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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Crows are bored."

"Crows are bored. They suffer from being too intelligent for their station in life.

"Respectable evolutionary success is simply not, for these brainy and complex birds, enough. They are dissatisfied with the narrow goals and horizons of that tired old Darwinian struggle. On the lookout for a new challenge. Keep that in mind next time you run into a crow. Look the bird in the eye. Consider its frustrations. Try to say something stimulating."

From Natural Acts: a Sidelong View of Science and Nature, by David Quammen.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

New cd arrives - get it for $10 through October! And a CD release party...

So finally, finally, the new Pratie Head cd is here. It's called "We Did It! Songs of People Behaving Badly" and it's a collection of murder ballads, with a few other deadly sins thrown in for variety, and some tune medleys, of course.

We're having a cd release party Saturday, November 1 - the night after Hallowe'en - at the BROAD STREET CAFE in Durham, 1116 Broad Street, 919-416-9707. Show starts at 7 pm. We'll be selling cds for $10 that night!

If you are reading this before the end of October, I consider you a "friend" and you, too, can get the cd for $10, NO SHIPPING/HANDLING CHARGE!

See this special page to order at the sale price!

This weekend, we'll also be playing for free:
Sunday, October 5, 11-1 am: Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough, Sunday Brunch

Visit Skylark Productions to hear sound samples.

  • What a Shocking World This Is for Scandal (Thomas Hudson, 1802)
  • Lucy Wan
  • Punch and Judy (by John Pole)
  • Marrowbones
  • The Downfall of Piracy (by Benjamin Franklin and Jane Peppler)
  • Cat in the Cradle medley (includes Carthy's March #2 by Bob Vasile)
  • Bowie Bowerie (aka The Two Sisters)
  • Martin Hayes' and the Rubberman
  • Gypsen Davy
  • Jesuitmont (Justamont), music composed by Bob Vasile
  • Lamkin
  • Slip Jigs and Reels (by Steve Tilson)
  • David's tunes (Flying Home to Shelley, Paddy on the Landfill, Music for a Found Harmonium)
  • The Creel
  • The Laily Worm
  • The Wizard's medley (Tamlin, Napoleon's, Wizard's Walk)
  • Fear No More the Heat of the Sun, words by Shakespeare, music composed by Penka Kouneva (of which this is the first performance recording ever)!


Mark does Illustration Friday: "Packed."


(Graphite on Bristol Board 11" x 14")


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

What did I buy this week? #7.

I spent all week in Bob's basement using the paints I bought last week to paint Uncle Shlomo's pushcart. This arrived in the mail on Wednesday but I actually bought it a week or two ago: it's a thermal binder, for making paperback books. The instructions inform me I must use their special covers (very expensive) with special (expensive) glue strips, but I saw a video on YouTube and a guy was using regular cardstock and a gluegun. I tried one this way, so far no good. I wonder what's the right glue stick to buy?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

My fabulous recipe for piroshki; it helps Ezra get a job...

I've been making this recipe for years. The dough is Russian and makes the best pie crust I've ever had, especially for small pies. It's easy to roll out and leftover dough can be rolled flat, cut into strips, and baked as an appetizer.

Mom's Excellent Piroshki
makes 24-30 depending on the size of coffee cup you use to cut the dough

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2+ cups flour
1 egg yolk (save the white for the glaze)
1/4 ts salt (1/2 ts if you use unsalted butter)
2/3 cup sour cream

I toss this all in the food processor and whip it till it hangs together. You could also grate the butter through a vegetable grater into the flour, add the other wet ingredients, and stir into a ball. It will be just a bit softer than ordinary pie crust. I press it about 3/4" thick and put it in a ziplock bag in the fridge to chill for a short while, but you don't have to. I have a canvas cloth which I flour, and I use a noodle pin but any rolling pin will do: roll it out thin and cut it into circles with a biscuit cutter or a coffee cup. You can stack the circles if they are dusted with flour. Meanwhile you, or a cooking partner, make the filling:

Fry and drain 3/4 pound - 1 pound hamburger. Set aside.

Next, chop (or pulverize in food processor) and saute in butter till soft and moisture is mostly evaporated:
2-3 onions
4-5 cloves garlic
handful parsley
parmesan cheese to taste
Mix with the hamburger. Put a modest amount of filling in each circle, fold it over, and moisten the edge with water and/or egg white to seal. Glaze the half-moons with the reserved egg white. Cook at 350 degrees 20-35 minutes.

Ezra applied for a job at Whole Foods, to be the guy standing behind a little table offering samples of foods he's cooked to the passers-by. He made this recipe, substituting "Smart Ground" texturized vegetable protein for the hamburger; he used cumin and coriander instead of dill. He took the lovely piroshki to his interview and got the job.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

In which Uncle Shlomo's pushcart almost gets launched.

Uncle Shlomo's nephew Paul thought he'd take the pushcart out for a maiden voyage this weekend at the Carrboro Music Festival, so Bob and I spent hours getting it ready. I spent most of four days painting this pushcart, it shouldn't have taken so long but I never did one before.

We've had a good laugh trying to compute how many hours we have in this project (i.e. how much we'd have to charge somebody for a pushcart). It was loads of fun. (As always, click on the picture for a larger view.)

But in the end, Paul couldn't secure the permits in time. I was completely crushed. Oh, well! This will give him more time to figure out what he wants to sell from it.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

[Hannah]: And It Came To Pass....

Predicted by Stephen Colbert in fall 2005....


Truthiness - it's now the real truth.

[Hannah]: Accordeons! Accordeons!

An advertisment found while researching (National Police Gazette, February 7, 1846):


The subscriber offers for sale at 76 Chatham street, a large and splendid assortment of the best finished and fine-toned French Accordeons, at wholesale and retail, for cash, at reduced prices. The Accordeon is an instrument of uncommon sweetness of tone, and bids fair to become one of the most fashionable and permanent. The following observations by some English writer are so happily and truly expressed, and so conformable with our ideas, that we take the liberty of transcribing them:

"This instrument of music is in every way entitled to the notice and patronage of the musical world. it produces the most melodious sounds, and is remarkable for its peculiar sweetness and power of tone: The most difficult passages can be performed on it with taste and delicacy, while the bold swell of the organ, the enchanting tones of the aeolian harp, and the dulcet strains of the hautboy are happily united. In the performance of quadrilles, waltzes, and other melodies, it is capable of giving to the different compositions grace and expression, while as an accompaniment to the voice, it is allowed for its size and portability to be unrivaled. With qualities so desirable, it might be imagined that some difficulty would attend its performance; on the contrary, although the accordian is calculated to exhibit the superiority of a finished performer, it may be played upon by the most inexperienced learner, who will insensibly, as it were, be taught without any knowledge of the science of music to distinguish the various expressions and passions which music is intended to convey."

GEORGE W. PRATT, 76 Chatham street;
Accordeons accurately tuned and repaired at short notice, and warranted correct.

Owed two uh spelling chequer

Found on my Yale class listserv...

Owed two uh spelling chequer

Eye halve a spelling chequer.
It came with my pee see.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye ken knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me win I rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker's Hour
spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flair,
Their are no fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a ware.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays,
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting fore too pleas.

-- Sauce Unknown

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The chicken coop gets expanded and fortified

While I was at Yiddish Week, all my chickens were killed. I figured it was raccoons, but it wasn't until today, when I was cleaning the feathers and post-carnage flotsam out of the coop, that I saw conclusive proof.

As soon as I got home I ordered a dozen mail-order chickens, assorted females. They were tiny when they arrived, but now, 2.5 weeks later, they are boiling up out of their containment area. They walk up and down this knife-thin edge of masonite, flapping their wings continually to keep their balance, and sometimes they fall out, and sometimes they fly to us as we sit at the kitchen table and land on our shoulders. This is not sanitary.

They have a lot of feathers now, except on their heads, which gives them a buzzard-like quality.

The brown ones are the prettiest, but also the lightest - they haven't bulked up like the others.

Since I was going to have to beef up security, I figured I'd improve the coop annex while I was at it. The dear departed ones never liked the second coop, which I had bought on Craig's List and got Jethro to tow on site. It was too low and too narrow and had no place to roost.

So one day recently Menticia and I took the jigsaw and cut most of the old roof off it. I cantilevered an addition onto the base (the dark red is the old part of the coop). I made two windowed upper panels and two hinged lower panels that pull in under the top and fasten with hanger bolts and wing nuts.

I added a hasp and a LOCK to the front and rear doors. If raccoons don't have skeleton keys they will hopefully be frustrated. (I didn't get combination locks because Bob told me he used to have a pet raccoon and it reached through the bars and twirled the combination lock endlessly for entertainment. Like monkeys typing Shakespeare, perhaps it would eventually succeed.)

I think it looks kind of like a bathysphere but Ezra doesn't agree.

Here's a rear view. I added the nesting boxes (the farthest back part); the part with the tin roof is the only part of the coop annex I didn't expand.

This is my favorite part of the coop - the connecting passageway with a real glass window.

Here's the interior of the new henhouse annex. I wired it for light from the light in the old part of the coop, and added a big long roost. I think it will be a hit. This was a great project for Menticia and me to do together.

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What did I buy this week? #6.

Metal hardware has gotten very expensive. The wood for the expansion and fortification of the chicken annex was free (well, not really, but it's been under my porch so long it seems free) but these little hinges and hanger bolts cost a lot!

These supplies for painting the pushcart were also very expensive. "One-spot" enamel is particularly pricey. I went to a sign shop to get it, and I found a bunch of colored aluminum "blanks" to make additional signs on for only a dollar each so I got those.

I also got a new glue gun, because I gave my old one to Menticia last year, and some glue sticks. This is for a different project.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bookmobile on hooves: the bibliomulas

From KK Street Use:
We covered camelbookmobiles. Here is one using mules in Venezuela as reported on the BBC.

The Mule Mobiles ... are known as bibliomulas (book mules) and they are helping to spread the benefits of reading to people who are isolated from much of the world around them.

The idea of loading mules with books and taking them into the mountain villages was started by the University of Momboy, a small institution that prides itself on its community-based initiatives and on doing far more than universities in Venezuela are required to do by law.

Anyone who was not out working the fields - tending the celery that is the main crop here - was waiting for our arrival. The 23 children at the little school were very excited. "Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped.

As the project grows, it is using the latest technology. Somehow there is already a limited mobile phone signal here, so the organisers are taking advantage of that and equipping the mules with laptops and projectors.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Solar System Quilt

From National Museum of American History via BoingBoing:

This Solar System quilt was made by Ellen Harding Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, in 1876. It is 89" long and 106" wide. The wool top of this applique quilt is embellished with wool-fabric applique, wool braid, and wool and silk embroidery. Included in the design is the appliqued inscription, "Solar System," and the embroidered inscriptions, "E. H. Baker" and "A. D. 1876." The lining is a red cotton-and-wool fabric and the filling is of cotton fiber.

The maker, Sarah Ellen Harding, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1847, and married Marion Baker of Cedar County, Iowa, on October 10, 1867. They lived in Cedar County until 1878, then moved to Johnson County where Marion had a general merchandise business in Lone Tree. Ellen had seven children before she died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1886. The design of Ellen's striking and unusual quilt resembles illustrations in astronomy books of the period. Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the 19th century, and was sometimes even fostered in their education.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

The wonders of deregulation, profiting customers as always: AT&T shows its contempt for consumers.

Extracts from
AT & T buries customer rights in 2,500-page 'guidebook'
Judging from the phone company's voluminous new online customer manual, if you have a problem with your bill, too bad.

David Lazarus for the Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2008

AT&T has sent customers an 8,000-word service agreement that, among other things, says people will be given 30-day notice of price increases only when "commercially reasonable" and that you can't sue the company.

Oh, and if you don't like AT&T's terms -- providing you can make your way through the company's 2,500-page "guidebook" -- your only recourse is to cancel service.

Two years ago, regulators voted to give phone companies more freedom in pricing and marketing decisions -- thus opening the door to AT&T's new agreement. The rationale was that this would create a more competitive marketplace, which would benefit consumers.

However, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates concluded in a recent report that "significant rate increases" have occurred since the market was deregulated.

Witteman said a key problem with AT&T's service agreement is that the company doesn't list all the terms and conditions that apply to customers. Rather, AT&T says customers must review a separate "guidebook." That guidebook is available only online ... and runs about 2,500 pages.

"You also agree to pay for all charges for services provided under this agreement even if such calls were not authorized by you." The analysis said this "is in direct violation to cramming laws," which protect consumers from having unauthorized charges placed on their bills.

Under the provision, the analysis concluded, "AT&T, or any other billing agents, could impose unauthorized phone calls on a consumer's bill." It said consumers would have "little chance in both avoiding and fighting against this type of fraud."

Verizon Communications Inc. is also preparing to inform regulators of services it wants to remove from regulatory oversight before offering them to customers.

AT&T includes a provision that says customers are "waiving the right to a trial by jury and to participate in a class action" and may resolve grievances only by arbitration.

Consumers who want to comment on the AT&T or Verizon service agreements can e-mail the PUC at or call (866) 849-8390.

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Hello, this is, or was, Zed

Due to apparent confusion over my name, I will henceforth refer to myself (and I hope Melinama will do likewise) by my real name, Ezra. Thanks for your understanding.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In which, after escaping from the "Natural Horsemanship" demo, I get a frosty email.

Zed is right, I am not very good at concealing my annoyance when people flail me with sales pitches. This one was an in-the-flesh infomercial!

I knew my question ("Well, what would the FIRST STEP be if a person wanted to try this technique?") was brash. So I wasn't surprised to receive this email from Jennye last night:

I am sorry that I wasn't able, in that setting, to stop my demo in order to share with you the instruction that would have been necessary to answer the question you posed. I had to stay on task...

The event was not a clinic but rather a demo. But I hope you could see from today's experience that one can have a member of the equine family (horse/donkey/mule) obedient and acting like a real partner when we, the human, follows the principles of Natural Horsemanship.

Through this language we are able to enroll the animal in becoming our partner. We establish ourselves as the 'boss mare' and life begins to change drastically in the relationship. This is quite a specific process. Progress can be seen in literally minutes.

Today Zed and I set out on an evening walk with Jethro, explaining to him about Man's unique relationship with the Equine and how we needed to be At One and that he, Jethro, should be alert to our every unspoken command. And how this other lady's horses were so obedient, and how if she did not "excuse" her horse he would await further instruction, and that she could leave him there and go in the house and play a game of bridge and when she came back to the paddock the horse would still be standing immobile, awaiting further instruction.

Jethro was horribly bad on his walk. I don't think he likes this sort of talk.

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[Zed] Natural Horsemanship part 2: In which we meet the recreational horse-riding community and discover that we most definitely do not fit in. . .

See Part one ...

So we drive out to Jennye's estate, which boasts an impressive array of stables, barns, and, yes, there's a house in there too. After a bit of searching, we find her behind the barn in the nearby "showing area" with a small clump of admirers.

With a few exceptions, these are exactly the sort of ladies one might expect to spend a great deal of time fretting over their relationships with their horses – perfect candidates for Natural Horsemanship. Averaging about 48 years old, I'd say, they chat anxiously with Jennye about their horses and their various neuroses.

She begins the affair by going into the barn and turning on some music. I myself have been subjected to some pretty bad synthetic music (including a horrible plinky electric version of Pachelbel's Canon set on repeat, for an hour, as I lay immobilized and full of needles on an acupuncturist's bench), but this is something else.

As we struggle to pay attention to her lecture (which begins with a 20 minute history of her riding career and the sheer wonder of an amazing technique called Natural Horsemanship which has changed her life) I can't help but marvel at the aural atrocity playing in the background. It opens with a recording of thunder and some hoof-beats . . . and then gets worse. It sounds like the dramatic and suspenseful music that would accompany the marching of an evil horde in a trailer for a fantasy movie, except it lacks percussion and the ghostly choir has been replaced with that tinny sound you get when you set your Casio electric keyboard to the "choir" setting.

Throughout Jennye's introduction, horse-ladies arrive in small clumps, some of them with husbands in tow. The husbands don't look particularly uncomfortable or even bored, but I hardly hear a word out of any of them. Perhaps, I muse, they have been dragged to more than a few of this sort of event, and are resigned to accepting all the eccentric extremes of their wives' hobby.

One of the wives, I notice with amusement, gets a bit of mud on her leather boot and spends a minute hopping on one foot, trying to wipe the mud off on the grass. Who comes to a horse-riding event wearing boots that she can't stand to see dirty?

Anyway, the talk continues for another 20 minutes. We are made aware of Jennye's 25 years in Dressage and her revolutionary discovery of Natural Horsemanship. A Natural Horseman must understand her equine's motives and fears. She must trust the horse and be trusted by the horse. While describing the wonderful nobility of the species she mentions the fact that the "herd mare" remains in charge for years and years, but stallions come and go. Speaking out for the first time, her husband shouts (from inside the shed, where he's busy finding something for his wife) that he's been around for 25 years, but no one really pays him any attention.

Unfazed, Jennye continues to tell us that horses have been companions and assistants to the human race since time immemorial, asking nothing in exchange but our love and respect. In fact, she boasts, without these majestic animals, humanity might not have survived. The crowd nods earnestly, and we realize that we have come to the type of event where Cynics like ourselves feel utterly unwelcome. Feeling very out of place among a group that could take this talk seriously, we sit well away from the sycophantic crowd and exchange knowing glances and the occasional snicker.

If she understands and loves and respects her horses as she says she does, then why did she buy 640 bales of hay for them without finding out if they would even eat it?

Eventually, we see what Jennye is doing here. The gathering isn't a friendly demonstration – it's a sales pitch. She continuously mentions the kind of Natural Horsemanship wizardry we'll be able to pull off with our horses (if only we'd enroll in her course of personal lessons), but will not explain a single detail of how to begin with Natural Horsemanship.

Melinama, meanwhile, is fuming. Her distaste for sales-pitches, advertising and all forms of solicitation is legendary, but she's been trying to hold off an outburst: irritating as it may be, Jennye is our supplier for Jethro's favorite hay, and we con't afford to burn bridges. Melinama's ire has been held in check thus far, but when Jennye's talk moves from Natural Horsemanship (our real reason for showing up) to her loving relationship with the horses in her barn, Melinama loses control.

Braving the disapproving stares of the horse-devotees, she raises her hand and says that she had thought we were going to learn how to do some of this Natural Horsemanship training, and if one was to begin with an equine, what would be the first step in a Natural training routine? Jennye is taken aback, and replies after a moment in that reproachful-yet-grudgingly-patient tone that would be familiar to anyone who's seen a bad teacher trying to show a child how to write a word: "Your first step would be to take one of my lessons."

Melinama quietly groans and asks me "how are we going to get out of this place?"

Jennye then prepares to bring out her horses for an exhibition of their marvelous talents: "Honey, bring me my orange whip!" Her husband complies, and she brings out the first horse. After explaining the life story of her darling Buttercake, a brown Hanoverian something-or-other, she stands beside him and shouts, "Honey, turn on the song. . . . No, you're doing it wrong, track 8!"

Track 8 is an appalling rendition of "I can't live without you," and to her credit Jennye mentions that she loves Buttercake very very much but she could probably live without him. The manic gleam in her heavily-made-up eye gives me cause to doubt her disclaimer.

We are then treated to a display of something that, in the world of the horse-cognoscenti would be called a display of virtuoso horsemanship. To me it is the sight of a lady and a horse erratically prancing around a pen in funny patterns. I admit a certain lack of class or consideration when it comes to this sport, but I must admit I was impressed when she got Buttercake to walk sideways. Our equine would never do that.

Jennye repeats this routine with another horse, this time a black, failed thoroughbred rescued from a German glue factory by a timely intervention on her part. Once she's done, she announces that we will all move to the "arena" to watch her do Dressage, which as far as I can tell is the same prancing routine, but with the human on the horse, rather than next to it. I see an opportunity. Hoping to beat the crowd (and avoid the angry glares of the horse-ladies) we hurry back to the car as the others slowly stand up and tell each other how marvelous the showing has been thus far.

We finally reach the car, but WE'VE BEEN PARKED IN! And worse, we're directly in the path of the ladies walking from the barn to the arena! We only have a few feet to work with in front of and behind the van. Melinama, at the wheel, tries to work her way out from between the cars, bit by bit. We're trapped, and the crowd gets closer and closer! Now they can see the whites of our eyes! Will we make it? Just as the van is almost free, the front-runner taps on our window like the serial killer in Scream. Horrified, Melinama opens the window. Instantly, we can tell that this lady isn't here to help us pull out.

She wants us to give Jennye another chance. She tells us proudly that she has eight horses, and her work with Natural Horsemanship has greatly improved her relationship with them. She continues to speak, but we're too caught up in the terror and embarrassment of getting caught while sneaking out to pay her much attention. Melinama does a very bad job of hiding her irritation behind some short, angry nods, and the lady gets the hint. She gives one last plaintive try at winning us over—"just so you know, Jennye didn't send me"—and walks off, disgusted.

Finally, she's done, but before we can get out of the Labyrinth of Jennye, another lady shows up. She doesn't even try to convert us or even speak to us, and moves one of the cars that blocked our exit. We're free, but now we have to turn around. And do it without hitting anybody. Melinama makes several attempts at this feat, but by now the main mass of horse-ladies is upon us. In desperation, she gives up and backs down the long, winding driveway. We are free.

We go home and give our equine a banana peel.

Note: While looking up some facts on Natural Horsemanship, I discovered that Natural Horsemen have a bit of a reputation in the horse-riding community for their aggressive salesmanship. I found the following on a website of horse-related jokes:

Question: How many Natural Horsemen does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Answer: You must instill respect in the light bulb, so that it sees you as the Alpha light bulb, using "light bulb dynamics" (video available at $99.00 on my Website).

Once you have done this, you will find that there is really no need to change the light bulb at all, but that the light bulb will, with very little coaxing from you (using patented "light bulb coaxer" designed by me - $99.00 each, for extra $49.99 you get video thrown in) will behave as all good light bulbs should."

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What did I buy? 5b.

Zed found these two posters at the Goodwill. I had a xerox of one of them in my kitchen already, so, score! (Disclaimer: this one was traced.)

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About the current Wall Street crisis...

From the New York Times:

"Investors are like hyperactive first graders playing musical chairs."
Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Here's an explanatory video for those who don't know what Dressage is

[Zed] We Try Some New Hay - Naturally

Hi. I’m Zed. You may have heard a bit about me. You also have doubtless read of the exploits of our somewhat troublesome donkey, Jethro. In many ways, he is like a child – he is pushy, insubordinate, capricious, unreliable, and we can’t help but love him.

One characteristic he shares with difficult 3-year-olds around the world is his pickiness. One might think that donkeys, originating as they do in the scrubby, brushy desert fringes of Africa, might be adapted to eating whatever became available, but our donkey is a picky eater, as Melinama found out recently (to her great dismay). Only after she bought 60 bales of hay (this is a lot of hay – 60 bales is about 5 times the size of Jethro) did she discover that he turned up his giant nose at the stuff, picking at it like a despondent toddler with a plate of lima beans. We certainly didn’t want to see him "suffer" like this, but what could we do? We had a shed full of the bad hay.

You'll understand, then, the excitement felt in the household when Jethro finally ate the last of the lima bean hay. Melinama, ever eager to put modern methods to work on old problems, looked to the internet for some more hay. On Craig's List she found a couple who had made an even bigger mistake than ours – while stocking up they had accidentally bought 640 bales that their horses WOULDN’T EVEN EAT!

Anyway, we tried Jethro out on a bale of their stuff, which even I (hardly an expert on livestock foodstuffs) could tell was radically different from the old lima bean stuff. It seemed fresher, pungent with a hint of spice. No, you won’t find it on a dish at the Four Seasons, you silly gourmands, but it was pretty classy stuff – especially compared to the bland yellowy stuff. And, agreeing with me for maybe the first time in his life, Jethro loved it too!

Wasting no time, we asked them to bring us a full shed-load of the premium blend, what I’d come to think of as the Starbucks shade-grown to the previous hay’s Folgers. Anyway, they pulled up the drive with a flatbed trailer of hay). Immediately, Jennye hopped out of the pickup truck and began barking shrill orders to her husband, who was trying to back the trailer up to the shed: "Turn, turn, now TURN STEEPER, slow, SLOW, you’re okay, you’re okay, CAN YOU EVEN HEAR ME?"

Fortunately this jarring display didn’t give us pause. We managed to get the hay unloaded into the shed without much difficulty, despite the darkness and the fact that our shed was barely large enough for 60 bales (this feat required arrangement for maximum efficiency, much like a game of Tetris). No one was hurt, and the only casualty was a broom I left in the back of the shed, now trapped behind 5-6 months' worth of hay.

After we finished, we got to talking. Jennye, naturally the controlling type, took charge of the conversation, mentioning her 25 years of Dressage (in case you’re not horse people, this is a riding event where you sit on a horse and have it mince around in a predetermined pattern – I know about this because of an ex-classmate who boasted incessantly about it, so don’t call me a horse person) and her new fascination for a "new way of interacting with a horse" that "changed her life" called "Natural Horsemanship." I was curious, and against my better judgment I pressed for details.

Knowing that we had a donkey, and not a particularly well-behaved one, she told us that by getting into the mindset of the creature (which Natural Horsemanship would help us do – naturally) we could get him to want to do whatever it is that we ask him to do. She mentioned, with the tone of a talented salesman, that she was giving an exhibition and an introduction to Natural Horsemanship at her place on Saturday and why wouldn’t we come on down and see what it was all about.

Over the next two days Melinama and I amused ourselves with the absurd (to us) image of Jethro actually behaving well, building more and more ridiculous images of donkey saintliness. . . . . .

TO BE CONTINUED: Find out – what is Natural Horsemanship all about? Will Jethro be transformed into the very image of good behavior? Just how crazy is Jennye? What kind of people show up for an event at her place? Stay tuned, fellas.

On to Part Two ...

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What did I buy this week? #5a.

My son Zed is going to tell you shortly about our trip to Hillsborough in search of enlightenment on the subject of "Natural Horsemanship." But on the way back I had to buy a broom, because the broom I had is now behind 58 bales of hay in the shed. It will not be seen until April. You can ask him how that happened.

So we dropped by Walmart and the Goodwill is right next door...

These are perfect shirts for sweaty summer days and they were on sale for $2 each at Walmart, that's cheaper than you could get a shirt at the Goodwill, so I bought five (different colors).

Here's the broom. Also a canvas bag from Goodwill, Zed says this is a drug company handout. Also four books: a thesaurus for Menticia, two Carl Hiaassen books, and a Robert Ludlum book. Give me a break, they were 50 cents each.

I was pretty tired of sketching by the time I got to here. I have to stop buying things for a while. Anyway, a new bag of mechanical pencils which I opened so I'd have a pencil to draw these pictures with, and two dvds for $5 each: "Rain Man" for me (it's a five-star movie in my opinion) and "The Jackal" for Zed.

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Seen on the way back from Hillsborough

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What did I buy this week? #5.

I went to Goodwill and bought a "new" copy of the Joy of Cooking; mine belonged to my mother and is falling apart, although it has one of my favorite recipes in it which was expunged from later editions. I also got a brilliantly colored cloth bag big enough to get some hay into; Zed lost the big vinyl bag (also bought at Goodwill) for a while and it caused an uproar. Systems must be maintained.

On the same visit I also bought this skirt, actually I bought two but they looked pretty much the same. I have a lot of print shirts so I keep looking for solid colored skirts. I would wear print on print but it would embarrass my friends. Standards must be maintained, at least in public.

The week's big purchase was Jethro's supply of hay for the winter. It should last until early spring. This past spring I made the mistake of buying some local hay sight unseen and Jethro hated every bite of it. This time I went and bought one bale from the people selling it and tried it out on him. If you were going to eat only one thing from now till April, I bet you'd want some say in what it was going to be! He woofled it down very happily. So I bought 58 bales and the folks came with their trailer and we loaded it into the shed in the dark.

But first, we had to get out the "bad" hay, there were a few more bales. I had Zed put them under the carriage-port. Now I can't get the carriage out. Poor planning.

While they were here, the hay folks told us they'd bought this batch of hay from somewhere up north, also sight unseen, 640 bales of it! And disaster - their horses don't like it! So they are getting different hay for their own horses and trying to unload the first batch around town.

They also invited us to a dressage natural horsemanship clinic today - Jennye said that after we learn her method, Jethro will be instantly obedient. I'll get back to you on that.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gimple the Simpleton (Gimpl Tam): part two (conclusion)

This is the second half of Gimpl Tam, translated by Saul Bellow as "Gimpel the Fool," but I think "Gimpel the Simple" or naive is closer. Gimpl admits to being simple but denies being a fool. As the story progresses he grows in dignity and goodness, even as he is ground down by the world. I really enjoyed translating this with Musia Lakin's help.

In part one, Gimpl tells us he was gullible as a child and has been a "customer" for wise guys ever since - that he was pressed into marrying a shrewish, promiscuous woman whom he loved like crazy.

In the evening I even brought her bread, a challah which I baked especially for her, and a couple of rolls. For her sake I became a thief and snitched whatever I could: here a piece of coffeecake, there a macaroon, from one direction raisins and from another, almond biscuits. Don't hold it against me: I used to open Sabbath cholents and take out a thread of meat, a little piece of kugl, a chicken head or foot, a piece of kishke, whatever I could get. She ate and became lovely and fat.

The whole week I didn't sleep at home. Friday nights I would come to her, but she always had an excuse. She had a burning in the pit of her stomach, or a stitch in her side, or hiccups, or a headache. Today, woman's complaint! Don't ask, I was torn up about it. Furthermore, there was her brother, that bastard, growing bigger all the time. He slugged me, and when I wanted to hit him back she started swearing like a sailor, everything went green before my eyes. Ten times a day she threw the threat of divorce at my feet.

Another fellow in my place would run away to where the black pepper grows, but I'm a peaceful man by nature. In short, what can one do? Since God gives shoulders, one must carry the pack.

One night there was trouble at the bakery: the oven burst, there was almost a huge fire. Since I had nothing to do, I went home. 'Let me, just once,' I thought, 'taste the flavor of sleeping in my bed in the middle of the week.' I didn't want to wake the little one, I went in quietly, like the tip of a finger. I entered my room and heard a sort of double snore: one was thin, the other like the sound of an ox being slaughtered. It wasn't long till I knew the story. I go to the bed and everything gets dark before my eyes: a man is lying next to Elke.

Another in my place would have made such a scene that half the town would've come running in, but I thought it over: why wake the child? In what way is that sweet little swallow to blame? So, never mind, I went away, back to the bakery, and lay down again on a sack of flour. I never closed an eye all night. I was thrown into an ague. 'Enough of being a donkey,' I thought, 'Gimpl won't let himself be cheated any more, there's an end even to Gimpl's foolishness.'

In the morning I was away to the Rabbi to ask him about all this. There was a ruckus in the town. The shamas was sent to fetch her.

My wife came with the little child in her arms. And what, she asked, had she done? She denied everything vociferously, stone and bone. 'He is,' she says, 'out of his senses.'

I don't know of a solution and it's not a dream: They shouted at her and threatened her, banged on the table, but she held fast, she was being falsely accused. The butchers and the horse-traders were on her side. A young guy from the knackers' yard came to me and said: 'You're a marked man.'

Meanwhile the kid takes to straining, he soils himself. Because there's a holy ark in the rabbinic court, they send Elke away.

I ask the rabbi, 'What shall I do?' He says, 'you must divorce her right away.' 'And what if she won't accept a divorce?' I ask. 'You just have to hang it on her.' I say: 'Good, Rabbi. I'll think it over.' 'There's nothing to think over,' says the rabbi, 'it's forbidden for you to be under the same roof with her.' 'What if I want to see the child?' I ask. 'You mustn't see the child,' says the rabbi, 'she should leave, that harlot, along with her bastards!' He issued a verdict, I'm forbidden even to cross her doorstep. Ever again. As long as I live.

By day, this didn't bother me so much. 'Never mind, forget about it,' I think, 'the mud had to be slung.' But at night, when I'd laid myself down on the sack, things seemed bitter. A longing for her and the child overcame me.

I wanted to be angry with her, but this is my misfortune - I can't be angry. First: there's no telling, people deceive themselves. Probably that young guy came on to her, ogled her, maybe gave her presents, and women are long-haired and short-sighted, he talked her into it. Second: she denies it so furiously, maybe it was a hallucination? Sometimes it happens, one sees some kind of shadow that looks human, but when you come closer, it turns out to have been nothing at all. If that's the case, then an injustice has been committed against her.

As I think along these lines, I start to cry, I sob so hard the flour gets wet.

Early next morning I was off to see the rabbi and said I'd made a mistake. The rabbi recorded this with his goose-feather pen and said he'd send a query to the greater rabbinic authorities. Until then, I'm forbidden to approach my wife, but I can send a messenger with baked goods and money for her support.

Part Three.

It was three quarters of a year before the rabbis came to an agreement. Letters had been going back and forth, I hadn't known there was so much torah consultation required in this sort of situation. Meanwhile Elke had gotten pregnant and she bore another child. This time it was a girl. On Shabbos I went to shul and gave her my blessing. I was called to the torah and I gave her a name, I named her after my mother-in-law, rest in peace.

The hooligans who came into the bakery thrashed me with their tongues. All Frampol delighted in my shame. But I decided it suited me to believe everything from now on. What happens if you don't believe? Today you don't believe your wife, tomorrow you won't believe in God. Every day I sent her a journeyman from our neighborhood with cornbread, white bread, and when possible I added challah, crispy rolls, a couple egg bagels, angel food cake, cookies, raisin rolls, anything that was lying around.

The journeyman was a goodhearted young guy, more than once he gave her baked goods from his own portion. Previously he'd bullied me, he'd flick me in the nose, poke me in the side, but since he'd been going around to my house, he was like a balm to my affliction.

'Hey, you, Gimpl,' he said to me, 'you have a fine wife and two great children, you're not worthy of them.'

'What about the things people are saying?' I asked him.

'People have long tongues, they gossip,' he answered, 'it should worry you as much as last year's snow.'

One day the rabbi sent for me and he said: 'Are you sure, Gimpl, that you made a mistake?' I said: 'Absolutely, rabbi.' 'How can that be?' he said, 'you yourself saw it!' 'It must have been a shadow,' I say. 'A shadow,' he asked, 'of what?' and I answered: 'of a rafter.' 'Well, then,' he said, 'you can go home again, thanks to the Yonever rabbi. He found a pertinent passage in Rambam which was in your favor.'

I grabbed the rabbi's hand and kissed it. At first I wanted to run straight home, it was no small thing that I hadn't seen my wife for so long. Then I thought: 'Better I should go back to work and then go home tonight.' I didn't say anything to anybody, but there was a holiday in my heart. Just like every day the young women and wives teased me, they ridiculed me, but I thought to myself: 'Go ahead, blather on. The truth is out, like oil on the waters. If Rambam says something's kosher, it's kosher.'

At night, after I prepare the dough to rise, I take my portion of bread with me, I fill my little sack with flour and let myself go home. There's a full moon in the sky and the stars glitter with a deadly danger. I stride on, and up ahead flies a long shadow. It was winter, a fresh snow had fallen. I want to sing, but it's already late and I don't want to wake the neighbors. I want to whistle, but I remind myself it's forbidden to whistle at night because it calls out the demons. I keep quiet and plunge ahead as quickly as I can.

In the Christian yards, hounds hear my steps and they bay after me, but I think to myself: 'Shout your teeth out. You're vicious curs, while I'm a person, a man with a respectable wife, a father with well-made children.'

I get a glimpse of my house and my heart starts banging like a thief's. I'm not dreading anything, but my heart's going bam, bam ... well, too late now. I quietly open the door chain and go in.

Elke's already asleep. I stand still as a stone and take a look in the crib. The shutter is closed but the moon shines in through a crack. I see the little maiden's tiny face and straightaway, I feel love. Just like that, all at once. I already could have kissed all her little bones.

Afterwards I approach the bed. And what do you suppose I see there? Elke's lying there and next to her - the journeyman. All at once the moon is snuffed out. Before my eyes, a terrible darkness. My hands and feet shake. My teeth start chattering. The bread falls out of my hands.

My wife wakes up and asks: 'Who's there, eh?' 'It's me,' I murmur. 'Gimpl?' she asks, 'how can you have come here? Is it permitted now?'

'The rabbi called...' I answer, and it's as if I've got an ague.

'Listen to me, Gimpl,' she says, 'go outside to the shed and have a look at the goat. It seems she's sick.' (I forgot to tell you we had a goat.) 'Figure out if the nannygoat isn't quite right.'

I go out into the yard. She was a fine creature, I was very fond of her, as much so, if you'll pardon the comparison, as if she'd been a person. I go to her stall with stumbling footsteps and open the little door. The goat is standing on her four feet. I check her all over, her horns, I feel her udder. I don't see anything wrong. It must be that she gobbled down too much bark, I decide. 'Good night to you, little nannygoat,' I say, 'be healthy and strong,' and the quiet beast answered me with a 'meh' as she usually did, trying to say with her mute tongue: 'thank you very much.'

I return and see that the journeyman has escaped, he's seeped away. 'Where's that young guy?' I ask. 'What young guy?' my wife answers back. 'How can you ask? The journeyman,' I say, 'you were sleeping with him.'

'The dreams that came to me, tonight and last night,' my wife called, 'may they pour out over your head and your body and soul. Nothing other than an evil spirit has taken possession of you and dazzled your eyes.'

She suddenly shouted: 'You rotten guy, you monster, you banshee, you elflock, get out of here or I'll scream and all of Frampol will come running.'

Before you know it, her little brother sprang up suddenly from under the oven and walloped me with his fist, right on the cheek. I thought he'd broken my neck. I understood something was the matter with me and complained to her: 'Don't make me a laughing-stock. That's all I need, a reputation for dealing with the Other Folk. Nobody will touch my baked goods.' In short, I pacified her. 'Well then, an end to it,' she says, 'lie down and be broken on the wheel.'

Next morning I called the journeyman aside in secret. 'Hear me out, brother,' I say, and thus and so-forth. 'So, what do you say?'

He looks at me as if I've fallen down from a roof. 'For goodness sake, go to a healer or some old Christian. I'm afraid,' he says, 'you've got a screw loose in your head, what a bane you are. I won't tell anybody, let this be the end of it.' And that's the way it stood.

To make a long story short, I lived with my wife for over twenty years. She bore me six children: four girls and two boys. Over those years all sorts of things happened, but I didn't see or hear. I just believed, and that was that. The rabbi recently said to me: 'When you believe, things go well with you. It's written that a holy man lives by his faith.'

Suddenly my wife became ill. It began small, a lump on her breast. But she evidently wasn't a person with long years to live. I spent a lot of money on her. (I forgot to say that I'd already had a bakery of my own for quite some time by then and that Frampol considered me to be something of a wealthy man.) The healer came every day and people brought me any witch or sorceress to be found. There were leeches, there was cupping. Even a real doctor from the city of Lublin. But it was too late.

Before dying my wife called me to her bed and said: 'Gimpl, forgive me.' I say: 'What would I have to forgive you for? You were a faithful wife.'

She says, 'Oh, Gimpl, poor thing, I've deceived you cruelly all these years. But I want to go off to God with a clean conscience. You must know - the children aren't yours.'

If you hit me over the head with an iron bar, I wouldn't be as befuddled. 'Whose are they?' I ask. 'I don't know,' she says, 'there were a lot - only, they aren't yours.' And as she speaks she throws her head forward, her eyes get glassy, and Elke is gone. On her white lips, a smile remained. It seems to me that in death she was saying: 'I deceived Gimpl. That was the purpose of my abbreviated life.'

Part four.

One night, after the week of mourning was over, when I was lying on my sack and snoozing, a certain Somebody came to me, actually the Evil Inclination himself, and he says to me: 'Gimpl, why are you sleeping?' I say: 'What should I do, eat kreplach?' He says: 'Since the whole world fools you, you should fool the world.' I say: 'How can I fool a world?' He says: 'Every day, gather a bucket of urine; at night, put it in the dough. Let the wise men of Frampol gobble muck.'

I say: 'But what about the Next World?' He says: 'There is no Next World. They've deceived you.'

'Well,' I say, 'is there a God?' He says: 'there's also no God.' 'Well what, then,' I ask, 'is there?' He says: 'A deep, filthy swamp.'

He stands in front of my eyes, the devil, with a goat's beard, with goat's horns, with long teeth and a tail. After such words, I wanted to grab him by the tail, but I tumbled off the sack of flour and almost broke a rib.

It happened that I needed to relieve myself and passing by I noticed the big ball of dough; it literally begged me: 'Do it!' In short, I let myself be convinced.

Before dawn, the journeyman showed up; we kneaded the bread, sprinkled the loaves with caraway seeds, and left them to rise. Then the young man left and I stayed behind, sitting in the pit by the oven, on a pile of rags. 'Well,' I think to myself, 'you've taken revenge, Gimpl, for all the embarrassments.'

Outside, the ice crackles, but here inside it's warm. My face glowed. I bent my head and dozed off.

As I sleep, into my dreams comes Elke in her shrouds, and she calls to me: 'Gimpl, what have you done?' I say: 'It's all your fault,' and I begin to cry. She says, 'You simpleton, just because Elke is false, is everything lies? I haven't deceived anyone but myself. Gimpl, they don't forgive anything There!'

I take a look at her face: black as coal. Right away I wake myself up. For a long time I sat silently. I felt as if everything hung in the balance. One step and I lose the world to come.

But God helped me. I grabbed a paddle, carried all the loaves outside, threw them in a pile, and started digging a grave for them in the frozen earth.

Meanwhile my young man arrived. 'Boss,' he says, 'what are you doing?' And he turned as pale as a ghost. 'It's all right,' I say, and in front of his eyes I bury all the baked goods.

Afterwards I went home, took my money from its hiding place, and divided it among the children. 'This very night,' I say, 'I saw your mother. Poor thing, she's turned all black.' They were so stunned, they couldn't get a single word out. 'Farewell, be healthy,' I say to them, 'and forget there was ever a Gimpl.'

I put on my short coat, a pair of pants, take the tallis bag in one hand and a walking stick in the other, and kiss the mezuzah. When people saw me in the street, they were completely amazed. 'Wherever are you going?' they ask me, and I answer: 'I'm going out into the world.' And that's how I left Frampol.

I've wandered over the land and good people haven't neglected me. Years passed. I became old and grey. I've heard a lot of stories, a lot of lies and fabrications, but the longer I've lived, the more I've realized there aren't really any lies. If something doesn't happen to one of us, it happens to another. If not today, it will be tomorrow, or in a year, or after a hundred years. What's the difference? More than once when I've heard of some incident I've thought: 'This certainly isn't possible,' yet after no more than a year or two I hear it really happened somewhere. Even if a story is made up, it can also have substance. Why does one person think up one sort of thing and a second person - something else?

So as I go from house to house and eat at the tables of strangers, I often have the chance to tell stories, unbelievable, improbable stories, with a ghost, a magician, a windmill, any sort of whatever. The children press around me: 'Grandfather, tell a story.' Sometimes they tell me exactly what story they want, and that's what they get. Why should I care?

Once a chubby little fellow said to me: 'Grandfather, it's all the same story.' And what do you know? The rascal was right.

It's the same with dreams. It's been so many years already since I left Frampol, but if I merely close my eyes - I'm there again, and who do you think I see? Elke. She stands by the washtub, like the first day I met her, except that her face shines, her eyes are lit up like a holy woman's, and she says unusual things to me. When I snap out of it I've forgotten everything, but meanwhile, I feel happy. She answers all my questions and it turns out that everything is good. I cry for her and beg her: take me, and she calms me: have patience, Gimpl, it will be sooner rather than later. Sometimes she kisses me, embraces me, she weeps on my face, and when I wake up, I feel her lips and the salty taste of her tears.

Yes, it's true, the world of the living is a false one, full of lies, but it's only one step away from the real world. In front of the poorhouse where I lie stands the table where corpses are washed. The gravedigger is ready with his shovel. The grave is waiting. The worms are hungry. The shrouds are lying next to me in a sack. Another beggar already waits for my pallet of straw. If God wills it, when the time comes I'll go happily. Whatever may be there, everything will be true, without complications, without mocking and swindling. Thank God: there, not even Gimpl can be deceived.

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[Hannah]: "Confidence Men"

"The term 'confidence man' was probably first coined by the New York press in 1849 during coverage of the arrest of a swindler named William Thompson. Thompson was a man of genteel appearance whose trick was to approach a gentleman on the street, chat with him briefly, and then ask whether he had the confidence to lend his watch to a stranger. Upon being handed the watch, Thompson walked off laughing. In this fashion, he succeeded in tricking several New Yorkers out of expensive gold watches..."
--Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, p. 6

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oil from turkey guts.

I've been telling people about this ever since I read about it in Discover magazine a few years ago. Nobody believed me! Here's a follow-up.

Extracts from
Anything Into Oil
Turkey guts, junked car parts, and even raw sewage go in one end of this plant, and black gold comes out the other end.
by Brad Lemley for Discover Magazine, April 2, 2006

Rotting heads, gnarled feet, slimy intestines, and lungs swollen with putrid gases have been trucked here from a local Butterball packager and dumped into an 80-foot-long hopper with a sickening glorp. In about 20 minutes, the awful mess disappears into the workings of the thermal conversion process plant in Carthage, Missouri.

Two hours later a much cleaner truck—an oil carrier—pulls up to the other end of the plant, and the driver attaches a hose to the truck's intake valve. One hundred fifty barrels of fuel oil, worth $12,600 wholesale, gush into the truck, headed for an oil company that will blend it with heavier fossil-fuel oils to upgrade the stock.

Three tanker trucks arrive here on peak production days, loading up with 500 barrels of oil made from 270 tons of turkey guts and 20 tons of pig fat. Most of what cannot be converted into fuel oil becomes high-grade fertilizer; the rest is water clean enough to discharge into a municipal wastewater system.

For Brian Appel—and, maybe, for an energy-hungry world—it's a dream come true, better than turning straw into gold. The thermal conversion process can take material more plentiful and troublesome than straw—slaughterhouse waste, municipal sewage, old tires, mixed plastics, virtually all the wretched detritus of modern life—and make it something the world needs much more than gold: high-quality oil.

Appel looks wearier than he did when Discover broke the news about his company's technology (see "Anything Into Oil," May 2003). Back then, when the process was still experimental, Appel predicted that the Carthage plant would crank out oil for about $15 a barrel and rack up profits from day one. [Difficulties...] "There have definitely been growing pains," he says. "We have made mistakes. We were too aggressive in our earlier projections."

Appel ... is confident that the process can indeed solve thorny waste problems, supplement oil supplies, become an odor-free "good neighbor," and at last, become immensely lucrative.

The catch? It may not happen in the United States.

At first blush, the thermal conversion process seems straightforward. The first thing a visitor sees when he steps into the loading bay is a fat pressurized pipe, which pushes the guts from the receiving hopper into a brawny grinder that chews them into pea-size bits. Dry feedstocks like tires and plastics need additional water at this stage, but offal is wet enough. A first-stage reactor breaks down the stuff with heat and pressure, after which the pressure rapidly drops, flashing off excess water and minerals. In turkeys, the minerals come mostly from bones, and these are shunted to a storage bin to be sold later as a high-calcium powdered fertilizer.

The remaining concentrated organic soup then pours into a second reaction tank ... where it is heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pressurized to 600 pounds per square inch. In 20 minutes, the process replicates what the deep earth does to dead plants and animals over centuries, chopping long, complex molecular chains of hydrogen and carbon into short-chain molecules.

Next, the pressure and temperature drop, and the soup swirls through a centrifuge that separates any remaining water from the oil. The water, which in the case of slaughterhouse waste is laden with nitrogen and amino acids, is stored to be sold as a potent liquid fertilizer ... the oil goes to the storage tank to await the next truck.

Only 15 percent of the potential energy in the feedstock is used to power the operation; 85 percent is embodied in the output of oil and other products.

The oil itself meets specification D396, a type widely used to power electrical utility generators. The oil can be sold to utilities as is, further distilled into vehicle-grade diesel and gasoline, or, via a steam process, made into hydrogen.

So why has success been so long coming? Basically, Appel says, everything has been more complex and expensive than anyone guessed.

"Fat, fiber, protein, moisture, ash—getting those right, that's our mantra," says Jim Freiss, vice president of engineering. "Now we are able to nail the same quality every day."

Chemistry was not the only challenge. Since 2004, the federal government has subsidized biodiesel, usually made from soybeans, at $1 a gallon. It gave Appel zero for the fuel he produced from turkey guts. ... In August that hole was plugged: The fuel Appel makes, known officially as renewable diesel, received a subsidy of $1 per gallon from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which took effect in January. That boosted the company's income by $42 a barrel, allowing a slim profit of $4 a barrel.

Another hurdle: Within months after opening in February 2005, the plant smelled, and by August it had been hit by six notices of emissions violations by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. ... prompting Appel and his colleagues to install more ozone scrubbers. But even critics say the persistence of a smell does not invalidate the technology.

The thermal conversion process is probably the only practical large-scale method of dismantling prions, the proteins that cause mad cow disease.

Mad cow disease is thought to spread via the common American practice of feeding rendered animal parts back to animals. Appel assumed that the United States, like most modern nations, would ban the practice, creating more demand for his machinery to process leftover animal parts. In 1997 the government did ban feeding beef parts to beef cattle, but turkey and chicken cannibalism are still legal.

"We thought we would get $24 a ton for taking the waste," says Appel. "Instead, we are paying $30 a ton." That alone raises his production costs about $22 a barrel.

Which brings us to why Appel and his technology are likely to move to Europe. As the United States has crawled toward making its food supply safer, Europe has sprinted, eager to squelch mad cow disease as well as to stanch global warming and promote renewable energy. The result is a cornucopia of incentives for thermal conversion.

Last summer Appel gave presentations to government officials and private investors throughout Europe, and the company is planning projects in Wales, Ireland, England, and Germany. ... In Ireland, plant operators would get an astronomical $50 per ton to haul slaughterhouse waste away, another $30 per ton in carbon dioxide emissions-reduction credits, a guaranteed price of up to $92 per barrel, and a 20-year price guarantee. "In a 500-ton-per-day plant, our production costs would be under $30 a barrel, and we could sell for about $100 a barrel," Appel says. "It's just amazing."

Only three states—California, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—have incentives that could make the process financially worthwhile for Appel. But he is encouraged by a study commissioned by an automakers' consortium showing that the thermal conversion process could be a solution to one of America's most vexing solid waste problems: the unholy mix of plastics and other leftovers from automobile metals recycling.

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Can I build one of these?

One more reason to love chickens. They turn bugs into eggs, and their poop can power your popcorn popper.

Extracts from
Chicken Manure to power 90,000 Homes in the Netherlands
by Mike Chino for inHabitat

Last week Dutch agriculture minister Gerda Verburg unveiled the world's largest biomass power plant to run exclusively on poultry manure.

The plant will convert a third of the nation's chicken waste into energy while running at a capacity of 36.5 megawatts - enough to power 90,000 homes!

The 150 million euro plant was constructed by the Dutch multi-utility company Delta. It will convert roughly 440,000 tons of chicken manure into energy annually, generating more than 270 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The plant also addresses a key environmental problem in the Netherlands: "managing the vast excess stream of chicken manure, which, until today, had to be processed at a high cost."

Delta’s biomass plant has even been described as being carbon neutral, since it will prevent the manure from sitting in fields and seething greenhouse gases into the air. Once methane from the poultry waste has been extracted and ignited, the left over ash will be used to make fertilizers and other agricultural products.

The chicks get a bigger home.

There are certain advantages to not having a spouse. I am the baleboosteh. If I decide the chicken box is too small and I want to build a really big one out of masonite and attach it to the kitchen island with screws and angle irons, I can. Nobody will complain.


Monday, September 08, 2008

[Hannah]: The Meaning of Language

When faced with decrees from their bosses in Spain that they did not plan to follow, Spanish administrators in the New World would respond:
"I obey, but I do not execute."
-Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History, 2005.

What did I buy this week? #4.

So I ordered a dozen chicks from Meyer Hatchery and they arrived on Wednesday. Like last time, I picked them up at the post office.

This batch (just random chicks available at the end of the season) seemed mellower and less traumatized than the batch I ordered last March. They seem willing to sleep in our hands and even upside down.

Here you see two protecting the food supply by sleeping in the food bowl.

I cut the bottom out of a wading pool I got at freecycle and they had their first experience outside yesterday. We can't leave them for a moment or hawks will carry them off.

It's going to be a long time until they're big enough to dig through donkey poop. I hope we can keep them from becoming raccoon chow like all the earlier ones, which I really miss.

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Raccoons: 8; Chickens: 0

On four separate occasions, three of which took place while I was at Yiddish Week, raccoons (I am supposing) came and killed chickens. On the fourth visit, they untoggled the front wall, removed it entirely, and killed the last two chickens.

What a horror story: you, one of those last two chickens, having survived the killing fields three times, are perched at night, listening to the scratching sounds outside the house with increasing unease. You watch helplessly as the raccoons figure out how to take it off. And then they come in and you get eaten.

It appears that on previous occasions the raccoons had figured out how to lift the metal door by its string.

I came home to a horrible silence. No cheerful chickens chasing Japanese beetles or rooting through Jethro's dung. An empty chicken house. It turned out, I couldn't stand the silence.

So I ordered new chickens, and Menticia and I set about improving the chicken house. The hurricane got in the way this week, but we plan to build the back house up and out, and then put hinges and a hasp on the front wall. Bob says he had a raccoon that was trying to figure out the combination for the combination lock on its cage, but I'll save that paranoia for later.



Mark does Illustration Friday: "Clutter."


(India ink, graphite and colored pencil on bristol board)

I tried to give the roach a nice cheesy politician's grin in this season of spin.

Mark Christopher Chandler, 9-7-2008

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Clutter."

I love these cluttered old cartouches. I never tried drawing one before. What a lot of fruit.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

[Hannah]: What has this poor woman done to her face?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My English translation of "Gimpl Tam" (Gimpel the Fool) by I. B. Singer, part one

This is the beginning of the translation I've done over the last couple days. I get a chance every week or two to consult with my friend Musia Lakin about the hard parts...

The first translation of "Gimpl Tam" (Gimpel the Fool) was done in 1953 by Saul Bellow, you can find it in A Treasury of Yiddish Stories. And here's some more interesting information...

Part One.

I'm Gimpl the Simpleton. I don't consider myself to be any kind of fool, on the contrary, but folks gave me the nickname, they started using it back in school. I had seven nicknames, like Jethro: Drip, Donkey-Ass, Blondie, Dummy, Yokel, Misfit, and Simpleton. The last's the one that stuck. What was my foolishness? People could deceive me easily.

They said: 'Gimpl, you know, the rebitsin is in childbirth,' so I didn't go to kheyder. Well, turns out it was a lie. How should I have known that? Because she didn't have a big belly. Well, but I never looked at the rebitzin's belly. Is that foolishness? But the pranksters laughed and snickered, they danced around me and read me a right prayer: 'what a chump you are.' Instead of the raisins we usually get at a birthing, they piled me high with goat turds. Look at me, you'll see I'm no babe in the woods. If I punched a guy he'd see all the way to Cracow. But by nature I'm no slugger. I think: let it slide. So I'm everybody's fall guy (customer).

I was leaving school one day, I heard a dog bark. I'm not afraid of dogs, but I don't want to get into it with some vicious cur. He could suddenly get crazy and bite me, then not even a wild horseman (Tatar) could help me. So I make my getaway, then I take a look: the whole marketplace is rolling with laughter. It wasn't a dog after all, only Wolf-Leyb, the thief. How could I have known that? Seeing as how he'd howled just right, just like a bitch.

Once those jokers sniffed out that I could be tricked, every one of them tried his luck. 'Gimpl, the Kaiser's coming to Frampol.' 'Gimpl, the moon is falling into the turbine.' 'Gimpl, Hodele found a treasure behind the bath-house.' And like a golem I believed them. Because, first of all, anything can happen, as it says in the book, but I can't remember where exactly. Second, by now I really have to believe. The whole community expects certain things from a person. Why, if I'd ever tried to say 'It's a joke,' there'd have been such a cursing, fire and flames everywhere. How could it be, for me to say 'I don't believe,' such a thing, I'd be calling everybody in Frampol a liar. What should I have done? So I believed, let the buffoons enjoy it.

I was an orphan. The grandfather who raised me already smelled like the earth. In short, they gave me away to a baker. Well, don't ask what happened there. Every girl, every woman who came to bake some cookies or dry a pan of farfel had to try to fool me at least once. 'Gimpl, there's a carnival in the sky.' 'Gimpl, the rabbi calved and bore a seven-monther.' 'A cow flew over the roof and laid brass eggs.'

Once a religious student bought a pancake and said, 'You, Gimpl, you're scraping away with your baking paddle while, outside, the Messiah's come. It's time for the dead to rise.' 'How's that possible,' I say, 'we haven't heard the shofar blow.' He says: 'Are you deaf?' And everybody takes to shouting: 'We heard it, we heard it.' Just as he spoke came Raytse the candledipper and called with her hoarse voice: 'Gimpl, your father and mother have risen from the grave, they're looking around for you.'

Why should I say, 'I know perfectly well that's ridiculous, the notion won't rise or fly [nit geshtoygn nit gefloygn = a Jewish skeptic's answer to Christian beliefs about Jesus].' That's just the way people talk.

I put on my vest and went outside. Perhaps it's true, what have I got to lose? Well, well, folks were making cat music at me with a sack. I made a vow not to believe anything any more. But then again that wouldn't do. They addled me so, I didn't know what was in and what was out.

I went to the rabbi for advice. He said, 'How's all this possible? Better to be a fool all your years than to be a wicked man. You are,' he said, 'no fool. They're the fools, because they shame other people. They'll forfeit the next world.' Nevertheless the rabbi's daughter herself deceived me. When I was leaving the court, she asked: 'Have you kissed the wall?' I say: 'No, why should I?' She says: 'There's a law, if you come to the rabbi's court you kiss the wall.' Well, one half believes. So I kissed the doorpost, did it cost so much? And she let out a howl of laughter.

I was wanting to go away to some other town, but people had started talking about finding me a wife. You call this 'talk'? They tore my clothes apart, I got water in my ear from this 'talk.'

There was a woman, people told me she was a maiden. She hobbled on one foot, folks said she did it on purpose, for beauty's sake. She had a bastard child, they said it was her younger brother.

I shouted, 'All your talk is wasted, I'm not going to the chupa with that whore.' They complained: 'That's nice talk, you'll be taken to the rabbi to pay a fine because you've ruined a nice Jewish girl's reputation.'

I saw I wasn't going to be able to get out from under their hands. I thought: 'I'm the sacrifice. Anyway I'm the man, not her. If she likes the idea, I'm agreeable. Besides, one really can't die in the ritual undergarment." [???]

So I was off to see her in her little clay house built on sand. The whole pack was singing behind me, ready to goad the bear; however, when they'd gotten as far as the well, they held back, they were afraid to start in with Elke. She had a lovely little mouth, a cavernous orifice on a hinge.

I went inside. The whole house was just a little hut with a dirt floor. From wall to wall, ropes with drying underwear. She was standing barefoot by the tub doing laundry. She was wearing a faded dress. She had two braids, twisted into pretzels on each side like, pardon the comparison, a shiksa. She took my breath away.

You could see on her face, she knew already who I was, she took a look at me and said: 'Welcome, aren't you the sucker! Pull up a bench, have a seat.'

I told her everything, I denied nothing. 'Tell me the truth,' I say, 'are you really a virgin, and is that scamp Yekhiel your little brother? Don't make fun of me,' I say, 'because I'm an orphan.'

'I'm an orphan too,' she answered, 'and whoever's making fun of you, he should get an ugly growth on his nose. But these people shouldn't think they can make a fool out of me. I want,' she says, 'fifty guldn for a dowry, and a collection. If not, they can kiss my what'cha-ma-call-it.' (She had a coarse way of speaking.)

I say: 'It's actually the bride who provides the dowry, not the bridegroom.' She says: 'I'm not bargaining with you. Either agree or go back to where you came from.'

I'd already been thinking, 'There won't be any bread made from this dough,' but it's not a poor community. They gave her everything she asked for and the wedding was a go.

It was right at the height of a dysentery epidemic, they raised the chuppa at the cemetery, near the hut where the corpses are washed. Everybody was drunk.

At the signing of the ketubah I hear the rabbi's assistant ask: 'Is the bride a divorcee or a widow?' 'Both,' says the servant.

Everything went black before my eyes, but what could I have done? Run away from the chuppah?

The band played, people danced. A granny danced, facing me, holding a challah. The jester sang 'God Full of Mercy' for our parents, rest in peace. Schoolboys threw nettles, as if it were Tisha B'av. Lots of wedding presents tumbled in: a noodle board, a kneading trough, a bucket, brooms, ladles, a whole housekeeping setup.

I did a double-take: two kids were dragging in a cradle. 'What's the cradle for?' I say. 'Don't worry your head about it, it'll be useful.' I'd already seen I'd be taking a bath on this one. But look at it the other way around: what have I got to lose here? I thought it over: I'll wait and see what's up ahead. A whole town surely can't be crazy.

Part Two.

That night I went to my wife's bed, but she wouldn't let me in. 'How can it be?' I said, 'isn't this why we got married?' She says: 'I'm having my period.' I complain, 'but yesterday the klezmers led you to the mikvah...' She says, 'Yesterday isn't today and today isn't yesterday, and if you don't like it, just pack your things.' In short, I waited.

Not even four months later my wife was in labor. All of Frampol laughed into its knuckles. But what could I do? She was lying there in agony, tearing at the walls. 'Gimpl, I'm a goner,' she said, 'forgive me.' The house was full of women. They carried pots of water as if to the washing of a corpse. A wailing rose up towards heaven.

As is expected, I went off to the studyhouse to pray. That's all the good young folks had been waiting for. I was standing in a corner, talking to God, and they were wagging their tongues at me. 'Keep talking,' they encouraged me, 'from talk nobody gets pregnant.' One kid put a little piece of straw on my mouth: 'a cow should eat straw.' Well, I guess he was right at that.

Luckily she got through all right and gave birth to a boy. Friday night the shamas strode up to the podium, banged on the railing and called out: 'Our wealthy Reb Gimpl invites the whole community to the celebration for a son.'

The whole studyhouse laughed. It was as if my face got smacked. But what could I do? I was, properly, the host of the bris.

Half the town came running to the party. You couldn't have stuffed one more pin into the place. Women brought peppered peas, we were given a keg of beer. I ate and drank along with everyone else and folks said 'Mazl-tov.' Then came the circumcision, and I gave the boy my dead father's name.

When everyone left and I was alone with the woman in the childbed, she stuck her head out from behind the curtains and called me over. 'Gimpl,' she says, 'why are you so quiet? Has your ship gone under?'

'What should I talk about?' I ask. 'How nicely you've treated me. If my mother had lived to see this, she'd have died a second time.' She says: 'Are you out of your mind, or what?' 'How can it be,' I say, 'that a man is made a fool of in this way?' 'What's going on with you?' she asks, 'what have you taken into your head now?'

I saw I had to speak with her openly and explicitly. I say: 'Is this how one treats an orphan? You've given birth to a bastard.'

Says she: 'Just knock that nonsense out of your head. It's your child.'

'How can it be my child?' I complain. 'It's only been seventeen weeks since our wedding.' She tells me a story, the baby's premature. I say: 'Two months early is one thing, but four months early is another.'

She took to complaining that she had a grandmother whose pregnancies were only five months long, and that she and her grandmother are as much alike as two drops of water. She swore to it with oaths so fervent, you'd believe them even from a peasant at the county fair. To tell the truth, I didn't believe her, but when I talked it over next day with a schoolteacher, he assured me you could find this sort of thing in the holy books. Adam and Eve went up into the bed as two people and came down four. 'And,' he said, 'every woman is our mother Eve's descendent, and how is Elke worse than Eve?'

However that may be, we talked until our teeth hurt. And to look at it from the other point of view, who knows? As people say, maybe Yoyzl (Jesus) really didn't have any father...

I began to forget my disaster. I loved the kid like crazy and he loved me too. As soon as he saw me, he started waving his little hands so I'd pick him up. When he was gasping with croup, nobody but me could calm him down. I bought him a bone bagel for teething and a little hat embroidered with gold. He was so cute, he was always getting struck by the Evil Eye, I'd come running to frighten it off.

I was working, then, like an ox. With a baby and a house, expenses are greater.

Why should I lie? I didn't hate Elke either. She abused me, she reviled me, she swore at me, I got on her nerves. Oy, what a strength she had! If she just took a little look at you, you'd be dumbfounded! Ay, her little way of talking! She cursed me, tar and sulphur, it was so charming, I kissed every word. She creeps right inside you, under your skin, you lie there wounded and you want more. Like a good potroast.

On to part two ...

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