Friday, September 30, 2011

Socialism sucks!

Week 38 sees an uptick in the number of flu cases reported!

Click on graph to expand

In what may be a year where flu researchers are on a higher than normal alert status, the number of flu related deaths has begun to just register on the CDC’s radar. During week 38, 6.4% of all deaths reported through the 122-Cities Mortality Reporting System were due to P&I (pneumonia and Influenza). This percentage was above the epidemic threshold of 6.5% for week 38 (see graph).

While this is by no means alarming, it is noteworthy that there are currently some fairly potent strains circulating in birds, men and pig. Whether or not there will be a novel form that breaks out this season is still open to question.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Slow cooked chili that’s sort of homemade!

Even though it’s still pretty warm outside, the imminent approach of October always gets me to thinking about how good a nice bowl of, chili con carne or Big Red, would be right about now! But, not just any chili, mind you, it’s got to be chili made my way! Over the years, I’ve made many a recipe. Everything from Cincinnati Chili to a Submarine Chile served to the men under the waves in WWII. (Just imagine all those sailors living together in cramped quarters after a meal like that)! I’ve even gone as far as to buy a book or two on the topic. But, in all that time, there is one recipe I keep coming back to, time and again. Here it be:


1 lb ground beef 80-20 mix
¼ cup bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained
1 pkg McCormick original chili mix
1 tblsp chopped basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 dash cayenne pepper


In a slow cooker set to low, add the slow cooker chili mix, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, stir and cover. Brown the ground beef in a in a skillet and drain off the grease. Add the meat to the sauce mix min the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients, re-cover and cook on low for about eight hours. Serves 6 to 8.

Cook’s Notes:

As you can see, this is a pretty no-nonsense recipe for what is a hearty chili. And, for this particular deal, I was lucky to have some ripe bell peppers, still on the vine, in the garden along with plenty of basil. The onions were also leftover from some that I had grown this summer. Lacking those items, I might have made a trip to the store or then again maybe not. The thing with me is that I’ll use whatever I happen to have on hand, so this recipe changes a little from time to time but it always tastes great! I also had a little bit of ground beef left over which will be mixed with some taco sauce, stored in the fridge and used in soft shell tacos at a later time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The case of the missing Bishop!

Somewhere in the seedy little town called Forsyth, there is someone who is happy and who shouts for joy. At least I have heard such a story. The rest of us who call this hell a home, have no joy and cower in our aging and nondescript hovels, waiting for who knows what? Forsyth, you see is another Whoville. And yes my children, there is a Grinch lurking about.

His name is ‘Bill the Bishop’. A great hulk of a man who scurries hither and thither doing God knows what kind of dark and evil deeds. If you look for Bill in the daytime, you will not find him. His movements are nocturnal, you see. A dark, mysterious man who moves quickly from one murky alley to the next, and if he is glimpsed, it’s only from the sides of your eye. Like smoke curling up from a dying fire, the experience brings on sadness and sometimes even a tiny spark of fear. Yes, ‘Bill the Bishop’ is someone that you might seek, but will very likely regret finding.

But, that was then and now is now! It seems the BTB has gone away, and who can say, it won’t stay that way. I’ve even tracked down his one true friend; another ‘man’ of questionable values and upbringing by the name of Denny the Heretic. Seems that Denny has not seen old Bill either and is just as perplexed as me.

So, if you run across him, please let me know. My name is Danny, Danny the Moe.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cherry Berry Banquet Pot Pie Style!

Hey! Cherry Berry
I’m so merry,
cause I got myself some pie!

It’s a mix
of two different picks,
of berries and cherries, oh my!

Gonna have some tonight!
Won’t put up a fight!
Cause it’s a Cherry & Berry pie.

Good to the taste,
Nothing left to waste!
That’s my Cherry & Berry pie!

OK, so I won’t give up my daytime job. Oh, wait! I don’t have a job! Oh well. Life is hell.
Yet, I hope you can see how impossible it is to resist writing a review and a poem on something named Cherry Berry pie? I mean this is not only just a cherry pie masquerading as a pot pie, but it’s a Cherry-Berry pie at that! (God, I just love the decadent twenty-elevens, don’t you)? My only question is why the hell didn’t Swanson and those other pot pie makers out there think of this a long time ago? I mean get a clue people!
So as you can see, this food review will more than likely stray off the normal charted course I have set for the TV Dinner gender. But, for God’s sake, it is Cherry Pie we're talking about after all!

When I took this mini pie out of its package, I profess to have been a little disappointed. It did, after all, look just like a regular pot pie! But then, my friends the game soon got changed!

After nuking it for four minutes in the microwave, the smell of freshly cooked cherry pie filled the kitchen. And, as I dug in, I felt like a holy man who had found the Promised Land. Yes, it was that good! So good, in fact that I am giving this my first ever 10 ranking! Even if the calories are up there at 400 or so, this is a good deal at a buck and change. Try it! You'll like it!

The case for cast iron kitchenware!

Like most older people, sometime long ago, I stopped using cast iron pots and pans in favor of the Teflon coated stuff. They were cheap, non-stick and did only a mediocre job of cooking food. Their chief benefit was the no stick think. The biggest handicap, although I was not to learn this for a long time, was the inability of the aluminum to hold and distribute heat evenly. Something that cast iron does to perfection.

The biggest turnoff, for me concerning the use of cast iron ,was how stuff would stick and the pain it was to have to wash and immediately dry off the metal lest it rust. The thing was, I had no clue as to how to properly season and maintain this most wonderful cooking utensil! Once, I 'learned my lesson', I have since dumped all the Teflon crap into the garbage and now exclusively cook with cast iron.

Now, I simmer, braise and sear to my hearts content and without a care in the world. I've gotten to this point by taking the time to understand the metal and by treating it with respect. The first thing I learned was how to properly season a new cast iron frying pan.

A seasoned pan has a stick-resistant coating created via the creation of polymerized oils and fats. Seasoning itself is a process by which a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil is applied and then literally cooked onto cast iron or carbon steel cookware. This layer protects the cookware from rusting, provides a non-stick surface for cooking, and prevents food from interacting with the iron of the pan. Ergo, two of the problems I was having with this type of cookware was fixed right from the get go. Note: If you elect to cook any high acid foods like tomatoes in your seasoned iron skillet, be sure to re-season it as the acids will destroy the protective oil layer.

Other Benefits
These days, when I cook eggs, they actually float on the surface of the meal. No sticking at all! Even to a better extent than most of the Teflon jobbies. Cleanup is simple too. A quick dunk into warm soap water, a rinse and a wipe off with a towel and I'm good to go. As I said the trick is to properly season the metal the first time and then with repeated use it just gets better and better. Make sure you click on the 'seasoned pan' link to see what I mean.

Three other reasons I like this kind of metal are as follows:
  1. As you cook, you get trace amounts of iron from the surface of the pan. A good thing for most of us. When you cok with Teflon, you get trace amounts of Teflon...
  2. A cast iron pan with a cover can go right from a quick sear on the stove top to a hot oven with not problem. A must have ability for some recipes.
  3. The metal retains heat to a great degree. That means you will actually use less electricity or gas to cook the same amount of food as compared to the non-stick aluminum pans.
So, if you have some cast iron stored away some place in your kitchen or attic. Get it out and rediscover something that your grandparents already knew. As a side note, check on the bottom of your skillet; if it says Wagner's or Griswold, you may even have a collectible.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this posting are the expressed opinions of the owner of this blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marie Callender's Beef Pepper Steak

After drudging around in the world of bargain basement 'TV Dinners from Banquet' for some time now, I decided to kick things up a notch by selecting a High Quality Meal. It's not that I'm getting tired of the buck-a-meal deals from Banquet, it's just that after a while, they all taste pretty much the!

Product Description:

My selection for today is a Beef Pepper Steak from Marie Callender. Apparently, it's an Asian version.

The distributor, incidentally, turns out to be ConAgra. These folks have a pretty extensive line of products:


What surprised me about this meal was the cost; only $2.69! Not too shabby that. The MC website even had a coupon you can print out (as of September 2011) that will get you a dollar off if you buy three dinners.

This is one of the more complex meals in that there are two parts that are involved; a basket and a steamer basket. But, for all that it was also one of the easier meals to make in the microwave.


OK, so if you've read my reviews on other dinners, you'll know that for me it's all about the taste. I've had my fill of the overly dry, salty and sometimes disgustingly chewy creations like Banquet's Chicken Fingers meal. (Good God, what a disaster that mess in a box is).

Since I'm now moving up to higher echelon meals now, I thought I would also spruce up my rating system, so here goes. All six categories are on a scale of 1= disgusting to 10 = orgasm:

Box art:    8    The art department did a nice job!
Reality:    7    What you see is what you get!
Cost:        8    Very affordable for 2011.
Smell:      7     Good overall aroma!
Texture:   9    Rice and veggies and even the meat was perfect!
Taste:      6    Good solid taste. A definite Asian flavor.

Average: 7.5 A very good ranking for fast food!

All together, a very good meal for the money. And, only 290 calories too! I also really like the way they do the steaming basket thing. I'm thinking of trying a couple more of these and will post the results when I do.

NASA’s satellite is coming down to a town near you baby!

A six ton behemoth, as big as a fully loaded bus, will be making its fiery entrance into the earth’s atmosphere sometime on Friday. Scientists have now picked the like debris field to be in or around the small town of Forsyth/Rockaway Beach, Missouri.

The UARS re-entry "is something to be particularly worried about if you live near the impact zone. I’m estimating as many as 26 objects with some weighing in at 300 pounds will slam into the earth at meteoric speeds” , said Dan Owen, a not well-known satellite watcher whose past computer analysis and predictions (which he derives mostly from a worn out Ouija Board) have puzzled scientists for decades. Dan went on to state that the highest concentration of space rubble will also, not only be flaming hot, but highly radioactive as well. “So,they will be hot hot hot!” He admonished.

Mr. Owen went on to say that anyone hit with debris (assuming they live) needs to contact the government post haste. They will want their junk back, so no hoarding! The government is also disclaiming any responsibility for any damage done to houses or other structures as they consider it an act of God! As for the area impacted by this mess, one official is telling residents to think of this as 'like winning the lottery'.

Disclaimer: This posting is purely an act of fiction and is intended for entertainment purposes. The best guess as to where the debris will land is some where over the ocean between Asia and Australia. The odds of a person getting hit at calculated to be on the order of 1 in 20 billion or so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flu News for September 21, 2011

Early Flu Outbreak in Algeria

Sketchy reports are coming out of Algeria regarding a ' highly contagious seasonal influenza [that] is spreading at an astonishing pace through the villages of Saharidj, and M'Chedallah Ahnif.' The source added that the flu vaccines have not yet been distributed to health officials and that it is too early to talk about the start of the vaccination campaign against an apparent epidemic that has manifested itself so early in the season. This, according to the same un-named source.

WHO worried about evolutionary path of Avian Flu

The Avian flu, once thought to have been literally 'stamped out' in 2006 after millions of poultry were culled in many Asian countries is now making a comeback and that has some scientists at the World Health Organization worried.

Part of their concern lies with reports that the A(H5N1) strain of the flu is mutating rapidly and may be following the same evolutionary path as the 1918 H1N1 flu that killed millions. They also are reporting that some variations of this flu known as 'clades' are becoming resistant to vaccines now in use.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Banquet pot pies. How they've changed!

“The Greeks cooked meats in open pastry shells called ‘artrocreas’ however it was the Romans who added to top crust making the first pot pies.”

I can remember buying Chicken Pot pies back when I went to college. I had little money (much like now) and they cost less than a quarter (not like now)! At that time, there were no microwave ovens anywhere and so you had to have access to a real oven. Back then, they also came in little aluminum circular trays and were made by iconic companies like Stouffer’s, Banquet and Swanson. I’d pop one in the oven and a half hour to forty five minutes later, dinner was served! Chicken pot pie, long hair and plenty of beer was definitely my scene back then. Peace man!

Cycle forward (quite a few years I might add) and pot pies today come in all sorts of interesting combo’s. They even have fruit pot pies (I plan to eat and post one of these soon)! Most cost about a buck or sometimes a little more, and you can nuke them in the microwave in just a few minutes for a really fast hot meal. That then, is the subject of this post. I will be delving into the world of pot pies to see if they still measure up to my boyhood memories.

My selection for today will be the Chicken and Broccoli pot pie made by Banquet and distributed by ConAgra Foods. The picture looks pretty good, doesn’t it? A delicate, thin brown crust filled to over-brimming with all sorts of tasty morsels. Gotta love those advertising folks! Just look at the shear size of that hunk of chicken in the picture will you? I wondered briefly if I would be able eat all this in just one sitting?? Well, as the Chef on the Food Channel is known to say, ‘Allez Cuisine!’

In honor of this meal, I have a new ranking score card that looks like this:

      Category              Score                     Comments
Package artwork:         1-10                 How appealing is the package artwork?
Visual appearance:      1-10                 Does the food look as good as the package?
Smell:                          1-10                 Is my nose aroused? Is it happy, shocked or only running?
Taste                            1-10                 1 = you don't wanna know whereas 10 is a mind blowing culinary experience!
Texture:                       1-10                 1 = cardboard & 10 = melt in your mouth!
Cost:                            1-10                 1 = RU crazy, 5 = Affordable, 10 = Just about free?
Score:                          1-10                 An average of all the above!
As you might imagine, a score much below a 5 would not be a good thing to eat. (Especially if that score was being helped by a high mark for the package artwork and cost factor)! So, now that we have that settled, what say we take this pot pie for a spin?

After removing the packaging and carefully checking the instructions,

Score Card for Banquet’s Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie

      Category              Score                           Comments
Package artwork:       8                        Mouth watering comes to mind! Nice picture.            
Visual appearance:    3                        Stark realities can be hard to bear! Can’t they?
Smell:                        7                        Very nice and pot pieesh!
Taste                          8                        Satisfying and filling. Like a pot pie should be!
Texture:                     8                        Carrots were a little crunchy…
Cost:                          7                        Under a buck? That’s cheap these days!           
Score:                        7.2                     So-so to medium good!

Overall, pretty decent for 370 calories. You could tell that this dish uses a lot of salt as a substitute for flavor, but then again, most companies do. My only real gripe was that he product was hesitant to come out of the tray. I had to dig it out, ergo the rather poor picture that is still somehow intriguing. Other than that, this is a good product for anyone looking for a hot meal on the run!

Monday, September 19, 2011

New! Banquet's Liver & Gravy Meal!

Just imagine the excited looks on your children's faces when that wonderful smell of cooked liver assails their nostrils!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Effects of a novel pandemic flu strain on socioeconomic conditions in the US!

With most of the national attention focused on job creation and the economy these days, it's easy to see why not much press is being devoted to other issues. Among these would be the potential effects resulting from a virulent outbreak of pandemic flu!

In the scenario I'll cover here, the Avian flu makes a successful gene re-assortment in Hong Kong that enables it to freely move from bird to bird and human to human. Avian flu is a type A subtype (H5N1) strain that is already a proven killer with over 60% of human infections ending in death. The only restraint on this endemic strain, thus far, had been the rarity of transmission from infected poultry directly to humans. (So far, only 300 cases have been reported since it first appeared in 2003). But in this scenario, it has mutated and is now free to move with lightening speed among the population.

Within just a week or two of the first human to human transmission, the virus could easily be spreading within many countries in the world. A world, where a pandemic such as this, could easily cause severe shocks to the social and economic fabric living in countries already tottering on the brink of collapse.

In the United States, first word of a problem would arrive at the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control headquarters after laboratory testing revealed the true nature of the virus. Within days, a massive effort would be initiated to develop an effective vaccine. Unfortunately, this is a process that could easily take months to make happen. By that time the Avian, or Super Flu as it was now being called, would likely already be raging in many parts of the US. Hundreds of suddenly very sick patients would be showing up at big city hospitals, quickly overwhelming the staff. Not long after this, the media would pick up the story and then the real enemy would shows its face; panic! As almost always happens whenever a national disaster occurs, the first reaction of the public would be to flock to grocery stores to load up on food.

Most stores these days, only carry about three days of inventory. Quickly, then, the shelves would be stripped. Next hit would be gas stations and pharmacy's. Gas stations would close further augmenting the public fears. Citizens would sequester themselves at home in front of the TV, while the media did what it does best; scare the living wits out of everyone far and wide. Meanwhile the flu would keep on spreading, leaving a trail of sick and dying people in its wake.

Within a week or two, as the virus spread unabated over the land, people might well decide to stop going to work or public places. While that may seem to be a good thing, the absenteeism would also apply to critical public services like electrical power stations, fire houses and water distribution stations. Then, it becomes just a matter of time before needed services begin failing in one location after the next. News comes in from Europe that some countries are collapsing. Here at home the president promises prompt action. He tells everyone the worst is over. And the bodies keep piling up.

Then one evening shortly thereafter, you're at home with your family watching the grim events unfolding on the TV when the power suddenly goes out and stays out. A little later the water stops flowing! You look outside to see a fire that has broken out out one block over and yet no one responds. In short, a nightmare is in the making and you're powerless to stop it.

Could this kind of horror story ever happen? I hope not. It could easily be that the worst case scenario might only result in a short interruption of services or maybe none at all. Perhaps a vaccine could be produced and distributed with unheard of speed, nipping the problem in the bud. You never know. But, then again, survival favors the prepared mind, if I may paraphrase.

Next post: Simple preparations you can do to be prepared in case disaster strikes!

That old Avian Flu is still hanging around!

“Greetings from The Humungus!
The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland!
The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!”
Mad Max 1981

While the Avian flu may or may not be a true 'Humungus', it is definitely on the watch list of many virologists worldwide. Unlike previous strains of influenza that have come and gone over the past decade (the swine flu comes to mind), this little bugger has proven to be pretty sly. Designated as a type A( H5N1) strain that reached a peak in over 63 countries in 2006, this novel strain was thought to be stamped out due to the extensive culling ($20 billion worth) of domestic poultry. The virus, which has other ideas, has managed to make a comeback in wild birds and is now considered to be endemic in Asia once again.To make matters worst, its also spreading with the wild bird population.

One item that also has scientists concerned is the newly acquired ability of the bug to resist current vaccines. This combined with a virulence factor that leaves about 60% of its victims dead and you can see why. All that is needed now will be for this strain to mutate to the point where it can be transmitted from human to human instead of just bird to bird. A process that previous stains have some to be adept at doing. Truly something for everyone to be a little concerned with as we head in to the 2011-12 winter season. Next weeks post: A(H7N7) - this one infects people, birds, pigs and even horses for God's sake!

The signs of disillusionment are everywhere!

In Any town USA, the signs are pretty clear these days; a shop that opens for a few months then closes down, Pay Day Loan operations that spring up and multiply, while the once busy streets that run through those towns begin to look more and more deserted.

Old Ross Perot would be saying that those ‘sucking sounds’ we are hearing of good paying jobs going somewhere else, aught to be haunting us right about now! More and more of our technical people are now heading or have headed overseas. Those who are left behind face a future of low paying, menial and mind numbing work. BA’s fresh out of college can be heard asking ‘will that be for here or to go?’ High School kids working at the end of a grocery checkout counter stuffing bags, not realizing that the job they thought of as transitory is really permanent. “Paper or, plastic… and can I help you to your car, Miss?”

What doesn’t show as easily to the casual observer, are those of us who have given up and just don’t care anymore. Middle aged, proud Americans who have recently lost a job they held for decades and who now face a much younger workforce who are competing for low paying jobs. A growing throng of disenfranchised, disillusioned workers that grow more desperate each day. The lucky ones, those who are close enough to social security benefits, limp towards their sixty-second year the way a man dying of thirst might crawl to an oasis. Other, less fortunate forty and fifty year old wage earners, become a study in desperation as they contemplate major lifestyle changes in order to make ends meet. Welcome, my friends to the new and not so improved, twisted version of the American Dream!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We need dreamers right now, not more war!

For all the time that has passed since I was a young boy, there have been some truly inspirational advances by people not only here in America, but all over the world. As a species, we have been blessed by the Almighty with the knowledge and ability to invent. Most of the time we invent things to make here a little better. Problem is, we also have a darker side. A side the revels in taking sides, arguing. A side, sadly, that enables us to kill people we disagree with. And, while some conflict among people is inevitable. It's just that this world seems destined to make a business out of it. Now, with the space program in the trash can, I wonder what it is we have to look forward to anymore. More war, I would guess.

Random thoughts of a challenged mind!

Iran and Weiner’s District somehow go well together!

Just as it would appear that Weiner’s followers are very unhappy with the Democratic Party (especially in New York’s ninth congressional district), so it appears also to be true that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be the go-to guy in Iran any longer. After publicly indicating that the two young men who have been jailed there for over two years would be let go pending payment of ‘bail’ (ransom?), his statement was almost immediately overturned in a terse message by his countries judiciary. One can’t help but wonder how much longer Ahmadinejad has before his throat is cut and a new wonder of the world emerges. Well I say, go riddance to the both of you.
Governor Rick Perry and his fondness for the needle!

Honestly Governor! Looking down the road may not be one of your strong suits, or so it would seem. What were you thinking of to pass a 'executive order' to have little girls stuck with a needle? That you act was for a noble cause, I understand. But my dear, soon-to-be ex-leader in the national polls, you need to get legislative approval first preferably with an ‘opt-in’ clause so as to protect your delicate little fanny. Just ask Sarah about where Russia is! This foolish stunt may haunt you the rest of the way and easily could be a presidential deal breaker. I mean not even Romney has been that stupid…yet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Turkish warplanes now able to fire at Israeli targets. Really!

Sometime later this year, many American's will sit down to a Thanksgiving Dinner. For many the main course will be a big fat old turkey. One of the dumbest critters God ever placed on this earth. Good eating though!

Now we have another Turkey acting in a similar manner. Well, good luck to ya.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hot Chicken Tenders

A wise man once said that 'never ever should an adult male be handed a shaker of cayenne pepper' – for any reason! That might be the case for most dishes, but this one is an exception. A tasty snake that’s perfect for football season. I added some KC Master BBQ sauce as a dip and the result was just marvie!

  • 1 pkg chicken tenders - cut into finger-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water



Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with a nonstick spray.

In a plastic bag, mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. On a plate, mix the bread crumbs with the rest of the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.

Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon water, and place egg mixture in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip seasoned chicken in egg mixture, and then roll in the seasoned bread crumb mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for about 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Use tongs to turn pieces over. Bake 8 minutes longer, or until chicken juices run clear.  Serves 3-6.

Six things to watch in Monday's debate – CNN 7PM CST

‘Just five days after they met in Simi Valley, eight of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders are set to take the debate stage again Monday and pick up where they left off—with a vigorous discussion about Social Security.

The event, sponsored by CNN and the group Tea Party Express, will take place in Florida, a state that serves as a crucial battleground in both the primary and the general elections. And that senior-heavy locale only heightens the stakes for the expected battle, which is likely to expand beyond last week’s two-man fight between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.’

Thursday, September 8, 2011

While I was on the theme of massage!

From DanoManno - "The mind and body are temples granted us by God. Please consider nurturing one and strengthening the other against the trying times that lie ahead. This merging of a song by Meatloaf and a Thai massage seemed fitting to me at the time!" The ending message of this video was from a dream I had.

Pink Floyd Massage

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When the Flu and Staph work together!

Back 93 years ago, in the spring of 1918 a terrible flu burst forth on the world in three distinct waves. The first, in the early spring was relatively mild with most people that were affected recovering quickly. The second wave, however, proved deadly beyond all previous experience with as many as fifty million perishing across the globe. This outbreak was then followed by another milder version in the spring of 1919 before finally burning itself out.

It’s that second wave that has received much in the way of research over the years. Most scientists are convinced that the large number of deaths were due to a novel re-assortment of key flu genes that created an infectious bug that was so new that mankind’s immune system had no way to address it. When that happens, as it has about every twenty years of so, a pandemic occurs. Some pandemics are mild while others like the one that occurred in 1918 are extraordinarily severe. Because the influenza virus is constantly mutating, health officials fear that a re-occurrence of the so-called Super Flu is not a question of if, but of when. Lucky for us, here in the United States, scientists also postulate that when that day arrives, the mortality rate would be much reduced due to the capabilities of modern medicine. A very comforting scenario if true, but what if it’s not?

The 1918 Flu may or may not have worked alone!

The belief that we would all be better off in the face of a major pandemic would probably work were it not for one interesting fact. Mother Nature is known to stack the microbial deck in ways that scientists find constantly surprising. She may have done so even back in 1918 and we still might not be aware of it. Consider, if you will, the bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus (SA), a ‘germ’ that has lived with us over tens of thousands of years. At any one time approximately 1 in 3 of every American harbors this bug most with no ill effects.  SA, however, knows the layout of our immune system very well thank you, and over the centuries has developed ingenious ways in which to survive when under assault. Thanks to the bacterium’s habit of sharing snippets of genes with other bugs (known as cassettes), it has developed a wide array of abilities to both defend itself and to inject deadly toxins (over seventy) into its host when certain conditions are met.

One very interesting component of SA that I came across in some literature a while back was the existence of a certain set of genes that produce a toxin called Pantone-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL). It was initially discovered by Van deVelde in 1894 due to its ability to lyse leukocytes. It’s thought that the genes were originally inserted into the SA’s genetic code by a phage, a form of virus. The two genes that make the toxin exist at separate locations and only seemed to become ‘turned on’ under certain circumstances. Otherwise, they sit around innocuously waiting for conditions to change.

[An interesting side note is that an old strain of bacteriophage known as Staph 80/81 containing PVL has been found in cow’s milk and, in more recent times, SA contain PVL has even been seen in breast milk. All of which begs the question as to whether or not this gene had a role in the high mortality rates experienced in the 20-40 year old group of men and women during that pandemic.]

When you look carefully at a graph of the mortality curve of a ‘normal flu’ year, you will note that the cases generally fall more towards the very young and very old; two classes of a population that typically have compromised or weakened immune systems.

 Then, when you look at the death curve for the 1918-20, you see a new bump right in the middle of the 20 to 40 year old group. Men and women who were right at the peak of their ability to fight off disease due to robust immune systems. It’s obvious that there was something more at work for this group of people than was the norm for flu. Autopsies that were performed on the ones that died quickly revealed that in the majority of cases, they were suffering and had perished from a particularly virulent form of pneumonia. In point of fact, the lungs of some patients were soggy masses; filled with as much as two quarts of fluid! What killed them was not so much the destruction of their lungs vis-a-vie the flu or even pneumonia as it was that they drowned for lack of getting enough oxygen! This, then, was what separated the 1918 flu from all that have come since. If you were to subtract the middle group from the curve, you would have said that while that flu strain was severe, it was most certainly no more so than other strains that have hit the population prior to or since 1918.

The fact that as many as one third of the population was infected with SA at any one time is, I think, one of the key factors that caused the loss of life to unfold as it did. It was not the single effect of the flu bug that brought quick death, but rather the one-two punch of the Flu and Staph together that did the trick.

Other factors may have also driven up the death rates even higher than they would have been otherwise. At that time, there were no antibiotics available to treat pneumonia and so what is now a treatable condition was left to run its deadly course. The conditions of a global war also existed then, I’m sure this helped in a more rapid than would otherwise be normal spread of the flu virus. World War I was just winding down and massive troop movements were then occurring in America, Europe and Canada. Conditions that created a synergistic effect when combined with what by today’s standards were poor sanitary conditions for many of the countries working poor, most of whom were immigrants.

The question is what happens now, when we live in a world with even more deadly strains of Staph like the one known as MRSA?  I’ll pursue that a bit more in part two.

Notice: The post written here is the sole opinions of the author of Forsythkid. This piece is a work in progress and as such will be revised fairly often.

James Hoffa – a real class act!

James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had some choice words for the tea party on Labor Day.

"Let's take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong," he said onstage in Detroit while warming up the crowd for President Obama, who spoke at the same event.

Tea Partiers have not taken kindly to his comment. (Ya think)?

After criticizing Hoffa in a statement to press, Tea Party Express blasted out a fundraising email hitting Obama for failing to reject Hoffa's sentiment:

“It is disgusting and shameful that Obama allows this kind of violent rhetoric to continue. Isn't he the President of ALL Americans? How dare he allow his supporters to "declare war" on American people who are standing up for liberty? The reason President Obama doesn't put an end to the onslaught of attacks and insults is simple... he agrees with them.”

I agree with the Tea Party, that if it's war the Teamsters want....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Bachelor’s vegetable (sometimes beef) soup!

One of the recipes I make when alone - which is quite often - is a simple vegetable soup that may or may not have beef (depending on if I can afford it). It meets all the requirements of a lazy bachelor like myself; fast, simple and easy!

For ingredients, I will generally add the standard mix of potatoes, onions, carrots and green beans to a mix of water and chopped tomatoes. From that point onwards, it pretty much depends on what catches my eye at the time. Generally speaking, I will add a little oregano, cayenne pepper (go easy) and garlic to this witches brew. They give the finished soup a little sparkle, I think. I will also add in some basil, either dried or fresh.

As far as amounts go, I pretty much stick to one medium russet potato, a can of chopped tomatoes, two cans of water, two carrots, a couple of small onions and finally a can of green beans. Other candidates would include corn, turnips and peas if I happen to have some lying around.

All of these go into a very old slow cooker that I inherited from my parents many moons ago. I do have newer (and better?) crock-pots somewhere in the back of a lower cupboard, but they are larger in size and would require me to make more soup than I would want. In general, I like to make just enough for about six servings. (After that, I’ll likely grow tired of it and will toss the remainder out).

Once everything is added, the slow cooker is set to low and then forgotten about until the marvelous smells coming from the kitchen remind me to check it. So, about six hours later, I’m ready to sit down and enjoy one type of ‘comfort food’ that also very good for you to eat!

Words of wisdom!

My fried potatoes and fake egg omelet breakfast!

As that which has defined most of my sorrowful like, I have here a breakfast designed to put one in an early grave; fried potatoes and an egg omelet. Ah, but not quite the mega-cardiac disaster that you would suppose. Instead of the aortic busting, cholesterol laden standard egg, I’ve elected to go with Egg Beaters instead. For this meal I pulled out an old cast iron skillet. These old guys have the advantage of maintaining heat and so do a great job of frying the potatoes touté suite.


1 container of egg beaters
1 medium potato
1 slice toast
1 slice ham
1 slice American cheese
1 cherry tomato
3 tblsp oil
1 pat of butter


In a large frying pan, add oil and bring to moderate high heat. Peel one potato and cut into thin ‘dollar’ slices. Dry the potato sliced on a paper towel prior to adding to the hot oil. Nuke the potato slices for one minute on high.

Once the oil is hot, add the potato slices and cook one both sides until brown. After a few minutes add the sliced onion. Once brown, remove to a paper towel and lightly salt (I used a salt substitute).

After potatoes are removed from the pan, allow it to cool then add the egg beaters. Tear up the slice of American cheese and layer these over the top of the eggs. Do the same with the ham.

Once the egg has ‘set’ in a minute or so, carefully pull one side over to form an omelet. Cook for another minute then remove to a plate. Start the toast while allowing the egg omelet to rest.

Just prior to serving, nuke the potatoes for a minute to reheat them and then do the same for the egg omelette for about 20 seconds or until done. Serves 2.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What the F### is going on with Labor Day?

I was checking the Weather Underground to see what to expect in the way of a Labor Day forecast when I spied the threatening words ‘Tropical Storm Lee’ under the box for Monday which is Labor Day…right? Anyway, the forecast is for sunny skies and balmy temps! So what gives, Jerome? Will it be sunny skies with the occasional hurricane outbreak? That said the weather looks to be absolutely perfect, especially if you’re getting tired of the hundred degree regime that has been most of the summer.

It won't start!

Click on picture to enlarge!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Banquet’s Pepperoni Stuffed Breadsticks

Did I already forget to mention that there is also some marinara dipping sauce in this box? Hard to believe you get two bread-sticks and dipping sauce for only a buck! Gee, two whole five inch bread-sticks! OK, they tasted great and the sauce really does compliment the sticks. Having said that, this paltry morsel is like offering an alcoholic a single shot of booze. Not enough to satisfy! No, not enough by a mile!

At just 250 calories per serving and only a buck a meal, I suppose I could buy two and that would be a pretty good way to spend an evening snacking in front of the TV. But, gosh almighty ye God's of the frozen entree! Banquet, you have got to have a little feeling for us older (and larger) guys! We get tantalized by stuff like this! Will the torture never end?I'd score this deal a 6. Would have been higher if they'd snuck another breadstick in.