Monday, March 26, 2007


Schoolyard cries
Echo, "Four eyes. Four eyes!"
Is it vain
To avoid pain?
Is escape from inanity
necessarily vanity?

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Analects of Management XXVI

How to become a consultant

1933 was a frenzied year for Earle. After he earned his Masters in chemistry from MIT he married Dorothy, dropped out of MIT's Doctoral program and got a first job as a chemical engineer for the Union Paste Company.
His first day on the job he got the plant tour with emphasis on the research lab where he would be working.
"Now, here is the problem we really hope you will solve," his boss said. "This is our best new glue. It's brand new. It does every thing we want it to do in terms of application ease, strength and reliability. It is inexpensive to manufacture. There is only one problem. It is green. Every one knows that glue is brown. This stuff is a green so putrid that the sales department won't even try to offer it."
Somewhat diffidently Earle spoke, "Have you tried putting a red dye in to make it brown?"
No they hadn't. Once they did, it worked and the new product was a great success. Earle more than made his first year's salary for the company his first day on the job by applying a knowledge of color mixing he acquired in kindergarten.
Earle told me that a consultant's job is to get the client to restate his question in such a way that it answers itself.
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Friday, March 16, 2007

My Vernacular Saints

Being neither Catholic nor Buddhist, I am only mildly bemused by the vast majority of Saints in all their myriad flavors.
Early on in the Church's sovereignty success was rather too easily accomplished. Almost anybody -- anybody agreeable to being martyred -- became a Saint. You might call it a growth sector. Given the smug, argumentative, stubbornness of the species, volunteers were not far to seek. Rather the Church felt the need to regulate the market to keep the stock up. It wouldn't do to over extend. A young Jesuit once described the church to me as a bunch of non-peakers attempting to maintain a peak experience; so over extension happened. Almost every Saint required a chapel and two pair of hermits. Once a miracle occurred for some one some where some time somebody told whosits about it who mentioned it to my cousin last Epiphany -- or was it Midsomer dag? Any way there was need to mark the day with as much solemn rowdiness as the populace could get away with. The local employers objected. Not only were they hit up for donations to pay for the mass and festivities, but no work was done. It was enough to give Squire the appy pleckzy.
In the sixth century, Pope Boniface IV accepted the Pantheon as a gift from the Emperor Phocas and proclaimed May 13, 610, Feast of All Holy Martyrs held. ... In 835, Pope Gregory IV changed the date to November 1 and the name to Feast of All Saints.
So every one of the craychurs, even the wee little nameless ones that hadn't so much as a shrine to their name, got smooshed all together in to one collective. The Employers were pleased because the rest of the year was theirs to demand all labor they deemed their due.
The Church was happy because the Landlords paid the tithe even if they did grumble about it.
The King was happy because the serfs were too tired to cause trouble.
And, of course, the lumpen were too exhausted to notice.
Who says the aristos didn't like socialism? Of course only they rightly understood that that meant the work of the many for the benefit of me. Thus particular notice of particular Saints became optional.
Yet one or two Saints were too good to lose among the masses collectivized into one.
Usually it was the Boss' option.
But taking notice of the odd Saint at various times of the year does aid in maintaining a well oiled rhythm.
Among the Buddhist array there is no contest. Monkey is me fave.
When we worked at the Folk Life Festival in Spokane. Diana fell madly in love with the Scots the week they appeared in full kit, romance and regalia to the fore. We actually tried the haggis they made. I thought it excellent. Diana observed judiciously that it was acceptable in smallish nibbles chased quickly by a not so wee dram. And since she would only drink the whiskey if a man in a kilt was present and pipes were skirling, I could forget any notions I had of making it. So I have not yet attempted the intriguing recipe for "Our Modified 'Non-Intestinal' Scottish Haggis" in Feasts for All Seasons by Roy Andries de Groot. This is a steamed pate of beef liver, onions, suet and oatmeal garnished with Rowan jelly. But if the haggis is forbid, the malt remains. Andrew's day, November 30th is a good part of my personal calendar.

Though no saint in any boss' eye, Robbie Burns' day the 25th of January needs another dram or more to prevent toothache, if nothing more.

Saint Nick, December 6, is noticed for his idealism. The sweets are good as well.

On the first of March St David causes the Welsh recipes to dance and sing on the cook's palette. Teisen datws (mashed potato cakes with brown sugar, butter and ginger or cinnamon), or Punchnep (potatoes, turnips and cream), or Teisen nionod (Onion Cake very like a French Pomme de terre a la Boulangere). Accompany this with Cig Eidion Cymreig wedi Ei Frwysio (Welsh Braised Beef) which features beef shin, bacon, turnips, onions, carrots and herbs (thyme, marjoram, and savory which were grown to ward off witches and fairies) in a light beer or cider broth. Potatoes and leaks, naturally, go in the pot to finish. Else you might prefer a Pastai FFowlyn Cymreig (Welsh Chicken Pie) that pairs a jointed chicken with ham slices, gammon or tongue. Add leaks, chopped parsley, minced onion or shallot, flavored with nutmeg and covered with an egg pastry. For afters try Pwdin Efa (Eve's pudding): apples sweetened with golden or maple syrup thinned with lemen juice and surrounded with a vanilla sponge.
My welsh recipes are from a book I photocopied many years agone. Too cheap to pay for the title page, so I have no idea what it's called. Google provides the recipes. (So we need to add a St Google? Or, in the spirit of collectivity, a St. Dog Pile?)

As I write Patric's day looms. Since Diana is partially Irish, mixing nicely with the German and the French Canadian, it is a delight to observe the day. It's always a delight to have corn beef, carefully simmered, and steamed roots with cabbage. Ah, yes, and the light mustard sauce. De Groot mixes it fresh from powdered English mustard thinned with any liquid from beer to milk.

I have two recipes for Irish soda bread. This is so quick it is a shame not to make it for the day. Folklife at Expo '74 offered this:
Mix two cups of whole wheat flour with two cups of white and 2 teaspoons of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of soda and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat one egg into two cups of buttermilk. mix into dry ingredients. Stir well. Knead about 10 times. Put into a floured 9" pan and smooth out. cut a cross on top with a floured knife. Bake in a 3750f oven for about an hour.
But Thelma, very kindly, gave me her recipe which I like better:
Mix three cups of whole wheat with one cup of white. Add a teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of soda, and three-quarters of a teaspoon of baking powder.
Add one and a half to two cups buttermilk to make a soft dough.
Form into a round loaf. Cut cross in top. Place on a well buttered cookie sheet. Bake in a 3750F oven 35 to 40 minutes.
After you chivvy all the sarpents out after Pat's day (they do so love to stick their tongues out at him) it is time to salute the Bard of Avon on his natal day (we think) April 23. Join Falstaff and company in a mere hogshead or two of good sherries sack, or tipple of your choice, and declaim your favorite sonnet (My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...Yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied by false compare!) or scene (My liege I did deny no prisoners. But I remember, when the fight was done, when I was dry with rage and extreme toil, breathless and faint, leaning on my sword, came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dress'd, fresh as a bridegroom ... ), lively with good felt roisterliness. And don't forget the music for your love's feast.

Shakes is followed not long after by St George on the 30th of April. Great British Cooking: A Well Kept Secret, by Jane Garmey, sees me through with Stoved Chicken, or Vicarage Beets, or Mixed Grill or Cornish Pasties, or Bubble and Squeak.and a Victoria sponge rolled up with jam for afters. See "Tools", to your right, to find your copy of the book.

But my all time favorite Saint is one that the workers chose to honor, that concoction of the industrial age -- St. Monday; in whose honor all working stiffs may thankfully worship at his bedside shrine. Observances are unusually strict in forbidding an excess of movement such as dressing for work. The service is usually a meditation of hearty snores which coincidentally allows the last remaining fumes of Saturday's booze-up to dissipate. The great disappointment of the day is that employers refuse to honor it with ordinary pay, let alone the time and a half it merits.
-- ml
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Science is Messy

John Hawks strikes again.
The article expresses some worries that people won't be able to deal with the "messy process" of science.

Good on him.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Selling Shakespeare

Once I presented three classy ladies, a soprano, harpsichordist and actress who did a great show around John Donne poetry and Scarlatti songs. Unfortunately ticket sales were less than good. I told them this as they walked onto the stage carrying their bags.
"You did sell it on sex and violence, didn't you?" inquired the harpsichordist.

Which reminds me of the traveling players who arrived in a mid-western hamlet to do a short season of the Bard. The Actor manager strolled into the local newspaper office to buy an ad. After stating his business at the counter a balding gent whose sleeves were gartered removed a stogie from his lips to let this creature know in no uncertain terms that:
"I hate Shakespeare. I despise actors. I loathe the theatre. I will not sully the paper with mention of any of them. If the gentleman can live with these strictures, the paper will happily take his money for an ad of whatsoever size was required."
The actor manager, an old and dab hand at touring provincial towns and dealing with their editors, replied: "If that is so, might I borrow a sheet of foolscap to sketch a thought that might please both of us?"
When so provided he drew this:

The editor accepted the ad and the run was successful.

Which five plays of Shakespeare were performed?

Much Ado About Nothing
As you Like It
Taming of the Shrew
Midsummer Nights Dream
Love's Labours Lost

(Run your cursor over the space with the left button down to see the answer)
-- ml
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Member of the Extreme Middle

What kind of extremist are you?
Your Result: Rational Person

You consider these questions obvious straw men, designed to distract people from a meaningful investigation of facts and a serious discussion of relevant political issues. How boring.

Moderate Extremist

Right-Wing Extremist

Left-Wing Extremist

What kind of extremist are you?
Make a Quiz
Yeah. Surprises me too.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pockets Full

Haman was the Dick Cheney of ancient Babylon. Ahasuerus, the King, set Haman above the Princes of Babylon. His pockets were always full of things. Mostly they were full of other people's wealth that Haman and his cronies had plundered or received as bribes. But on one particular and remembered day he filled them with lots, or purim, which he meant to cast to determine the day on which he would slaughter all the Jews of Babylon which then stretched from India to Ethiopia. Haman so hated the Jews that he offered the King ten thousand talents of silver for the privilege of wiping them out.
It so happened that Ahasuerus had recently made Esther, an orphaned Jewess, his Queen. Her cousin Mordecai reported a palace coup plot to Ahasueras through Esther. For this, and other qualities, Esther gained great favor with Ahasueras and was thus able to thwart Haman, prevent the massacre of the Jews and end the Babylonian captivity.
This event is celebrated with feasting, gifts, witty and satiric plays, much noise. "According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai," though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is."
The point seems to be that the day is to celebrate freedom and not to wallow in remedied wrong.
This year I made Empanadas and Juvetch to mark the day. One great theme of Jewish cookery all over the world is a circle of dough wrapped around a filling. Knishes, kreplach, koshnikes, borekas, empanadas, topfen, hamantashen, and more explain why Jews the world over love Dim Sum.
The Empanada was in Argentina. It is a spicy beef mixture in a wrap similar to puff paste but not so fussy to make. They are very tasty and hard to stop eating until no more emerge from the oven.
Filling: Brown a pound of beef with two or three onions chopped fine. Drain. Add 3 dozen pimento stuffed olives, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a half cup of golden raisins, all finely chopped. Stir in a quarter cup of chili powder and a half teaspoon of cayenne, salt and pepper. Vary the spices to suit your palettes. The filling is made milder by the pastry wrap.
For the wrap: cream a half cup of salted butter with 2 cups of flour. Add four egg yolks, the juice of a lemon and water if needed. Work until smooth. Roll out on a floured board until about a quarter inch thick. Folds in thirds. Let dough rest for ten minutes. Turn 90 degrees and roll out to a quarter inch. Fold. Turn. Rest. Repeat a third time. Roll out very thin (Less than an eighth inch. Cut into 4" circles, or cut in a diamond or square pattern. Take each bit of pastry and paint a bit of water on half the edge with your finger. Place a teaspoon of filling on the pastry. Fold that over the filling and seal edges. Depending on the shape cut you will have half moons, triangles or squares. Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes in a 3500f oven.
You may have filling left over, or need less time or more depending on your oven's idea of temperature. Take notes for next time. These also freeze well if you feel like filling the freezer. Bake them for 30 to 35 minutes if frozen. I am told they go a treat with cold vermouth. Dum Luk's plonk was okay for me.
Juvetch was the main course. This one is worth putting in the staple repertoire as it is infinitely variable with the season.
Brown a pound and a half of coarsely cubed lean lamb in a half cup of olive oil. Set the meat aside. Saute one and a half cups of sliced egg plant, a half cup of sliced leeks, and two stalks of celery, sliced, for five minutes. Add more olive oilr if needed. Arrange the vegetables in a casserole dish. Return the meat to the pan and add two cups of water and simmer until tender. Meanwhile add 2 turnips, 1 cup of fresh green beans, 1 cup green peas, 1 sliced anise bulb, 1 cup zucchini or yellow summer squash, 1 or 2 fresh okra to the casserole. When the meat is tender add 2 to 6 tablespoons of lemon juice salt and pepper and chopped fresh basil to taste. Cover dsh and bake at 4000f. for fifteen minutes. Reduce temp to 3000f. and cook until the vegetables are done, about 45 minutes.

Vary the vegetables based on what you like and what is fresh in your kitchen. You can leave the meat out if you like. The point of the dish is lots of vegetables that meld together to our delight.
Of course there were hamantaschen. And we played silly cames and the three year old visitor took his mother and the Kid(tm) for a walk to see the horses at the end of the road. A proper Purim.
The recipes started with those of Patti Shosteck in her fascinating Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, A collection of folklore, foodlore, history, customs and recipes. Look for it at the usual sources. This is one of my favorite horizon expanders, because the recipes come from most all the world.
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