Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Empire Strikes Back

I received some interesting responses to my random musings about the place of the military/industrial complex in American politics. Here's one from Mike.

Bob, if you ban corporations from political speech are you going to ban trade unions? How about trade associations like the US Chamber of Commerce? At what point do groupings of like-minded individuals become evil corporations who lose their free speech protections? AARP? NAACP? WWF? They're all big businesses who just happen to subscribe to a point-of-view! Why should their speech be any more protected than IBM or Microsoft or Exxon? What do you have against the profit motivation? Is it OK for groups like to buy full-page ads in the New York Times running down General Petraeus (Betray Us!) but a corporation can't argue the evils of Cap & Trade?

Just like your buddy Obama, you don't trust your fellow citizens to make good choices or decisions.

That's just pure elitism.

-Mike Tanis


That would be President Obama to you.

What you may have failed to consider is that trade unions and the NAACP are PEOPLE who have peaceably assembled and who have a right to speak freely and to petition the government. Corporations are not collections of people and neither is the US Chamber of Commerce.

By the way, I'm a Vietnam veteran. I flew missions there from 1966 though 1968. I totally agree with MoveOn that the War in Iraq was a whole series of moronic blunders, possibly the worst collection of foreign policy decisions of the last 200 years. Many of our most senior military are really disturbed by the justification for launching the war, the way we handled prisoners and by our failure to have a plan to handle the country after the invasion.
MoveOn.Org is made up of two entities and both have rights granted to them under the IRS code and various state and federal election laws. The 501(c)(4) organization can accept contributions, but these are not tax deductible. Civic Action, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, primarily focuses on education and advocacy on national issues. Political Action, a federal political action committee, formerly known as MoveOn PAC, gives contributions to candidates across the country to advance causes in Congress and help elect selected political candidates.

Frankly, I'm not really in favor of PACs or 501(c)(4) s and I think contributions to PACs and to 501(c)(4) organizations should be limited only to individuals and should be limited for individuals to some reasonable amount. Above a reasonable amount huge contributions are simply buying patronage or votes on policy issues.

I'm not actually a member of the middle class but I deplore the way that corporations have sold our children into debt slavery over the past two decades. Inflation adjusted wages are up 20%, while housing costs have risen 55% and health care costs are up 155% over the same time period.

I think that it is reasonable that the legislative and executive branches of government be able to establish limits and laws governing spending on elections by real people, membership associations, PACs, megalithic corporations and other organizations. Does it really make sense to give a handful of corporations over a TRILLION dollars, buy up more trillions of their bad paper, hide all this in an unaudited FED balance sheet and then give the same corporations the green light to spend our own money to elect the political lackey of their choice?

That's my 2 cents me an elitist...


Friday, 29 January 2010

They have no mouths and cannot speak

Sarasota, Florida

It's Goldilocks weather in Sarasota this week, with the highs in the low 70s and blue skies.

Mrs. Phred has issued her verdict on the vacation this year. It's going to be a month in Holland and the vicinity (with a ten-day riverboat cruise at the end out of Amsterdam to see the tulips and windmills).

Speaking of about that US Supreme court decision that we cannot pass laws restricting the rights of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect political candidates of their choice? Was there ever any doubt that the US has become the world's first grand experiment in corporatocracy? Apparently the Court based their decision on the notion that money talks and therefore limiting money spent by corporations limits free speech. Stupid me. I thought free speech was an individual right that was granted by the 1st Amendment to our constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Apparently these "distinguished" old men (and women) failed to reason that:
1. Corporations lack mouths and therefore cannot speak.
2. The Constitution to which this amendment applies applies to "We, the people", not to artificial entities.
3. It is illogical that States can legally create corporations, but cannot legally regulate their behavior.

It's time for a new Amendment to rein in judicial activism run amok.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Great Banana Peel Hoax

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

The barbecued bananas were excellent. You grill a whole banana about five minutes until the skin turns black and the juice starts running out. Then carefully peel back the skin and lace the hot fruit with cinnamon and lots of whipped cream. It’s kind of like banana cream pie but not as chunky and without any crust.

I’ve read you can lower your blood pressure with lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet.

I examine the blackened banana peels as if they were chicken innards. They appear at first to have some form of writing on the inner surface and perhaps a miraculous Elvis head image. One peel says 11111011100, which is 2012 in decimal. The other has a perfect Elvis head image. I remain skeptical about banana peels even though the Mayans (who used base 20 numbering) thought the world would end in 2012. What does a banana peel know? And why would it use binary? It all resolves into randomness from the cooking process. Than it comes to me where I've seen blackened peels like this before.

It’s 1966 in San Francisco. Mrs. Phred and I are visiting an apartment to see her friends. It’s the weekend and I’ve driven down from Navigator school in Sacramento to be with her.

Some of the people have painted their faces blue on one side and green on the other for some reason. There are lots of mattresses on the floor so that it appears that lots of people live here. The conversations seem weirdly disjointed. The talk is about the teenyboppers that are moving into the district and ruining the ambiance.

Jimmy is a friend of Mrs. Phred. He opens the apartment’s little gas oven and shows me hundreds of blackened banana peels that he is drying on trays. Word is circulating that you can get very high smoking dried banana peels.

It seemed unlikely to me. I remember hoping that they had eaten the bananas first. This became known as the Great Banana Peel Hoax of 1966. If you do the barbecued banana thing, tell me what the inside of the peel reveals.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Meaning of Life (and the 3 cent dollar)

Sarasota, Florida

Mrs. Phred is back after a week of looking after an elderly aunt in South Florida. When she leaves for extended periods, I become progressively depressed and begin to wonder about the meaning of life, the Universe and everything.

Mrs. Phred came back last night. I had an epiphany during her absence and came to realize that I define myself entirely in terms of my usefulness to other human beings. I no longer have an airplane to navigate, college students to educate or a large corporation to guide into the future. Now my world has shrunk into my ability to drive Mrs. Phred around in the RV, manage her finances, provide 24/7 tech support, be a warm body at night and cook a good fish dinner. Today, I was so upbeat about her return that I began a workout routine in the weight room.

My son wants me to install insulation on his room addition and do the interior and exterior painting this winter. That's a good thing in terms of usefulness for something.

My cousin Everett and his wife Midge came to visit today. Everett is one of my three war baby cousins born within weeks of me (while our fathers went off to defeat evil) in 1943. We are all Viet Nam era veterans, including our one female cousin, Kate. I'm especially close to Everett since we are both CPAs (he's smarter than me).

We talked about many things: Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--Of cabbages--and kings--And why the sea is boiling hot--And whether pigs have wings.

Everett reminded me of a banana split eating contest that we had at age six back when a good banana split was 25 cents and how it ended in a draw after three each. That was back when neighborhood ice cream parlors dotted the landscape and before most families had TV. $1.50 as a tab for the six splits is equal to about $30 in 2010 money. You could hire a good house painter for $1 an hour back then or buy a nickle coke at any gas station (can I check your oil, sir?).

The Motley Fool is recommending "Doctors without Borders" a good place to make a donation to help in a little way with the Haiti catastrophe. I'm off to make a painful donation.

We landed at the Haiti Airport years ago in a 727 on the way to a dive trip in Martinique. They had a fence to keep the Haitians out. there were scores of skeletal hungry looking Haitians hanging on the fence looking at us with big eyes. The Haitian security forces had sub machine guns to keep them out . I'm not sure that I agree with Pat Robertson that they deserve what they got because they made a pact with the devil 200 years ago to get rid of the French. What a strange dude. He also said Katrina was the result of the gay rights movement

Go make a donation. It's the right thing to do.


Monday, 11 January 2010

The Bar Mitzvah

Tampa, Florida

We drove to Walt's Fish Market on Tamiami Trail and bought some smoked mullet spread. It was disappointing compared to our memories.

Below, Zachary and his little brother, Joshua, have a ceremony involving a candle and some sweet herbs. The red-haired Rabbi is their aunt, who has flown in from England.

The Bar Mitvah dinner is held at the Lowry Park Zoo in bitter cold. It has evolved over the years. We're about at the spot where my uncle Burt filled a watermelon with whiskey at a family picnic I remember in 1955. Back then all they had was picnic tables and shelters. The kids at the dinner bring sleeping bags and camp out overnight with the manatees. They keep the lights on in the manatee tank all night for the kids.

These are Zackary's grandmothers, Emma and Alice. Emma was hidden in Holland during the occupation by sympathetic gentiles. She has flown in from Holland for the Event. Alice is an old friend. She is teaching American Constitutional Law in Ankara, Turkey on a Fulbright grant. Alice has also flown in for the weekend. She's worried about getting her grades posted by the 15th.

Here's Zachary looking at a gopher snake. He did a great job at his Bar Mitzvah. He made a nice speech in English and spent hours reading Hebrew from the Torah. The service in the temple lasted three hours and was followed by a nice lunch. They keep Yamakas by the front door for people like me that don't own one. I picked out a pretty bright orange one. Zachary's father is Jeremy. When Jeremy came home from Gulf War I, he asked me to drive my motorcycle and ran it though a concrete wall. I had figured that if he could drive an Aircraft Carrier, a motorcycle would be no big deal. His Mom is Alice and she owned the wall. She came out and asked what was going on with hands on her hips. We all ignored the broken wall and oil dripping from my motorcycle and told her, "Nothing, Mom".

A yamaka is also called a kippah (Hebrew: כִּפָּה, also kipah, kipa, kippa, plural kippot; Yiddish: יאַרמלקע, yarmlke, yarmulke, yarmulka, yarmelke, less commonly called kapel; English: skullcap, cap of maintenance) is a thin, usually slightly-rounded cloth cap worn by observant Jews (usually men, but not always).

This is James, Jeanine and Annabelle. James is the same age as our son. We took him on a three week camping trip to Canada back in the day. I remind him of the time we invaded an Indian fishing camp and went swimming in our underwear in a cold stream and got covered with hundreds of little black leeches.

Mrs. Phred is riding on a golf cart with Seth and his son Kai. Seth went on lots of three week camping trips with us out west. He remembers shooting a rifle for the first time in Nevada in the desolate area where Col. Paul Tibbets practiced bombing runs with his B-29 squadron. He also remembers the times we would hit a summit in the Rockies and unload the bikes so that he and Kenny could ride for miles without pedaling.

This was my first Bar Mitzvah. It was a lot of fun. I really wanted a picture of Jeremy, Mikail and their three boys but I could never find them all gathered in the same place. Maybe I'll go online and find one later.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Eating old Florida foods in Sarasota

I feel the nostalgic need to eat my way though old Florida. It's a little like the quirky desire to visit all the Presidential libraries or to collect all the German Hitler stamps. These places are all on my list. I'd credit the original author, but I've lost track.

Heart of Palm Salad

The heart of palm is Florida's answer to the asparagus. This sweet, crispy, nutty, nutritious delicacy is harvested from the inner portion of a palm stem. Once called "millionaire's salad" because of their prohibitive price, hearts of palm are now affordable as well as exotic. (The French love it.) Cafe Epicure's Insalata Tropicale is an exquisite concoction of hearts of palm, arugula and avocado--lightly dusted with Parmesan. Who knew a tree could taste so good? Cafe Epicure, 1298 Palm Ave., Sarasota (941) 366-5648.

Hush Puppies
Cortez Village's Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant is a picture-postcard setting for enjoying vintage Florida food--and views. The Star Fish runs a commercial fishing business, so the fish you eat here is flopping fresh. But what about something to go with that fish? Don't look further than their acclaimed cornmeal corn·meal also corn meal. (Meal made from corn, used in a wide variety of foods. Also called Indian meal). Hush puppies--deep-fried so they pop with sweet corn goodness in your mouth. These puppies are so popular they sell the mix by the bag. 12306 46th Ave W, Cortez (941) 794-1243.


Oysters taste like the sea. Well, make that the Gulf, because 90 percent of Florida's oysters hail from Apalachicola. Kick back with an icy brew and generous helpings of ice-cold oysters on the half-shell at the Portside Patio Bar at Marina Jack, a lively open-air raw bar smack on Sarasota Bay. Just don't do it alone. Oysters are known to create a taste for romance. 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota (941) 365-4232.

Smoked Mullet Spread

With its rich, nutty flavor, mullet offers a rich man's taste at a poor man's price. Since pioneer days, it's been as quintessential to the Gulf coast as grapes are to Sonoma Valley. Walt's Fish Market & Restaurant keeps the tradition alive, serving mullet fried, steamed, broiled and smoked. Their creamy smoked mullet spread is downright delectable. 4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 921-4605.

Conch (kŏngk, kŏnch, kôngk), common name for certain marine gastropod mollusks having a heavy, spiral shell, the whorls of which overlap each other. fritters are Florida's official fast food. Thanks to overfishing. Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans. More precise biological and bioeconomic terms define 'acceptable level'. , conch meat is now imported from the Caribbean, but it's still the same great taste. At Anna Maria Island's beachside sandbar or offshore bar. Submerged or partly exposed ridge of sand or coarse sediment that is built by waves offshore from a beach. The swirling turbulence of waves breaking off a beach excavates a trough in the sandy bottom. , flip-flops and bathing suits are welcome, and conch fritters are the order of the day. These fritters are acclaimed for their zesty kick (the recipe calls for generous amounts of jalapenos) and crispy bite; they're served golden-fried to perfection. 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria (941) 778-0444.


Grouper common name for a large carnivorous member of the family Serranidae (sea bass family), abundant in tropical and subtropical seas and highly valued as food fish. is Florida's signature fish. You can find the ubiquitous grouper sandwich at any fish shack--or go for the gold at Beach Bistro. Proprietor Sean Murphy sautes his famous Grouper Gulf Coast with a touch of sherry, adds plenty of fresh citrus, mango and papaya papaya (pəpī`ə), soft-stemmed tree (Carica papaya) of tropical America resembling a palm with a crown of palmately lobed leaves and kisses it all with Key lime butter. It's truly inspired Florida cuisine, though Murphy prefers the term "cookery." Whatever--we'll just call it delicious. 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach (941) 778-6444.

Stone Crab

Consider the hardy Florida stone crab The Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, is a crab found in the western North Atlantic, from North Carolina to Belize, including Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas that is widely caught for food. . This versatile creature can regenerate its claws up to four times in its life--a good thing for stone crab connoisseurs, since Florida law forbids harvesting the whole crab. At the family-owned Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant on Longboat Key, the claws come to you hours after being harvested. Dip that rich, buttery meat into Moore's mustard sauce, and don't even think about leaving room for dessert. (Stone crab season is Oct. 15 to May 15). 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key (941) 383-1748.


The alligator is the oldest Florida resident there is. They've been known to bite--and now you can return the favor at Linger Lodge. With its deck overlooking the Braden River, taxidermy taxidermy (tăk`sĭdûr'mē), process of skinning, preserving, and mounting vertebrate animals so that they still appear lifelike. wall art and chickens running wild outside, Linger Lodge is as backwoods Florida as you get. Try the alligator chowder, chock-full of farm-raised 'gator meat, potatoes, onions, celery, garlic, heavy cream--and Cajun spicing for that special kick. Just like Mom used to make--if she lived in a Cracker shack in the Everglades. 7205 Linger Lodge Road, Bradenton (941) 755-2757

Key Lime Pie

Not all Key lime pie Key lime pie is a dessert made of key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk in a pie crust. The pie is topped with meringue, then baked until the meringue is a golden brown.[1] Some key lime pies use other types of whipped toppings or none at all. This pie is made from real Key limes. The pie at Beach House Restaurant is, and that makes all the difference. This traditional Key West recipe demands the freshest Key limes and plenty of eggs. The result is a creamy yellow custard--not the phony green stuff. The crust is made from crumbled graham crackers, as it should be. This Key lime pie is lighter than air Some gases are buoyant in air because they have a density that is less than the density of air (about 1.2 kg/m3, 1.2 g/L). Lighter than air gases are used to fill craft called aerostats which include free balloons, moored balloons, and airship to make the whole aircraft, on , sweeter than your high school heartthrob and pure, sweet Florida. 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach (941) 779-2222.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Expedition North

North Carolina and Georgia

So after diging out of the ditch we spent several days visiting with Kenny and Carie and the six grandchildren. Carie makes possibly the best fudge in the world.

Our six grandchildren are all lovely and extremely well educated. Number seven will be here in March. Somehow Carie manages to home school them all. It is an incredible accomplishment. They all play the piano, speak Latin and excel in other academic topics.

This is our son, Kenny, patriarch of the brood. He has much more gray hair than I do. He is a lover, a musician, a poet and an attorney.

After that we went to visit Bruce, Felicia and Sampson in Atlanta. Felicia is an old friend from Tampa. Bruce likes to drink Pusser's rum in tots. A tot is about 2 ounces and sailors get 2 tots a day. Bruce was a Navy Captain SEAL with three tours in Viet Nam, two silver stars and two purple hearts. He has a picture of himself at a young age as a seaman just hours before his front teeth were broken out by an angry Canadian with a beer bottle. He has learned to moderate his comments about the Queen. Sampson is a really big and friendly dog.

We really enjoyed our visit with Bruce and Felicia and Sampson the dog. Bruce is a great host. He left coffee outside our room at 4:30 AM every day. On the last day, our towing hitch froze solid at 4 AM. I waited until Mrs. Phred woke up at seven AM. The temperature was 14 F. Mrs. Phred poured hot water on the hitch and we drove back to Tampa. She's much smarter than I am in some ways.