaven and no longer teaching math at Yale.  But the set is still mesmerizing.

And here’s a little ditty on doodling in math class from Vi Hart, Mathemagician:

It’s easier after you’ve had coffee.

Happy Birthday to all you November babies.

Democrats are screwed next year if they can’t figure this out

Another short one and I’m gone.

I’ve noticed that a lot of partisan Democratic blogs have kinda sorta stepped away from the relentless cheerleading of the ACA.  Now, the message is, “Well, the GOP plan is nothing so Obamacare *HAS* to work”.

I’m guessing that a lot of researchers have been there.  You spend months, years on a project and the sucker just refuses to go anywhere.  There are no breakthroughs.  Generally, it’s the biologists’ fault but what are you going to do?  You don’t want to abandon the project so you keep propping it up.  Unless you have a really talented project leader who can reassess and has the courage to take a new approach, the project is doomed to being terminated the next time it comes up for review.

That would be 2014.

Look, guys.  I’m talking to YOU, Democrats.  I don’t know what your project manager has been telling you but if you don’t get your shit together and offer a radical and effective alternative to the ACA, you’re all going to be laid off in the next round of restructuring.  You may get laid off anyway because that’s just the way things go these days.  There’s always some political asshole gunning for your job and trying to steal credit.  But as long as you are employed, you might as well do your f&*(ing jobs.

There should be THREE health care reform plans: the non-existent GOP plan, the Obamacare “let’s give the insurance companies everything they want and guarantee a hefty profit for them for eternity!” plan and YOUR plan.

Your project manager is incompetent.  He got promoted too soon before he even ran a single project on his own.  If you don’t want him to take you down with him, you’d better figure out a way of digging yourself out of this hole. And let me make this perfectly clear to you, because you don’t seem to be getting it: protecting your project manager with phrases like “it’s not his fault, it’s the policy” is not helping you.  Of course it’s his fault because it is his policy but he and his friends are going to point the finger at anyone but himself.

And may I remind you that every other country in the developed world has figured out how to do this without impoverishing the citizens who through no fault of their own have been forced to seek insurance on the independent market. And here’s an update for you: back in 2009 this might have been a tiny segment.  It is tiny no longer. More and more people are unemployed or underemployed and don’t get health benefits.  Stop calling us a tiny fraction.  We are legion these days.  That’s why there has been so much outrage over this stupid, ill-conceived policy and it’s disastrous implementation.

There is no excuse for failure here.  There are a lot of templates to choose from.  Pick one and get on with it.

You have a year.

We have now entered the realm of the fiasco

I learned about real fiascos in Italy.  A fiasco is a bottle that you cook beans in.  You put the beans and water in the bottle and sit it in the warm embers of your fireplace before you go to bed.  If everything goes right, those beans will be tender and delicious in the morning.  But beans are full of gas producing and nitrogen containing compounds so they tend to be unstable when they’re cooked under pressure.  So, you could come downstairs to find that your fiasco has blown up all over the place and you now have a mess to clean up.

In other words, fiascos are more likely to occur when you leave the bottle unattended.

On Nov 1, 2013, This American Life reprised one of my favorite episodes on Fiascos.  The funniest act in the episode is about what happens when an untested director reaches beyond her modest abilities to stage a Julie Taymor-esque version of Peter Pan complete with flying apparatus.  It’s hysterical but also illuminating.  You get the stages of a fiasco in the making from this act.  At first, the audience is bemused and forgiving.  Then the mistakes keep piling up and the audience progresses from sympathizing with the actors to ridicule.  Then they start getting involved.  The play completely breaks down and the audience is fully engaged in demolition.  At some point the audience recognizes that they are no longer watching a play.  They are watching a fiasco.

I think we are at the ridicule stage right now with Obamacare.  We are rapidly reaching the point of no return with this play.  We may get a reaction to Obamacare that was completely absent with HAMP but what the heck, why not revisit HAMP too, while we’re at it?

Some of us knew the Democrats were working with an untended mess of explosive beans but did they listen?  No.  They did not.  There are really no good options right now.  Just watch it explode and be ready on the other side with some game changing plan.  I’m going to bet that the fiasco is going to generate enough public anger that there will be a slim chink of an opportunity to get something passed.

Go big.  Like a public option.  Make it administered by a non-profit insurance company like Blue Cross.  Pour the subsidies into it.  Make sure providers in the area can’t lock public option participants out and tell everyone you’re working on a permanent fix.

The problem is the for profit insurance companies and the politicians who cooperated with them. Let’s stop forcing this fiasco on the uninsured, the poor and the sick.

And check out Fiasco! on This American Life for one of the funniest episodes they’ve ever broadcast.

Neat Trick

Dashing off a few things before I dash:

1.) The Richard Cohen thing.  The lede kind of got buried in the Richard Cohen s^&*storm.  It’s not that the Tea Party people are racist, though some of them clearly are.  It’s that they consider their views to be “conventional”.  That’s the cover that the Fox News manipulators, Limbaughians and Glen Becksters have given them.  My hypothesis about how the right wing has been able to get away with so much is that it makes it Ok for some Americans to give in to their secret desires.  They want to feel superior to some  people and exert power over others.  That’s why they tend to take it out on people of color, women, gays and immigrants.  They’re f^*(ing cowards when it comes to taking on the real culprits who are making their lives an economic nightmare.  That’s why you’ll never see them at an Occupy rally, because that might actually make a difference but would also be potentially dangerous to their physical bodies. But they’re perfectly fine bashing people who have no political power.  And they allow this because they call themselves conventional.  I think Bob Altmeyer wrote a book about conventional people called The Authoritarians.

Richard Cohen, on the other hand, makes me despair for the future of employment.

2.) When you’ve lost Bill Clinton’s support, it’s bad.  The Clintons have stood behind the party that trashed Hillary and elected an untested, inexperienced, ruthless friend of Wall Street and Obama through thick and thin.  But it looks like The Big Dog draws the line with Obamacare.  I don’t think he is enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.  Some people take policy and politics seriously.

And some people just check that box on their CVs.

3.) Sylvie Guillem recently retired from the Paris Opera Ballet but oh, how wonderful it must have been to see her dance in person.  Here’s a very short clip of her rehearsing Dulcinea.  If only every day could be like this:

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