Sunday, October 30, 2011

What can you say about Ron Paul?

Ron Paul,

  • doesn’t have 70 Million in his campaign chest! We the People support him, not a bunch of special interests.
  • writes his own speeches! He doesn’t need to twist his meaning around to fit the crowd he's talking to at the time. It’s always been the same speech. Less government and more power to the states!
  • doesn’t us a teleprompter! Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth all the time is easy! No props required.
  • has served his country in Congress for over 30 years! He doesn’t need to run for President. He feels obligated to help when help is needed.
  • is a doctor. He’s brought children into this world who are now grown and voting adults! Think about that for a moment.
  • stands firmly in the center of the political spectrum. Right about where most of the rest of us stand also.
This election season, I ask that you forget about party affiliations and look hard and long at both Parties. Each has had a role in getting America to where it is today; on the very brink of disaster. Ron Paul is the only candidate who has stood for so long in the middle of the political spectrum and now, I think, the majority of American’s are standing there with him.

Please consider voting Ron Paul into the Office of the President in 2012 so we can get about the business of turning the country we all love around. My name is Dan Owen and Ron Paul is my candidate of choice!

America, it's crunch time!

 [click to enlarge]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Contagion the Movie: Could it happen for real?

The movie Contagion has two plots in my view; first, a deadly virus comes on the scene that is transmitted indirectly by touching surfaces (known as fomite transmission) and second, the unfolding fear among people that races well ahead of the virus itself. A fear that quickly tears down the foundations of civilization and which leaves the principal characters trying to survive while being attacked on two fronts!

A scary movie to be sure, but what if there is some truth to such a scenario?

Right now, out in the world at large, there are two forms of influenza that have viral scientists concerned; Swine flu and the so-called Bird flu. Known in scientific circles as H1N1 and H5N1, both have properties that can make them very scary indeed! First, the Swine flu, because it has shown itself to be extremely contagious; able to leap continents in single bounds. After first appearing in late 2009, it quickly spread to almost every corner of the planet infecting as many as two billion in the process. And that was in just one year! Thankfully for us, it was not very virulent, only killing less than a tenth of a percent of the people who caught it. (Yet, even at such a small percentage, that still equated to a large number dead)!

Contrast that form of influenza with the 'Bird' flu; a virus that does not easily spread from person to person, but which is at the same time extraordinarily virulent; killing 60% of those who catch it. (By comparison, the infamous 1918 Flu that killed up to 50 million worldwide was only about 2% fatal).

Imagine then, what would happen if both the Swine and the Bird flu happen to infect the same person or pig at the same time! It's possible that they might ''mix genes' to produce a new and horrible strain! One that is easy to catch and that then kills most of the people who catch it! A combination that could set the stage for mass fatalities on a scale unimagined by humankind and which would make this movie version look like a walk in the park!

As of this writing, no such strain yet exists. However, WHO authorities have been quoted as saying that the next pandemic, 'is not a question of if, but one of when.'

Monday, October 24, 2011

Critique: Marie Callender’s Balsamic Chicken was just so-so!

OK, so I’m now on the ‘steamer basket’ kick for a while! Actually, I like the concept; you nuke it, but it’s actually a steamed dish. That part is cool! But, at 400 calories a serving, I doubt I’ll have enough room for even a couple of cans of Miller Lite after dinner. Not cool!

I did like the idea of there being pasta in this dish! Actually, I tend to like any dish that has pasta in it. (I’ll even eat a meal consisting of just pasta)! I was also hoping spinach and mushrooms would taste pretty good too, assuming that is, that I can find them after the cooking is done! So, let’s see how this meal did, shall we?
Pkg Art:     8    I’ll admit it, the picture did catch my eye! Job well done!
Reality:      6    The steamer concept looks cool anyways. A little gimmicky perhaps!
Cost:          5    At $4 a shot, this entree is too little pricy for me!
Smell:        6    Just OK! I smell Asian here, not Italian!                     
Texture:     6    The pasta was over-cooked for my taste.        
Taste:         6    So-so – Too much of an Asian taste for me to get into!          
Average:    6    Take a left in the frozen isle and miss this one!         

Not the best meal I’ve had. Maybe it was the spinach or maybe it was the overcooked pasta or maybe it was the complete lack of anything oregano. I did eat the entire meal, but was not overly happy about the fact. My other negative was the high sodium content at close to a thousand milligrams. Finally, I was never able to find that neat looking sprig of basil I saw on the package.

Bottom line! While some of you out there may send me threatening letters saying how totally awesome this meal is, I did not share the sentiments. This one goes into my culinary trash bin!

Shadow Rock Park Missouri on a nice fall day!

Every so often, as fall progresses inexorably into winter, there are some days when God smiles and blesses this land with a parting kiss of perfection. Then, like an unwanted second act, Old Man winter arrives and applies the thumbscrews that is winter here in southwest Missouri!

On this date, I drove down to the non-camping side of Shadow Rock Park located in Forsyth Missouri to sit for a little while, and to collect my thoughts. The day was so nice it seemed almost surreal; temperatures in the mid seventies, clear skies and light winds made the sort of day you’d like to bottle up and just keep close to your heart.

I’d picked a shelter that was close to Swan Creek and marveled at how well the locals had cleaned up this place after a horrific flood had left it inundated with flood water for all of the summer. After the waters had finally subsided, city workers and volunteers came in and made it ship shape once again. Quite a contrast to the federally run park called River Run just across the water. A park which is, even now, overgrown with weeds while still bearing the scars of fallen trees and damaged campsites. (A microcosm view of the ills permeating Washington perhaps)?  Uck!

As I sat there, I spied a couple of fishermen or fisher-women, I couldn’t really tell, who were wandering up and down the shore with a folding chair in one arm and a rod in the other. One of them wandered one way, while the other went the other way and then, after a while, they both came back together. Obviously, I mentally surmised, a pair who were out hunting for the savory flesh of a fish with which to grace their evening table.

As I watched them, I ventured a guess that had I been at this very spot back in 1932, I would have seen much the same image. Civilizations may come and go, but those who fish are forever.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yes, Mr. President what about that guy?

Critique: Banquet’s Wings!

Finally, after all this time, I get to critique some real man’s food! Wings! Or, more correctly, ‘breaded chicken wing sections’. Anyway, it promises to be HOT & SPICY! A perfect snack to serve to your buddies who have come over to sponge off bask in your culinary generosity while watching the Chiefs trash Oakland.

As is my custom these days, I have a panel on which to score this entrée:
Pkg art:      5    The artwork could use a little bit of improvement! (See veggie entry).
Reality:      8    Not bad. About what I was hoping for.                       
Cost:          5    At $4 for a box of 12 pieces, it’s on the pricey side!
Smell:        9    The great smell got all my juices going!                
Texture:     7    A little crunchy, but not bad!                      
Taste:         8    Great tasting. Not too hot! The problem is eating only three!   
Avg:           7    Overall, good food! But, also high in calories!

My principle gripe concerns the lame photo replete with those great looking crispy veggies and dip in the background. Warning Will Robinson! There is no such thing inside the box, so don’t go spending your time looking.

I’m also not sure of what to make of those perky little pyramids on the bottom right corner of the box. Gee, only 25% of the recommended amount of daily meat! I’ll bet there are plenty of nutritionists out there that would like to see people eating NO meat at all! And, right above those nutri-breasts, I’m informed that the ‘Serving suggestion [is] enhanced to show quality’. What the heck are they referring to?  I’ll go out on a limb and say that the 'serving' shown here is actually the entire box of chicken. Eat that and you'd be getting a waist expanding 1,080 load of calories! (Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the ‘recommended’ serving amount of 3 ounces actually looked like…see below).

Turns out it’s just three pieces! What? Try serving that to your buddies at your next NFL football get together! "Hey guys! Have some nice hot and spicy wings,” you proudly announce as you carefully place a tiny paper plate with three wings in front of each of your beer bozzeled buddies. Three pairs of slightly unfocused eyes first look down at this meager offering and then back up to your smiling and oh so generous face. I can just hear their comments now….

In the end, however, this was a pretty good deal even at $4! Just watch out for those calories. This one's a heavy hitter in that department!

So, consider picking up a couple and stuffing them in the fridge for the next big game!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NDM-1: A deadly genetic enterprise!

 Klebsiella pneumoniae

Like a cat softly entering a room on cushioned paws, a new killer may be stalking the land. Known as NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta- lactamase 1) this gene fragment becomes deadly whenever it gets inserted into a bacterium’s genetic structure. If a bacteria strain carries the NDM-1 gene, it is resistant to nearly all antibiotics, including carbapenem antibiotics - also known as antibiotics of last resort. Scientists fear that at some point there may be people who will acquire and infection of the sort that cannot be cured; reminiscent of Medieval Times when even a small cut could prove fatal.

First discovered only a year ago by a group of British researchers, NDM-1 is now thought to be proliferating itself through a mechanism known as ‘horizontal gene transfer’; a process by which the gene for NDM-1 travels on a plasmid, an extra-chomosomal loop of DNA that can be traded freely among bacteria. Like children trading baseball cards, the gene can move rapidly from one form of bacteria to another.

At this time, it is thought that the gene mostly confined to just a couple of strains of bacteria, such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. However, due to the way that bacteria like MRSA are known to trade genes they fear it only a matter of time before a new generation of so-called Superbugs spring into being. Already, NDM-1 is widespread in India and Pakistan, and it has reached Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Good times ahead!

Four more years of Obama? You gotta be jacking me!
Please consider electing Ron Paul in 2012!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hang in there Dorthy!

Sometimes smuck, the blue pill is a better choice!

Coy Bald on a beautiful fall day!

For any reader not familiar with Coy Bald, it's just a medium sized 600 foot hill located in the Hercules Glades Wilderness, a 12,000 acre wilderness consisting of open grassland, forested knobs, steep rocky hillsides, limestone outcroppings, a maze of narrow drainage's, and hollows cut by water. In other words, the perfect place for old, but young minded men like myself.

On this particular day in mid October, the leaves are a falling on a Sunday where I felt the urge to go and commune with God and Nature. Two of my very best friends. The sky is mostly sunny, it’s eighty degrees outside and there a pleasing breeze out of the west. As I’m sitting here, I have a small radio set up next to an improvised stove that is cooking me a lunch of hotdogs and beans. In front of me is a short trail that crosses a dry creek bed before opening into a large meadow. Everywhere I look, I can see signs that tell me it’s mid fall and that old man winter must surely be on his way.

So, on this day, I’m thankful to the Lord for allowing me to sit here with food in hand and what will be a great memory of a day to hold and keep in the cold days that lie ahead.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In the spirit of lies and deceptions!

The game of lying seems to be a game that has caught on in the United States. The popular phrase is, ‘if you lie consistently enough, eventually it will become the truth’. Our boys and girls in Congress can tell you all about that one. Some lie often, they wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them between the eyes. This August body is now so partisan and deeply divided that it is doubtful any meaningful legislation will ever come again.  And we wonder why the approval rating is now in the single digits.

Wake up America. You liberties are draining away faster and faster each day.On that topic, I wouldn't lie!

First day of a new diet!

To me it’s depressing enough to have to even go on a diet, much less find I’ve eaten 1200 calories by two o'clock in the afternoon. Now, I have the rest of the day spread out before me like some kind food deprived desert and strangely, I find myself thinking about one thing… more food!

This also about the time that I re-re-review my dietary guidelines and goals for like the third time with the thought that perhaps losing a whole pound a month was too optimistic. Maybe a pound every two months would be satisfactory. Or, how about if I try and only gain ten pounds and then really bear down?? OK, I’m not going there. Got to get serious. Weight loss is, after all, a tough business and in order to actually lose weight I will have to suffer. A lot!

So, today is day one and I have about 300 more calories that I can eat between now and…. 7AM tomorrow morning. What! Why that’s over 16 hours from now! Man, that sucks the big one. But, wait! There is a way out, of sorts. And that way is exercise! It turns out any work you do burns calories which equates to that much more food you can eat on a given day! So, a 160 calorie workout is equal to one additional Zinger you can stuff down your mouth! Truth be told, however, the idea is to exercise in order to burn that many more calories and lose weight that much faster. I, on the other hand, prefer the ‘live for today’ approach. That way, if I were to die suddenly, I at least got that one last meal in….

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mystery antique cast iron skillet

This is a very old cast iron skillet with lid that belonged to my grandmother and which I think is at least 100 years old. It weighs in at 11.2 pounds! The closest I could find on the internet was a Wagner #9 extra deep skillet that the seller was asking over $200 for. This skillet had markings that clearly identified it for what it is. My piece does not have any discernible marking other than a 1+ on the inside of the lid. Any marking that might have been on the bottom have worn away. I would love to hear from anyone who might have an idea as to its make and year of manufacture.

Thank goodness for all that stimulus money!

After receiving money from the Obama administration, I wisely invested in a ‘fixer upper’ restaurant in what is quite frankly a poor section of town. The place cost over $200K, but I really didn’t care as it was not my money anyway! Ha Ha! I’m also told the location is such that if I get in a pinch, I can sell drugs out the back door. Sweet!

Please note there is water only on occasion (corroded pipes) and the sewer keeps backing up after a hard rain. (So, if you have to go often, please try and wait for a sunny day). These code problems were ‘fixed’ by me greasing the palms of the Building Inspector just prior to my grand opening last week.

Oh, and did I mention that the power is off at this time. Turns out the aluminum wiring keeps overheating and tripping the breakers. I’m having an electrician friend of mine come out and removing those pesky breakers. There! Problems all solved.

And, about that stiff out front. He did so not die of food poisoning! Thanks, I'll be lurking waiting inside to service you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nod - Part 2

 [Click here for Nod Part 1]

OK, Nad thought reflexively, so things are not looking so good on planet Earth! Perhaps they were even going to blow themselves up! Thankfully, other than the one SIDT (Spacial Inter-Dimensional Tunnel) discovered in the city of Tonne, we live very very far apart. Actually, Nad reminded himself, the Nodian solar system is located in a separate cluster of galaxies and is roughly about 10 billion light years away! So, we're not exactly neighbors, he thought. And that was a good thing, because there was no space program to talk about other than...

Nad grinned to himself as he remembered the one space effort that was made fifteen years ago and which resulted in a blurred picture of his home planet. In point of fact he remembered a report he had written on just that topic for the local news. After rummaging around in a desk drawer, he found it.

Our one picture of Nod!
by Nad Newo - Elokuu 21, 3060

At some point, back when I was only a child, a group of scientists had gotten together and developed a rocket. By most standards, this was a most primitive vehicle comprised as it was of solid fuel boosters that could just barely do the job of lifting a ‘space module’ up into orbit around the planet. In the early part of the year 3040, they did manage to get the job done, but just barely as the thrusters were poorly designed and cut off too early.

After orbiting the planet just three times and getting only one blurry picture, the rocket module (complete with a dazed man by the name of Samido strapped inside) made a perilous reentry with the main parachute opening only at the last possible minute. By the sheerest of luck, the module was located where it landed close to the shore south of Champ and wonders of wonders the Samido was alive and unscathed. At least physically that is. Samido’s state of mind was another thing entirely! Rescuers could not help but notice that his well known jet black hair had turned white! Also, Samido had taken to drooling a bit. In due course, the poor man was ceremoniously lead away to live in a ‘controlled environment’ for possibly the balance of his life.

After sifting through the wreckage and locating the camera, they found that in fact, the film did have one frame exposed and by the Saints Almighty, it did show a blurry image of the planet. They were ecstatic and immediately declared a National Samido holiday. However, after three days of celebrating the populace had forgotten what the heck they were celebrating, while the scientists had forgotten all about rockets in general. Such is the way of things in Nodia.

Perhaps the only good that ever came out of getting that space picture was the fact that a map of the main continent was eventually produced; a crude one, but a map none the less. As is plainly shown, there are not many formal cities on Nodia. Part of the reason for that is the fact that the population had stabilized at just under 300,000 with many of those preferring to live on small farms scattered about the countryside. The roads (if you can call them that) which connect the cities together, were only built after many centuries and even today they are not much more than dirt paths. The main mode of travel for the population is by simple cart or bare foot…..

Nad sighed and put the report back into the drawer. There was a lot more to the story, but he really wasn’t interested in reading any further. He needed to get to the capitol city of Champ and let the council know what was going with the warring nations of earth. At the very least they would need to make a decision concerning the tunnel. Should it be left open or should it be closed. Actually the proper question to ask was could it be closed. Nad didn’t think anyone really knew. It was a device that had been discovered just a few years ago in a cave below the Temple of Ichis in the city of Tonne. Perhaps, if the Council of Elders was willing, they could travel there to see what could be done.

[to be continued]

Tuna Salad Sandwich on the fly!

Every so often, I get a hankering for an old fashioned tuna salad sandwich! This is something that anyone can throw together in just minutes for that quick pick me lunch. Here’s my simple recipe:


6 oz can of tuna
4 slices of bread
4 lettuce leaves
3 tbsp of mayo
3 tbsp of relish
4 olives


Take a small bowl and placed the tuna which has been rinsed into this along with the mayo, pepper and relish. Using a fork, mix this up well. Apply equally to two slices of bread, add the lettuce, cover and slice on the diagonal. Add the olives on top for flare! Serves 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A strange visit by the Lady of the Lake!

On a mostly overcast day in October, I found myself wandering by the side of a lake set in the middle of a quiet and deep forest. As I rested for a moment against a tree, I saw the strangest thing. A young woman of purest white emerging slowly from the depths. She appeared to float out of the water, though I knew that to be impossible, and approached me as I stood there too afraid to move and shaking like a leaf.

“Are you the man they call Dan?” She asked in a voice almost too soft to hear.

“Yes, I am, I stammered!” Now, way too freaked out to do more than answer in short monosyllables, even though a million questions pounded at the periphery of my mind.

“Then stand like a man, Dan”. She intoned with eyes that pierced mind in way that almost hurt and yet were soft and at the same time. In response to this I think I did stand a little straighter. I think had she asked me to pass out at that moment, I would have done that too. Very slowly, she then raised her right arm pointing it directly at me.

“I hear that you are the man whose head is full of sand. Be that true?”

In the craziness of the moment, I noticed she was beginning to rhyme. A thought that ran across my consciousness and then was gone. Still, a small smile crossed and otherwise terrified face. “Well to be honest,” I began. “There are people who say that about me, but in truth, I think it’s mostly empty space.” As I spoke these words, I was sad to hear how shaky and unsure my voice was. Surely, she would take note and query me further, I thought. But, that was not to be the case.

“Yes, I can see that, she affirmed quietly.” Her hand was now not pointing, but cupped and appeared to hold an object that looked like a silver key. “Take this key then,” She breathed as she moved even closer to the spot I was rooted in. I thought I could just make out the smell of lake water on her as she did this. “Hold this key close to your heart, for there is a storm coming. I will return in one year to collect it back from you.”

I grasped the key she offered, it was small and silver in appearance and felt oddly heavy in my hand. She then turned without another word and walked back to the waters edge. Turning towards me, she smiled and then walked into the lake until her head disappeared below the waves.

A storm? What kind of storm? I wondered to myself.

           [to be continued)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

That's a spicy spaghetti sauce!

After making my own spaghetti sauce for some time now, I’ve learned a thing or two during that time. Perhaps the most important one was not to try and re-invent the flavor wheel! The folks at McCormick have spent a lot of money and time to come up with a series of spaghetti packaged mixes that hit home every time! Sure the cans and jars (Prego) of sauce you can buy at the store are pretty good, but for a fuller bodied sauce, I prefer to use a mix and my own ‘special ingredients’. Here’s my recipe:

1 pkg. McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce
1 ¾ cups tap water
6 oz can Hunts tomato paste
4 oz can mushroom bits & pieces, drained
½ lb of ground beef, browned & drained
2 tbsp. of dried or fresh basil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano

That’s it! Just follow the package directions, mix in the meat and herbs and in twenty minutes or so you have one of the best tasting sauces on the market. The mushrooms, basil and oregano will give this sauce a really unique and I hope, pleasing taste.Note: The olives were a last minute addition for color, but they tasted great on this sauce!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Critique: Banquet's Cheesy Charbroiled Patty Meal!

Now here’s a meal for only a buck that you will not be able to turn down! Actually, you might after reading this. I’d have thought that Banquet had done everything possible to destroy and mangle a ½ inch slice of meat by this point. But, I’d be so very wrong! The 'meat' is actually an unholy marriage of processed turkey and pork, aka PorTurk! A key ingredient of a food used to punish unruly prisoners that is known commercially as Nutriloaf!

Yes, they’ve gone and done it! In what I'm sure must be an endless research in their secret product kitchens to make food even more cardiac challenged; Banquet has now ladled a nice thick artery clogging piece of cheese over the top of what had been a mystery meat to begin with! (I’m also not quite sure what those little sores are on the surface of the cheese)?? Bacon bits you say? Is that supposed to make this meal more appealing? OoooK... At least the mashed potatoes look pristine…I mean who could f***-up mashed potatoes?? Don’t answer that.

The prep segment is nice and short and if you’ve made this before; easy to remember. Cut a slit over the potatoes, nuke for 2 ½ minutes, remove plastic from meat section and spoon the ‘gravy’ over the meat, recover, stir the potatoes and nuke for another 2 ½ minutes. Let stand, and then go out for some real food - just kidding. Hey! Where did all that gravy come from? Oh, yeah, guess the word 'smothered' was a hint!

So, here’s my score card on this meal deal:

Pkg Art:     7    The picture on the box is way prettier than the actual meal.
Reality:      4    I’ll just close my eyes and nuke it into submission.
Cost:          8    OK, it’s only a buck! What can possibly go wrong?
Smell:        3    Not sure there is one. Think I can smell the tray, though…    
Texture:     7    Chewy, but edible in the sense that MRE’s are edible.
Taste:        5    I did like the potatoes! Woo-Woo!
Average:    5.7 Consider leaving this one at the grocery store.

I have to keep reminding myself that this meal OK considering the price point. Something to consider as my future looks to be financially driven in the direction of even more meals like this. (Perhaps this is God’s way of enacting revenge for that time I feel asleep in church)!

So, the score of 5.7 speaks for itself. It's mediocre at best! This is not a dinner I plan to ‘stock up’ on anytime soon. You might want to, however, keep a few in the freezer just in case relatives come over that you don’t particularly care for. Serve this meal on a dingy plate with stale bread for the Sunday meal and that should be the last you’ll see of them for some time.

Bridge #0952 over Swan Creek

(source EBay Vendor billd2626)

When this bridge was built 79 years ago, my dad had just turned age 10, and I would assume that if it could talk, it would have quite a lot to say!

Back in 1932, when the bridge was brand new, here are a few things that were going on:

  • There were over 6 million unemployed in Germany!
  • The British sub HMS sank!
  • The comedy serial Vic and Sade debuts on NBC Radio!
  • Babe Ruth makes his famous called shot in the fifth inning of game 3 of the World Series held in NY!
  • Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Republican President Herbert Hoover in a landslide victory.
  • You could buy a Ford Model B automobile for only $495!
  • Gasoline was ten cents a gallon ($1.20 in today’s funny money).
  • Jack Benny is heard on the radio for the first time on Ed Sullivan's show.
Since that long ago time, this bridge has carried countless people from one side of Swan Creek to the next. It's also one of the few remaining artifacts of the original site of the town of Forsyth, Missouri before it was moved in 1950.

Even today in late 2011, this sturdy reinforced concrete structure is a testament to the engineers of that long ago time who built with pride!

Friday, October 7, 2011

In the Land of Nod, a young man sits. But, planet Earth is giving him fits!

A man sits alone high up in a tower, ensconced at his metal desk. One of the few furnishings he owns; if you discount the two used bean bag chairs and an old oil drum that serves as a source of heat. And oh yes, there's a stereo that only gets two stations and which like to drift off channel from time to time. The man, Nad Newo, rarely bothers to try and locate the music when this happens; preferring the white noise of static almost as much.

Nad does have one modern convenience, however, an old and banged up PC that was a hand-me-down from an uncle who lives in another realm far away called ‘Earth’. And, while the connection to the ‘net’ is a little sporadic sometimes, on the good days when its working, he makes it a point to Google the headlines; trying his best to keep informed of events going in such a strange place. Sometimes that’s hard to do. This place called ‘Earth’ is so different from his world of Nod that sometimes the headlines make little or no sense. For instance, it seems that the people are always fighting over there. War is a 24/7 event, and must be very popular because even their sports reflect the need to overcome and conquer someone else. A thought that would be alien to Nad's people. Even the children seem to bask in games of murder and mayhem. In Nod, that form of aggression never bloomed very brightly and Nad was happy it never had. Perhaps this had something to do the the geography of his world. Rather than many separate land masses, there was only one large one with small island scattered about the rest of the surface of an otherwise watery planet. The big land mass was known as Nodia (pronounced kno-de-ah) and the planet itself as Nod. Of the small islands, which number about twelve, the largest of these was called Tampurea and was also the location of the 'Verda' or technical ones. On the main continent, on the eastern coast, was the capitol city called Champ. A city that also served as the center of the planets government. We;l, it was sort of a government, only not in the sense that the word was used on Earth. No, in Nad's view, it was more of a loosely held assemblage of men and women who gathered together for a short time on each rotation of the planet around its primary star to review finances, review harvest figures and to make sure that the majority of the population of Nodia were well cared for. They also partied and drank to excess while dong so. So, not a really formal government at all.There was, for instance, no Department of Defense as there were no countries to be protected against. There was no interstate commerce as their were no states within Nodia. The populace was firmly entrenched in an agrarian society with very limited industry. Perhaps Nod could be considered a primitive world by the standards of Earth, but nevertheless, it was a world where the people were well fed, caring and who often excelled in the arts and sciences. The educational system of Nodia was very simple. You started school at birth and finished it at death. At which point you were also posthumously awarded a Diploma of Life! The lessons learned were clear. During your time on Nod, you learned that material possessions counted for very little, while close family ties counted for everything. Technology was out and a love of all things living was most definitely in. Even Nad's possession of a computer was considered something of a miracle as they were not made on his planet. No, even the way in which Nad came in to possession of this one is a tale all to itself. Suffice it to say, an intra-dimensional tunnel through space-time was involved and leave it at that. Another miracle was the way in which it stayed connected to the other world's 'net' even though he had since moved the machine far from where it was discovered in the tunnel located under the city of Tonne. Nad like to think of his particular connection as more of an 'outernet' and this thought always brought a smile to his youthful face.

But, today, the smiles were few and far between. Nad had come across a piece of news that troubled him deeply. Holy Saints, he thought as he read the story. What have these crazed people gotten themselves into now!

Scrolling down the page with his mouse wheel, Nad read with growing horror, about a world e assumed had gone mad!

(to be continued in Nod - Part 2)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Critique: Healthy Choice Salisbury steak entrée!

Whenever I hear the word ‘entrée’ lately, I think of small portions made for a midget's consumption and I wasn’t disappointed with this meal in that respect. At only 170 calories, how could there be much of anything in the box?

Healthy Choice’s webpage invites one to ‘Explore Uncharted Flavor’. OK, I’m certainly game for that. (Unfortunately, the last time I personally went for some 'uncharted flavor', I was arrested on a morals charge in Bangkok! But, that's a story for another time)!

They also offer a coupon that was valid at the time of this post (Sept 2011). The coupon is good for a buck ($1) off three meals. This entrée cost me only $2.59 at a store in Forsyth Missouri. Since the weight of the food is listed as 227 grams, I figure I’m paying a penny a gram. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I dunno, you tell me!


OK, so if you've read my reviews on other dinners you'll know that for me, it's all about the taste. But, there are some other categories to also consider if I’m going to be fair and I’ve listed six here. All are on a scale of 1= disgusting to 10 = multiple orgasms (no meal has ever come close to a 10 btw).

Pkg art:      8    As usual the cover artwork was great! I can hardly wait!
Reality:      4    Where’s the mashed potatoes dag nab-it?
Cost:          8    A very affordable price!
Smell:         8    Had a very pleasing aroma which got my attention!
Texture:     8    I was shocked as to how filling this was!        
Taste:        8    Shocked again! This was very OK!  
Avg:       7.4 Aww, screw the reality check! I'll give this one a score of 8!  

Comments: The bottom line here was amazement and some awe on my part. Now, mind you, the portions were small, but for all that, very tasty! (I also cheated by using a piece of bread to act as a sop for the gravy and mashed potatoes which made this deal a nice treat)!     

For it being such a small meal, the great taste really made it worthwhile to eat.

Feel free to grab a few of these meals for some late night when you don’t what to overcharge your body.

At right, the picture on the box and the actual product were not what I had envisioned! Darn those advertising people!

America's #1 Dipstick!

Let's face it, I've not been very happy with my car as of late. She's been bogging down and stalling. Let's make a quick check, shall we and pull the old dipstick on the engine that has run so smoothly for lo these last fifty years. Let's see now, just where is that thing anyway? Oh yes, I remember now, it's right where I left it when I last changed my oil in 'o8. I remember that year well, I had selected a new brand for the engine to run on. Now what was it called? Oh yes, Obamaoily – a super slickster lubricant that was supposed to get my car four carefree years down the road and CHANGE!

I'll just wipe the old dipstick off and poke her back down that hole. (Hmm. What)! OK, so yeah that oil had gotten itself pretty damn dirty alrighty roonie. Maybe Obamaoily isn't all it's cracked up to be! Maybe it's time for another oil change. Hmm, I've heard Cainoily isn't too bad...

Thing is, I love my car, I even salute her every morning when I go to the garage. But dag nab-it, she's been hard to start and when she does get to running, it's usually backwards. I'd take her into a mechanic, but I'm not sure I can afford what it's gonna cost me to fix her up. Just look at that oil pan would ya!! All black and gunked up to hell and gone! Yep, it's definitely time for a change.

Georgia's Best Cainoily
"A special 9-9-9 blend of ingredients that are guaranteed to get your engine back to peak performance no matter what the weather, no matter what the climate!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Factors that affect the severity of the flu season!

Every year the flu that was doing its thing in the southern hemisphere moves up north. In North America, the first coughs and fevers generally begin to appear in October reaching a peak in January. Warming weather then sees this troublesome virus move south again as the cycle repeats.

Some flu seasons in the US are relatively mild with only about 5% of the US population becoming ill while other seasons might see 20% get sick with up to fifty thousand or more dying as a result. It's no wonder, then that the Flu is the eight leading cause of death here in the United States!

But, what makes one season mild while the next worst. And what of the so-called pandemics where many countries become involved in much higher than normal morbidity and mortality rates? What factors influence one from the other? Following are some ideas I’ve been kicking around.

The Holiday Season

Every year, here in the US, we hit a stretch of time where people get together with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. An intense period of time that brings a couple of unique factors into play all of which favors a virus like our friend the flu.

1)      Crowding – No doubt, it is the Holiday seasons that see an inordinate number of people flock to shopping malls, grocery stores and places of worship. A person with the flu who sneezes in a crowed area is a very effective conduit for infection.

2)      Increased stress – The Holidays are a time of great happiness for many. But, they are also a time of great stress as families try and cope with a restricted budget that sometimes gets stretched to the breaking point. The gifts of December become the bills of January. As the level of person’s stress goes up, so too does a person’s immune system go down. The sets the stage for any illness to become greatly exacerbated. People who might have shrugged of a viral attack in less stressful times, now find themselves confined to their beds. Mortality rates climb as a result.

3)      Increased travel – At no other time during the year do more people travel than in the weeks beginning with and right after Thanksgiving. This conveyor belt of humanity is the perfect vehicle for the fast transmission of the flu from one locale to the next.

4)      Movement of produce – Viral flu particles can ‘live’ on surfaces (AKA fomites) for much longer than many had previously thought. Researchers have reported periods as long as 48 hours or more on certain hard surfaces like stainless steel. Interestingly, produce is shipped from all over the world right to our kitchens and often hits our distribution centers well within that period of time! I have in front of me an orange from South Africa. If it made here to my hand fresh, who’s to say that a sturdy virus like the flu could not make a similar trip intact? (Africa, by the way, is the current breeding ground for the Swine Flu as the human version is now found widely hogs there).

Extreme Weather

The second major factor to consider are those years that see extremely cold winters. Cold so severe that people in many countries are forced to huddle together with the animals and poultry they raise, for mutual warmth. In areas like China, it is not unusual to see a family living in direct contact with swine and ducks; two animals that are known carriers of the flu virus. It is in the pig that mixing of the viral particles can sometimes occur resulting in a recombination of flu genes that may be novel or something that the human immune system does not recognize. Then, if the new bug can be transmitted between humans, the stage is set for a global pandemic. As some researchers at the World Health Organization have been heard to say, it’s not if there is going to be another pandemic, but when. Recent findings now point to climate change as a chief mechanism for most of humankind's maladies—from wars to epidemics to economic downturns..

In all likelihood, there are many other factors that can come into play that will separate one flu season from the other. Certainly, persona hygiene and widespread dissemination of vaccines will play a role. But, perhaps the most important will be the continued surveillance of the world’s health organizations so that they can react quickly and decisively when trouble erupts.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this post are those of the author of this blog.