Archive for October, 2007

31
Oct
07

No Mile High Club

At least, not on Singapore Airlines new A380 jumbo jet. The airline, which offers a dozen private “cabins” with double beds on the plane requests that passengers who purchase these amenities not get their freak on while in flight. Free booze, a double bed, a complete enclosure… and they suggest that sex should be avoided so as to not cause offense to other passengers or crew. Far better for the first class patrons to do it like the unwashed in coach and use the lavatory…

31
Oct
07

Iowa Tax Forms

From the Iowa branch of stupid politicians… Iowans must pay sales tax on pumpkins unless they fill out a form certifying that they are going to eat them. Whatever.

31
Oct
07

Saving For The End

If you are like most modern folks, the mantra of saving some of your earnings has been beaten into your head since a very early age. And, you’ve probably ignored it. Either you plan on working your entire life, or hoping that some government program will provide you assistance when you’ve decided that you’re too old and to bored to work anymore. Maybe it will work out?

In reality, about the only person that you can depend on for meaningful income in your “twilight” is you. If you ain’t tucking some money away now, it will always get more difficult to do so with each passing day. Save some money… with every paycheck. Do it any way you can. With a savings account, a work-sponsored program, or whatever.

I have a variety of investments. I don’t expect all of them to kick butt every year. But I am saving for the long term, which means I tolerate more risk so that I can enjoy more return. I have lofty goals for the money I put to work. My target is an overall portfolio growth of at least 15% each year (over additional contributions). That can be done. Sometimes I have parts that, umm, suck. But I do very well overall and I always have one or two parts that really shine. Last year, my real estate funds were in the 30% range (now they are in the toilet in single digits, but I’m buying more to dollar cost average the holdings). This year, Oppenheimer Developing Markets is kicking ass and taking names. Right now it’s up over 40% inYTD return. You read correctly: 40+%. This is not the first time that ODMAX has been a race car. But I keep in mind that it can tank just as badly. I’ll need that moneyat some point!

30
Oct
07

Healthy Regularity

Once again, on the road. I’m in the drought-stricken land of the carpet-baggers in North Georgia. No precipitation in the forecast… So I cannot make it rain. 13 hours behind the wheel (I’m getting too old for this…), at my friend’s house, eating well. Morning routine functional in all aspects. Thanks for your concern!

27
Oct
07

Cheesy Criminals

A Southern California couple is facing criminal charges after allegedly being caught with 375 pounds of “bathtub” cheese at an open-air market in San Bernardino County, the California Department of Food and Agriculture says. The 375 pounds of seized illegal cheese included panela, queso fresco and queso oxaca varieties, the CDFA says. It was a significant find, the department says. At least nobody was smoking aound it.

27
Oct
07

Child Protective Services

I’ve commented before that I thought that Child Protective Services (CPS) sometimes oversteps their mandate. But I also have applauded them when they do the right thing. Try this scenario:

Houston police said they were concerned about the conditions in the family’s northwest Houston apartment. A Child Protective Services spokeswoman said the couple, eight children and an invalid grandmother lived together in the one-bedroom apartment. Police filed a report with the state on Oct. 7. CPS officials said they did not know where the family was until Oct. 16, when an 11-month-old boy was brought to Texas Children’s Hospital with a broken wrist and arm. His brain was bleeding. His parents claimed he had fallen off of a bed. Olguin said, “He’s got subdurral hematoma, which is more consistent with blunt trauma to the head, and he’s got those two fractures, which is also consistent with something, some sort of trauma — and non-accidental.” She said the boy did not appear to be in pain even though he had broken bones. Blood work showed that he and three of his siblings had cocaine in their bodies.

Let’s recap… 11 people (including 1 invalid elderly woman) crowded into a one bedroom apartment, roaches, ants, a kid with broken bones and a bleeding brain, and positive tests for cocaine. Charges have been filed against the parents and foster care for everyone. I’d say CPS got this one right.

26
Oct
07

Squidling

I have no strength. I have a scary new pipe on the way…

26
Oct
07

Machinegun On a Shoestring

The ATF has a difficult job to do. Absent specific guidelines, policies and procedures, they are asked to render decisions to the best of their abilities. A big no-no is the manufacturing and possession of machineguns or parts designed to create machineguns by civilians. In the picture shown above, you see a semi-automatic rifle that has a shoestring with a few loops attached. The string enables automatic firing of the weapon. In 2004, the ATF ruled that the shoestring was a machinegun (ATF considers the machinegun itself and the items that enable conversion to automatic fire to be machine guns):

In June of this year, Rick Vasquez, acting chief of the Firearms Technology Branch (A guy I have met several times before, a guy I like, and a guy who has given me good advice), rescinded the letter that declared shoestrings as machineguns. He went on to clarify that a shoestring was not a machinegun, but was one only when used in the manner described.

It takes time to work through this stuff…

26
Oct
07

Poached Pear & Pumpkin Pie

I help write a weekly newsletter for one of the businesses that I am involved with. This newsletter goes out every Thursday evening and to my surprise, one of the most popular bits of the newsletter has become my inclusion of recipes. “That’s not so odd” you say. But wait… the newsletter is going out to a bunch of folks who pipe smokers! Yep. The Smokingpipes.com newsletter is read by foodies, too. Last night I mentioned in the newsletter that I had a hankerin’ for pie. While writing the column, I mentioned that I hadn’t figured out what kind of pie I was going to make, but that I would include the recipe in the next newsletter. Readers of this blog will get a sneak peek at the recipe. I wanted something fall-like and unusual for a pie. I also wanted something that I had never tried before. Translation: complete hit or total failure. There is exactly one slice left and it’s mine… all mine!

Poached Pear & Pumpkin Pie

This recipe has several components, so plan to become one with the kitchen for a good while!

The pear part…

Ingredients:
4-6 Bosc pears
1 Bottle of Pinot Noir
1 1/4 cup of Sugar
1 Star Anise
1 stick Cinnamon
1 Vanilla Bean (you may not use extract)
1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
Zest of a lemon
1/4 cup of apricot jam

Method:
Core and peel the pears. Split that vanilla bean lengthwise. Combine the wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, vanilla, peppercorns, and lemon zest in a large deep pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to about medium and add the pears. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pears are still firm, but have just become tender. You’re going to want to make sure that the liquid actually submerges the pears so that they will evenly color. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to occasionally turn the pears. Take the pears out of the pot and set aside to cool. Reduce the heat a little more, add the jam and continue simmering the sauce until it is reduced by a little more than half. Set it aside. Cut the pears into 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick slices. Keep children, spouses, and small animals away from this stuff.

The filling part…

Ingredients:
3 large Eggs
3/4 cup heavy Cream
1 1/2 cups canned Pumpkin
1/2 cup firmly packed light Brown sugar
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground Ginger
3/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Allspice
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (try not use already ground)

Method:
In a large bowl whisk together filling ingredients until combined well. Well that was difficult, right?

Making the pie…

You are not allowed to use a store-bought pie shell. You wanna use one? Fine. You can’t use this recipe. My rules. So you’ll need to make some pastry dough. Stop whining. Baking is work.

The butter pastry dough part…

Ingredients:
2 cups All-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 /12 sticks of cold unsalted Butter cut up into small bits
6-7 tbsp ice water

Method:
In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt and with fingertips blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork to incorporate, until mixture begins to form a dough. On a work surface smear dough in 3 or 4 forward motions with heel of hand to slightly develop gluten in flour and make dough easier to work with. Form dough into a ball and flatten to form a disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Assembly, stage 1…

Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch (1-quart capacity) pie plate and trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Cut edge of dough with scissors every 1/2 inch to form curved points and brush edge lightly with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp of water). Chill shell 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F.

Assembly, stage 2…

Pour filling into shell and bake in middle of oven 35 minutes. Remove pie from oven and arrange pears decoratively on top of filling. Bake pie 15 to 20 minutes more, or until custard is set and pears are tender. Cool pie on a rack. Warm up the poached pear sauce until it just starts to simmer again. Whisk in a bit of butter and stir until the butter is all melted and the sauce has become shiny. Strain this sauce as a drizzle over the top of the pie or strain it and brush it on. Chill it all for a bit and then attack.

Pears and Pumpkin may not sound like your typical, sweet, gooey pie thing. It’s not. But it is rather good…

26
Oct
07

Department of Motor Vehicles

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Interesting tidbits over at SmartMoney regarding 10 things on the Department of Motor Vehicles. Not exactly helpful, but I’m sure that all of us can relate to several of the items from our own experiences.
 

  1. “It’s our pleasure to confuse you.”
  2. “Your used car could be a ticking time bomb on wheels.”
  3. “When it comes to car theft, we’re part of the problem.”
  4. “Consistency is the hobgoblin of…well, not us, that’s for sure.”
  5. “You think getting your license is a hassle — try filing a complaint.”
  6. “We’re just as good at breaking the law as enforcing it…”
  7. “…and we all but enable identity theft.”
  8. “Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t drive.”
  9. “Your vanity plate says ‘MUG ME.'”
  10. “Fake ID? We fall for it all the time.”

I’m wanting to see “No, we do not run the taco cart outside” and “There is no bathing requirement to stand in line, per se”.