Category Archives: History

Intro To A Blogger – My Beautiful Things


Today’s Music: Tori Amos – Take To The Sky
Note on Today’s Music: With the subject matter, you’d think I’d be inclined to use David Bowie – Suffragette City.
No. It’s anot appropriate here.
And David Bowie sucks.

I watched Wendy Davis, Texas state Senator on a live stream the other night.
For about eleven hours, she stood and filibustered a bill to restrict abortion rights in Texas.
I caught a documentary about the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying Sally Ride, the first American Woman in space.
I was doing some reading and came across something on Carrie Nation (not a favorite of mine), who was a big mover in the Temperance Movement that led to Prohibition after her death.

Be impressed or annoyed, but there’s no denying that these women showed the best (and most annoying) of humankind. And to think that around the world, there was a time when they didn’t even have the vote.

My Beautiful Things

My Beautiful Things


My Beautiful Things is a blogger who’s Great Grandmother was a suffragette in England. Her ancestor lives on in MBT’s Suffragette Garden.
She’s primarily a photo blogger. Her text gives context to the photos, and brief descriptions to make them a little clearer.
I’m not sure when I started following, or why (I’m actually kind of crass in real life, so I’m as surprised as you that I follow a tasteful, well presented photo blog), but I’m glad I did.
MBT just saw the 100th anniversary of a walk her Great Grandmother participated in – a Suffragette walk. She asked if I could lend some space to publicize it a bit, and I was more than happy to agree.
She recently took part in a commemoration of that walk, and took some great pictures!
She isn’t just about that one cause though. She will also spend time updating us on what her grandkids are up to, even as she celebrates what her great grandmother and her peers achieved.
And, as the anniversary of the Great Suffragette Pilgrimage was just a couple of days ago, MBT is inordinately proud! And fortunately, she had her camera with her.

So at some point,take a moment if you’re willing to. Pause and admire, and recognize, and thank incredible women for what they’ve done for the world. And then stop by My Beautiful Things and say hi.
Her connection with history is alive, her grandkids are beautiful, and her pictures are magnificent.
And she’s one of the nicest people I’ve been privileged to hang out with here in the sphere!

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Where I’ve Been – Overview


Today’s Music: Huey Lewis and the News – Working For A Living

I’ve asked where I’m going. There were some interesting observations and questions, comments about being glad to see what got me to the point I’m at now. Here’s more detail on that…

Hello, Hiring Guy,
I’m looking for a job. I have one right now, but I’ve improved this place as much as I can and I’m looking for new challenges. I would be a great hire because I’m really smart and will make you look good…until I’ve made all the improvements to your company that I can and then move on…like the Lone Ranger… into the sunset (room at the Hilton).

So here’s the list of stuff I’ve done. For money. Or booze.
Stuff with an * weren’t really “formal” jobs, but I got money. Or booze.
And at the bottom, I even threw in 2 that got away. Guess which one I wish I’d taken.

My Resume (and other stuff I’ve been paid to do)

Babysitter
Hey, all you parents out there, remember when you got paid to watch kids?

*Sang for some older folks for quarters for video games

High School General Store
Hey, it kept me out of the cafeteria.

Gas Jerk
Like a soda jerk, but I pulled the gas pump handles. Actually, it’s the boss who was a jerk. Dare I say Bozo?
And the smell does Not. Come. Out.

*Bar Back
This wasn’t a formal hire.
But as I was always broke, my friends (the bartenders) let me drink free in exchange for bringing up a few cases of beer at the end of the night

*Stuck a pickle in my nose for 3 minutes
It covered my breakfast tab. Don’t judge me.

Movie Theater Usher/Concessions
Eating that much popcorn isn’t good for anyone. But it really tastes good. And I got to see movies as often as I wanted!

King Kong
Coolest. Job. Ever.

Pouring Concrete
Best. Job. Ever.

*Poker on a road trip.
Paid for my food for the trip

Deli Man in a Supermarket
There are some odd meats at the deli counter. And the people that order them look like the people that would order them.

Waiter
All the food you can eat…

Line Cook
…Until you find out what’s in it…

Restaurant Manager
…and learn that waiters (including me) suck…

Restaurant Project Manager
…and then you get to build a restaurant

Cook in a private club
Chef used to say that we cooked for the people who ran the world.
This is the only job I’ve ever had where I was so far out of my league, I felt bad about it.

NOC Engineer
The boredom was spectacular…

Professional Services Engineer
…until I changed departments

IT Administrator
I work on ‘puters…

The ones that got away:

General Manager
Of a start up “Boston Chicken” type operation in Westchester.
I’m telling you now, I was too young, and I was too inexperienced
But I’d have done a hell of a job.

Attendant at a MiniGolf/Arcade/Sailing lake in Montauk.
The one that got away.
This is a great story (I think) and will be it’s own post as I work my way through them.

Future:
Lotto Millionaire (????)

So I’ll start next week.
Oh, and I’ll need Tuesday off.
And a raise.

Sincerely,
El Guapo

Cooking for Pleasure and Profit, Part 2


Today’s Music: Fountains of Wayne

So after I left the restaurant business, I was a burnt out husk of a man, in dire need of a haircut. And a shave.
And I hated cooking.
If I couldn’t boil it, nuke it, or eat it out of the bag, I wasn’t making it for myself.
When people would ask me cooking questions, I would violently refuse to answer them.

I took a 10 month vocational program, collected unemployment and learned how to maintain computers.
And I didn’t cook.

Four months later, I met the most wonderful girl in the universe, who would later agree to be my wife.
But first I had to hook her.

We went out on a few dates – nights out for dinner, as well as day trips. Then one day, I asked her to come over for dinner. She said yes.
Excellent! But now I would have to cook for her.

We’d talked a bunch about food (I managed to be calmer than I had been, since I didn’t want to scare her off – hey, save the exciting demons to spice up the relationship later on, I say), and I knew what she liked and didn’t, and some foods she just wouldn’t eat.

I settled on the basic chili recipe I had used, and modified it to be neither too hot, nor have beans. She hates beans.
Ground beef, crushed tomatoes, peeled tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, cumin and some other seasonings (probably salt and sage, among others). Saute the vegetables, add the meat, season and cook that, drain off the fat, add the tomatoes, bring it all up to a nice simmer for a little while, and throw it all over some rice.
Simple.
But even the act of making that simple dish, one I could make in my sleep (even the vegetable chopping), was elevated to me. Here I was, doing something that I had run screaming from, but I was doing it for someone I really really liked, and I had a skill that I could use to demonstrate that affection.
Plus what girl doesn’t like a guy who cooks?

She came over. I may have done something silly with candles. I probably gave my roommate beer money so he would head out. And we enjoyed our meal.
It wasn’t intricate or gourmet. It was two people having a lovely evening over food one of them had prepared for both of their enjoyment.

And I loved it.
And ten years later I married that girl.
She said that me being able to cook wasn’t the reason. But it was a spiffy side benefit..

But not all the dishes we’ve made since then were keepers.

One of the worst:
I had a block of Tofu. And a wok. And some vegetables and rice.
What could possibly go wrong?
SQUEEZE THE TOFU. Put it under a weight and let the water ooze out of it. That’s what all the recipes say. But I cooked for a living. I know what I’m doing. Yea, right.
So basically I ended up with a big wok full of…well…glop, really. The tofu didn’t brown, the rice kept steaming into a blob of starch from all the extra water, and the vegetables (also steamed to hell) were limp and uninteresting.
And there’s only so much damage that can be covered by throwing in Chines 5 Spice.
But there was about $6 dollars worth of food int that pot, and I didn’t want to throw it all away.
So I ate it. For the next 2 days.
Made my wife a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.
Because I love her and don’t use food as punishment.

Possibly the worst:
Fondue.
Image from SlashFood.com
Slice the cheese. Coat it with flour, garlic the pot. Add the wine. Add the cheese. Melt, slowly.
Slice up the bread, vegetables, fruit for dipping.

We had a fondue pot. It was a gift. the difference between ours and everyone elses though, was that we were using ours.
The pot wasn’t the problem. The recipe was.
We followed the recipe. I swear.
Now, I’m notorious for glancing through a recipe, then doing whatever I want. But this time, we followed the recipe.
Used the right measurements. The right techniques. I even measured the wine for goodness sakes. Before I drank some of it.
But the recipe didn’t work.
The fondue wouldn’t thicken.
We added a bit more cheese. Then more flour. Tried some cornstarch.
Nothing.

So, my wife and I, looking at each other over the pot, thought it was ruined.
“Not totally ruined” I said. “Maybe we can turn it into a nice cheese soup”.
I went to the closet, gathered some other ingredients and spices, and went back to the kitchen.
“This should fix it”, I said confidently.
I took lids off everything, started adding various things, adjusting the heat, stirring, whisking..
The soup started to take shape. I tasted it. Needed something. So I popped the lid off the Cajun Spice, and went to do a hard shake – not to overpower it, just to get enough spice to come through the shaker top.
Which it didn’t have.
So half the jar came out.

My wife and I looked at the pot, then at each other, with the same expression of surprise and dismay that I think would happen if I parked my car, got out, then turned to see it rolling off a cliff.

We looked at the pot then back at each other.
“Ok”, I said. “Now it’s ruined.”

For dinner that night, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were delicious.

Epilogue:
It was the recipe. We’ve since regathered our courage and tried fondue again. It has come out excellently.
And now, whenever we have a cooking debacle, the standard for edibility we use is “Better or Worse than Cajun Cheese Soup”.

History and You


This is a minor piece on how history lives on, during the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

There was a General, Ambrose Burnside. He is generally acknowledged to be competent, but not spectacular. During his civil war career, General Burnside mostly served in the eastern theater throughout the war.

There are 2 things about him that still affect our daily lives.

Antietam

The Antietam creek runs from Pennsylvania, through Maryland to where it joins the Potomac.
It passes the town of Sharpsburg.
In September, 1862, Union forces under Major General George McClellan clashed with General Robert E. Lee when the Confederacy invaded the North.
On September 17, the bloodiest day in American history, their forces met at Antietam, a creek below Sharpsburg.
General Burnside’s mission was to take and cross a bridge across Antietam Creek at the southern end of the field. Burnside didn’t perform reconnaissance on the are, and didn’t find the areas where he could have easily forded the river. He focused only on the bridge. Which was covered by Confederate snipers.
Burnsides forces suffered 500 casualties before finally crossing and taking the bridge.
If you’re down in that area, and want to cross the Antietam Creek west to the Potomac river, or East to the Shenandoah Valley, you can do it over the Burnside Bridge, and remember the fierce fighting that happened there.

Appearance – Ambrose Burnside was also known for prodigious facial hair. The way his grew from the top of his jaw into his mustache was impressive, unique, and soon became recognizable everywhere.

A perfect example of how history touches even you, even today. Jaw whiskers were identified with man, becoming known as Burnsides, and then, Sideburns.

Don’t you think history is fun? (answer in the comments!)