Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Haunting of Baker House!

Chapter One

After suffering years of hearing laughter behind his back, a courageous and innovative man in southwest Missouri has managed to assimilate positive scientific evidence of ectoplasmic infestation by the use of a seismograph of all things!


Danomanno Dingo, a citizen of the sleepy town of Forsythia Missouri knows all about the word derision.  In school, when his name was called in class, there was always that background chuckle by cruel-minded classmates. He suffered through High School with students and teachers taunts. 'Hey Dingohead DanO', was common as was 'DanO the Dink'. A constant and nonstop barrage of insults that never ceased. Is it any wonder that Mr. Dingo barely graduated at the bottom of his class of 600? But, I digress.

Danomanno did survive school and even found a job working at the town's only manufacturing plant. A small nondescript building located at the end of Coy Blvd, on the north side of town. It's name was proudly proclaimed on a small sign in front as ABC Rectal. DanO, let's call him that from now on, worked on the production line for many years as the quality control inspector for a company that made specialty rectal brushes. But, I digress yet again.

DanO has resided in a small, lean-to kind of house on the outskirts of town at the end of Louseur Lane. It was originally a repossessed property whose owner briefly made national news by killing himself when the commode he was sitting on collapsed into the basement. His name was Billy John Rapper and yes my friends, the headlines read 'Rapper killed by his crapper'.

After the funeral, which was attended solely by the local town drunkard, the house was taken over by the bank who promptly sold it on quick auction to (you guessed it), our boy DanO. And, it was shortly after DanO had taken possession (and had repaired the hallway bathroom) that he began to experience problems of, shall we say, a surreal nature. It seems a ghostly apparition began making regular appearances in the hall next to the bathroom door. An apparently mean spirited ghost who would often rouse DanO out of his slumber when a single loud noise issued from the area of the bathroom next to his room. Yes, it seems that Billy the Crappy Rapper had returned to the scene of his untimely demise and was reliving his fall from grace time and time again. No shit shinola!

When DanO tried to relate these goings on to his fellow workers on the rectal brush line, he was met with some skepticism. “Ya'll got to have applesauce for brains', one worker remarked. “You know, everybody already thinks you're sneaking these here brushes to home. Now, you a tellin us you got yourself a ghost?” Laughter drifted up and down the line with this remark.

On the issue of brushes, DanO vehemently denied having any need to scrub his derriere. But, he realized that, at the same time, his credibility was now in doubt. He needed a way to document an event that could happen anytime day or night, or which might not happen again! That's when he came up with the idea of using a seismograph....

Stay tuned for the next installment of 'The Haunting of Baker House', where DanO brings actual physical evidence, in the form of a seismograph, to astonished co-workers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What’s shaking in Arkansas?

I don’t know about folks around these parts, but I’ll bet its hard to get to sleep some nights down in central Arkansas. Areas near the towns of Greenbrier and Guy have experienced hundreds of quakes over the past six months, most of which are just strong enough to wake a light sleeper. One though, which occurred on February the 28th, rattled windows and picture frames all across the state including parts of neighboring Missouri and Mississippi! The magnitude 4.7 earthquake was the largest once to hit that region in over twenty years and begs the question. What the hell is going on down below ground in that state?

While seismologists insist that there is no connection between these events and the large fault near New Madrid, Missouri, others are not as easily convinced. It seems that the planet is going through a period of increased seismic action as of late. Major events near Japan and India, recently, may just be part of a larger global pattern that could end up affecting the West Coast of America. Some scientists say that the Oregon coast is overdue, even, for a 9.0 plus quake itself. An event that could easily prove to be an even bigger disaster than the one that devastated parts of the Japanese coastline.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Washington’s new mantra: Too little and too late!

The big question on this blogger’s mind is one of change. That is, can anyone in Washington engineer the sort of change that is now desperately needed to save this country? Yes? No?

While the current congress has busied itself trying to fix a small budgetary leak, rivers of hard earned currency continue to gush down a bottomless pit. Even as the majority of American’s have now indicated a willingness to make draconian cuts, congress continues on its merry way, like a old man who can’t quite comprehend what all the shouting is about.

President Obama, meanwhile, has been shuffled to the sidelines. A mere spectator like the rest of us. All of us, non-players now, as we observe a monstrous machine that seems out of human control.

My question to the world at large is simply this. Can someone out there please find the off switch? We need to turn the thing off for a while so we can figure out how to begin dismantling it. At this point everyone knows that this is not the way to run a government or a people. Free people, at least.

Come 2012, I urge all clear thinking American citizens to kick as must of this mess as we can out of office. I further urge that the states convene and vote out Amendment 17 and to allow the states legislation to elect or fire its representatives to the Federal Government. A change like this has been needed for a long time and while it will not cure the problems we face, it will at least make the people who work for us more accountable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Butter Buds, a better butter alternative!

While eating at a local hospital one afternoon, I noticed some packets lying on the table that were alternatives to real butter. They are called ‘Butter Buds’ and are made by a company of the same name located in Racine Wisconsin.

The package I checked out contained two grams of product. The instructions indicated the granules could be sprinkled on hot moist foods such as a freshly baked potato and which promised real butter taste. Calories per serving was just a 10, with no fat or cholesterol. The sodium was also low at 75 mg. While they are not cheap, they do provide a good substitute for the real thing and may be better for you than margarine.

For my taste test I elected to go with a baked Russet potato where I also used fake salt and real pepper. Following is a nutritional breakout of key ingredients that show the before and after effects of subbing fake for real on a 238 gram potato.

Potato with real condiments                              w fake 1 pat of butter and dash of salt

Gram wt              238 g                                                   238 g
Calories               160                                                     196  
Cholesterol          0 mg                                                   11 mg
Sodium                0 mg                                                  184 mg
Carbs                 41.8 g                                                   41.8  g

Actually, the overall taste was pretty darn good. And, just take a look at the reduction in the sodium, fat and cholesterol! The fake salt I used was actually potassium chloride which takes a bit of time to get used to.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Critique: Banquet Zesty Smothered Charbroiled Patty Meal

Once again, I confess to being the victim of a catchy name. I mean what man doesn't want to be smothered by hot and tasty food? That said, the march of the meals costing just a buck goes on as will my endless writing about them. But, seriously once again, what man can resist words like ‘zesty’ and ‘smothered’ especially when used in the same sentence? I feel strongly that the reference was in regards to the 'beef patty' pictured on the cover of the meal. Meat, right? Actually, it took me a minute to figure out just what this patty is made of. According to the ingredients label, it’s a combo of pork and mechanically separated turkey meat. (I'm not sure I like the sound of that). According to Wikipedia, this is a paste-like product produced by forcing turkey bones, along with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device that separates the bone from the edible meat tissue. (Now we all know what mechanically separated means)! Sounds positively yummy!

So, for about a buck, you get a 241 gram combination of meat, potatoes and corn. The package proclaims this meal to be a good source of protein (of course so’s a rat when you think about it). There are 280 calories of which about half are from fat. The sodium is at 750 mg with the cholesterol down a bit at 30 mg. While this meal will not kill you outright, it does get its two cents in.

The directions for preparing this meal is simple as usual. Remove the plastic over the potatoes, cook
on high for three minutes, stir potatoes and the heat for another couple of minutes. If I had a nickel for all the times I removed the plastic from the potatoes recently….

As for taste. Surprisingly, the patty itself was not all that bad. The sauce really helped. It actually tasted like their meatloaf meal, only it was a little hotter. The potatoes tasted like they were instant and the corn…well it tasted a lot like corn.

All together, this is not a bad meal, especially considering the low calories. If you’re on a diet and you’re broke like me, this one could be a candidate to grace your freezer.

Circa Oct 2014 - The meal is still about a buck and still pretty good!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Critique: Healthy Choice Chicken Red Pepper Alfredo

OK, after reviewing and then consuming some, shall we say, less than wholesome frozen meal as of late. I decided it was time to step up to one of the Healthy Choice entrees. We are, after all, what you eat! For this go around, I decided on the Chicken Red Pepper Alfredo meal more due to the fact that I liked the title than anything else. This is one of the ‘CafĂ© Steamers’ offerings that is supposedly a ‘fresh taste' unlocked by steam meal a deal. Anyhow, it has some chicken and pasta in it; two ingredients that suit me to a tee. This dish also employs a device called a ‘DuoTray Steamcooker’. Sounds advanced! This meal which costs close to $5 in 2011 is well above other TV dinners I’ve critiqued so far, but golly, I wanted to experience what the rich folks eat for a change.

As you might surmised, the nutritional content is head and shoulders above other (read much cheaper) meals I’ve eaten. The old adage that you get what you pay for definitely applies here. I have to admit, though, I like what I’m see on the label. Calories are a modest 260 for this 292 gram meal. Only sixty of these come from fat. Cholesterol is a livable 40 mg and the sodium was a meager 510 mg. This represents some of the best nutritional  figures I’ve seen so far on a packaged frozen product.

Click to enlarge
 On to the preparation. After reading the instructions, I determined that below the meal was a tray of sauce of some kind. After microwaving everything on high for about four minutes, I removed the steamer tray and poured the sauce over the rest of the meal. Got to admit, it smelled pretty darn good. For the over all taste grade, I would award this a sold B or a 7 on a scale of one to ten. And, even at five bucks (purchased in Branson mo.), this meal gets it done in both the nutritional and taste department. Note: When I purchased the same meal in Forsyth, Mo some months later, it cost only $4! Hmm, must be de-flation at work!

Critique: Aunt Jemima’s Scrambled Eggs and Sausage meal.

I  love the folks in the Pinnacle Food Group Marketing Department who make this line of Aunt Jemima products. They sure know how to make stuff look good on the package. Too bad the reality can be a bit disappointing. Still, you never know, maybe this time the taste will be awful awesome!

Oh yeah! This looks appetizing... I'm seeing two turds next to a
maxi pad in a sea of fungus! Yeah, that'll work!
Before preparation, I sneaked a peek at the nutritional panel in the hope that there would be some redeeming qualities hidden there. Sad to say, even at a buck or so, this puppy is a bit lacking. While you do get a decent jolt of calories at 290, you also get walloped with high amounts of cholesterol and salt. The 385 milligrams of cholesterol is 128% of the recommended daily allowance and the salt, at 930 mg, is an outright assault on anyone who is trying to restrict their sodium intake. Once again, we have a company that understands it can disguise a products lack of good taste by the addition of a pant load of salt. While that works great as a culinary disguise, there is so much salt in this meal that doubt it really needs to be refrigerated to keep it from going bad. (That said, I’d also be willing to bet that if they reduced the salt by just half, the end result would still be rejected by the family pooch).

Speaking of taste! I’ll categorize this one as so-so no-go fare. Nothing to write home about. The eggs were bland (grainy) and the sausages a little turgid and greasy. The hash browns were just plain underdone. (Personally, I've found that a shot of Tabasco sauce on the eggs did help a lot as does some A1 Sauce on the hash browns).

My overall grade for this meal is a C- or a Score of tolerable whenever there is nothing else around.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Unlucky Seven: Which state will go bankrupt first?

Oh, what a magical and scary time this is in the history of our country. Who would have thought just a few years ago that one or more of our states states would face a bankruptcy that not even the US government could head off?

Sad to say, there are now seven states that fit the following criteria:

1) A population that is greater than 8 million.
2) Unemployment and underemployed above 15%.
3) In debt for more than a billion.
4) A large net importer (read as dependant) of energy.
5) Have permanently lost key economy-driving sectors.

The seven states that make the cut are Illinois, Ohio, Florida, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

In particular, Michigan and Ohio are now at the end of the auto era. California has undergone a massive housing bust. North Carolina and New Jersey have taken the blow of the financial sector's downfall. In addition to their loss of major money makers, these states also have higher energy costs. Now toss into this mix the dim prospects for wage growth in the United States at this time. Energy and food costs exacerbate wage problems. These seven states are pinched between prolonged stagnation of personal wages, and lack of relief in energy costs. Not a very healthy situation to find oneself in.

(It’s of interest to note that all the states with the exception of North Carolina (which has pockets scattered throughout) are decidedly progressive in nature. Hurts to be them I guess).

The two front runners, in some polls, are Illinois and California. Illinois, in particular, leads most of the these polls in terms of going down the old poop shoot in a hurry. OK, any state that wastes money the way Illinois does just has to shine somewhere. This is, after the state that failed to convict Rod Blagojevich after first spending millions of taxpayers dollars, and who now wants another whack at it. Hey guys, just take a sledge hammer to your feet. OK?

Whatever the final outcome, I predict this national debt party will not end well. Sure the US Government can bolster up these losers for a while, perhaps even for years to come. But, at what price for the rest of us? It's no secret that are fast approaching a 40 percent deficit spending (relative to budget), a threshold at which hyperinflation historically kicks off? If you think things are bad now….

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everybody out of the sandbox, please!

The United States and its leadership, as of late, looks more and more to me rather like a large sandbox. The kind that I visited once as a mere toddler. I think I was something like six and my parents though dumping my 30 pound tender body into a sandbox at a neighboring park would be just the thing to help me on my way to infant hood or some such. You see this sandbox was crowded with other infants just like myself. Small, cute little ankle-biters crawling around with poop filled diapers while trying our best to establish a corner all for ourselves. (Of course we had no concept about how to do that). So, it was pretty much chaos for a few minutes until I started crying and was rescued.

Now fast forward to adulthood and expand your vision to take in the recent events on Capitol Hill. Can you see the similarities? Problem is, now there is no one around to rescue us.

Hugo Chavez claims US wants to invade Libya!

Yes, Hugo you are absolutely correct! The United States does intend to invade and dispose of Gadhafi. After which, we will take over the country and install yet another young democracy.  Good God man, you are so good at reading between the lines.

But, I wonder old Hugo, do you see the plans the US has of invading your country in the near term. And, what about those aliens that are coming to fertilize our women?

No doubt about it. It’s good to have such clear sighted individuals leading millions of sheep down an uncertain path.