Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Good eatin' from the Caribbean

I stumbled over a very good quick recipe that can be made up in ten or fifteen minutes, is appetizing and hearty and is far more common than I thought.

The back story is that it uses a can of what used to be known all over the British empire as "bully beef" or, (more or less) tinned corned beef. It was common, relatively inexpensive, loved and hated by all who wore the Widow's uniform, and this dish could make supper for a hungry family without a lot of cash to throw around. It's also a good thing where refrigeration is scarce and the days are warm.

Canned corned beef is readily available here in the states but I'm told that there are better brands than Hormel, which is what we get here by way of Brazil. I may do a little Amazon trolling and see what's available.

You will need an onion, some garlic, a bunch of green onions, a couple of hot peppers like maybe red serranos, a couple of cups of shredded cabbage, some boiled rice or rotis and the aforementioned tin of corned beef.

Chop your onions and smash your garlic and get that going in a moderately warm skillet with a little dash of olive oil. Meanwhile smash up the corned beef in a bowl. When the onions are getting done, add in a bunch of sliced green onions, a chopped pepper of your choice, a little black pepper, and the corned beef. Cook until it's thoroughly heated and then add in the cabbage. Toss around until heated and then serve over boiled rice. Because we don't get good peppers here in the winter I took the liberty of using a couple good lashings of sriracha-or, you could use Valentina hot sauce from Mexico at $1.49 for a whole liter of the stuff.

Eat it soon as the cabbage can get a little soggy after a while-I'd say, serve it right out of the pan and sit down to table. Some nice cold Red Stripe would add to the general ambience.

Remember-this is chow for folks on a budget which fits my general theme of good eats on a budget.

There are a wealth of variations found in the usual places as this has been adapted to local conditions and what's available at the time.

Bon appetit, y'all.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Letter From Iowa

Dear Aunt Ethel,

I hope that life's treating you well since you moved to New York City, and Dad and Uncle Herb say hello.

 We're still here, the farms are still here like the one you grew up on all those years ago, the night air is as clear as it ever was with the constellations displayed in all their splendor when you get outside of the city limits and their mercury lights, and gentlemen are apt to make a point by prefacing their observations with "Well, down on the farm Dad allus said....."....where was I?

Oh, I remember now. How could I forget?

It's the silly season for sure, and we here in the Tall Corn State are fussed over by political operatives and the people they claim to represent  like the farm wife's prize hen in the Grant Wood painting once every four years-or eight as the case may be given the national predilection for two term presidents.

It's kinda like when the state fair is on, and then it's over, everyone's packed up and gone in the night and all that's left is to pick up the litter and empty Kentucky Fried Chicken packages and water bottles that our visitors have unaccountably littered our streets and yards with, given the fact that they *say* they're four square for a cleaner planet. Well, nevermind.

Next Tuesday morning it will be as if they never were here at all, in fact as if they didn't exist at all and we shall then see whether the rich lady talked the farm wife out of her hen, or whether she was observant enough to do some clear thinking of her own and make the right choice.

And for the most part we are. Remember we've been at this for a while, this choosing business, and we're pretty fair judges of people who want our votes. Of course there IS that Steve King fellow, but he's a local boy and folks out his way like him well enough to keep electing him even though he does make a fool of himself on a regular basis.

Well, there you go, I've gone off the rails again, don't you know.

Right now you've got Snowstorm Jonas (who thought up that silly name?) to deal with and we've got a snowstorm of manure to wade through coming right through the big screen television Uncle Herb bought two years ago.

They'll both be cleaned up by next week, and then we can back to what's important-our friends, our values, and our admittedly small problems in a big, angry world.

Still, I think it's fair enough to ask the candidates how they expect to justify:
*"making the sand glow" in ISISlandia and, never having seen war up close and personal expect us to invest our boys in such a dubious project
*how they expect to get through congress free health care and college tuition, much less how they're going to scrounge up the money to pay for it all given the political climate inWashington these days
*deporting eleven million people who are merely trying to make a living the best way they know how
*building a fence that nobody can rappel over and expecting a bankrupt third world country to pay for it
*how taking shotguns away from farmers is going to make Chicago a safer place....
*and, basically changing the hearts and minds of a lot of people .

I could go on, but you get the picture.We'll be here to meet you  for the fair when the train goes through Osceola because we know you don't like to fly.

Neither do I, Aunt Ethel. Neither do I.

Love from all of us,


Saturday, January 23, 2016

From The Cheap Computing Department UPDATE

Every now and again you find something that's just so good you have to sort of...well....gush about it a little.

Let me explain.

This is another chapter in the saga of cheap computing. If you're just a little bit obsolete you can do a lot of computing for very little money. If this appeals to your inner cheapskate read on.

I have a standby computer underneath my workbench that I use for occasional net surfing but mostly to display schematic diagrams for the stuff I'm working on. It's an old Dell P360 workstation that sports a Pentium IV-2.8 processor, and it came from the Iowa State surplus store for fifty bucks which got me a cabinet, a power supply, a motherboard, and a floppy disk drive. Remember them? This was built in 2004 so it is about ready to become a teenager.

When I got it home I installed a trio of hard drives. one I got from Newegg on the cheap, one that came out of a defunct Tivo recorder and one that I looted from my IBM desktop that I scrapped out in 2000, and all the memory modules I had that would fit. I also had two DVD drives from Newegg and a 17" CRT monitor. Getting the operating system working was pretty simple as the nice folks at ISU had left the product code for Windows sticker on the box. As far as Microsoft knew it was a desktop at the University.

I named it Iron Gertrude.

As you can see there's room for four standalone cards and four memory modules which can accommodate up to 4 gb (I think) of RAM, and what's out there is primitive and cheap. Did I say cheap?

If you're afraid of buying used, buy it anyway and test it using the handy dandy memory diagnostic tool Microsoft provides. It's so easy to find that it will take you no time at all. Then you set it to run and go have a cup of coffee.

It's been through a few iterations but recently I decided it was time to upgrade or dump it. A 21 inch flat panel monitor was had for about $100 on sale at Staples. Microsoft decided it didn't want to support XP any more, so rather than continue that struggle I ordered up Windows 7, and I got a legit copy for about sixty dollars.

The install went well, but I spent a day or so screwing around trying to install my Linksys WUSB54GS (with speed booster no less) wireless adapter. The piece o' shit just wouldn't get with the program. It had worked just OK with XP but with frequent dropoffs and panic attacks.

After some thought I figured that a wireless card would be just the ticket. The one you see here was bought on ebay for a total of about fifteen bucks including shipping from a seller called "marketplace 360". It came yesterday with the antennas and a disk with the drivers.

So figuring I had a day's work ahead of me, I disconnected the Dell, opened it up and gave it a good dusting and cleaning, and installed the card in the bay formerly occupied by the LAN card.

I powered it up with some trepidation, but hell's bells, it connected itself to my wireless router upstairs and is now happily checking for Windows 7 updates.

It's rare that something so inexpensive works so well. I tried Linksys. It didn't work. It went in the trash.  I tried a Belkin adapter and that never worked and ended up in the  trash.

It was literally do or go shopping at ISU next Wednesday. Depending on how this antiquated processor works I'll probably get an audio card and get that running as well.

And, not to brag or anything I managed to save a rather large chunk of e-waste from the dumpster.

UPDATE: Because the processor is a little slow and the memory's marginal it took a longish time to download and install the necessary updates and clean out the accumulated detritus.  I also took the liberty of purchasing 4 gb of memory-about all this machine can use-and a sound card with drivers as I think mine conked out for good. I've made it a point of keeping the installed base of applications down to a minimum so as to not overwork things here. I'll update this again after the memory and the sound card arrive.

UPDATE 2: The memory showed up here and I now have installed all this thing can hold, 4gb of RAM. The price with postage was about $15 shipped, and I noticed an appreciable increase in performance. I did install the minimum necessary viewing and maintenance tools: CrapCleaner, an antivirus program, Adobe Acrobat,  Office 2003, and I'm likely to install IrfanView. Right now, I'm hunting around to see if anyone ever has installed more than 4gb of RAM because I think that would be a workable proposition.

The secret here is to keep the processor doing only one thing at a time because it is a single core dealio although at the time I bought my Dell 4600 in 2004 I thought it was tits on a Ritz.  Keeping the bloatware load down helps this simple minded processor and it's got to be spare, lean and efficient. Windows 7, the 32 bit variety, is working well and I've got a functional library box that is good for a few more years. We're up to date and after several sessions the updates are in good order. The only thing I'm a little apprehensive about is that support for Office 2003 ended in 2014, and I will probably install Office 2007 or whatever the latest version that I own is.

The total I have invested in this rig is $50 for the CPU, $20 for the memory modules, $15 for the wireless card which works flawlessly by the way, $100 for the 21 inch flat panel display, the two DVD drives were about $20 each, and the 450gb hard drive was some kinda cheap, maybe $30 a few years ago and the operating system was about sixty dollars. I'm right around $300 paid out over a period of seven or eight years which suits me fine.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Open Letter To Bernie Sanders And His Supporters.

Dear friends.

Many of you who I count as personal friends have gotten into the Bernie Sanders fan club.

Here in Iowa we get to think we're important once every four years with the first in the land caucuses now that the Republican straw poll has taken a forever dump. Be that may it has the effect that we are all spending more time than we should hunched over our computers, reading and thinking-there's not much else to do in the winter, really.

I should also say that I am a liberal Democrat of the labor variety-I am liberal in many matters but conservative on social issues. Hey. This is America and we can be what we like and that's what I am-a Harry S. Truman Democrat if you will.

I must admit I hadn't thought much about Sanders aside from thinking I might caucus for him, but that is definitely out as of today, and if he is nominated I will not vote for him. Ever. For dogcatcher even.

Why, since he's promising the sun the moon and the stars all for free?

I'll tell you why. It's sort of a convergence thing.

1. The right to sue and be sued.

The arc of civil liberties is long and broad-slow moving too, but, we are reminded, it bends toward justice.
The civil rights movement may have started before that day on the battlefield at Runnymede when King John signed the Magna Carta at sword's point, setting forth the rights of English yeomen for all time.

Clause 40, in particular states affirmatively that the King shall not undertake to sell the law or fail to deliver justice.

In Blackstone's Commentaries on the Common Law, Book 1 section III clause IV we find support where it says:

No freeman shall be divested of his property or his liberties, or free customs save by the justice of his peers.

What's this have to with Bernie Sanders, you say? Read on.

One of the foremost rights we enjoy as free people is the right to bring suit against a person or persons who have wronged us, and make out our case to a jury of our peers. If we prevail, we are to be made whole, and if we fail of our proof, then we fail.

2. The public health aspect of firearms.

If you believe, as I do,  that the single most important social and public health issue that is with us today is the proliferation and misuse of firearms, and the fact that the only way a private individual may find redress is by bringing suit against the person who proximately caused the injury, then you cannot help but be disappointed by this: the Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act, enacted in October 2005, which Sanders among others signed.

Quite simply, the statute bars, in point of fact, any lawsuit brought by a free man for the redress of his rights as determined by a jury, and thus serves to wipe out 800 or more years of law and precedent.

It thus renders the power of the individual to correct injustice with a lawsuit a nullity, and in so doing tampers with the federalist notion that the states are the best judges of what law or how much of it we as free people want or need.

It's a significant right, it's an overreach, and it is an outrage that the merchants of death ought to be so protected from the rightful reach of the free man and his rights.

For that reason, I am not going to caucus for Bernie Sanders and I may make up a sign and parade it around the meeting place. I urge my fellow Democrats to hold Sanders accountable for his vote.

Robert W. Luedeman


    (a) In General- A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.
    (b) Dismissal of Pending Actions- A qualified civil liability action that is pending on the date of enactment of this Act shall be immediately dismissed by the court in which the action was brought or is currently pending.

      `(A) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who has lawful possession and control of a handgun, and who uses a secure gun storage or safety device with the handgun, shall be entitled to immunity from a qualified civil liability action.
      `(B) PROSPECTIVE ACTIONS- A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.
      `(C) DEFINED TERM- As used in this paragraph, the term `qualified civil liability action'--
        `(i) means a civil action brought by any person against a person described in subparagraph (A) for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of the handgun by a third party, if--
          `(I) the handgun was accessed by another person who did not have the permission or authorization of the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun to have access to it; and
          `(II) at the time access was gained by the person not so authorized, the handgun had been made inoperable by use of a secure gun storage or safety device; and
        `(ii) shall not include an action brought against the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun for negligent entrustment or negligence per se.'

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - See more at:
(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - See more at: