Friday, May 29, 2009

Another This Day in HIstory

for LJ. The English Restoration.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ezra breaks up with Cooks Ill.

Ezra Klein has broken up with Cooks Illustrated. He suspects they've not been honest with him in telling tales of the process they go through to arrive at the perfect recipe.

I haven't broken up with Cook's yet; I'm still using them for their recipes. But I'm not in love anymore. Not since I heard one of their writers/editors on Lynne Rossetto Kasper's radio show, The Splendid Table, doing a comparison of canned chicken noodle soup. I listened intently when I was done gasping in surprise that they were giving us permission to eat CANNED soup. In their test, the only Campbell's soup they used was the cheap original, and they panned it for its crazy yellow color and lack of vegetables. It was so completely unfair to compare that soup to, say, the Progresso offering, since they're not offered at the same price. Campbell's has a Chunky chicken noodle soup that would have made a more fair comparison since it's closer in price, and its quality is considerably better.

I'd long suspected that Cooks gets paid off for its product and food comparisons to make up the revenue they're missing from not taking advertising. Several years ago, I had tried using Cook's Ill's recommended brand of canned tomatoes and wondered how it had gotten higher marks than my usual brand. I thought it was just me, that I didn't have the palate to be a foodie. But that travesty of a test for the chicken noodle soup told the full tale.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crusades circa 2001

I can't wrap my head around the recent GQ story by Robert Draper about Rumsfeld's use of Bible verses in daily digests of military intelligence prepared for Pres. Bush. The story includes a slideshow of the actual memos. Example here:
I'm not sure which frightens me more: to imagine that this reflected the view from the top at the Pentagon (i.e. that the U.S. military really was fighting a religious war); or that it doesn't reflect Rumsfield's view but was used to manipulate the President (and that we had a president that could be manipulated this way).

Notably absent are slides labeled with these Bible verses:
Matthew 5:39: But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:43-44: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...

Exodus 20: 13 Thou shalt not kill.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Another subject that grabbed my attention around our trip to Britain. However, after getting tired head when reading the book on Henry VIII and his wives, I wanted to find something a bit more basic and hopefully, shorter. So I went to my local library (the local library - a subject that I need to post about) to see what they had. This one was listed as being in the children's section, so I was a bit wary of it. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the book, but with the selection of books in the children's section of the library. With the onset of the internet, do kids still use books to write reports? This was a concise, to the point, no frills account of Mary's life. It was well sourced and even with my knowledge of the subject matter, it held my interest and refreshed my memory. It had an easy to read timeline and family trees which made it easy to keep all the Henry's and Mary's separate.

Mary made some really poor choices, especially after the death of her French husband. But one has to wonder if our judgment of those choices are blinded by hindsight. Add to this that she was a bit unlucky (had Elizabeth I not been childless, would she have been so suspicious of Mary and eventually put her under house arrest and executed?) and her life is viewed as rather tragic, much like the history of her subjects, the Scots.

A very quick read and a great overview of her life and times.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Semper Fi!

Since it's Memorial Day and since Dad was a marine, I have to link to the Semper Fi Fund:

Established in May 2004, the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that has provided over 14,000 grants totaling over $30 million in assistance to our Nation's OEF/OIF wounded heroes and families. Since our inception, we have consistently maintained our program expenses at 92%, or above, and our fundraising expenses have averaged just 2 cents per dollar raised. If the mother of a wounded Marine needs help with travel expenses to be with her son or daughter, the Semper Fi Fund is there. If the wife of an injured Navy Corpsman falls temporarily behind on a mortgage payment because she left work to be with her husband in the hospital, the Semper Fi Fund is there. If a wounded Marine who has lost his sight from combat needs a special magnifier, or special computer, the Semper Fi Fund is there. Whatever the legitimate need, the Semper Fi Fund is ready to help. “Semper Fi” means “always faithful,” and that is our pledge to the heroic OEF/OIF Marines, Sailors, and other OEF/OIF service members assigned to Marine forces who are injured in the line of duty or face life threatening illness while protecting our Nation.

Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

I was looking for a comprehensive history of Henry's wives that also explored the diplomacy, religious issues, and politics surrounding this period of English history. While this was something that I studied back in my high school and college days, I only recalled the basics. I wanted to read something along those lines before our trip to Britain, but I had a difficult time finding something that wasn't too dry or too basic. I asked a few people "over the pond" and this book was one that was mentioned most often. It did fit my criteria and while it was highly researched and at times a bit dry, overall it gave me exactly what i was looking for. Details into why decisions were made, in the context of Henry and his quest for a son. I only had 2 major complaints:

(1) The focus was heavily weighted towards wives #1 and #2 (Catherine and Anne). Of the roughly 500 pages, maybe 375 were devoted to them - the other 4 wives were crammed into the final 100 pages or so. While I understand that in the context of major events in history, Catherine and Anne were much more important, I would have liked a bit more about the other wives.

(2) Perhaps to show how highly researched this work was, it didn't take long to get tired of reading where everyone was on specific days.... "On xx/yy/zzzz Henry was hunting with some Lord of wherever while his Queen (pick one) was moving from the court at (some castle) to a residence in xxxxxx-shire, only to join up with Henry 5 days later at the feast of (pick one) at the residence of whomever....". I picked up on that fact that the King and The Queen were rarely together, even when they were at the same location. And that the children were with neither. I also got tired of the descriptions of what the Queen was wearing for whatever special ceremony.

These are only minor quibbles - on the whole, the author made this whole period interesting without being too intellectual and gave me the background and back-stories that I was searching for.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Re: Mom

Ok, the doctor Friday wanted to wait for the orthopedist on Saturday. Orthopedist viewed the x-rays at home via computer Saturday night and finally reported this morning. Slight breaks in pelvis and upper arm. Although the pelvic break is painful, there is no surgery required. Ditto the arm and there won't even be a cast for the arm...just a brace for a couple of weeks.

She stays in the hospital until Tuesday when she'll be moved from Athens hospital to the Tyler rehab facility. Dad was in the rehab facility at times and it is a first rate facility. She should be there a couple of weeks, then back home. With luck, driving again (sans flip flops) in six to eight weeks.

All in all, not too bad.