mytopleft

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hey, 85 bucks is a small price to pay to keep the TSA from squeezing your package

It would appear that security is taking a back seat to profit, as the Transportation Security Administration -- one of the most mis-named agencies out there -- is willing to let you pay $85 to keep the TSA from feeling you up at airports. A program that used to be restricted to certain frequent fliers now is open to anybody willing to pay to keep the TSA from grabbing their junk:
Under the Transportation Security Administration's Precheck program, only travelers who were members of the frequent flyer programs of some air carriers were eligible for expedited screening. On Friday, TSA Administrator John Pistole said beginning later this year U.S. citizens will be able to enroll online or visit an enrollment site to provide identification, fingerprints and an $85 enrollment fee.
Great, you can now just pay the government not to conduct an illegal search. This should turn out fine. Now, instead of simply favoring terrorists who fly a lot, the TSA is willing to give a pass to terrorists with 85 bucks. Meanwhile, nothing in the security kabuki that is the TSA makes anyone any safer while flying. Keep giving up your freedoms, people. I'm sure it will turn out fine.

Contract attorneys getting feisty

Contract attorneys tend to be a docile group, quietly accepting the turd sandwiches that get served up. Recent times have been no different, and maybe even worse, as more experienced people get dumped into the temp market while jobs become scarcer. I guess it's no shock that the agencies feel like they have the upper hand. Rates now are bare minimum $4 below 2007 levels, and as much as $9 below those levels. Couple that with few overtime projects, and you have a problem, at least if you intend to make a living doing this. Which, I think, is what led to this post on Craigs List. The post is brilliant:

Document Review Attorneys (District of Columbia)
We are currently seeking licensed attorneys for upcoming projects that will likely never materialize.
To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:
• Be licensed to practice law;
• Have no spine because you will be working in substandard conditions;
• Place little value on your skills because you will not receive a fair wage;
• You have previously worked on or applied to DC projects that pay $26/hr.-$29/hr; and
• Lack the self-esteem to tell agencies that you won't work for below market rate.
If you satisfy the above requirements, tape a sign on your forehead that reads "LOSER."
Stop working on these projects that refuse to pay a fair wage!
Do NOT send us your resume.
Location: District of ColumbiaCompensation: peanutsThis is a contract job.Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

All in all, totally believeable.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reader food-porn contribution

Got an email from a follower of the blog the other day, letting me know that 1) the follower had used my instructions for cooking a pork shoulder (butt or picnic -- whatever) and b) included pictures of the result. Without further ado, I present reader-provided food porn:


Looks good to me. Naturally, the reader followed my suggestion and used sauce from King's in Petersburg. This guaranteed a good result.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This is part of what makes the Packers different

Since 1957, the Packers have stayed at St. Norbert College dormitories during training camp, and practiced at team facilities near Lambeau Field. It is the longest training camp relationship between a team and a college in the NFL. Since the beginning of the Vince Lombardi era -- he became head coach in Green Bay in 1959 -- the Packers have had a unique tradition. Players travel from St. Norbert's dorms in Green Bay to the nearby Packers training facilities via bicycles provided by the children of Green Bay and surrounding towns. This has led to some interesting images over the years. This picture is from this year's opening day of training camp. (The other pictures are from other years, but all pictures are from Packers.com, the official website of the Green Bay Packers, and are copyrighted accordingly.)  Looks like that young lady is giving Dereck Sherrod (78) some pointers


It's easy to see that the players like the tradition:


and there's no way that kid in the Clay Matthews jersey won't remember that moment for the rest of his life:


It gives the players and fans a chance to really interact. That's obviously a real conversation:


And that's just two happy people:


No other team in the league does anything like it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Getting late, but still funny

A friend of mine sent this to me. While the Zimmerman kerfuffle is fading into the past, this is still pretty funny. The email sending this to me had the subject line, "The first picture of the Zimmerman jury:"

(Click picture for larger image.)

Musta been a lot of butter in that jury deliberation room.

Yeah, I've been remiss about posting

Traffic has been kind of in the toilet lately, and I was going to rationalize and blame it on summertime, people on vacation, yada yada yada. But let's face it, you don't post, they don't come. If you provide content, folks will check it out. Don't, and they find other places to go. So the fault is mine for not posting. In my defense, my job is fucking killing me. That's lame, though, so I'll work on this posting thing.

On the other hand, "in the toilet" these days still means roughly triple to quadruple the monthly traffic I had before November 2012, when I got the Instalanche link. So I shouldn't complain. Anyway, I'll be more diligent about posting. Thanks for coming by.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vegetable-based, baked food porn

I got all the zuchini bread you can handle, people. No, seriously. I have so much fricking zuchini bread I got no damn idea what to do with it. The garden is pumping out huge zukes, and I am baking night and day. So I figured I would share a pretty good recipe for zuchini bread as food porn.

Naturally, zuchini bread starts as zuchini, like so:


And sure, you can use a long skinny sucker like that, but wouldn't you really rather go monster and use a zuke like this?:


Doesn't really matter, I guess, since you are only going to use two cups of shredded zuke.


Once you've shredded two cups (or so -- I use a little more) of zuke, gather the rest of your ingredaments. You will need flour, sugar, vegetable oil, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, eggs, vanilla, salt, walnuts and raisins (both of these are optional but recommended):


Beat three eggs, add one cup of vegetable oil, add three teaspoons of vanilla extract:


Then mix in 2-1/4 cups of sugar:

Kind of a funky looking slurry once the sugar is in. Set this aside:


Now, in a separate bowl, sift together 3 cups of flour, and one teaspoon each of salt, baking power and baking soda.

Mix in 3 teaspoons of cinnamon.


You will now pour the egg-oil mix into the flour-etc. mix and stir it all together:

Mix in the shredded zuke, raisins and walnuts:

Get it nicely distributed:

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grease your pans with shortening, then flour them. No shit, that no-stick spray will not cut it here. Just do what I say
 They should look like this, with flour all over the damn pan:


Fill said pans with your batter. This recipe makes two loaves, so try to distribute the batter equally between the two pans:


Bake for at least an hour at 325; after an hour, start testing the bread by inserting a knife. When it comes out clean (as opposed to covered with uncooked batter, you twit), the bread is done:

 It tastes great, you will love it. Enjoy.

Why God made the cello

Any questions?

Hat tip to Ace.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We're going to need a bigger boat

Had a "Jaws" moment today over at the Farm. A couple days ago we harvested a really fucking big zuchinni. I mean, really big, the size of my forearm. Like so:


OK, that's a big damn zuke. We have harvested several lately of roughly that size, so I am having trouble keeping up with production. The ones this big get turned into zuchinni bread -- which is delicious, by the way, and will be the subject of an upcoming food porn -- and one this large is good for a couple batches of bread. I am still behind, but striving mightily to catch up, making bread night and day.

So what happens? Today, I harvested Moby motherfucking Dick, pictured here next to the previous record-holder:

 It is bigger, fatter and heavier; the photo doesn't do it justice. This was my immediate reaction:


Just a little casual weekend food porn

Mrs. Wolves wanted stir fry tonight, and she didn't want just any stir fry. She gave me a recipe that turned out to be really good, but a little complicated. Normally, when I think of stir fry, I think of throwing a bunch of random shit in a wok, mixing it up and boom, dinner. Yeah, not this time. So here we go.

You start, of course, with about two pounds of chicken breasts or tenderloins. White meat, people, and I'm not being prejudiced here.
 Chop that stuff up into cubes, whatever size you like the chicken chunks in your stir fry, put the chunks is a bowl,  dribble some soy sauce and some sesame oil on them and set that stuff aside.

 Now, gather your other ingredients. you will need sesame oil, soy sauce (you know this already, or else you have not been paying attention), sugar, chicken broth, arrowroot (yeah, I know, it's expensive and you never fucking use it, but just go get some, OK? It's in the spice aisle.), peanut oil, an onion, a bell pepper (red, green, I don't care), two cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of ginger (my recipe called for fresh, minced ginger -- I used ground ginger from my spice rack), about 10 whole white mushrooms, a can of baby corn (which you will cut into smaller pieces), and rice vinegar. My recipe called for 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, as well, but this seemed like a lot of work. Do you have any idea how much fresh cilantro it takes to make a half-cup of chopped cilantro? Anyway, let your conscience be your guide. Mine tasted great with no fresh chopped cilantro. So here's the team picture of ingredaments:


 I did not take pictures of the next two steps, because they didn't seem very photogenic. Nonetheless, you should now mix 1/4 cup of soy sauce with 3 tablespoons of sugar and set that mixture aside. You also need to mix 1/4 cup of chicken broth with 2 rounded teaspoons of arrowroot. Set that mixture aside, too. You will need to stir both of these up before you use them, so keep that in mind.

OK, time to heat up your wok. If you aren't using a wok, what the fuck is wrong with you? We're making Chinese food, for God's sake. Use a wok. Or some other kind of pan. Whatever. Heat it up on high. Once the pan is hot (it better be a wok, asshole) slop some peanut oil into the pan (it still better be a wok, asshole).

Now, toss in the chicken that you chopped up and put stuff on earlier.


 Cook until the chicken is browned and just cooked through -- just a few minutes.


 Put that stuff in a bowl and set it aside.


Now it's time to prepare your vegetables. Gather up your onion, peppers, mushrooms and mini-corn.
Chop up the onions, peppers and mushrooms, cut the mini corn into smaller pieces.

Put a little peanut oil in the now-empty wok (seriously, you're not using some other kind of pan, are you?). Once heated, throw those chopped onions into the wok, and cook those for a couple minutes.

As you can see from the picture two shots up, I put my slice mushrooms, cut on mini-corn and green peppers cut into squares all in one bowl. The recipe says you should not do that.  According to the recipe, you should add each ingredament separately: after the onions, throw in the peppers for a little bit, add the mushrooms, then a minute later throw in the mini corn. I threw it all in at once and it seemed to work. So sue me. Add the two cloves of mince garlic and 2 tablespoons of ginger (fresh minced or ground from the spice jar, I don't care).
 Now, put the soy sauce/sugar mixture in, and add 1/4 cup of chicken broth. You also should add a teaspoon of rice vinegar and a 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil. That's what the recipe says. Seriously, I don't actually measure that shit. Up to you.
Oh yeah -- time to dump in that chicken you cooked earlier.

Stir that shit up, get it moving, get it hot, pour in the chicken broth/arrowroot mixture. Stir it up.
One that mixture is stirred in, let the whole thing rock for a minute, then turn off the heat and let things thicken. The recipe at this point says you should stir in that chopped cilantro. I didn't. Seemed OK to me. Naturally, you will be serving this over rice. I am not going to tell you how to make rice. If I have to do that, I probably need to swing by and wipe the drool off your chin periodically. These are things that are not happening. Make your own damn rice however you make it, and serve this stuff over it. knowing as you do so that my rice is better (some day, I might tell you how to make rice, but today is not that day).


This recipe is flexible. You can add broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, water chestnuts, green onions, whatever -- pretty much any vegetable you want. It tastes great no matter what veggies you put in. Bon appetit.

Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him.

I had a super-hero moment today during which I probably checked off my "good deed" box for the entire year and simultaneously struck a blow against the culture of dependency that Barry seems so intent pushing.

It started simply enough, with me exiting from I-70 to get onto MD 144 East to go home from my Saturday errands. The off ramp was really congested, though, because of a stalled car. The exit normally has two lanes that can turn left onto 144 East. The right lane also can go straight into a residential area, but freaking nobody lives there, apparently, so usually people in the right lane are just trying to bust past the folks in the left lane, as the right lane on 144 East ends about 200 yards past the exit. In any event, in the left lane on the off ramp, about two car-lengths back from the intersection, a car was stalled. I managed to juke over into the right lane and get through the light, but as I passed the stalled car I could see the driver was a lone female who looked kind of distressed.

Here's where shit gets really old-fashioned. After I turned left onto 144 East, I pulled over into a parking area, got out of my car and walked back to the off ramp. I told the woman driving the stalled car -- who turned out to be young, not bad looking and out of gas (this is not really relevant, but much more satisfying on a superficial level for me than if it had been a dude or a really ugly chick -- hey, call me shallow) -- that I was going to push her car through the intersection on the next light cycle so that she wouldn't be blocking traffic and at risk of being rear-ended by an inattentive turd coming off I-70. She seemed grateful for the offer.

To accomplish this, I had to make sure that the right lane folks wouldn't be turning left while I was trying to push this woman's car straight across the intersection in the left lane. Lot's of potential for mayhem there. So I asked the person in the car in the right lane next to the stalled car to wait to turn while I pushed the stalled car through. She agreed -- she was pretty hot, by the way, not that that is relevant, but it was, once again, better on a superficial level than if she had been a dude or a really ugly chick -- and we made some signals to the folks behind us to let them know what we were doing. I'm sure they had no fucking clue what we meant.

 While we were waiting for the light to change so I could start my heroic pushing. I chatted with the hot chick in the right lane and we got to the exchange that made me think I should post about this. Let's face it, I'm a super-hero every day, and I just don't need to brag. This particular event, however, carried with it a lesson that I am about to get to.

The hot chick in the right lane was saying how nice it was that I would do this -- "Just trying to make the world a better place, ma'am" -- and then commented that her mother was in a car accident recently and, while not hurt, had to wait more than an hour before someone arrived to help her (in response to her phone call, apparently). This led the hot chick to say:

"People don't seem to do stuff like this any more. Why is that?"

Which led me to say:

"Because they voted for Obama twice. They're still waiting for the government to do it for them."

She laughed and agreed. And that's why I posted about this. Think we're not being nudged into a culture of dependency? Check out how many people are on food stamps. No, I won't provide a link. Do it yourself. You shouldn't depend on me -- or the government -- to do it for you, no matter what "it" is. Pull over and help the person, and quit assuming the government will or even should help that person instead of you doing it. It's a Nike moment, people. Just. Do. It.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Who do they think is paying these salaries?

I have noticed lately an uptick in legal jobs advertised on The Posse List (which has always focused on the temp community but now seems to advertise more "permanent" jobs) that are with NGOs (non-governmental organizations, usually non-profit organizations with a liberal agenda), non-profit groups and government itself. The recent posts have included jobs at The Legal Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the  Family Equality Council (a gay rights group), Equal Justice Works (no idea what they do), Search for Common Ground (SFCG), which describes itself as "an international non-profit organization that promotes peaceful resolution of conflict," and various agencies of the federal government.

On the one hand, I am all in favor of The Posse List putting up "permanent" job posts for its members, even if I would not apply for one of these positions on a bet. On the other hand, I do wonder who, exactly, The Posse List  and its subscribers think will be paying these salaries if everybody goes to work for a non-profit, and NGO or government itself. Call me crazy, but we might be better off finding postings for private-sector jobs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Swine-based food porn

Summer is full upon us, and the hills are alive with the smell of, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, pig a'cookin'. As any good Southerner knows, barbecue is pork, and pork only. You can put barbecue sauce on other kinds of meat, and it makes them taste good, but barbecue is pork. Get used to it.

And today, chirren, we will delve into the secrets of first-rate barbecue. First-rate barbecue begins and ends with first-rate sauce. Seriously, it's tough to screw up the meat, so you need good sauce. If your sauce was purchased at a grocery store, it isn't first-rate sauce. Unless you have a fricking excellent grocery store. Which you don't. Sorry, you will have to purchase sauce from Virginia or North Carolina. Barbecue was invented in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and there are families there that have been making their secret sauce for about 300 years, maybe more. This expertise also spread into North Carolina, although eastern and western North Carolina sauces are very different. In any event, all are good.

My recommendation is King's Barbecue in Petersburg, Va. Their sauce is affordable, available online, and really, really good.


Buy it, use it.

OK, sauce is taken care of. Now let's get down to meat. You need to buy a pork shoulder, a picnic or a boston butt. The picnic and the butt are just the two parts of the shoulder. For most home cookers, a picnic is sufficient. If you purchase an entire shoulder, you better have a lot of people coming over.

So you have a picnic. Now you need to smoke it. The easiest way to do this -- and the best -- is with hickory or white oak wood chunks in a charcoal grill. Many of the nicer gas grills have a smoker element. This works nicely, as well. If your gas grill does not have a smoker element, you can get a serviceable charcoal grill for $20 to $40. Get one, follow the directions on how to use wood to cook. (Hint: let it get burning for at least 15 minutes before you put the meat on and cover the grill.) Put the wood to one side when you light your fire so that when you put the meat on, it is not directly above the fire. Like so:


Cover that bad boy, and let it smoke.


Many experts will tell you to smoke the meat for at least 6 hours. This is actually not bad advice, but most people don't have the resources to do that, as it requires professional equipment or constant effort. Go ahead and smoke it for a couple hours or however long you can sustain your wood grill (or the smoker element on your gas grill.) You want to keep the temperature between about 210 and 225 degrees F. Yet another complication, I know, which is what leads me to usually smoke the meat for about two hours until it looks about like this:



Then, wrap the meat in foil, put in on a rack in a pan and set the temperature at 225 F or so. Prepare for a long wait.


With a high fat content, it is tough to ruin a pork shoulder (picnic, butt, whatever) because you pretty much can't dry it out. On the other hand, it takes a long time to cook at low heat. And the bigger it is, the longer it takes. The one I had was close to 10 pounds, and it took over 15 hours. You want an internal temperature of 170 degrees F, and the meat should pull apart easily. When the cooking was done, it looked like this:


I pulled the meat off the bone, chopped it up, sauced it up and slapped that sucker on a bun:


De-lectable. Cole slaw optional. Suitable for any holiday cookout, or just when you want really good-tasting lunch sandwiches. Bon appetit.

Reaping the bounty of the Earth or some such crap

As I have mentioned before, I have a friend with a few acres that I do a kind of gardening co-op with. I have more experience growing shit, he has more money and land, so we get together and grow stuff. Mostly the usual -- this year, onions, carrots, peas, green beans, asparagus, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, hot peppers, strawberries and tomatoes. We also go a little farther afield -- garlic, potatoes. Not much luck with garlic yet, truthfully, but good work on the more traditional stuff, as well as the spuds. With a very small bed this year, we got a pretty good summer harvest, and we should get a second harvest in the late fall.

Naturally, at this time of year, the bean crop is going gangbusters. Here, you can see the plants have climbed the string trellis like frat boys trying to peak into a sorority house window, only more useful:


Jeb the Wonder Dog patrols:

 Beans on the vine:

 Beans off the vine:

 An enormous zucchini:

 This will be made into zucchini bread later that will be the subject of a food porn post, but I digress. And here we have even more beans (in addition to those pictured above) peeking out of their bag:


Got some good cucumbers coming in now, primarily intended to make dill pickles:


And the onions, red and white: Small this year, but getting established. Good numbers, and high hopes for next year's crop to produce larger onions.

All in all, The Farm is putting out a good crop. Upcoming posts will feature food porn including produce from The Farm, so stay tuned.