Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Dog, Mick

Mick, my best friend and Border Collie, loves it when the carp are spawning... Breeding in the shallow water, they are easy to chase down and scoop up. Since most of us consider carp to be a "trash fish", it's okay to let him run and play and clean up and lighten up the carp population a little.
Over the years, we've developed a little game. If you didn't know, Border Collies are the smartest breed of dog, and they love games and playing! Our game is a lot like the Halloween party game, "Bobbing for Apples". We both jump in the shallows and use our teeth, but Mick always seem to win! I think he can smell them under the water or something.
If I can chase him down and get my Blue-Blockers sunglasses back, I think I'll have a chance.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ask Mr. Geography

Sylvia, of Dallas, Texas, writes:

Hi Richard,
I can't help but think history will look very favorably upon W for doing what he did in Iraq and for the subsequent consequences of the Mideast countries standing up and fighting for freedom. What do you think?
Mr. Geography:
Hi, Sylvia, thanks for writing. That is an interesting and intriguing question.
I think you are assuming a causal relationship that just isn't there. It's very good that Saddam is gone; but democracy hasn't really started in Iraq, and the US military action in Iraq has as a result left Iran as the major military power in the region. Iraq, like Iran, is majority Shi'a, and you can expect Iraq and its huge oil resources to increasingly tip toward Iran as the government becomes more representative of the Iraqi majority.

Look instead at the self-immolation in Tunisia as the spark that lit the freedom fires across North Africa and Southwest Asia. Egypt has suffered under Mubarak for over a generation, and the abuses, tortures, and political imprisonments that happened under the Mubarak regime are more instrumental in bringing about its demise than anything the US could hope to achieve in this region.

When many educated in Southwest Asia and North Africa think of US foreign policy, they think about the US ouster of the elected government in Iran and institution of the Pahlavi (Shah of Iran) regime. They are also aware of the relationships existing between the US and some of the region's cruelest and most brutal characters, including the ruling Saud family in Saudi Arabia and Mubarak in Egypt. Remember also that Rumsfeld, on behalf of the Reagan/Bush administrations, considered Saddam an ally, providing him with satellite intelligence showing the location of Iranian troops so they could be gassed.

The blooming of democracy in the Middle East is not an American product, nor is it American inspired. But we can take heart in the new turn of US policy in the region, supporting fledging "true" democratic movements. And the people of the region note and approve of that change, even though they remain somewhat (justifiably) suspicious.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You Just Can't Fix Stupid

The State of Texas is turning down $832 million in federal education jobs money because the Governor refuses to sign a statement required by the funding law that the state won't reduce the education budget by an equal amount, then pour the money into other state programs.
But he says he can't do that...
Yesterday, His Hairness scuttled out of a scheduled press conference through a back door, rather than answer reporters' questions about the state budget. He left the state that afternoon to attend political party activities in California.
Blow-dried idiot boy.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Most Aggressive Defense of Teachers You'll Ever Hear

Recently, a good friend of mine posted a video you may have seen, Taylor Mali's "What Do You Make?". In the video, Mali describes being sneeringly asked by a full-of-himself guest at a dinner party what he "makes" as a teacher. If you have not seen Mali's response, you owe it to yourself to view the video, "The Most Aggressive Defense of Teachers You'll Ever See":
As a retired teacher and union rep, I felt that I had to get in my two bits worth. Here's what I had to say:
Yes, I have seen this. I have had dinner party moments such as this! During the current, anti-teacher hysteria that is going around, I have received hateful messages about teachers, our unions, our pensions, and our pay. I have had to "un-friend" Facebook friends, and block complete strangers.
It is true that American students don't look so good compared with other industrialized countries when you look at quantitative data such as math and science scores. But it is also true that in this country, we try to teach all children a curriculum which prepares them for college or university. Most modern democracies test students as early as fourth grade to determine what type of high school they will attend: vocational, trade, or preparatory. We are comparing the scores of 100% of our students with the top 15-25% of students in comparable countries. We do this without apologies or excuses. This is not a fact that one comes across in 15 second sound bites or Fox News commentaries.
You may remember a certain dinner party we were both at a few years ago where friends of friends were aggressively promoting an anti-teacher agenda as dinner table talk. I told the folks at that time, that we do a pretty good job of teaching the kids the people send us. But the nuance was lost on them; they had made up their minds that teachers are a bunch of yellow-fanged socialists with an agenda to promote godless secular humanism among the population at best, or that, at worst, we were entirely incompetent.
Our state voted for our current Governor. They elected each of the right-wingers to the legislature, and there was no secret that their agenda included stripping the public schools of funds. I am tired of making aggressive defenses of my chosen profession. Yes, I write letters. Yes, I attend rallies at the Capitol. And I am greatly saddened that many of my hardworking, competent colleagues will be laid off from their chosen professions this fall in order to satisify an extremist political agenda. But I blame the people of Texas, and the voters in general, for their complacency in allowing this to happen.
They are going to get what they voted for. And, as a result, this country will never again be competitive in the international economy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Brainless" Brats

No, this is not a commentary on neocon Republicans in the Texas House. Rather, here's my sure-fire, idiot proof recipe for bratwursts with that Regensburg taste.

Foil Smoke Pack
Bratwursts (Johnsonville, Omaha Steaks, or others), 4-8
Ein Glas Bier (whatever you have on hand)

Make a foil smoke pack by soaking a couple of ounces of hickory chips in water for an hour. Place the chips in an aluminum foil packet, and perforate with a fork to make smoke vents. Place the foil smoke pack on your charcoals, lava rocks, or heat exchanger.
Close cover and preheat grill to High until the foil packet begins to steam and produce hickory smoke.

On a separate burner, bring half a beer to a slow, rolling boil. I use a wok to conserve beer. Boil the brats in beer for 15 minutes, turning halfway through the boiling time. Add more beer as needed. Save some for yourself.

Try to get a uniform color on the boiled brats, they will "plump up". Make Arnold Schwarzenegger jokes, such as, "I'm here to plump you up".

Place the boiled brats on your hot grill, turning down heat to Medium High.  Close cover and grill for 18-20 minutes, turning at halfway point.

Serve on a roll or hot dog bun with Bavarian mustard and kraut, with a pickle spear on the side. Sehr gut!