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Gender: Male
Hometown: Northern VA
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 10:34 AM
Number of posts: 41,375

Journal Archives

Malaysian design firm imagines Trump's wall as a 1,954-mile-long dinner table

Malaysian design office No-To-Scale Studio has issued a satirical proposal to President Trump, suggesting a radical means of representing the US-Mexico border: a 1,954 mile-long dining table.

Citing "logistical, financial and nationality" limitations, the studio's design claims to be cost-effective in taking a domestic item and scaling it to massive proportions.

While the proposed slab of "continuous polished marble" may prove costly, diners will bring their own chairs in order to participate.
No-To-Scale imagines Donald Trump's US-Mexico wall as a 1,954-mile-long dinner table

No-To-Scale Studio champions the idea of a border relying on the coming together of people in order to function, rather than acting as an alienating structure.

More at: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/03/21/no-to-scale-donald-trump-wall-us-mexico-border-1954-mile-long-dinner-table/

Martin O'Malley: Here's who I'd like to see run for president. (Hint: It's not me)

I will not be running for president in 2020, but I hope Beto O’Rourke does. And this is why.

In 2016, my long-shot presidential candidacy found its flame extinguished between a rock and an angry place in my own party. America wasn’t in the mood for new leadership. We were in a mood of anger, rage and retribution. And in this mood, Donald Trump’s candidacy rose. It was good for ratings, and good for the Russians; but, bad for America. And, we got what we got.

But now, there is a different mood in our nation. People are looking for a new leader who can bring us together. They are looking for a unifier and a healer. They are looking for a leader of principle, and they are now looking for a fearless vision.


All of which brings me to Beto O’Rourke.

In his courageous run for U.S. Senate in Texas, O’Rourke ran a disciplined and principled campaign that also managed to be raw, authentic, and real. He spoke to the American values of honesty, compassion for one another, and courage in the face of a rapidly changing future. These are the American values alive and well in the hearts of our young people. These are the values which tell us where America is headed. And with these values, O’Rourke very nearly defeated the incumbent senator and Republican runner-up for president — in Texas.

Much more at the Des Moines Register:


A dying man bought 14 years worth of Christmas gifts for his 2-year-old neighbor

Owen Williams and his wife befriended their octogenarian neighbor when they moved into their home in Wales three years ago.

When their daughter, Cadi, came along two years ago, their neighbor in the town of Barry, Ken Watson, became a grandfather figure, taking the time to drop off Christmas presents for her. Then Watson died in October.

On Monday, Watson’s daughter stopped by the Williams home with a large bag, and Owen thought perhaps she was on the way to take out the trash. It turns out, she was dropping off 14 wrapped Christmas presents her father had bought and wrapped for Cadi.

Watson had intended the girl to get one gift each year.

“The thing that stands out to me is how few people know their neighbors,” Williams said. “People are saying, ‘That’s so lovely. I don’t even know my neighbors.’ . . . This Christmas, take your neighbors a bottle of wine or a small gift, a token. Just say, ‘Hi.’ You can open a new world like we did.”

More by Allison Klein at


A father and his sons cut wood to fill 80 trucks. Then they brought it to homes that needed heat.

Shane McDaniel posted photos on Facebook of him and his twin sons surrounded by enough chopped wood to fill 80 standard-size pickup trucks. They’d spent months chopping and stacking the firewood, valued at about $10,000. But they had no intention of selling it — they were giving it away to people in need.

“No one goes cold in our hood this holiday season,” McDaniel, 47, wrote in his post, offering to deliver wood, free of charge, to neighbors who needed a hand heating their homes near Lake Stevens, Wash., about 35 miles north of Seattle.

Within days, the post had spread not only in his Lake Stevens community but also to people across the country and even around the globe. Messages started flooding in — requests for firewood, offers of help, notes of thanks and even marriage proposals.


Many recipients are effusive with tears and hugs and heartfelt gratitude, but Shane McDaniel said there are plenty who are not. “Some aren’t even friendly. It’s just not in them. They are mad at the world and mad that they had to ask for help,” he said. “They just have no other option than freezing.” He understands. He is not put off.

“Some still just say, ‘thanks … put it over there’ and walk back in their house and never say another word or even come back out,” he said. “But I’m okay with that. Giving is the reward — it has nothing to do with how well it’s received, but it’s about how much it’s needed.”

More by Caitlin Huson at:


The Donald the Impaler

This is what Trumpy and his sidekick the execrable Stephen Miller want:

A legacy like the real-life model for Dracula with Salvadoran Children impaled on a fence.

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 25: The Story of No VA's Second Hand Santa

In Franconia, VA, a small suburb located in between Alexandria and Springfield, a Metro bus mechanic lived with his wife in a quiet little house in the late 1960s. That mechanic, James (Jim) W. Thayer worked downtown in Washington, DC repairing city buses. One day while eating his lunch he saw some kids throwing rocks in alley and asked why they weren't riding bikes on such a nice day. He was shocked when they said they didn't have bikes.

That night he went home and asked his neighbors for some old bikes and collected a couple from sheds. He greased the chains, adjusted brakes, and cleaned then up. Not satisfied he stripped them down and gave them fresh coats of paint. He painted racing stripes on one and flames on a couple. Jim threw them in his truck and took them to work and gave the kids each a cool bike. The next day the brother of one of the kids showed up, so he found and modified a bike for him too. Kid after kid started showing up at the garage to see if he had a bike for them. Word began to spread and people began to drop bikes off at his home and at the Metro garage. Jim was a good mechanic, so his boss cleared out a space and they stored the bikes. People started dropping off other used toys too. Dolls, puzzles, board games, and baseball gloves started to pile up.

In the days before Springfield Mall was built, a local Kiwanis group sponsored Santa's Village and Workshop for the kids. It consisted of a small house on a trailer decorated like Santa's home and workshop. Kids could stare into the windows and see elves building toys, Mrs. Claus making cookies, and reindeer in stables. In the front was a chair for Santa and kids would sit on Santa's lap and tell them what they wanted for Christmas. The Kiwanis would tow the house to a shopping center parking lot and the kids would line up. When the mall was built (1973) the Kiwanis moved their operations inside. The unneeded Santa House was towed to Jim's backyard in Franconia. Jim stored toys there and created a portion as a work shop. Santa's North Pole workshop now sat in a suburban backyard.

By now, Jim had learned about the local orphanages, the sick children at NIH, and several homes for disabled and challenged kids. He began to supply those places with toys each Christmas. His operation got bigger and bigger. He recruited neighborhood kids to assist him. (By the mid 70s, I was one of those kids) His volunteers would strip, sand rust, and paint bikes. They would put puzzles together to see if all the pieces were there, and double check board games. The gifts would be boxed up and placed in his Santa's workshop until Christmas time.

Companies like Hasbro found out about him and sent him boxes of replacement pieces for games, dice, a box of monopoly money, a box of barbie dresses.

A local Ford dealer (Jerry's Ford of Springfield) gave him the use of a panel van a couple of days after Thanksgiving until Christmas. On all the Saturday mornings in December, we'd load the boxes of toys in and deliver them. The kids and nurses at NIH called him Santa Claus and were overjoyed to see him. The press caught on and he was referred to as the "Second Hand Santa."

I assisted him for about 7 years until I moved away. He kept his operation running until his death at age 84 in 2003. He was possibly the friendliest, most selfless person I ever met. He didn't look like Santa Claus, but to thousands of children, he was.

Merry Christmas, DU.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 24: Baby Gift Shopping Guide - 4 BCE

Earlier, I wrote about the Christmas Star and the 3 Kings. Today, I'll look at the gifts they brought. In many Catholic countries in Europe and South America, the arrival of the 3 Kings on Epiphany (Jan 6, also known as the 12th day of Christmas) is the day of the real celebration and gift giving.

From the King James Bible, Mathew 2:11:

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

From top to bottom: myrrh, gold, and frankincense.

We don't really need to think about gold. Good gift then, good gift now.

But what are frankincense and myrrh and why would they make good gifts?

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins extracted from trees in the Burseraceae family, also known as the torchwood or incense family. Frankincense comes from the dried sap of Boswellia trees, while myrrh comes from the lifeblood of the Commiphora. Extracting the sap is a tenuous dance—you must injure the tree without killing it. If done properly, the wound will stimulate a process called “gummosis,” which is exactly what it sounds like: the tree tries to gum up the damage, and you can carve off the resulting ooze for your own uses. “Over millennia, people have learned just how far you can go,” Daly says.

Burseraceae may be associated with the ancient world, but it’s still found in tropical regions from Africa and Asia to Central and South America. “Wherever I go,” Daly says, “they’re all used for the same thing… by people who never had any contact.” Everything from the bark of the tree to the sap inside is fragrant, so both frankincense and myrrh are used as incense and perfume. Historically, myrrh was also an embalming fluid—hence Hapshetsut’s dogged interest in the plant. Both have religious value; they were set aflame to honor the gods and ward off evil spirits. But, Daly says, they also have deeply practical uses, even today.“You find that people use the frankincense and myrrh plant for dozens if not hundreds of purposes, from helping you get pregnant to helping your cows produce milk,” he says. Mixed with other compounds, the resin can even seal the broken hull of a boat. “It’s bewildering the number of uses they have,” Daly says.

Today, gold, frankincense, and myrrh seem like unequal gifts. But in ancient times, the botanical extracts were worth the same, or even more. In the 1st century A.D., the Roman Empire was in deficit spending, Daly says, as it imported hundreds of tons of the smelly stuff each year. Daly likens frankincense fever to the oil wars fought in modern times. Hapshetsut’s spies, who ventured to the “Land of Punt,” or modern Eritrea, weren’t innocently looking for pretty plants. They were trying to secure their own homegrown sources of frankincense and myrrh, “because they were tired of paying through the nose for it,” Daly says. If cultivation didn’t work, conquering the land these plants naturally grew on would not have been above any of these ancient rulers.

More at: https://www.popsci.com/what-are-frankincense-and-myrrh

On Amazon frankincense oil costs $12 for 10 ml and myrrh oil cost $24.50 for 4 oz.
Gold Price per Ounce is $1,264.30 today.

Cecil Adams from The Straight Dope points out that:

in this age of online commerce you can buy frankincense direct from the sultanate of Oman? Also “top-quality myrrh”? I mean, lest you feel you have to settle for the Walgreens kind.

He also adds:

Frankincense was used to make eyeliner. But not just any eyeliner — I mean that weird Egyptian stuff Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cleopatra. This was back in the days when they weren’t clear whether the purpose of cosmetics was to enhance womanly beauty or scare off birds.

Myrrh was used as a perfume and was also added to cheap wine to make it more drinkable. Such a mixture was offered to condemned convicts to numb them out before death. You might remember that Jesus declined some before his demise (Mark 15:23). Myrrh was also used in cosmetics and medicines. Evidently, given the limited pharmacopoeia of the time, myrrh was the default answer to all problems. “So, Brutus, the differential go out? Better put some myrrh on it.”

Frankincense, one reads, has historically been used in Christian and other religious rituals to “purify the air.” This was obviously written by someone with very limited experience of religious rituals. When I was an altar boy, the most coveted job (which I had) was to be “thurifer,” or incense hassler. This job was great because you got to (a) light the charcoal in the thurible (incense burner) before the service, which gave my natural desire to play with matches a religious significance that I still feel when lighting coals in the Weber; and (b) you could ladle in all the incense you wanted. The result was not purer air; on the contrary, I routinely produced enough smoke to make it look like the church was on fire. In my case this merely annoyed the priest. But in the old days, you’re talking about a congregation that slept with camels and didn’t have the benefit of refrigerated mortuaries. No doubt smelling frankincense was preferable to smelling anything else.


If you haven't purchased any gifts yet, get some books or Legos. They'll be a bigger hit than oil. Of course, if you can afford it, gold is the way to go.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 23: La Befana - Italy's Christmas Witch

The legend of Befana began thousands of years ago and remains to this day a tradition practised by Italian children and their families. As the story goes, one day, the three Magi left their country bearing special gifts of gold, incense and myrrh for the new-born Jesus Christ. They were guided by a star across many countries. At every village that they passed, people ran to meet them and accompany them in their journey.

But there was one old woman who did not join the Magi. She claimed to be too busy with her housework and promised to join them later when she had time. The next day, she realized her mistake and frantically ran after the Magi with gifts for the child, still clutching her broom. But it was too late – the Magi were long gone.

In other versions of the story, she refuses to give the Magi directions. (I am skeptical. Would Wise Men really stop and ask some random woman for directions?)

Ever since then the old woman has been known as “La Befana” or simply “Befana.” On the eve of January 6th, Befana flies from house to house on her old broomstick and delivers all the gifts she didn’t give to the Holy Child to good girls and boys.

In fact, Befana’s name is the Greek word “epifania” or “epiphany,” and is significant because the religious feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. This Christian celebration, in remembrance of the Magi’s visit to Jesus, can include purifying rites and benedictions with water. Water prepared on the eve of the Epiphany (the night that Befana flies the skies) is said to have sacred properties that can ward off evil spirits and is used in critical moments of a family’s life. Celebration of the Epiphany can be traced as far back as the 13th century and is one of the most popular Italian feasts.

La Befana shares a lot of similarities with Santa. Children write her letters and leave their stockings for her to fill. See flies around at night with gifts. She leaves cinders, coal and onions for the bad kids. She climbs down chimneys to enter houses.

Here's a video of the La Befana Festival in Urbania, Italy from 2014. The festival ends with the witch flying over the streets and fireworks.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

Help me pick a Christmas Meal

We've been renovating our kitchen and don't have a regular sized oven at the moment. We have a small Breville toaster oven, a large cooktop, and a great grill outside.

Here's our dilemma. There were only 4 of us, so we were going to make Chicken cordon bleu. However, relatives have started arriving unexpectedly and now there will be 10. We'd never fit 10 Chicken cordon bleus in the little oven.

What should we make?

Past Christmas dinners we have had (as a main course):

Roast Beef
Roast Rack of Lamb
Coq au vin
Beef Tenderloins

Any ideas? What say you, DU?

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 22: Whatever happened to the Christmas Goose?

Most people won't have a Christmas goose for dinner this year, but once that goose was the most popular meal.

Long ago in the old country, roast goose was the centerpiece for Michaelmas, a popular feast day in the Middle Ages, and before that, tradition says, it was offered as a sacrifice to the gods Odin and Thor.

So a Christmas goose is just a goose by any other name, right? Not exactly. Domestic geese are most delicious at two times of year—when they’re young in the early summer and toward the end of the year when they’re fattest—the second being precisely why they were such Christmas commodities. Similar to a Thanksgiving turkey, geese require a couple of hours to fully cook and are usually roasted in a pan filled with spices and citrus. They are all dark meat, rich and flavorful, and some prefer the flavor and moistness of the bird.


You may remember the Cratchit's in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and their Christmas Goose:

"God Bless us, every one!" is the famous benediction that Tiny Tim Cratchit pronounces over what is perhaps the most famous holiday meal of all time, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. On the Cratchit family's holiday table are potatoes, gravy, applesauce, a pudding "like a speckled cannon-ball" blazing with ignited brandy. But at the center of the meal—and the heart of Tiny Tim's prayer—is a glorious roast goose.

That goose has always stuck with me, and no wonder: It moved Dickens to a culinary rapture unparalleled in the thousands of pages he wrote. The Cratchits rush to take their places at the table with their spoons crammed in their mouths "lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped." The family says grace, and a breathless pause ensues as Mrs. Cratchit prepares to plunge the carving knife into the goose. "Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the applesauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits, in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!"

There's lots to love in this passage: the atom of leftover bone, the children sauced in sage and onion. But what's always most delighted me is the vision of the little Cratchits politely sucking their spoons so as not to clamor out of turn for their helping of goose.


Why did serving goose go away?

While there’s no official reason behind its decline, we do have some theories. Believe it or not, many people blame Charles Dickens. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens associated goose with the struggling Cratchit family, turning it into a poor man’s supper. Another hunch is the rise of agricultural technology in the 20th century made it easier and more affordable to buy other meats. Which brings us to…

the turkey

Not only were there tons of turkeys for Christmas and Thanksgiving, they were cheaper, too. A 10-pound goose ordered online today can cost over $15.00 a pound, more than most of us want to pay. Compared to spiral ham, which cost $2.91 per pound in 2014, turkey clocked in at a cool $1.28. In 2012, Americans ate an estimated 22 million turkeys on Christmas Day; we suspect the number has gone up.


Whatever you have for Christmas Dinner, Enjoy!

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )
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