Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cowboy Joke

In honor of a visit by The God of all Ropers and his family, I plan to tell my favorite cowboy joke.

This cowboy is driving his truck along the road. He passes a restaurant sign that says "Lobster Tail and Beer." He says to himself: "Boy howdy, my three favorite things!"

Elk Shanks Osso Bucco

I've been battling one of my periods of black mood. Some of it comes from identifiable stuff, some of it's bog simple depression. I have found one of the finer antidotes to be doing something.

About three spreads over from me lives The God of all Ropers. Homeboy's famous. He has mostly retired from the rodeo circuit that he completely dominated for nearly twenty years. He runs some Corriente stock on his place. He has a herd of 3 Bars quarter horses that makes working cowpokes dance little jigs when they see them. 3 Bars quarter horses are almost their own breed. They are built like Bulldogs. He, like me, also has too much time on his hands. He called me yesterday while I was in the "wallowing in self pity" phase of my depression and told me about what looks like an abandoned turquoise mine out in the Santans, and asked if I would like to pack in with him and give it a look. I said "Hell yes." I also threw in an invitation for dinner tonight for his family (wife, teen aged daughter who my son describes as "babe-alicious") I told him I had some elk in the freezer and asked if that sounded good. He said "Boy, Howdy!" (which is cowboy for yes)

Osso Bucco is one of the signature dishes of Italian cuisine. It is normally done with veal shanks. I like the elk (or venison) even better. The shanks are bigger, the flavors are more intense. There is also none of that whole "raised in a tiny pen and force fed" thing that seems to surround veal.

INGREDIENTS (to serve six)

12 Elk shank slices (the meaty part, cut into 1 1/2" slices, have your butcher do this, it's safer)
all purpose flour
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
4 stalks of celery chopped fine (be sure to string them, it's just nicer that way)
6 cloves of garlic finely chopped (don't be afraid of using more either)
4 medium tomatoes, coarsly chopped
2 stalks fresh cilantro
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (to be tied together with the cilantro and thyme)
Beef Stock
Dry Red Wine (I am serving a Chateau Neuf du Pap tonight and that's what will go into the dish, I think God's wife is the only one drinking)

Gremolata ingredients

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
zest of one whole lemon
one glug olive oil

Put the Gremolata ingredients into a mortar and beat the crap of them with a pestle. Set this aside.

Dredge the shank slices thoroughly in flour. Heat a heavy cassarole dish on the stove with enough olive oil to cover the bottom and sear the slices to a deep golden brown. Dump the excess oil and wipe out the dish. Take a little more oil, add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until slightly softened. Add in wine to almost cover and cook unitl the wine is reduced by at least half. Add in the shank slices and the chopped tomatoes, add the tied herbs, add beef stock to just cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a nice, steady simmer, cover and cook slowly for at least two hours (when done, the meat should be quite tender but the shanks should not be at disintegration stage yet). About every fifteen minutes, turn and baste the shanks.

To serve, remove the meat slices, if the broth is watery reduce it further. You can also take 1 teaspoon of Cornstarch dissolved in a half cup of the broth and then stirred into the pan, but I prefer a straight reduction. Take a nice sized flat bowl, like one you would use to serve a hearty soup or stew and put some mashed potatoes in the center. Plop two shanks per person in the bowl, spoon the pan stock over that, sprinkle with the Gremolata. Have lots of sourdough baguettes with EVOO and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Be sure to set the table with tiny spoons which can be used to scoop out the rich and flavorful marrow for smearing on a hunk of bread.

(for dessert I'm opening a couple cans of my famous Canned Peaches served over a sinfully rich Vanilla Ice Cream.)

Since The God of all Ropers is close friends with a certain country singer (who's coming to town soon and I am plotting to be backstage) I plan to regale them with my celebrated version of Amarillo By Morning done on the Celtic Harp. I play the harp well enough that it will compensate for my crappy singing. I hope.

3 Beez

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Empress of the Blues

I'm fed up with politics. We seem to be headed for more war, more death, more destruction and there's fuck all we can do about it. When that happens to me, I take measures to slap myself out of the funk. I make some donations to charities and to people like Shakes to remind myself how good I have it. I also listen to great old music. Therefore, almost three minutes of Bessie Smith. I'm going to stuff my head under the faucet and go to a meeting.

I Was Going to Post This Last Night

But the internet got taken down by the wind which we hope will be bringing some much needed winter rain to our little section of the desert. These are the finished Pal Cookies. The Pool Girls and I consumed several with cups of Earl Grey tea before we left for the game.

Lebron James is magnificent. He has a rare talent and is getting better every year he's in the NBA. Shawn Marion flat handled his ass last night. The Caveliers tried to handle Stevie Nash (their coach during a time out said "make him a driver") and he drove it right down their throats and kicked it out for Amaré, Boris, Barbosa, Marion, Jones, Thomas and Bell (another defensive stalwart on a team that doesn't get defensive respect).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What I Did While the President Was Bullshitting the Rest of the Country

I had much more important things to do. First off, my eleven year old niece usually stops off at my house after school in the afternoon. She stops by to say hello and practice the piano (and the drums now too). We goof around and she often helps me out at the barn and even in the truck patch. She's a great kid. The relationship of the maternal uncle is one of the most important family connections in traditional Apache culture. As the uncle it's my job to make sure that she knows there is always an adult who is completely on her side. Even if I think she's done something wrong, I'm on her side. That's how it works. Before she left to go home this afternoon I got a call from my sister saying that they had something come up with my nephew that required them to go to the high school. Could the girl stay with me? Of course she can.

We goofed around. Fed the horses, picked some veggies from the garden, played with the dogs, went in and fixed dinner. I looked at the clock and it was Presidential bullshitting time. I decided to watch the Spurs/Nuggets game instead. I like Alan Iverson a lot more than George Bush. As a matter of fact A.I. would probably make a better president. I mean, after all, he's been in the league for a while now and he hasn't lost his temper and killed Dick Bavetta for some of the stupid game changing calls he makes, but I digress. I like Tim Duncan more than George W. Bush too, but he's from the Virgin Islands and couldn't be President. We could make an amendment to allow it but that would open the door for both Arnold and Henry Kissenger. Better to leave that door closed.

Since the big screen TV and the HD box are best viewed from the kitchen that's where we were. My niece loves sports. She's a gritty little striker in her local soccer league and loves baseball too. She started really getting into the game. I told her when the Nuggets come down to Phoenix we'll work it out with her parents so she can come to the game with me.

Being a multitasker, while the game was on we decided to make cookies. Not just any cookies mind you, but cookies with a family history. These are "Pal" cookies. My youngest sister was a real surprise to my folks. She came along well after we thought there weren't going to be any more kids. She was very bright, and growing up in a house that was mostly full of people that were way older than her she was also very articulate. She wanted to do big people stuff. She didn't just want older brothers and sisters, she wanted Pals. One of the things she would do with me was cook. One time while we were making these particular cookies she said "We're doing this together because we are pals. These are my Pal Cookies." They've been that ever since. My niece said "Let's make some Pal Cookies." I said "Of course my darling."


3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup baker's sugar (regular ganulated will do)
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (and I do hope that you're grinding your spices fresh by now)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (dried and ground works here though)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
brown and baker's suger mixed half and half

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer on medium. Reduce the speed to a stir and add the molasses and the egg. Mix at a stir until smooth. Add the dry ingredients, one at a time and increase the speed to medium again. You should have a beautiful, fragrant dark brown soft dough that begins to clean the side of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

(We're going to do this part tomorrow afternoon)

Heat the oven to 375° and take the dough from the fridge. Pinch out and roll it into one inch balls, roll the balls in the loose half and half mixture of brown and white sugar and put onto a well greased baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes. This makes about four dozen. Have plenty of milk or Earl Grey tea handy.

The Spurs won. I bet the President was his usual stupid lying asshole self. My niece and I had a great time.


Cascades of Folly

I have, for a long time now been a volunteer rider for any local Sherrif's department Search and Rescue. I have many reasons for this. The main reason is that this is something I can do to help out. I have good, strong horses that are fiends of endurance (they're Arabs and a mustang). My mustang can cheerfully carry a great deal of things that will be needed instantly upon finding someone who has been lost. Water, lots of water, a full on medical kit, a radio, all the things you need to start making a lost person's chances of survival better. She also doesn't need to be ponied to a rider when we are on the search. She will always keep us in sight and maintain her connection with her herd. That's important when minutes are turning into hours and hours are turning into days.

I also have more than a little experience in surviving extreme situations and conditions. When some folks look out on the Sonoran Desert they see a wasteland and a hostile place. I see a playground and a grocery store. It's the same with the mountain forests where I live. It doesn't mean that I'm careless or reckless when I'm out in the wild, far from it. It means that I have knowledge and skills that will enhance my chances of survival, and these same skills translate easily into finding someone who doesn't possess those skills.

One of the concepts we talk about constantly is the "Cascading Folly" situation. Where one poor decision, one that usually would be innocuous all by itself leads to other decisions based upon that first little, tiny mistake. This often leads to a disasterous conclusion. When the environment is one that can be hostile to the unknowledgable, like the desert, the disaster often comes swiftly and without mercy. ****small desert tip**** if you're lost and thirsty in the Sonoran Desert don't go lopping the top off a barrel cactus expecting to find a water cooler. Much like drinking sea water the juice and pulp of the cactus will probably induce kidney failure as your body tries to filter out the impurities. You'll also probably cut yourself to shreds trying to get to something that has a good chance of harming you more than it will help. *****end tip ******

Over and over we find the bodies of people who make that one little mistake. They try to move when they should stay put, they seek shelter when they should stay in the open. In the case of moving "for help" (that's how they always put it) there are many things to be considered before doing that. The first consideration should always be "is there likely to be somebody trying to find me?" If that's the case, stay put. You'll be easier to find that way. I'm a pretty good tracker. I'm not one of these supernatural gifted types that can track a bumblebee over concrete in a hailstorm, but I'm a better bet on finding someone out there than most. I've hunted both animals and men, animals are harder. So let's start this cascade off by having somebody panic and leave their car which has broken down on a not very well traveled road. They will start to walk along the side of the road, usually in one direction or another. If they don't know for certain where the closest crossroad or inhabited place would be, the cascade of folly has just picked up a little momentum. Away from their disabled car they are a person by the side of the road walking where rational regular people don't do things like that. Getting away from the physical explanation of what the fuck they are doing there has just diminished their chances of having a random driver stop and pull over to help them. Catching on the way it works? (sure we are! good, because that's not what I cam here to talk about)

Iraq has been a perfect storm of Cascading Folly. Because it was wrong from the start it has had little, if any, chance of ever being anything but a horrendous disaster.

Take the current stuff people are saying about "the surge." One of the things that drives me nuts is when they talk about "The Iraqi Government." What they have there is not a goverment by any stretch of the imagination. Every thing they talk about where they expect the Iraqi government to "step up" or "take action" or "assume authority" is doomed. It's fucking doomed because There. Is. No. Such. Government. If Maliki were to walk the streets of Bagdhad he would be killed. Just like the Aztecs killed Monteczuma. Maliki would be safer walking the streets of Bedford-Stuy with bags of crack taped to his ass and his pockets overflowing with money. There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. An. Iraqi. Government.

If the President uses "Iraqi Government" at any time when he's speaking, everything that proceeds from there is a further and deeper Cascade of Folly.

Thus endeth the lesson.


BlogRoll Change

I've been very sloppy keeping my blogroll up to date. Partly because there have been some times where I clumsily damage the beautiful coding done by The Dark Wraith, but through skippy, the bush kangaroo I found The Plain Truth About God-101 (what the church doesn't want you to know) and find it's well worth a spot. Besides that Paul the Spud has begun to blog exclusively at Shake's so he really didn't need a link on my sidebar that goes to a place that leads you to another place.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Malibu Moment Redux

As soon as I heard about the firestorm in Malibu I called my friend that I was such a smart ass with to find out if his place had been harmed or threatened. It, glady, had not. Not this time anyway. I asked him if he had thought about what I had said on new year's day during all the furor and he said yes. He also said that when he remembered it he started to laugh out loud. The police who had come to tell him to be on evacuation standby thought he might have gone a bit mad on them.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Wesley Clark (stolen from the Washington Post)

The Smart Surge: Diplomacy

By Wesley K. Clark
Monday, January 8, 2007; Page A15

The odds are that this week President Bush will announce a "surge" of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq. Will this deliver a "win"? Probably not. But it will distract us from facing the deep-seated regional issues that must be resolved.

The administration views a troop surge of modest size as virtually the only remaining action in Iraq that would be a visible signal of determination. More economic assistance is likely to be touted, but absent a change in the pattern of violence, infrastructure enhancement simply isn't practical.

Yes, several additional brigades in Baghdad would allow for more roadblocks, patrols and neighborhood-clearing operations. Some initial successes would be evident. But how significant would this be? We've never had enough troops in Iraq. In Kosovo, we had 40,000 troops for a population of 2 million. That ratio would call for at least 500,000 troops in Iraq; adding 20,000 now seems too little, too late.

Further, U.S. troops so far have lacked the language skills, cultural awareness and political legitimacy to ensure that areas "cleared" can be "held." The key would be more Iraqi troops, but they aren't available in the numbers required. Nor are the Iraqi troops reliable enough for the gritty work of dealing with militias and sectarian loyalties. Even if militia fighters in Baghdad can be temporarily suppressed, they could redeploy to continue the fight in other areas.

What the surge would do is put more American troops in harm's way, further undercut the morale of U.S. forces and risk further alienating elements of the Iraqi populace. American casualties would probably rise, at least temporarily, as more troops appeared on the streets -- as happened in the summer when a brigade from Alaska was extended and sent into Baghdad. And even if the increased troop presence initially frustrated the militias, it wouldn't be long before they found ways to work around the neighborhood searches and other obstacles, if they chose to continue the conflict.

Other uses for troops include accelerating training of the Iraqi military and police. But vetting these Iraqi forces for loyalty has proved problematic. So neither accelerated training nor adding Iraqi troops to the security mission can be viewed as though a specified increase in effort would yield an identical increase in return.

The truth is that the underlying problems are political, not military.

Vicious ethnic cleansing is underway, as various factions fight for power and survival. In this environment, security is unlikely to come from smothering the struggle with a blanket of forces -- and increasing U.S. efforts is likely to generate additional resistance, especially from Iraq's neighbors. More effective action is needed to resolve the struggle at the political level. A new U.S. ambassador might help, but the administration needs to recognize that the neoconservative vision has failed.

Well before the 2003 invasion, the Bush administration was sending signals that its intentions weren't limited to Iraq; "regime change" in Syria and Iran was often discussed in Washington. Small wonder then that both countries have worked continuously to feed the fighting in Iraq.

Dealing with meddling neighbors is an essential element of resolving the conflict in Iraq. But this requires more than border posts and threatening statements. The administration needs a new strategy for the region, before Iran gains nuclear capabilities. While the military option must remain on the table, America should take the lead with direct diplomacy to resolve the interrelated problems of Iran's push for regional hegemony and nuclear power, the struggle for control of Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Isolating our adversaries hasn't worked.

Absent such fundamental change in Washington's approach, there is little hope that a troop surge and accompanying rhetoric will be anything other than "staying the course" more. That wastes lives and time, bolsters the terrorists and avoids facing up to the interrelated challenges posed by a region in crisis.

The writer, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO, is a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.

You can visit General Clark's WesPac Securing America to read other things he's saying about this and he also has another page available called Stop The Surge where you can email the White House to voice your displeasure.

I have written emails and snail mails today telling my elected representatives (Harry Mitchell, John (the vile) Kyl, and John (maverick my half breed ass) McCain) that any support I have ever been able to give to them will turn instantly into active, vocal and monetary opposition to anything they ever try to do in public from now on if they don't move heaven, earth and hell itself to stop this fucking madness.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Random Flickr Bloggin (1847)

Originally uploaded by click_click.

The Patriot Game Dominic Behan

Come all ye young rebels, and list while I sing,
For the love of one's country is a terrible thing.
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame,
And it makes us all part of the patriot game.

My name is O'Hanlon, and I've just turned sixteen.
My home is in Monaghan, and where I was weaned
I learned all my life cruel England's to blame,
So now I am part of the patriot game.

This Ireland of ours has too long been half free.
Six counties lie under John Bull's tyranny.
But still De Valera is greatly to blame
For shirking his part in the Patriot game.

They told me how Connolly was shot in his chair,
His wounds from the fighting all bloody and bare.
His fine body twisted, all battered and lame
They soon made me part of the patriot game.

It's nearly two years since I wandered away
With the local battalion of the bold IRA,
For I read of our heroes, and wanted the same
To play out my part in the patriot game.

My life now is ending. This prison is cold
My dreams are of traitors who bargained and sold
And I wish that my rifle had given the same
To those bastards who sold out the patriot game.

trivia note: this song was the inspiration for Bob Dylan's With God On Our Side