Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meeting people you don't expect at a North Carolina truck stop

Well, I'm back in Virginia for no less than the 3rd time in the last 7 weeks... Can't do much of anything except sit inside today because it's horribly rainy outside. Just totally gray... It's only 1 pm and you'd think it's either 7 am or 8 pm by the color of the light outside, but no... it's early afternoon... We were going to go to Floyd today, but the weather is so gross that that will not be happening now... We stayed up late last night watching Supernatural on DVD, so I slept until 11:20 this morning...

The day before yesterday, I drove to the Burough. Yesterday, Susan and I drove to the Ville in her minivan... On the way to the Ville, we were happily listening to classic rock. Susan was recalling memories of her misspent youth and we talked of Supernatural-related things as the songs brought up recollections of both... We were driving up I-85, it was just starting to rain, and all of a sudden, just south of exit 84, Susan sees a broke-down motorist on the side of the road and exclaims, "That's Patrick!' I had not seen him because I was turned to face Susan and he was behind me, but she was so sure that we turned around at the next exit, went back and yes, indeed, walking into the Bill's Truck Stop (which was the only thing at that exit), was Patrick, my biological father who up til then had refused to meet me. He's skinnier than I had pictured him from pictures and very tall... Despite my being 5'9", 6'1" is still significantly taller... His blond hair is well on its way to graying and he's worn-looking. His head looks like the head on a bobble-head doll, not overly large like that, but in a almost disconnected sort of way with a chin that's far too sharp and not enough meat on his bones.

But we pulled over and offered him a ride, despite the temptation to do what those guys do in the Sasquatch commercial where Sasquatch is hitching and the guys offer him a ride repeatedly only to leave him in the dust repeatedly. We stayed with him until he found about a tow truck, etc. and figured out what he was going to do. Susan introduced me and instead of the hug I had gotten from his brother, Tony, his brother's girlfriend, and various cousins and more distant relatives last Christmas, I got a firm handshake and a "Hi, I'm Patrick." Still, he was polite and charming, so I suppose that's something though what I'm not sure. It was an entirely surreal experience. Hanging out at this truck stop, full of truckers and other people like that, a horrible storm outside, with Patrick, whom Susan had not even heard from in person for more than 5 years and who had expressed to his mother and to my sister Lara that he never really wanted to meet me... And yet, we were the ones to come across him when he hadn't a friend in the world, broke down on the side of the road. If we had driven by two minutes before or two minutes later, we would have not ever have seen him. Susan and I laughed about the unrealness of it several times and laughed at how crazy the universe is. It was very odd. He said very little, but as I said, was not completely cold or not at all impolite. Susan thinks it's because he was so shocked to see us, of all people, there, where we were... She could be right about that... All v. v. weird. All of that...

Lara just about screamed "WHAT?!?!?!" in my ear when I told her on the phone that we had run across him a few minutes after we left. Then she laughed and said, "Who ever said that Karma isn't real!" Seriously...

So, we'll see what happens...

To update: Lara is in the early stages of labor, but don't let that fool you. It could still be a week or more before she delivers. It's just the vaguest recollections of contractions and very slight dilation and lots of not being at all comfortable, so nothing's happening anytime too soon...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Outta Town... Again...

I'll be leaving bright and early tomorrow morning again... Not sure when I'll be back in Tampa. I've got tons of e-mail to get through that's backed up over the last several weeks as well as other things that have accumulated.

I got the package of alpaca fibers that you sent, Ilana. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't wait to get into that... I'm still working on the first batch you sent all those months ago... Let me know via e-mail how much I need to send you for the shipping, okay?

Off to pack...

Supernatural, Season 3 - From Kripke's Mouth

I can't tell you how much I love and adore Eric Kripke... mostly because he loves us, his fans, and doesn't abuse us like many other Powers That Be that I could name (Tom Fontana... Chris Carter... Joss Whedon...). As I read this interview, I couldn't help but squee with total joy... repeatedly! He does my fangirl heart good. I wish I could give him a big hug for being so nice and understanding... He hasn't screwed us over, and so I'm going to keep on trusting that he's not going to...

*****Spoilers abound below... Beware! Do not read further if you don't want any spoilers for Season 3 of Supernatural... but I promise, Kripke says we're not going to be angry... And he hasn't gone wrong yet (even with Jo... I don't know what others have against her... I liked Jo, she was fun and different and I wouldn't have wanted her to be anything other than she was...) There will be no further spoiler space beyond this point...*****

All of the following is copied from someone's blog, quoting (TVGuide's questions/comments are in italics):

Michael Aussielo at TVGuide got this exclusive interview on the upcoming season of "Supernatural."

All hell has broken loose in the Supernatural community. Ever since news leaked that the show was introducing two new shagadelic female series regulars this coming season, fans have inundated me with hundreds of angry e-mails. Their chief concern: In a bid to broaden the serial thriller's appeal, CW brass are forcing producers to bimbofy the show, hence the two new lady killers (played by Katie Cassidy and Lauren Cohan). In an exclusive interview, series creator Eric Kripke addressed the controversy head-on, clearing the air about the changes ahead and offering a preview of what he's calling "the best season of Supernatural yet."

Fans are in a bit of a tizzy.
Eric Kripke: First of all, I love our fans. I love them to death. I love how passionate they are. But they tend to worry unnecessarily. They tend to get stressed before they have a chance to judge the finished product. We are so conscious and aware of our fans. We're making the show for the fans; we're not making the show for the network. We would never do anything to betray them. I'm not saying we're perfect. I'm not saying we don't make mistakes. But we're very conscious and aware. And when we do make mistakes, we course-correct. So if I can get any message to them, it's, 'Don't worry. We're making choices based on what's best creatively for the show.'

Is it true that the CW asked you to introduce the two new females?
Kripke: The real, honest answer is, we knew we were going to introduce one female character, Ruby. And Dawn [Ostroff] said, 'Could you introduce two female characters.' We said, 'We've got this great female character – the Bela character – who we already had written a script for, who we love. And who we were going to bring back anyway. Let's make her a regular.' So, it was not thrust upon us. We were already introducing one. She wanted us to introduce two. And it's of the producers' own volition. We are not turning into One Tree Hill with monsters – I swear. I'd rather put a gun in my mouth. I understand everyone is nervous, but if they just hang in there, and watch the episodes, and watch how it turns out... we have not lost our head. We're delivering what we feel is the best season of Supernatural yet.

What specific misconceptions about the upcoming season would you like to clear up?
Kripke: First, the perception online, because I read online as much as anybody, that suddenly the show is going to be Scooby Doo. And that it's going to be Sam and Dean with these two girls in the backseat of the Impala, and they're going to cruise from town to town, they're going to do a little go-go dancing, and then they're going to fight some monsters. That is not the case. The girls are recurring regulars, first of all, which means that our contracts with them, tops, puts them in 12 out of 22 episodes. That's tops. So there's no reformulation where it's the four of them together where they're in every episode. We're introducing them very carefully. We're not jamming them in every episode. They weave in and out of the story, like other hunters have on our show in the past. It's not the four of them in every episode. Bela shows up, and then Ruby shows up, and then the boys are alone… So they're just inter-changing as they're traveling around the country. They're just bumping into different characters. They're also bumping into Gordon, Agent Hendrickson, and Bobby and Ellen, because we're opening up the world of the show. We've always said we were going to expand the Supernatural universe. We always felt the show had the potential to have just as fleshed-out a universe as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. And that involves introducing new characters. So, that's one.

And Two?
Kripke: Two, there's a misconception online that they're being introduced as love interests. They're not being introduced as love interests; they're being introduced as antagonists. I know people weren't thrilled about Jo last season, but we feel we've learned from that mistake. I love the actress [Alona Tal], but the problem was, we conceived the character wrong. She was the girl next door, she was the little sister, and her attitude was, 'How can I help you?' And, [exec producer] Bob Singer and I always said to ourselves in Season 2, if we were to bring girls into the show, the way to bring them in is to make trouble for the guys, not to be helpful. To introduce them as their own fleshed out characters in their own right, who are raging pains in the ass, and trouble, and dangerous, and then sort of see what happens. I've already broken the first 10 episodes, and, so far, there's nothing even close to romance. It's closer to they're going to come to blows with each other.

There's a thin line between love and hate...
Kripke: True. We're going to see how it goes. We're going to see, 'Is there chemistry? Are there sparks?' What we're trying to do is what shows that we admire tried to do, like The X-Files and Buffy. Yes, The X-Files is about Mulder and Scully, but Skinner grew to play a part. The Lone Gunmen grew to play a part. Buffy had other characters that were coming in and out of the storyline, and they were fascinating characters. The trick is to not introduce them as love interests. The trick, we feel, is to introduce them as fleshed-out characters with their own inner lives, and then see what develops. And the other thing is, the girls are very separate and very different. And very rarely are they in the same episode, because they're each serving very different storylines. Ruby (Katie Cassidy) is this demon hunter, who is ruthless and a little crazy and rough around the edges, and doesn't share the same moral conscience that either of the boys share. A little unhinged in that way. There's going to be a big twist about Ruby very early on. As early as Episode 2 you're going to learn something very fascinating about Ruby.

And what about Bela?
Kripke: Bela (Lauren Cohan) is actually something we never presented on Supernatural before, which is someone who lives in this world who actually isn't a hunter. She's a thief and a mercenary. And all of these amulets and magical objects that the boys are always stealing and using to fight creatures, are actually worth a lot of money. And there's someone to buy and sell them. And she's really not interested in the altruistic or obsessed or revenge-minded motives of hunting. She's interested in a free market economy and making a buck. She's in it for herself. That's someone they've really never come across before. 'I don't really care if you stop that ghost, I want that amulet,' which if she disappears with it the boys are screwed.

The love interest thing must be in the back of your head, right?
Kripke: Our fans are notoriously protective of our boys. If the chemistry is there, and we see the sparks, and we want it to happen, and the fans want it to happen, it'll happen. We're not planning for it at this point, because we just don't know. We don't know which girl is going to spark to which guy, we just don't know what's going to happen. We're just going to add the ingredients together and let them percolate, and then move from there. But honestly, I swear, at this point, I don't have plans for the girls to pair up with the guys. They might. But until I see who works best with who, I'm just not going to pull that trigger.

What else can you tell me about Season 3?
Kripke: This is a season where war breaks out. And there's no longer any of this, 'Who's the psychic kid? And I should follow the yellow-eyed demon, what?' It's war. We're at war. Choose a side. It's the end of the world. We feel this is the most exciting season yet. We feel this is the season to join the party. I'm not promising that we're not going to make missteps, as any show does. But the difference between us and other shows, is when they make missteps, they say, 'Go fuck yourself.' When we make missteps, we pay attention to the fans and we course correct. So, fans, I love you all, but stop worrying.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

10th Century Viking Hoard Discovered

K... This was an article published on BBCNews online... There's also a little video if you go to the website about how it was found and why it's dated the way it is... If they weren't oversimplifying (and I'm sorry to say, I don't think they were), this hoard is dated to the 10th century because the youngest coin was from that time, minted during the reign of Aethelstan... As has been pointed out by scholars more accredited than myself, it is unwise to date a hoard based on coinage, despite the overwhelming tendency of archaeologists and historians of Medieval Europe to do so. Coins, unlike other things, might have a precise date when they were made, but they do not decay, unlike wood, cloth, etc and so may be buried hundreds of years after their minting with little evidence that this was the case revealed by the coin itself. Now, I admit that it was probably unlikely that a hoard such as this would have been buried *hundreds* of years after the coins were made, since Vikings were likely to have buried it and the 10th century puts the horde toward the end of the Viking Age in England - therefore, decades are more likely in this case... Still, dating the hoard based on the youngest coin's age is probably not the best way to go about things... (The dating of the horde is discussed in the video available at BBCNews... follow the link for the article below)

Of course, it might have been easier to avoid attempting to date by coinage entirely if upon realizing what they had found the metal-detector "hobbyists" had left it where they found it and called the archaeologists in immediately instead of digging it up, willy-nilly, all by their amature selves without taking stratigraphy into account or anything back in January (and we're just finding out about this now?!?!)... Sometimes, stratigraphy doesn't work, I know, because the ground was disturbed by ploughs or other things like that over the years, but considering that the horde seems to be complete, undisturbed and exactly as it was buried, I'm going to say that that probably wasn't the case here...

Other than that, I'm very excited about this discovery and look forward to learning more about the items that were found.

Viking treasure hoard uncovered
(You can see pictures here:

The most important Viking treasure find in Britain for 150 years has been unearthed by a father and son while metal detecting in Yorkshire.
David and Andrew Whelan uncovered the hoard, which dates back to the 10th Century, in Harrogate in January.

The pair kept their find intact and it was transferred to the British Museum to be examined by experts, who said the discovery was "phenomenal".

It was declared as a treasure at a court hearing in Harrogate on Thursday.

North Yorkshire coroner Geoff Fell said: "Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on.

"I'm delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire. We are extremely proud of our Viking heritage in this area."

'Astonishing discovery'

Metal detectorists David and Andrew Whelan, who uncovered the treasures, said the find was a "thing of dreams".

The pair, from Leeds, said the hoard was worth about £750,000 as a conservative estimate.

They told the BBC News website: "We've been metal detecting for about five years; we do it on Saturdays as a hobby.

"We ended up in this particular field, we got a really strong signal from the detector... Eventually we found this cup containing the coins and told the antiquity authority.

"We were astonished when we finally discovered what it contained."

The ancient objects come from as far afield as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as what is now Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.

The hoard contains 617 silver coins and 65 other objects, including a gold arm-ring and a gilt silver vessel.

Dr Jonathan Williams, keeper of prehistory in Europe at the British Museum, said: "[The cup] is beautifully decorated and was made in France or Germany at around AD900.

"It is fantastically rare - there are only a handful of others known around the world. It will be stunning when it is fully conserved."

Turbulent times

Most of the smaller objects were extremely well preserved as they had been hidden inside the vessel, which was protected by a lead container.

The British Museum said the coins included several new or rare types, which provide valuable new information about the history of England in the early 10th Century, as well as Yorkshire's wider cultural contacts in the period.

It was probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest following the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD927.

A spokeswoman for the museum said: "The size and quality of the hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain for over 150 years."

The find will now be valued for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by the Independent Treasure Valuation Committee.

Dr Williams said that the British Museum and the York Museums Trust would be looking to raise the funds to purchase the collection so it could eventually go on public display.

The proceeds would be split between the finders and landowners.

Story from BBC NEWS.
Published: 2007/07/19 11:54:47 GMT

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Underwear = Medieval Paper?

Not sure if I buy this theory... Would need to know more about the supposed evidence of paper being made from rags increasing literacy and the availability of books before the advent of the printing press, and I also want to know what the evidence is of urbanism = underwear, but it's interesting nonetheless...

The article, available through Yahoo, is reproduced here in its entirety so that when it's no longer archived on Yahoo, it can still be seen here:

Underwear's historic role... in Western learning
Thu Jul 12, 7:30 AM ET
Agence France Presse

LONDON (AFP) - Underwear underpins the spread of Western culture, with discarded underpants ranking alongside the invention of printing in the spread of literacy, according to a medieval historian.

Delegates at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, northern England, were told that social migration from rural to urban areas in the 13th century brought with it changes in attire.

Whereas rough and ready peasants thought little of wearing nothing under their smocks, the practice became frowned upon in the burgeoning towns and cities, leading to a run on undergarments.

And when the underwear was worn out, it provided a steady supply of material used by papermakers to make books.

"The development of literacy was certainly helped by the introduction of paper, which was made from rags," Marco Mostert, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and one of the conference organisers, said this week.

"These rags came from discarded clothes, which cost much less than the very expensive parchment which was previously used for books.

"In the 13th century, so it is thought, as more people moved into urban centres, the use of underwear increased -- which caused an increase in the number of rags available for paper-making."

The invention of the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century is generally credited with spreading learning.

But Mostert said that although literacy did not become widespread until the 19th century, it was more common in the Middle Ages than many believe because of cheap paper made from rags.

Good Eats - Brisket

Watching "Good Eats" on the FoodNetwork right now... This is probably the best episode I've ever seen. Why, you might ask? Because it's all about brisket, quite possibly the single best reason not to be a vegetarian in the entire world (imho).

Although Alton Brown mentioned many ways of cooking brisket, including smoked, Texas bbq, and the Jewish pot-roast-like way, he has chosen to make corned beef and cabbage from scratch in this episode... That's right, he pickled the beef himself! He also talked about the origin of corned beef and cabbage, trying to figure out why it's so popular for a St. Patrick's Day meal and why it's popular in NYC. The Irish priest and the New York rabbi Alton consulted were unable to explain it. The food anthropologist said that corned beef and cabbage is not and never was an Irish dish. Both the beef and the salt necessary to pickle it were far too expensive in Ireland for it to become a national dish... No, it is an Irish-American thing. But why? Well, because the Irish immigrants upon reaching New York suddenly found themselves without their very popular, common "bacon joint", whatever the heck that is, and surrounded by Jews, who ate brisket because it's a kosher cut and really good (if cooked right). It was a cheap cut for them because it's hard to cook right, etc. so the Irish started substituting it in a lot of their dishes... This was the end of her explanation.

I might be able to shed further light, however (maybe - not sure, read on...)... My grandmother told me that her mother used to make corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. Her mother never went to NYC. She came into the US from the Ukraine through Canada and Detroit and settled in the mid-west in the 1890s. My grandmother said that her mother made it because her own mother made it back in Zvenigorodka (just like most of the dishes she made). What the dish is is boiled potatoes and green cabbage leaves (steamed) with butter and hot sliced or shredded corned beef. So *if* this was originally an Eastern European dish, it might be that Jewish families in New York were making what we would recognize as corned beef and cabbage because it was a dish they brought with them from the old country, which their Irish neighbors then picked up on... I'd guess that this would have had to have been no earlier than the last quarter of the 19th century, however, after both the Irish wave and Eastern European Jewish wave of immigrants came into the US. Because although there was a major influx of Irish into the US earlier in the century because of the Potato Famine and then again around the Civil War, before around 1875 or thereabouts, the majority of Jews in the US were originally from Western Europe, North Africa or the Middle East. So that's why I'm not totally sure... I'd have to know when it started to become popular in New York and the food anthropologist on "Good Eats" didn't cover that.

Now, while corned beef is good, Alton, I have to say that the way my Bubbe made brisket has to be by far the best (My brother, Josh, called it "Bubbe's Chicken" when he was very young. I'm not sure why...). Sure, some will say that nothing can beat smoked and bbq-ed brisket, but that's cause they haven't had this stuff. Somewhat similar in consistency to Cuban shredded pork, without the pork or the shredding, it is the best beef dish I have ever had, hands down.

I will now share the secrets for perfect brisket with the world... ::clears throat::

You take a 4 - 6 lb. flat cut of brisket (not a point cut!), any less than that and you're wasting your time, and put it in a large pan. Add water, I'd say til there's about an inch to an inch and a half in the pan. Add spices to taste... My grandmother used Lipton's Onion Soup mix (can you tell she learned most of her cooking skills in the 1940s-1960s?) and because of that, so do I. She would sprinkle at least one packet over the meat and in the water, sometimes both depending on the size of the brisket. You can also just add garlic, salt, onions, etc. which are fresh, but I can't predict how that would taste in the end. I don't recommend adding pepper or pepper corns because pepper will have a tendency to burn easily in the oven. Cover in aluminum foil or a pan lid and put in a hot 325-350 degree oven. Keep it there for at least 3 to as much as 4 hours, checking periodically (but quickly to not loose too much heat) to make sure that the water hasn't evaporated. Add more water if necessary so that the meat won't burn. When it's done, the outside of the meat will be browned and kinda crusty looking, but it has to stay in there for a long time to make it good. The meat will also shrink quite a bit as it cooks. (I'd say a 5 lb brisket will feed at least 6 - 8 adults with typical appetites with some left over for brisket sandwiches the next day. If fewer people are eating it, you just get to have dinner off of it for two nights in a row, as well as sandwiches... bonus!) Take the whole pan out, cool outside of the fridge until it's closer to room temperature and then loosely cover (to allow it to continue to cool) and put it in the refrigerator. The next day, take it out of the fridge. The fats will have re-solidified. Do not remove any of that, even if you're squeamish about fat, or you'll dry the meat out. Let it sit out for a little while (just a little while) to take the chill out and then cut the meat against the grain into thin slices with an electric knife (or if you like hard work, a regular knife). The meat will stay together and be very rigid. Arrange it back like it was before it was sliced, add a little more water to the pan, as well as sliced potatoes (my grandmother would also peel them, but the skins can probably be left on if you prefer), carrots and mushrooms (white or button is fine), sort of arranged around the meat and/or over it. Cover it and put the whole thing back into the oven at 350 until the potatoes are cooked through... usually this takes at least an hour, sometimes as much as 3, depending on how large or small the potatoes are cut. Take the pan out and enjoy the delicious goodness that is brisket. The meat should be so tender that it can be cut with a fork or even to the point where it falls apart of its own accord. If it's not doing that, try again 'cause something went wrong (probably didn't cook it long enough or at a low enough heat)... Total YUM!

Monday, July 09, 2007

News from the Union of Concerned Scientists...

In case everyone who happens upon my blog doesn't subscribe to UCS's FEED newsletter, I thought I'd post this info here...

1. Tyson Foods, the nation's largest producer of chicken, announced last month that it has begun to produce all of its fresh chicken free of antibiotics and is selling the chicken in grocery stores under a "Raised Without Antibiotics" label. An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are regularly added to the feed of livestock and poultry that are not sick—a practice with serious consequences for our health. Bacteria that are constantly exposed to antibiotics develop antibiotic resistance. This means that when humans get sick from resistant bacteria, the antibiotics prescribed by doctors don't work. UCS is taking the opportunity to raise awareness in the industry and ask fast-food companies to pressure their suppliers to raise their meat without antibiotics. Please go here to sign the petition.

2. Negotiations are underway in the House and Senate on the 2007 Farm Bill, the major agricultural and food policy legislation in the United States. The Farm Bill outlines provisions on agricultural subsidies, trade, conservation, research, marketing, food stamps, and much more. The bill also proposes many innovative programs that would promote conservation practices on agricultural land, increase research in sustainable agriculture, and provide stronger support for organic farmers. Yet in a difficult budget year, it is unclear whether many of these proposals will be adequately funded. New programs or increased funding for existing programs must be paid for by making cuts elsewhere. The House has already begun debate on these measures and the Senate will begin debate soon. UCS is working with congressional allies to promote Farm Bill programs that work for America's farmers, the environment, and human health. But we need your help! Look for action alerts from UCS in coming months to tell your members of Congress to support conservation programs and research in the Farm Bill.

In addition, I would like to ask everyone to write to their Representatives and Senators today to ask them to make sure that family and small farms are supported by the 2007 Farm Bill, that Factory Farms which pollute and damage the environment are not given subsidies, and that all references to the National Animal Identification System are stricken from the Bill, unless the references deauthorize the USDA from implementing it. Right now, the House Agro Committee wants to slip in a line authorizing the USDA to make NAIS mandatory so that it can implement mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). However, there are many ways that COOL can be implemented without making NAIS mandatory. Please ask them to find a way to do that.

3. Global warming is likely to endanger the wild relatives of some of the world's most important food crops, according to a recent study. Using a simulation model, researchers at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research studied the effect of global warming on wild varieties of several crops, including peanuts and potatoes. They determined that 61 percent of wild peanut species analyzed and 12 percent of wild potato species analyzed could become extinct in the next 50 years. Plant breeders often tap into the rich genetic diversity of wild species for traits allowing crops to adapt to harsh conditions. Wild relatives can contain genes for valuable traits such as drought resistance or insect tolerance. If changes in climate drive wild relatives to extinction, farmers may lose the very genetic resources needed to help our food crops adapt to the same changes. For more information on this topic, visit Biodiversity International's web site.

4. Ireland's new coalition government recently revealed plans to make the island free of genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals. The announcement delighted many Irish farmers and food producers who have been campaigning for years to reach this goal. As a geographically isolated island with very low levels of existing GE contamination, Ireland has the best chance among European Union (EU) member states of maintaining a credible GE-free status. The government hopes to make Ireland off-limits to GE seeds, crops, insects, and animals, and to phase out the use of GE ingredients in animal feed. The association of organizations and citizens behind this initiative would like to see Ireland become a GE-free biosafety reserve to protect the food security of all EU countries. Click here for more information on the campaign to keep Ireland GE-free.

5. I agree with the UCS that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barabara Kingsolver is the must read of the summer. So far, my mom has read this and it has become her Bible... She has bought copies for many more of our family and friends because she believes that everyone must read this book if they give two figs about health, the environment and the sustainability of our food supply. Check it out, you won't be sorry...

National ID - Why it's dangerous!

Just in case you think it's gone away...

Read this and write your elected officials asap!

Gradualism in Practice:
The Danger of Compulsory National ID
by Carl Watner

Most people have probably heard at least one of the following stories. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water and he will save himself by jumping right out. Put him in a pan of cold water, and gradually increase the heat. You will soon boil him to death. Want to catch a wild hog that won’t come anywhere near you? Put a little corn out for him in the woods. Do that pretty regularly until he gets used to the smell of humans and gradually accustoms himself to eating corn. Get him to follow your trail of corn right into an enclosure and you capture him easily. What is the moral of these two stories? What has this got to do with government identification programs? What has gradualism got to do with national id?

We can begin answering these questions by noting that at the time of the American Revolution, there was little concern for the official, civil registration of births and deaths. Even in the Constitution there is no specific mention of vital statistics other than the commissioning of the federal government to conduct a census every ten years in order to determine the apportionment of congressmen among the states. At any time prior to 1900, it would probably been impossible for a large portion of the American populace to prove that they had ever been born or that their parents were ever married, since they had no state-issued birth or marriage certificates. Before the advent of the automobile, there was certainly no such thing as a state-issued license to drive a horse and wagon. Nonetheless, today, nearly everyone has a state-issued birth certificate, and practically anyone who drives a motor vehicle has a state-issued license extending to them the “privilege” to do so. The constitutional directive for the decennial census has been expanded to such an extent that serious consideration is now being given to assigning a federal identification number to each and every citizen and resident alien in the United States. How did we in America move from the point where few of our ancestors were concerned about even having a record of their birth (much less having a public official make that record) to the point where we are ready to accept a unique government number to identify us? How were we convinced to accept government numbers when our forefathers would have bristled at the thought?

Here were some of the steps:

* 1639 - Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that births and deaths should be reported to the town clerk by parents or household owners within one month of their occurrence. Connecticut and other colonies followed suit in the succeeding years.
* 1790 - First national census conducted in accordance with Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution.
* 1842 - Massachusetts became the first state to require collection of vital statistics (births and deaths); followed by other states between 1850 and 1900.
* 1903 - Massachusetts and Missouri became the first states to require driver’s licenses, though Missouri had no driver examination law until 1952.
* 1935 - The passage of the Social Security Act “proved to be a great stimulus” to birth certification. “Many people had never considered a birth certificate to be of any importance until old age assistance, unemployment insurance, and other ramifications of the Social Security Act demonstrated to them that it was necessary to have this official proof of their existence” in order to collect benefits.
* 1961 - The IRS demanded that all taxpayers provide their Social Security number when paying federal taxes.
* 1992 - Hospital enumeration-at-birth program (assigning newborns Social Security numbers) was begun.

Looking at this historical overview, it is easy to see how government gradualism has prevailed. Like the frog jumping out of boiling water, the American people would have completely rejected a national numbering system when the Constitution was adopted. When the first federal census was conducted in South Carolina, the enumeration was met with considerable resistance. Several heads of family in the Federal District for Charleston were indicted in 1791 for “refusing to render an account of their respective families.” George Washington in a letter to Gouverneur Morris noted that many Americans held religious scruples against complying with the census officials, while others feared that the census was in some way connected with taxes, and hence refused to cooperate. However, now after nearly three hundred years of accepting some limited forms of government enumeration, a national id system doesn’t sound so strange.

Clearly, people soon get used to government involvement in their lives. Our government has always used the carrot and stick approach to gain cooperation. It threatened punishment for not complying with its laws; and it promised handouts for obeying. This was the exact method used by the government’s Social Security Administration. First it promised that a social security number would never be used for identification purposes. Then it promised practically free payouts to the retiring elderly if they would only apply for a number. Then years later, the SSA and the IRS threatened all sorts of penalties and loss of privileges if one refused a number. By 1973, it was required that a social security number be furnished if one were to open a personal checking account. Later, one could not claim dependent exemptions unless one provided their social security numbers on one’s 1040 tax form. Today, in some states, one cannot obtain a driver’s license without providing a social security number. What will come next?

What comes next is compulsory, national id. Whether administered at the state or the federal level, each and every person in the United States would be issued a government identification, and would be required to use it in order to participate in numerous activities. A true national identification card would necessarily be universal (if not issued to every newborn it would be issued to all children upon their reaching a certain age) and compulsory (it would become a crime, punishable by fine or imprisonment, to refuse to accept or use such a document). It would also be a violation of the law to have more than one card, to use the card of another person, or to hold a card in the name of an alias. A national id would act as a domestic passport. In many countries around the world, where such cards actually exist, they are needed to rent an apartment, buy a home, apply for a job, pay one’s utility and telephone bills, withdraw books from the library, or to access health care services. They could act as a surrogate driver’s license, passport, voter registration card, hunting/fishing license, and draft card. With micro-chip technology, such a card would act as a complete medical, financial, tax, and travel dossier documenting where you have been, how you got there, and how you paid for the services you used. In conjunction with data reported to the Internal Revenue Service, it would enable the government to calculate how much you owed in taxes each year. National id micro-chips could be accessed by all government agencies so the card could be used to verify that the holder had no delinquent taxes or child support, no overdue library books, no parking fines, no bounced checks, and no unpaid traffic violations. Micro-chips would also have the capability to be disabled from a central government office at the discretion of any government agency, “instantly rendering its holder unable to travel or function in society.” In short, government id would be a license to live issued by the government. No longer would life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be a natural, inalienable right.

If one were a conspiracy theorist, one could claim that even before the passage of the Social Security Act plans were being laid to enslave the American population by way of numbering them. While this might be true, a more reasonable explanation is found by examining the nature of government. Government, as George Washington, noted is “force.” It tolerates no competition within its domains: it is the sole monopolizer of police, courts, and defense services AND it collects it revenues by threatening confiscation of property or imprisonment of person if one refuses to pay it levies. As Lord Acton observed “power corrupts.” When government has the power to control us, it will use every strategy at its disposal to increase the amount of taxes assessed and the ease by which they are collected. What could make this process easier than a numbering scheme for all its citizens?

Is it too late to resist? In one sense, yes. It is always easier to resist at the beginnings. It is also easier to refuse to cooperate if one does not accept the basic premise adopted by one’s opponent. In the case of the frog, the frog would have to reject being placed in the pot of water, whether it was hot or cold. (Why else would he be placed there - other than to cook him?) The hog would have to be smart enough to refuse the bait. By rejecting the free gift of corn, the hog would have prevented himself gradually being led down the trail to capture. The American people, by accepting the principle that governments should be responsible for the census and vital statistics, have been easily led down the trail to national id.

Although it might be hard to imagine how this assumption of government enumeration power could have been averted, there have been at least two partially successful campaigns against national id. In the early 1900s, Mahatma Gandhi led a resistance movement against the registration of Indians in the South African Transvaal. An Englishman who lived there called the registration “the fastening of the dog’s collar” around the neck of the Indians. At a meeting in late 1906, Gandhi called the government’s bill a violation of basic civil rights and urged the entire Indian community in the Transvaal to openly resist complying with such a law. Thus was born the idea of Satayagraha (nonviolent resistance to unjust governmental demands), which was successfully implemented in both the Transvaal and during the Indian movement for independence from Great Britain after World War II. Forty years later, a similar, massive public protest arose in Australia when the government proposed a national id card for all Australians.

Now that Americans are faced with a similar challenge, there are a few general observations that we ought to remember:

In a society where the people have been issued a national id card by their government, they - the people - are no longer free because their permission to live, work, and play comes from the government.

The logical outcome of government involvement in enumeration is the type of population control described by the authors of such fictional disutopias, as Brave New World and 1984. This is why national id systems have been described as “a trademark of totalitarianism.”

From the Biblical story of King David (who caused a plague by counting his people), to the Roman censors who counted Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, to today’s call for national id, the essential purpose behind government data-gathering has always been the same: to enhance government’s control over its subject population. Government identification programs - whether the censuses of antiquity, or based upon a birth certificate, a Social Security card, a driver’s license, a smart card (the programmable micro-chip), or even an implanted micro-chip or some other form of biometric recognition - are all based upon the same principle: that government has the right and necessity to track, monitor, and control the people and property within its geographic jurisdiction. Thus the primary danger of implementing a national id system in the United States is that it delivers totalitarian power to the federal government. As political scientist, Theodore Lowi, wrote in 1981,

Every action and every agency of contemporary government … contribute to the fulfillment of its fundamental purpose, which is to maintain conquest. Conquest manifests itself in various forms of control, but in all those forms it is the common factor tying together into one system the behavior of courts and cops, sanitation workers and senators, bureaucrats and technocrats, attorney generals, pressure groups and presidents.

Although Lowi did not include them, we might add government health departments (that issue birth certificates), government motor vehicle administrations (that issue driver licenses), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (which is responsible for keeping track of aliens within the United States), and the Office of Homeland Security (which is responsible for protecting us from terrorists). If and when it comes, a national id program will fit hand in glove with Lowi’s description of the “fundamental purpose” of government “which is to maintain conquest.”

In making their ultimate decision whether to accept or reject national id, Americans need to remember two things:

First, national id and enhanced governmental powers always go hand in hand.

Second, for thousand of years, people have lived, died, and prospered without government id. If they could do it, we certainly can. Sure, it is necessary that we have food, shelter, and clothing but that doesn’t mean that our government must compulsorily supply us with these things any more than it needs to furnish each of us with a national id number.

Carl Watner is editor of The Vountaryist. See for more of his work.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I received this article in an e-mail from a friend yesterday... I still don't know what to make of it. It's so patently insane... I... I... just can't believe it...

Fort Lauderdale mayor says $250K robotic toilet may put stop to 'illegal sex'
By Brittany Wallman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 4, 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Mayor Jim Naugle has never been shy about voicing his beliefs.

He's called some environmentalists "wackos" and said people complaining about high home prices were lazy, beer drinking "schlocks."

Now the mayor has shifted his attention to a robotic toilet, saying the invention could have a special edge over a traditional restroom in preventing the "homosexual activity" that he said plagues other public restrooms.

The robo-john the city might buy for $250,000 or more allows occupants to stay inside for only a short time before the door opens. Probably not enough time for "illegal sex," Naugle figures.

The restroom, already in use in Atlanta, Seattle and New York, also plays music and cleans the seat automatically.

"We're trying to provide a family environment where people can take their children who need to use the bathroom," he said, "without having to worry about a couple of men in there engaged in a sex act."

Though police say sex in restrooms is no longer a hot crime, the mayor thinks it is. He talked about the illicit sex recently in public meetings, in an interview and in e-mails to residents.

Naugle, not a stranger to public controversy, particularly on the issue of gays, said public restrooms are pickup places for "homosexuals. ... They're engaging in sex, anonymous sex, illegal sex."

The proposed location for the city's experimental automated toilet is the parking lot at Sebastian Street, at what many locals call the "gay beach." Naugle told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the intelligent commode's security features are vital at this location, which he called "the rainbow parking lot."

"The homosexual newspaper said it's the 'gay parking lot.' That's not me saying that," Naugle said in the interview, "that's what they said. I don't use the word 'gay.' I use the word 'homosexual.' Most of them aren't gay. They're unhappy."

Naugle has been outspoken as a Christian and a social and political conservative.

When the Christian outreach event Beachfest came to town in 2003, he said anyone who had a problem with the city's official embrace of the religious festival "can move to Iraq."

He angered middle class residents last year when he said housing prices would be affordable if people worked more hours instead of sitting on the couch drinking beer. Earlier this year, he refused to sign a mayor's pact to reduce greenhouse gases. Naugle said global warming is not caused by humans and that the pact contained "hate-America stuff that the environmental wackos want in."

His latest comments about gays thus didn't come as much of a surprise to some.

"Excuse me?" said Marc Hansen, a leader among local gay residents. "Thank God this is his last term."

Dean Trantalis, the openly gay lawyer who sat on the Commission with Naugle for three years, laughed when told of the comments. Trantalis said he's proud the beach welcomes gay families and continues to attract gay visitors.

The beach needs more toilets, he said, and the decision shouldn't be made on whether people will use them for sex. And they still might, he said, even in the short time-frame.

"I'm not an expert on public toilet sex," said Trantalis, "but there are those who would say one minute would be enough. Or 30 seconds."

The City Commission still has to vote to buy it, and would use property tax funds from the beach Community Redevelopment Agency, money that cannot be used for police or lifeguards, officials said.

Police officials said male sex in restrooms is actually not a problem, anymore.

"There's no evidence, no reports or arrests made for any men having sex in any restrooms," said Sgt. Frank Sousa.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at or 954-356-4541.
Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ruminations on the 4th

All of the following is randomly thrown together as it occurs to me, unedited, uncensored, and on very little sleep... I think it probably makes very little coherent sense, if any at all... so sorry...

So I'm back at the Burough tonight... I was going to leave for Tampa tomorrow, but this will now be put off til Friday and it's just as well. I don't want to drive in the car two days in a row and this way I get to see my bitty siblings again before I leave. But as I said, back at the Burough...

Jason is downstairs cooking steaks, and potatoes, and tomatoes and okra, listening to John Mayer on the CD player... I'm not much for the tomatoes and okra because I hate tomatoes but that's okay...

Fireworks can be heard in the distance, as well as the occasional gun shot. We are in rural South Carolina after all... This is my first 4th away from Tampa and it's very interesting... I'm in a house which used to serve as slave quarters for some of the house slaves, the cooks and the like. I think Susan mentioned that the dairy next door also housed slaves on the second floor... Other structures which also served this purpose, further down the hill, no longer stand, their foundations lost for now to the undergrowth of the pine forest.

We've just returned from the big house next door where the family is setting off fireworks on the front lawn. We sat on the porch next to Miz Mary and watched her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren light up the night air with gunpowder... Jason also brought out one of his many guns and shot into the air several times. It was very loud, just like on New Year's Eve. It occurred to me that the house has stood almost as long as our Constitution and that many, many 4ths have been celebrated there long into the past. The porch where we stood was also the porch on which a long ago Mrs. Anderson stood to face down the Yankee soldiers who had been sent to burn her house down... The only thing that saved it was the Masonic symbol she'd had put on a banner and hung from the second floor balcony; a Yankee soldier with some clout saw it and forbid his men to burn the house for he too was a Mason, just like Mrs. Anderson's husband who was away fighting for the Confederacy. This house and property has seen it all, every war and every trial our country has faced, and once again is actively celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It is a glorious thing.

In the background inside this house, Aunt Rinda's House, where Susan and Jason live, I hear chickens chirping, even over the sounds of John Mayer downstairs... Susan and Jason have two Dominiques and 5 Morans in a large Rubbermade container in the upstairs hallway just a few feet away... They are about 3 1/2 months old now.

Pictures of all of this to follow once I'm home again and able to upload them to my computer.

Last night in Virginia, there were fireworks at the Martinsville Speedway. We could almost see them through the trees, but mostly only saw the colored lights reflecting off the clouds and heard the patriotic country music blaring from the Speedway's sound system.

We sat in traffic yesterday afternoon, on our way back from an attempted shopping trip to Greensboro, cut short by the fact that *nothing* was open in downtown, much to our total dismay, mine especially because the yarn shop was closed so I couldn't get any roving or new yarn for the rest of my summer projects that I have planned... Anyway, we were trying to get around the Speedway, as I said, on our way back to Susan's mother's house. It was hours before dark, and we were surrounded by old cars, some new cars, and not a few pick-up trucks, more often than not sporting Confederate battle flags somewhere either on stickers or in windows, etc. usually with several children in the bed or at least one very fat man with no shirt, Susan mentioned that the large number of people headed to the Speedway and the shops in downtown Greensboro being closed on the 3rd was strange (though not totally unexpected) because the 4th is a "Yankee holiday," so why all the fuss?... I think Lara conceded that point but also pointed out that the 4th is also an occasion to drink and to light things on fire and what redneck passes that up? (I thought, you know, that sounds like an awfully Yankee thing to do too -- Sherman and Grant anyone? -- But whatever...) Susan said that while, yes, we must celebrate Independence Day, we mustn't let it pass in total jubilation. That we, as Southerners, must rebel a bit and do a little serious work on the 4th, see to some business before taking the afternoon off for parties and fun. I am quite amused... And sure, why not? Might as well do something to mark the fact that we Southerners are a different breed than those north of the Mason-Dixon and we do in some measure resent their domination, etc. etc... Because try as some of us and some of them might to ignore it, there are major differences between the way we live down here and the way the rest of the country lives. Every region of our country has its difference and that is one of ours. We're Southern by the Grace of God, amen and hallelujah! Oh, yeah, and we're American by that same Grace too... Happy 4th everybody, Yankee and Rebel alike! ;D And whether you get all this Southern stuff or not (hey, Dad!)...

What I've been up to...

Still on vacation... In Virginia at the moment, until tomorrow, and only have one second to get this posted and get off to bed, where I really should be already...

Wrote two articles for the Project Laundry List Newsletter, "Hanging Out!" this last week. Check out the newsletter here... My articles are on pages 6 and 10, I think... I was also the uncredited but much appreciated assistant editor on this edition... Think we did a pretty spiffy job since the deadline was moved up three weeks and Susan only had about a 7 day notice on the new deadline and we had to scramble it together from what we had on hand... Anyway, will write more once I'm home again... For now, this is it!