We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, December 7. 2015
This year’s calendar offers a way to think about two important dates in Judaism, the birth of today’s Israel and Chanukah. The two dates represent the importance of struggle to accomplish a Jewish state as well as the struggle to deserve a Jewish state.
Four days after I was born, the modern state of Israel was ratified by the United Nations partition vote on November 29, 1947. Here’s a video recollection.
In the video, a commenter says that with the UN resolution Jews were no longer the object of history, acted upon by others, but the subject, taking control over their own fate. Divine intervention may have helped but it was the struggles of man that fulfilled the two-millennia of prayers.
A humorous take is that at the beginning of a year G-d tells a pious man he will be rewarded by winning the lottery before year end. Months pass and come late December the pious man asks of G-d why he hasn’t won yet. The response: “Meet me halfway, buy a ticket.”
The creation of modern Israel is when Jews got the message. Similarly, the two books of Macabbees on the origin of Chanukah offer contrasts between struggles of man and divine intervention. The first book is a fairly straight-forward reputable history. The second book contains more of the divine. (Here’s an analysis of the books of Maccabees, and theories of why they are not included in the Jewish bible.)
Maccabees (left); Hasmonean Kingdom 140-37 BC (right)
The most accepted theory of why the books of Maccabees are not included in the Jewish bible is that the Maccabee Hasmonean dynasty was not of the house of David and that it was itself later corrupted by Hellenism, due to its failure to live up to its nationalistic founding, and because the Jewish bible’s canonizers avoided provoking the Romans after their destruction of Israel, murder of as many Jews as they could and the dispersal of Jews to relative refuge elsewhere.
With the creation of modern Israel, as well as Jews promoting Chanukah as a counter to the lures upon their young of Christmas festivities, Chanukah has risen from a minor to a major Jewish holiday and the books of Maccabees are read more often.
The same tensions exist for modern Israel as for the Hasmonean and succeeding Herodian and diaspora era Jews.
To what extent is the influence or antipathy of other powerful states to be accommodated or resisted? To what extent can the core nature of the Jewish state be compromised? To what extent are the survival of the state of Israel and the fate of Jews in their own hands?History and current events are why the original Maccabees are today’s models. Those, within or outside, who counsel surrender of vital interests or defeatism would bring upon Israel and Jews another diaspora, at best, and another likely slaughter.
Tuesday, September 15. 2015
I have repeatedly insisted that a "healthy human diet" cannot be defined. As omnivores, humans can survive and thrive on many sorts of diets. Each culture has its own food biases, myths, preferences.
It is an imaginary First-world problem to obsess about food as if food were medicine, magical, or potential toxins in our civilization of revolutionary food abundance, quality, variety, safety, and flavor.
(We have discussed weight loss and physical fitness ad nauseum here, so this is not about those special nutritional areas.)
Old wive's tales, obsolete studies, superstitions, misrepresented press reports, etc. These are my own views via the literature. Do your own research if you want. This applies to otherwise relatively normal people without serious ailments:
- Coffee is bad for you. Wrong.
- You should drink X glasses of water per day. Nonsense. If you are peeing, you are hydrated.
- Beer and coffee are dehydrating. False. They are just enhanced water.
- Red meat is bad for you. Nonsense. Where did that myth come from? The Federal Chicken Board?
- Organic foods are "better for you." Zero evidence for that, but there is evidence that organic foods have fewer nutrients. Not that it matters; it is de minimus.
- You need roughage to prevent colon cancer. That is disproven. It will give you larger BMs if that is what you enjoy.
- Fruit and fruit juice is good for you. Nope, they are just flavored sugar, what I term warm popsicles. Tasty though. Fruit is just a dessert as the Italians understand, not real food. Worried about scurvy, are you? Fruits are not really healthy foods, but are good sources of sugar if you are sugar-deprived.
- Eggs are bad for you. Wrong. They are an excellent food, actually one of the few "perfect" foods (ie balances of fat, protein, and carb). A "perfect food" means you can thrive on it, alone, for a long time.
- Carbs and starches are bad. Nope. They are great foods as long as you are not dealing with a weight problem. With the egg, potato is the other "perfect" food item. Well, milk too.
- Eating fat makes you fat. Wrong. Excess carbs make people fat. Carbs, plus general gluttony.
- Three meals per day. Why? It's just a habit. For youth and manual laborers, certainly - plus snacks.
- Vegetarian diets are healthier. Utter cultish nonsense. Active humans and growing kids need plenty of good protein for normal growth and muscle maintenance and repair, which is difficult for vegetarians to obtain without extra effort and expense. Low-protein cultures generally have littler people with less strength.
- Gluten? Don't get me started.
- Salt is bad. No, it is essential for health. If you have dangerous blood pressure, take a pill.
- Vegetables and greens are "healthy." Not especially. They are just cheap, sometimes tasty, tummy-fillers. If you hate all veggies and greens (even steamed spinach with garlic), take a multivitamin once or twice a week and forget about it. Otherwise, enjoy them.
- Low cholesterol diets? There is no meaningful relation between dietary cholesterol and heart disease unless you have severe familial hypercholesterolemia in which case you take a pill and hope for the best.
- Alcohol is unhealthy. Nope, good for body, soul, and cheerful companionship if not abused.
- White vs. Brown breads, rice, and sugars? The brown thing is pure foolishness, except for flavor preferences. If you need brown rice for the microscopic protein in it, you need Food Stamps desperately. Get an EBT card and buy yourself a Big Mac.
- Fish oils are healthy. A health-food scam, same as "organic." Fatty fishes are delicious, though: shad, tuna, swordfish, trout and salmon, bluefish. Even a baked mackerel with garlic and rosemary.
- "Free range" is better. If it's a cultural, moral, or flavor thing for you, go for it if you can spare the cash. I'd like to see a blind tasting. I do hate to see animals raised in meat factories, but all animal husbandry is meat factories. Nursery schools and day care are caged meat factories too, but we don't eat the product.
Where am I in error?
Monday, September 14. 2015
Peaches ripen late up here in New England. Yes, there are peach varieties which thrive in the North.
As of now, I have had five friends over to pick grocery-bags full and have delivered bags to others. I'll ask a daughter to take a bag home to NYC today. And I have made substantial batches of peach jam, peach chutney, and canned spiced peaches. I am close to peached out with God and nature's abbondanza.
Still, this is a pic of the tree yesterday after all that. Plus the windfall from yesterday's thunderstorm. The local deer do not seem to like peaches. Neither do the turkeys. Squirrels like them, but it's more of a crop than they can make a dent in.
I use no sprays, no fertilizer - out of laziness as much as anything else. These peaches are as sweet as honey. I guess I'll make more jam, but let's consider peach pie, peach crumble, and peach buckle (that's old-fashioned).
Problem is that Mrs. BD and I are currently on low-carb, high protein heavy-work-out diet plans in an effort to delay the discouraging and ennervating effects of age and entropy.
Now Peach Crumble. Dynamite with some vanilla ice cream or heavy cream. I salivate as I write this.
As my final Peach Post of 2015, I'll offer this one:
Sunday, September 13. 2015
- Took a drive yesterday to Long Island City (part of Queens, NYC).
Went there to see a one-act play festival at The Secret Theater. Golly, LIC is changing. High-rises everywhere under construction. We had supper at a superb tiny French bistro, LIC Market. Everybody who works there is French. You can park on the street in LIC, no problem. As a daughter says, a gritty mix of industrial, residential, and business: Real NYC.
We meandered through Astoria while en route. Got a little lost. I have never been to Astoria. It is one of the most pleasant, middle-class, and remarkably multi-cultural places I have seen. Of all things, a large Maltese population too- over 20,000. Who'da thunk it? But if you think about it, there is little to do in Malta.
It's not too far from where the big game - Jokevitch vs. Federer - is today. I can't miss that.
- Out-of-towners like us are always more familiar with Manhattan, with its totalitarian arithmetical road grid. Here is something wonderful, probably worth a trip from anywhere: Picasso, Completely Himself in 3 Dimensions. It's on my to-do list. We never miss major Picasso shows, because his craft and imagination blows my mind.
- Something else fun: Immersive (aka Interactive) theater in NYC. I have heard reports about how much fun it is. A friend had his daughter's Sweet 16th party for 25 gals at one of the scavenger hunt "plays," and a couple of people told me about the MacBeth one.
- At my point in life, a visit to NYC is always good for a dose of hyper-stimulation and amazement in the works of man but I am always happy to return to my quiet more pastoral home where the loudest noise is a cricket. If I won the Powerball, though, I think I'd buy a brownstone (with working fireplaces) in the West Village in a flash. I need both. Prosperous people in NYC belong to elite clubs as private retreats, and have dachas in the country too. I could handle that.
My lovely daughters live as if they owned NYC despite living on a shoestring. Fearless, undaunted, resourceful and adventurous, they just take daily bites of that apple as so many young people need to, and shoot for the stars. No bourgeois instincts, it seems - like their Mom. All the same, they do love to come home sometimes for love, free food, and to hit some tennis balls like the prepster kids they are.
Friday, September 11. 2015
Regular people know that mass immigration will assimilate with difficulty, even if they want to. Regular people know that they will not value or respect their history, their legacies, their traditions, as they do. This is why regular people do not welcome mass multicultural invasions.
For us ordinary people, it's much more about preserving a culture and a neighborhood than it is about economics.
Predictably, Thomas Picketty: In migrants crisis, Europe must follow Germany’s lead
Wise thoughts re Noonan from Fernandez: Prediction From the Grave
Now on 83 acres with some imperfectly-maintained gardens, the place has little use. It would make a fine campus. We had dinner with friends last night who love to explore the more obscure corners of NYC. They found the place to be fascinating, but Staten Island itself not so much.
Thursday, September 10. 2015
Man, I love them. Will make some this week. Just need to pick up some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. I see none in the pantry.
(Tip: about 4 medium peaches weigh a pound.)
I sent my buddy home with a bushel of peaches. He brought me a basket of his apples and about 10 lbs. of venison. I'll save some for Thanksgiving.
The sharing economy.
Wednesday, September 9. 2015
Despite countless cuts, slashes, and penetrations of my feet over the years from broken shells, stones, sharp twigs, coral, etc., I have always resisted water shoes. After my last visit to the beach in 2014, Mrs. BD sent me to the store to get some.
They are excellent. You can swim in them, and they protect you from burning-hot sand too. Now I will not go to a beach without them.
Another good use of them is exploring shallow waters for critters and things at low tide. No more slipping on rocks or getting a toe sliced by a sharp oyster shell. They might look a little pussified, but they can keep you functional. I also use them for kayaking.
Lots of them at Amazon.
EMPLOYER COSTS FOR EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION – JUNE 2015
I've always been told that the pursuit of personal "identity" with its "personality integration" and "self-realization" was a distinctly modern and Western notion. Perhaps a too-precious conceit of artistes and suchlike.
In recent years, we have even used something called "identity diffusion" as a diagnostic marker. It's a thorny topic that very few people ever think about.
When I meet a new patient (or sometimes just a new person), I never ask "Who are you?" I just ask "Tell me about yourself" or "Tell me about your life." I once met a fellow who told me that he was an "unresolved self." He was one of the most pleasant, well-put-together people I have ever met.
It is often said that psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are about inventing comprehensible, presumably explanatory narratives. Well, our narratives change with time. We evolve with time and experience; sometimes with awareness of our flaws and sometimes with awareness of God.
Some of these topics discussed here: I am not a story: Some find it comforting to think of life as a story. Others find that absurd. So are you a Narrative or a non-Narrative?
Tuesday, September 8. 2015
The old Teaching Company, now known as The Great Courses, is making money. I am glad to know that they will be around for a good long while.
Here's the article: Before YouTube and online classes, there were the Great Courses
They will have a new streaming service too, for cheap. The pleasures and enrichment they offer to the Bird Dog family is huge.
In recent months, we have been doing Greenberg's The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works. That's at home.
In the car, Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. The lecture on Pascal is mind-blowing, a math and physics genius who invented the first binary "computer," who gave his life to Christ. Also, the lecture on Francis Bacon, where the prof reviews Bacon's False Idols of Knowledge and Science (from The New Organum (1620):
- The Idol of the Tribe: the arrogance that comes from agreement with one's colleagues
It's better than college. Buy them on sale, and don't pay the library prices. Or trade with friends and neighbors, as we do.
You will thank me for this free ad for them. We are reviewing the big topics we have forgotten, or didn't have time to take in school. Things we need a guide for. Lifelong learning, like lifelong fitness, is a cliche but for good reason.
Monday, September 7. 2015
The chorus of crickets chirping on these late summer evenings is one of the finest things in life, and last night they were loud. That evening bug-song has followed me through most of my life, and fills me with joy.
Field Crickets are found across the US. In New England, we have the Black Field Cricket (photo) who is at his prime in early October until the first hard frost. They are mainly nocturnal insects and eat almost anything.
Taxonomically, crickets (along with grasshoppers, locusts, katydids) are in Order Orthoptera of Class Insecta.
The males rub their forewings together producing the chirp or trill, of which the frequency is temperature-related. The function of the trill is, of course, to attract females desirous of fertilization - or to fight. Only males chirp.
Around here, we still have the Katydids singing at night along with the rapidly-growing Field Crickets. Open the windows. Or open the doors: two Field Crickets are occupying the Maggie's HQ right now, and I need to leave them some crumbs from my Subway sandwich to keep them happy.
With all of my autumn canning/cooking, some answers and a question:
For me, it makes anything tasty - including burgers. Great with cheese and cream cheese. All cheese requires some fruity accompaniment. Really fine as a meat glaze. Heck, I dip my breakfast hard-boiled egg in some, and put some on scrambled eggs. I put some on rice too. It's not for little children.
For me, with rice, or on ham or turkey sandwiches
Fruit Jams and Jellies
Are not just for breads and toast. I think, best of all with cheese and meat. Or cream cheese or yoghurt. Not to forget on crepes and Swedish Pancakes. And venison requires a jam or jelly on the side just as pork requires applesauce. Lean meats need a kicker.
For me, best on ham, chicken, or turkey sammiches. Also good with the things listed here.
Supposedly used for scones, but I like it on fresh fruit or I won't eat the fruit - except raspberries
How do you like to use these condiments?
Litchfield County is the quaintest, best-preserved antique corner of Connecticut. The area was well-settled in the early 1700s and, judging by the size and style of all of the old farmhouses, these were prosperous farmers.
In this area, most of the old farms have been converted to weekend estates for the 1%. The antique places are perfectly-maintained. Old barns everywhere, still looking good. Thanks for all that charm and beauty, 1%ers.
We went over there and took a drive through Southbury, Woodbury, Washington, and Washington Depot. Nice. We were en route to see the Hollister House Gardens in Washington (good pics on their site). Mrs. BD wanted to check it out and to maybe get some garden inspiration.
The garden "rooms" are strongly architectural with walls and hedges, lots of stone, while the plantings are a jumble - or maybe not - probably a well-planned jumble. Engish-style gardens, the sorts of gardens my Mom aspired to. It's the owner's life work.
We had an early supper at the GW Tavern. Good fish. Too much food. I'd put the place in the "Stuff-and-Waddle" category of restaurant, what my sister calls "Sticky Bun restaurants."
My pics of the garden below the fold might or might not inspire your gardening -
Continue reading "A Saturday Drive to Litchfield County, CT"
Saturday, September 5. 2015
Unless you need to carry lots of stuff, kayaks have mostly taken over from canoes for water recreation. I grew up with rowboats. Kayaks are much more fun. Some links:
Finding the Wild in Your Own Backyard: The Ultimate Guide to How to Pick a Kayak
Sit On Top Kayaks
Santee: Leaders in Lightweight
Friday, September 4. 2015
More full-body fitness exercises for soft-bodied middle-aged male or female schlubs: Tough Calisthenics
(We forgot to include isometrics in our categories. That's more for
An example of my Friday mega-set would be something like this, with no break between exercises:
3-minute Elliptical warm-up to start
Then 5 minutes stair machine to finish up, to painfully drain the last drop of energy from your body
Rinse and repeat italicized 3-4X as time permits. On the final mega-set circuit, do each one until you can't do another without collapsing. At that point, ready to call 911 for the EMS and the gurney.
My current fitness adventure is working very well after 5 months despite various inevitable pains, non-fatal injuries, fatigue, and problems. Mrs. BD approves of my new physique. I do not really recognize my body anymore. With muscles I never had and a deep Cape Cod tan, I may become a narcissist yet except for my Jeb Bush face. I say to Mrs. BD that my goal is to make a handsome corpse with little fat to sizzle on the crematorium.
I think I have more power, endurance, and general fitness than I have had since I was 17. A body will respond to demand, slowly. That is useful and feels alive. I do one day of mostly upper body resistance, one day of mostly back and lower resistance, one day of mostly total-body calisthenic destruction, and 2 or 3 days of intense cardio for just an efficient and exhausting 1/2 hr. I do all of it at 5 am. My trainer is a sadistic Nazi monster Ohio farm boy. A real knowledgeable pro, cheerful and demanding, precise about form and technique.
Here are some tough, fun, medicine ball calisthenics:
Thursday, September 3. 2015
Year after year, very little changes in Wellfleet, Massachusetts except the steady erosion from the sea which will eventually eliminate the whole thing. As a glacial moraine, it was never meant to last forever.
One of my life goals is to make sure my kids, and my kid's kids, absorb the salt air, piney fragrance, and cool salt water into their souls as I have done all of my life. A precious inheritance for them.
While we were out there last week, The NYT published this: The Calming Quiet of Outer Cape Cod - A flock of artistic and literary types are finding summer refuge in Wellfleet and Truro.
That is bad: there goes the neighborhood? Or time to buy before you can't because rich jerks may arrive. At present, it's a sort-of secret, unfashionable Subaru-type place. Bernie bumper stickers, and locals with beater pickups with NRA stickers and Grateful Dead stickers. A share of very quiet old Boston families, profs, writers, artists, architects, NY shrinks - and lots of regular people like us. You know what I mean.
Lots of random pics of just some of the things we love. Not mentioning all of the seafood, on which we feed constantly out there,
For example, water lilies in bloom on a Wellfleet/Truro "pond." Pic from my kayak.
Lotsa pics below the fold, with some useful info mixed in...
Continue reading "Our August 2015 Report from Cape Cod"
Wednesday, September 2. 2015
Our hosts in Wellfleet last week provided abundant and elegant breakfasts. Fresh fruits first, of course. I am not a fruit fan, but with a good dollop of Trader Joe's Lemon Curd I can enjoy them.
They provided fruit forks and knives with the beautifully-presented fruit course. Civilized and quite effective tools for all fruits and berries. Yes, old-fashioned. We need some.
With decent cutlery and Lemon Curd, I may yet become fruit-tolerant. Is fruit "healthy"? Not at all. It's really just nature's dessert.
Found that pic of a set on eBay.
Tuesday, September 1. 2015
Just back from spiritually-necessary annual pilgrimage to the Cape and Wellfleet, MA. Pics and tips for Wellfleet-lovers when I organize a travelogue post or two.
Besides doing everything else outdoors (swimming in Bay, harbor, several ponds, body-surfing in ocean with seals and sharks, taking a 2 1/2 hour hike which few know about, etc.), we kayaked twice daily - at dawn and before or after supper - thanks to Jack's. Jack will deliver and pick-up, no matter where. Using Youtube instructions, and encountering some tough sledding in southern New England salt waters, and the Hudson River, and last week on Nauset, we have been forced to improve our kayaking technique for a couple of years. "Use your core, not your arms!" God gave us our transverse abdominis for a reason. Having owned lots of boats of many sorts during my life, my craft of choice right now is the body-powered kayak.
Portrait of my handsome feet on Higgin's Pond, 7:30 am this morning. Ospreys overhead, Great Blue Herons all about, trout jumpin'. Water lilies in late bloom. Nice. No person there except me and Mrs. BD.
In the softer "sciences," even more so: An expansive new project is able to replicate results from fewer than half of its psychology experiments in question.
Thursday, June 25. 2015
Tuesday, June 23. 2015
As readers know, I get a huge kick out of NYC. Have theater tix for next Sat., and dinner, which is good, but just wandering around is a blast for a country boy like me.
It is a comfort and a pleasure to a middle-aged fellow to see that they will remain a bonded family when we parents are dead and gone. I imagine their future Thanksgivings and Christmases, and maybe continuing the ritual Cape Cod family reunions with our annual family morning Wellfleet Triathlon with all of my sibs and any available kids (bike around 15 miles ending up at Long Pond, race across Long Pond and back maybe 1/2 mile or more and try not to drown, then run about 7 miles back home for a hearty breakfast. Better yet, to the Lighthouse for blueberry pancakes, bacon and eggs). Family traditions are important life foundations. Body-surfing in the ocean in the cool north Atlantic. The annual family baseball was good too. Batter Up! My Mom at 84! She knew how to hit a baseball and to do lots of other things too.
Their being fond of, and grateful to, their parents is good too. Already, they will drop anything to give us a hand when needed. Blessed, I guess. Will do the same for them as best we can.
Sunday, June 21. 2015
I believe that gender surgery is, or is close to, medical malpractice. Psychotherapy is not likely to change these people either. Same with effeminate gays. Like it or not, we must all just accept that there is a lot of strangeness and discontent in the human species. Blame our hypertrophied cortex.
And if you are out there in your gardens, now is a good time, and the last chance, to shear back the late summer and fall-blooming perennials that you don't want to grow too tall and scraggly, eg Asters, Daisies, and Seaside Daisies.
It's been a cold Spring in New England. Tomato plants aren't growing vigorously. New England is marginal for tomato compared to New Jersey or South Carolina, but home-growns are so tasty that we persist anyway. We really only get a crop in July-Sept while in south Jersey they can be harvesting garden tomatoes June-October. Unless you have a greenhouse. Some days, like today, I wish I had one. But naw, not really. Who wants the hassle?
Saturday, June 20. 2015
Who is to blame for this? Weenie Dads? Tort lawyers? Government? Mom-headed households? Truth is, when I was ten I would disappear all day on bikes with friends, exploring woods, swimming illegally in reservoirs, building forts (snowball fights in winter, rock and stick wars in summer), shooting BB guns, fishing, sailing a Sailfish, playing vacant-lot baseball, shooting hoops on the asphalt-covered schoolyard, enjoying occasional fistfights, stealing candy from the candy shop, smoking cigarettes stolen from parents, teasing girls (mainly the ones we liked). Home by dark of course. That was the rule.
Normal stuff. The wife says I turned out fine.
If your kid doesn't come home dirty and bruised, with a mouth full of lies and the occasional broken bone, it's a shame. But I guess the boys play video games all day now and rot their brains.
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