The Quest for Ham.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had a little adventure this past Saturday. It is one that, regardless of how much he tried to make it happen, he can’t write this post in his traditional third-person prose. So, if you will allow him to slip out of character…

For many years Easter at my home was synonymous with one thing. Ham. Specifically, a good Smithfield ham. Because nothing quite captures the true meaning of our Lord and Saviour’s resurrection quite like salt-cured ham. From the mid-1980s on I would acquire a Smithfield ham a few weeks before Easter and would lovingly prepare it for feasting on Easter.

After I got married my lovely bride allowed this little tradition to continue, until about 4 years ago. About four years ago she declared that country hams were too costly and too unhealthy. She also declared that we’d be doing different things at different homes on Easter so it was impractical to go through all of the work for a ham. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth I finally gave in.

Four years later and there has been no Smithfield ham on Easter. We would have ham. But it wasn’t Smithfield (or Country) ham. Just regular old ham.

Longtime readers of this space will know that I am a firm believer that the pig is (after the dog) pretty much the greatest of all domesticated animals. (And frankly, if one was to just count the domesticated animals that we eat the pig is far and away number one.) If there is a better way to prepare the hind legs of a pig than to cure it and turn it into ham; I don’t know what it is. Ham is as close to the food angels eat in heaven as we will ever know.

In case you don’t recall, I’ll direct you to a post I did back in 2006 about knowing your hams for the benefit of Mrs. P. In the post I expound on Smithfield hams, Country hams, Serrano hams and Virginia ham. I also touch on ham pillows too. So, I’ll consider that material “as read” for the rest of this little story…

Well… As it turns out, my lovely bride (Mrs. Villain) announced that she had no set plans for Easter and that I could do or prepare anything I wanted (so long as we did it at her mother’s house). I enjoined her “Does this mean I could do up a Smithfield ham?” Her answer was yes. I was all hot and bothered over the prospect of a great Smithfield ham for dinner. There was now the task of procuring the ham with which I had to concern myself.

I’m not one to just go to the grocery store and pick up a Smithfield (or Country) ham. No, I want to inspect the ham and choose one from many. It is my way. I can’t help it. You see, I got spoiled. I became acquainted with some members of the Joyner family. The Joyners were for many years the largest independent producer of ham in Smithfield and Isle of Wright County, Virginia. I say independent because they were not part of the Smithfield Foods family. Smithfield Foods is a Fortune 500 company and is the largest meat-packing company in the US (and possibly the world). Smithfield Foods has high quality products that are very affordable. (In fact, I swear by certain Smithfield Foods products around the house.) But as good as a Smithfield ham from Smithfield Foods or one of their affiliates; it wasn’t quite the same as a Joyner’s brand Smithfield ham. I used to go to the Joyner’s store and take a look at my ham and closely inspect it before buying it. I would look for the size, shape, firmness, mold color and fat thickness. I wanted to make sure the ham was just right.

So, I resolved to go to the town of Smithfield and go to the Joyner’s store and get myself a ham.

I resolved to make this trip this past Saturday.

Originally it was going to be a big outing for the whole family. But as the week progressed and the day neared it became clear that the outing wasn’t going to be quite as big. Villainette #1 was going to a birthday party and wouldn’t attend. The Wee Villain had been sick and would need more resting time with his mom at home. And Villainette #2 had a soccer game in the morning. I feared I would be the only one making the trip.

Then fate intervened and it was pouring down rain on Friday night and into Saturday morning. Villainette #2 could come with me if her game was cancelled. I anxiously waited until we could call the coach and confirm the cancellation. I was itching to get on the road. Sadly, the game wasn’t postponed until 10 am. That was later than I had hoped to be able to get some sightseeing done along the drive. At 10:15 Villainette #2 and I were in the Villainmobile and on the road.

I had a whole plan mapped out in my head for this trip for a few weeks. We’d drive to Jamestown and take the Jamestown/Scotland Ferry across the James River into Surry County. That would be the first experience of the day. Then we would stop at Smith’s Fort Plantation and see it. Then we would drive on to Bacon’s Castle and make a stop. Then on to Smithfield and some lunch at Smithfield Station on the banks of the Pagan River. After lunch, off to the Joyner’s smokehouse and picking out of the ham. Then head out of town and stop by St. Luke’s Church (Episcopalian) for a little more sightseeing. Then across the James River Bridge at Newport News to catch a glimpse of the people at Newport News Shipbuilding building the nuclear super carriers for the Navy. Then back to Fredericksburg.

Unfortunately, this plan required an early start. That early start was shot. (As was the whole family participating.) So, the sightseeing was cut out of the trip and postponed to another day.

Little did I know that a little adventure was nonetheless in the offing.

Villainette #2 and I made it down to the Jamestown/Scotland Ferry with no trouble. We enjoyed the 25 minute trip across the river. It was the first time Villainette #2 had ever been on a Ferry. She was pretty excited about it. We were also lucky because the day started as an overcast and drizzly 50 degree day in Fredericksburg but as we crossed over to Scotland, VA the weather had cleared and it was 70 and sunny.

As it was approaching half-past noon as we pulled into Scotland, we had to skip Smith’s Fort and Bacon’s Castle. I pointed them out from the road as we passed and promised that we would make the trip again and stop.

We arrived in Smithfield about one o’clock and Villainette #2 indicated that she wanted to eat lunch before buying the ham. I agreed that her plan was a good one. So we went to Smithfield Station.

If you happen to be cruising (in a boat preferably – but by car is okay too) and you are near Smithfield, I highly recommend stopping in for victuals and drink at Smithfield Station. Indeed, you should choose to spend the night at Smithfield Station if you can. It is a great place. In a boat navigating the Pagan River isn’t hard at all – presuming your boat doesn’t draw more than a few feet. There are a few shallows on the way, but it is pretty much 10-20 feet deep all the way in from the mouth of the Pagan River.

The two of us had a nice lunch. We started with hush puppies (with small pieces of Smithfield ham and jalapeño peppers inside). Villainette #2 had a sandwich with smoked turkey and Smithfield ham. I had a Smithfield ham and crab quiche with fruit.

After lunch we went downtown in search of our ham at the Joyner’s store…

Well… I was in for a rude surprise. No Joyner’s store. I stood in front of the building where I knew the shop had been located and protested to my daughter that I knew it was “right here.” I didn’t know why the Town Clerk’s office was “right there” were I was supposed to get my ham.

So, we walked down the street a ways to the Smithfield Foods ham store. I went in and spoke to the ladies at the counter and asked what happened to Joyners. They let me know that the Joyner family accepted a huge buyout offer from Smithfield Foods three years ago. Smithfield Foods kept the brand around for a year after the buyout, but have since shut down the brand in favor of their Luter’s brand hams.

Well. That was a shock. I stood there in silence for a moment when my daughter piped in “It will be okay Dad. I’m sure this ham is good too.”

I resolved that the Luter’s ham would have to do and purchased one. We took it to the car and put it in the trunk. Villainette #2 mentioned that we shouldn’t go just yet. She noted slyly that there was an ice cream store down the street and we should check to see if they had ham-flavored ice cream. Since she was trying so hard to invent a reason to get ice-cream I decided to indulge her.

We went down the street to the ice-cream store. (NB: No ham-flavored ice-cream.) Once we got there however, we both decided that we were still full from lunch and didn’t want ice-cream. So we went across the street to one of the little art galleries to take a look around. The gallery drew us in by having a painting of a whole squadron of flying pigs dressed to look like WWII aviators. It amused us.

Once inside I struck up a conversation with the kind lady who was tending to the store. She told me a little about the painting that drew our eye. Then conversation turned to why we were in town. I explained my quest for the perfect Smithfield ham and how I was saddened to learn about the Joyners being bought out.

Well, the art-store lady got a little gleam in her eye and said, “Well, if you are looking for a good ham I can tell you where to get the best ham in the whole county.” I figured the best ham in a county known world-wide for their hams had to be pretty damned good. I inquired how good was this good ham? The art-store lady replied that this ham was not only award-winning at the county fair, but Martha Stewart herself had once flown in to Smithfield on her private jet to buy one of these hams and serve it at a holiday dinner at her home about 10 years ago. The art-store lady added that Martha Stewart still orders one ham from this place every year around Christmas time. Okay. I bite. I asked where exactly do I find this ham?

Darden’s Country Store was the answer. The art-store lady indicated that it was a bit of a drive out of town into the country. I told her I (we in fact) was up for the trip.

In keeping with the habits of Southern people in particular, she gave me a set of directions that might have foiled others. I was to go down Main Street a shot until I passed by the funeral home. A short way past the funeral home there was a house next to a family graveyard. I turned left there. Then I followed the road a while (about 5 minutes she thought) and then turned left again at a “steep jog” in the road. Then I was to follow that road for about 5 minutes and make a right a copse of oak trees on one side of the road and a big magnolia tree on the other. Then I followed that road for a few minutes and Darden’s was a red store building on the left.

I seemed to understand the directions clearly enough and started down the road in search of the best ham in Isle of Wright county.

The directions were actually clearer than one would think when you were “on the ground.” I felt we were on the right path but Villainette #2 after about 10 minutes of driving thought that we were lost. I told her my infallible ham-sense told me we were getting closer. Sure enough as we approached a crossroads I saw a complex of buildings on my left and just knew one of them was Darden’s Country Store. We approached these buildings from behind and I told Villainette #2 that the buildings up ahead were where we were going. She demurred and said that it looked like a couple of old barns and an old equipment shed full of tractors. There was “no way” that was the place.

But as we approached I knew we were in the right place. We slowed down at the crossroads and I looked over at the red building. A sign over the door proclaimed that this was “Darden’s Country Store – Since 1952.”

We pulled into the small gravel lot in front of the building and got out of the car. Darden’s Country Store is a one and a half story building. You could tell it was originally a bright red color that one would associate with a bright barn. But the years had faded the paint. It wasn’t faded to pink, but it was a washed-out red. We walked up the two steps to the screen door and let ourselves in.

There was a long counter running parallel to the wall on our right. There was a cash register sitting next to a computerized Virginia Lottery machine. Down the counter towards the back of the store was a glass box with a glass lid about twelve inches high and 2 feet square. In it rested a wheel of cheddar cheese. At the end of the counter was a small refrigerated case containing a few ham and sausage biscuits. On the wall opposite the counter were three large refrigerated cases. The first contained Coke products. The second contained dairy products. The third contained an assortment of beers. On the back wall was a freezer that held a few packages of what appeared to be sausage. There were also some objects wrapped in butcher paper that might have been steaks or roasts. Between the counter on the right and the refrigerators on the left were three sets of double sided shelves like one would find in any convenience store. The shelves held up salty snacks, small household goods and sundries.

From a doorway at the far end of the counter came a short heavy-set woman. She was likely in her late forties. She regarded us with a look that immediately said “I’ve never seen you before – thus you’re not from ‘round here.” She did smile and said, “Hello. Can I help you with something?” Her tone held a hint of suspecting we were lost and seeking directions.

I announced who we were and added, “I’ve been told by a few people in town that if I wanted to taste the best ham in the whole county I had to come here. Are you Mrs. Darden?”

“Yes. I’m Dee Dee Darden. And you are in the right place.” She had a wide grin. Through her smile she said, “We just cooked one up yesterday for biscuits today. I’ve got it on the slicer. Would you like to try some?” I said we gladly would. She went into the back room were I could just catch a glance of her operating a large meat slicer. She came back out with a four generous slices of ham.

“You know we cure our own hams.” Dee Dee stated proudly. I picked up one slice. It was thin and moist. A small vein of fatty connective tissue held the two lobes of the piece together. I moved it slowly to my mouth. I held it for a moment and took a good smell before putting it into my mouth.

Now. Before going on I should let you know that I’ve had in my life quite a bit of ham. I’ve had Smithfield hams. I’ve had Country hams cured in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. I’ve likely had Country hams from as many places in the United States as produce Country hams. I’ve had York ham in Britain. I’ve had Serrano and Iberico hams in Spain. (I’ve also had them imported to the US.) I’ve had three of four different high-end prosciuttos. I’ve had Westphalian ham. (NB: Sadly, I’ve never had a Jambon de Paris. The most famous of the French cured hams.) All of these different hams have something to commend them to you. Some are more savory than others. The Iberico ham is the most light and delicate. It is also the most expensive with a regular sized ham (about 15 lbs) costing you about $400. The Smithfield is my favorite, perhaps because it is the most familiar to me. I know them and love them. I like the saltiness and the smoke. I like the faint traces of greasiness left on your lips after you eat a slice. I like the light peanut finish you get from the best Smithfield hams.

Well… This slice of ham that Dee Dee Darden cut for me was possibly as close to the platonic form of Smithfield-hamness as one is likely to come across. It was salty, but not overpoweringly so. It was moist. It nearly melted away as you chewed it. You could smell the smoke as you started to eat it, and you could make out the nutty flavor of the meat. It was a perfect slice of ham.

So perfect that I savored my slice a little too slowly and discovered that in the time I spent enjoying one slice my lovely daughter had downed her first slice and the other two remaining on the butcher paper.

“I believe that I’ve died and gone to ham heaven. I don’t think I’ve had a better piece of Smithfield ham ever in my life.” I could hardly get the words out as I was still savoring the taste of the ham.

Dee Dee called out to a man unseen in the back room. “Tommy why don’t you come out here and talk to this man? He likes our ham a lot.”

A balding man wearing a ball cap reading “Darden Country Store” came out from around back. He walked with a rather stiff gait. Like a man who had just a moment before been enjoying reading the paper or watching the game in his favorite chair before being summoned to other business. He came out and shook my hand then Villainette #2’s hand and introduced himself as Tommy Darden.

I told him how good his ham tasted and that he and his wife had come highly commended by folks in town. Tommy smiled and thanked me. Dee Dee then asked, “Would you like to see the smoke house and pick out a ham? We sell ‘em too you know.”

“Would I ever?! Please lead the way.”

Tommy led us out of the store and we started across the street. There was another reddish building there. It was about forty feet long by forty feet deep. It looked to be about a story and a half. The foundation came up about four feet from the ground and was solid rock. Above the foundation was beaded board running parallel to the ground. There was a single door offset towards the right side of the building. The door looked heavy and was secured by a massive lock. Tommy reached into his pocket and produced a key and opened the door. He reached through the door and flipped a switch.

The smell of smoke and salt and pepper and ham was heavy in the air. An old fluorescent light flickered to life in the far corner of a room that was about 20 x 20. There was a worn stone floor with signs of fires. There was a deep sink along the wall to the right of the door. There were two industrial steel work tables in the room.

Hanging from a lattice-work of rafters were hundreds of hams. Above the hams hanging about a foot above my head I could see another lattice-work of rafters about a full story up. That lattice-work was also filled with hundreds of hams.

I was probably looking at 500 hams. Some, close to the door I came in through were fully cured. The ones towards the back of the room looked as though they were freshly coated with pepper and were still pretty “fleshy” colored.

Tommy began to talk. “I cure about 800 to a thousand hams a year. My family used to raise hogs and do the slaughterin’ ourselves. But it came to be a heap of trouble because all we really wanted were the ham legs. It was harder to use up all the rest of the hogs. So I met with the people at the main packing plant and arranged to buy about 1000 hams from them every January. I go down there and pick out the ones I like the looks of and bring them here. Lemme show ya.” He walked us over to a door in the wall to the left of the door we entered through. We were in another 20 x 20 room. This room, like the other, was filled with hanging hams. But this room had no sink or work tables.

Tommy described how he covered the floor of this room with salt. Then he piles the hams on the floor and covers them with more salt. He makes sure all the hams are fully salted then he lets them sit. They sit for about 35 days depending on the weather. He noted that this is in January, so the smokehouse is pretty cold. If the weather is wet he has to let the hams sit in salt for longer. This year they sat until the middle of February in the salt. When the hams have cured in the salt for long enough and have given up a lot of liquid, he wipes them down and peppers them. Then he hangs them to cure further. Tommy explained that most people smoke the hams at this point. But he likes to let them dry further. He likes to see them “sweat” a little before they get smoked. I’d never heard of this so I inquired further of what he meant by “sweat.” Tommy explained that there is still moisture in the fatty layer of skin on the ham – even after the salting. And there is some moisture left in the meat. He likes to hang them and he waits until a small drip of fatty grease appears at the end of the leg. This means that the ham has now given up the right amount of moisture and is ready for smoking.

Tommy pointed out that except for the 20-odd hams hanging right inside the door as we walked in, all the hams we were looking at had been salted this January, were pepped in February or early March and were being watched to see if they had started to sweat. My daughter pointed at a ham above her head and asked if this is what he meant by sweat. We walked over and hanging from the bone at the end of the ham was a small drop of hazy grease. Tommy congratulated my girl and said that that drop was exactly what he meant. When the majority of the hams had sweated he would bring in two large drums (one for each room in the house) and build the smoldering fire that would smoke the hams. He didn’t say for how long he smoked the hams (trade secret he said – he also didn’t mention what in addition to pepper he would cover the hams with – I imagine there is also some salt too).

After the hams were smoked they sit and cure in the smokehouse. He said the hams that were ready were about 18 months old. He also added that he almost never has one last past 24 months – as they are all sold well before then.

Tommy then asked if we wanted to pick out our ham. He asked Villainette #2 if she would fetch him the big stick in the corner. She brought him a long pole – very white perhaps birch or pine? – with a small “v” shaped notch at the end. Tommy started examining the hams hanging near the door. He dismissed two or three as being “too small” a few more were deselected as being “too wrinkly – too much fat on ‘em.” Then he pointed out two that seemed just right. He spun them in the air with his pole and described them. He pointed to one and said, “I think you want this one here. It has a little of the ham mold growing on it. You ain’t ‘fraid of no mold are you now?” I said, honestly, that surface mold on a cured ham was harmless and no trouble to me. He said that this was our ham then. Using the notch at one end of the pole he grabbed the twine tied around the leg and looped over a wooden peg that fit above the lattice-rafters. He jiggled the twine and loosed the peg and then lowered the ham to my waiting arms.

We turned off the lights and locked up the smokehouse. As we walked back to the store Tommy said that he stood behind his hams and if for some reason we weren’t satisfied with it then give him a call and he’ll give us our money back. I thanked him for the guarantee and asked if he’d ever had to give anyone their money back. He said no that he hadn’t had to give any “sensible person who knew how to cook the ham” their money back.

We took the ham into the store and weighed it. It was 15.5 pounds. They wrapped it in butcher paper. And we concluded our transaction. As we turned to leave Dee Dee asked, “Ya’ll like sausage? We buy a few hundred pounds of good scrap and make our own.” I said we loved sausage. Dee Dee asked us to hold on. She walked to the back freezer and retrieved a 1 pound package of sausage. She said, “You take this so you have something for breakfast tomorrow.”

With that I had to give her a hug. I hugged Dee Dee and thanked her for everything. I shook Tommy’s hand and told him how much I genuinely enjoyed their hospitality and lesson in ham-making.

Then Villainette #2 and I got back in the Villainmobile and drove on back to Fredericksburg. All in all we drove a little over 300 miles to get our ham. (Well… Hams if you count the one that I got from the Smithfield store…) Regardless of the miles we probably traveled to a place were people enjoy doing things the old-fashioned way and take pride in producing the highest quality item they can. Tommy and Dee Dee are proud of their hams and the work that goes into making them. I am glad to have met them and been able to support someone doing a good thing.

By the way, I did fry up the sausage this morning and it was damned good. It had a wonderful flavor of pork and sage and fennel. I can barely wait until Easter when I cook up the ham and get a little bit of Darden cured goodness.

If you are interested, Tommy and Dee Dee will ship hams anywhere in the US. You just have to give them a call or drop them a letter and ask for one. They can be reached at:

Darden’s Country Store
16249 Bowling Green Rd
Smithfield VA 23430
deedeedarden - at - aol - dot - com

I know that I’ve found the people who will be supplying me with my hams for as long as they keep curing them.

Now back into character…

Carry on.

Treasury bill sale spooks market

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wondered the other day what would happen if the Treasury tried to sell debt but found no one was buying? He called that post “Oy this can’t be good.”

Today the stock market was chugging along until later this afternoon.

Well… This isn’t good. The Treasury did sell bonds today. The good news is that they sold all the bonds they wanted to ($34 Billion worth - which is better than the UK which tried to sell $2.55 Billion worth but only sold $100 Million worth - must suck to be Gordon Brown now…). The bad news? The bid/cover rate (which your Maximum Leader only understands the most rudimentary way) dropped significantly. This means the number of buyers was smaller than expected. If this continues, one can speculate that the US will have to pay significantly more to get buyers to agree to finance the nation’s debt.

The poor showing by the bond sale spooked the markets and caused the bad finish to the day that started off well.

One wonders if future bond sales don’t go well how that will impact budget discussions on Capitol Hill… Okay… There is no point in wondering because most of our elected representatives are to friggin’ stupid to understand what his happening…

Carry on.

How progressive is your Maximum Leader?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that our friend Irish Elk has taken a test to measure how “progressive” he is. Your Maximum Leader decided to try it out himself. And the results are:

Your Ideological Score is:
This makes you conservative. The average score for Americans is 209.5.

Take the quiz yourself here.

Apparently conservative Republicans have a mean score of 160. So your Maximum Leader, like Irish Elk, is just off the charts conservative… One wonders when Speaker Pelosi will try and tax your Maximum Leader out of existance… Just to quell the outrage of course…

Carry on.

It is finished

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sits at his computer at 11:44pm on a Friday night. Why? Well he’s done watching the BSG finale of course… BTW, is the post title a little heretical?

Some random thoughts. (And spoilers he supposes…)

NB to Robbo: No Dirk Benedict ending. Although at one point it seemed nearly plausible.


Random thoughts…

Didn’t see “Earth” coming after the big battle. It is clever to come back to the idea after introducing it once and dashing our hopes once…

Only slightly disappointed in the (non-) resolution of the whole “what is Starbuck” story line. One must suppose that she, like the Six in Baltar’s head and the Baltar in Six’s head is some sort of angel doing the will of God. Either that or the Six in Baltar’s head is the Oracle and the Baltar in Six’s head is the Architect of a strange universal Matrix.

Was glad to see Laura Roslin gettin’ jiggy with an ex-student in the flashback sequence.

Sorta liked the flashback sequences, although it would have been interesting to know what the job was for which Adama was interviewing. (It also would have been interesting to see more of the strippers in those flashback sequences… Get it? See more… Heh…)

The big battle was a disappointment. Ramming the Galactica into the Cylon colony? Seemed a little thin. And where are all the teeming masses of mechanical Cylons? It was good to see some of the old model Centurions duking it out. All in all they seemed to be rather easily defeated. Cavil, sadly, didn’t get what was coming to him - but died just the same.

Speaking of Cylons… Has anyone else wondered exactly what the Cylons were created by man to do when they rebelled? Apparently they are designed to kick ass and not bother with name-taking. (As it is hard to imagine a Centurion with a hoe plowing in a field.) It would seem that man was asking for trouble from the beginning.

Hera as Mitochondrial Eve. Very interesting… And Moore holding the National Geographic in that last scene. Nice…

It was touching to see Six and Baltar walking off together into the proverbial sunset. (NB: This is Six and Baltar walking off to start cultivating land 150,000 years ago. Not the “angel” Six and Baltar walking the streets of New York.) One hopes they had all sorts of little babies together… Baltar remains, in your Maxmium Leader’s opinion, the most interesting character through the whole series.


Here is what happens after the final credits roll…

According to God’s plan… Earth (populated by Cylon/Human/Native Humanoid decendants starts space exploration. The Earthlings found a remote colony in space which loses contact with the mother planet. The colony (New Kobol) develops and prospers and starts colonizing other worlds as they exhaust their resources. 12 Colonies are founded to replace the old - which lost contact with Earth. The humans eventually build robotic helpers they call Cylons. The Cylons rebel. The Cylons disappear into space. The Cylons come back and destroy the 12 Colonies leaving only Lorne Greene to lead a rag-tag fugitive fleet to that shining planet known as Earth.

Carry on.

Quick update the morning after: Your Maximum Leader forgot to write that he liked the working in of the old orchestral score as Galactica was going to her final destination.

He also forgot to write that the finale was a lot more uplifting than he thought it would be.

You know, he got to thinking about it in the shower this morning that perhaps there is a subtle political message in the finale. The shows creators were all clear in saying that their vision of the show was shaped by the post 9/11 world. Is the finale shaped by the dawning of the Obama era? Just grist for the mill that last thought.

Lastly… Leaving the whole Starbuck plot point open-ended was both brilliant and unsatisfying.

Battlestar St. Dal-hart

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has great readers. Among the greatest is our friend Robbo. In the comments to our previous post on BSG Robbo writes:

As a BSG-TOS purist, I have steadfastly boycotted the series after watching the first one or two episodes.

I would change all that if somebody could assure me that the whole thing ends tonight with Dirk Benedict suddenly waking up in his bunk and saying, “Holy frak, what a dream! I need a drink…”

Okay… If that is how the series ends your Maximum Leader would have two thoughts in his mind… The first would be “That was frakkin’ awesome.” The second would be “Is Tricia Helfer hotter than Suzanne Pleshette?”

At the risk of raising Robbo’s dander… Your Maximum Leader thinks he’d go with Tricia…

Carry on.


Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is giddy with anticipation to see the end of BSG tonight. He informed his lovely wife and offspring early this morning that he will be completely unavailable for any sort of serious interaction with any of them between the hours of 7pm and 11pm EDT today.

To make it up to them he did promise that he would bring home chinese take-away for dinner.

Giddy I tell you! Positively giddy!

Carry on.

Addendum from your Maximum Leader: Is it possible that readers of this space don’t know that BSG stands for “Battlestar Galactica”? One supposes it is possible.

Did you see the BSG “celebration/discussion” at the UN yesterday? WaPo link to said event here. Wow… This is probably the most interesting thing to occur at the UN in decades… Perhaps this is the biggest event at the UN since Khruschev during the session of the wing-tip whacking. Also… Whoopi Goldberg is apparently a big BSG fan. Who knew? Again in the “who knew” category: According to the WaPo piece the audience watching the first part of the BSG finale (from last week) was 1.7 million. Is it possible that only about 2 million people in the US watch this show regularly? Holy crap if that is the case. Your Maximum Leader assumed it was a much larger audience.

Ovi to 50 - again

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that Alexander Ovechkin (of your Maximum Leader’s much loved Washington Capitals) scored his 50th goal of the season last night. That makes three seasons in a row of 50+ goals scored.

Alexander Ovechkin is the most exciting player to watch in hockey right now. It is certainly possible that by the end of his career Ovechkin will hold many of the myriad records currently held by The Great One himself.

So after his 50th goal last night Ovi did a little show. Here it is:

Not his normal celebration. He just put his stick on the ice and pretended like it was too hot to handle.

Your Maximum Leader can’t decide if this celebration crosses a line he doesn’t like to see crossed or not. Your Maximum Leader can’t stand showboating receivers and running backs in the NFL and their victory dances. If he had his way showboating after a touchdown in the NFL would result in the other team just getting the ball immediately at mid-field without an ensuing kickoff. So, you can see his feelings about this are rather strong.

Most of the time Ovi’s celebrations are more done out of exhuberance than anything else. Your Maximum Leader appreciates how hard it is to score in hockey and doesn’t begrudge a little celebrating to any player. But the premediated staged show of this celebration seemed to be a bit much - in retrospect.

Is it possible that your Maximum Leader is becoming Don Cherry in his older age?

Cherry sported some good looks once upon a time…

Carry on.

Called out

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has noticed a particular phraseology creeping into regular conversation. This phraseology annoys the hell out of him too.

He’s noticed that people have started to say that a person “is called” their name. For example: “She is called Cindy Lou Hoo.” Or “Hey dad. Meet my friend. She is called Cindy Lou Hoo.” What ever happened to “name is?” As in, “Hey dad. Meet my friend. Her name is Cindy Lou Hoo.”

Your Maximum Leader has even noticed this turn of phrase on the radio.

When the hell did this happen?

When you say to your Maximum Leader such and such “is called” this and that he is inclined to think that the epithet you’re using is title, alias or nickname. Your Maximum Leader is called “Your Maximum Leader”; but that isn’t his name.

This is likely a sign of the impending doom of civilization…

A minor sign… But a sign nonetheless.

Carry on.

Not like you care…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maxmium Leader got his iPod in December 2005. He has loved and cherished it ever since.

A few months ago your Maximum Leader had some nasty PC problems. Eventually, he had to wipe his PC hard drive and reinstall Windows and all his data. This included many GB of iTunes material. Doing this wiped out many playlists that your Maximum Leader had created. It also wiped out the “play count” data stored in iTunes. The “play count” is exactly that, a count of how many times you played a song or podcast or movie or whatever.

After a little while, seeing all those “0″ play counts next to so many songs started to be annoying. So your Maximum Leader created a playlist called “Unplayed.” It was essentially a list including all the songs (not movies, podcasts or tv shows) on his iPod that he’d not listened to since reloading his data onto his PC. At one point this playlist was approximately 6000 songs long.

Today this list contains four songs. They are: “Winter” by Bond; “Got a Man” by Chante Moore; “Red” by Miles Davis; and “Fool to Cry” by the Rolling Stones.

Tonight your Maximum Leader will listen to these four songs and know that he has now played, at least once since his data reload, each of the 8411 songs on his iPod. That is a good feeling.

Carry on.


Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been quiet here. This is because he has been more or less cooped up in his water closet for the past few days. No fun being your Maximum Leader right now…


Just so that there is some content on this site to make you keep coming back…

What type of beer is your Maximum Leader? (As if he can drink beer now in his condidtion…)

Your result for The If You Were A Beer Test…


(100% dark & bitter, 33% working class, 100% genuine)

So the deal with this test is that each taker, based on his or her scores, is assigned a beer that fits their personality (Corona, Bud Select, and so on), and along with the personality description, there’s a poster or an ad for that beer. As you can imagine, most of the images feature booty models, sports cars, or, maybe even more depressing, retro kitsch.

It’s a testament to Bass Ale, and therefore to YOU, that when I went to look for ads for Bass, all I found was this. An ad from 1937. Bass is legit, and if your scores are true, so are you. I tip my glass to that.

Personality-wise, you have refined tastes (after all, Bass is kind of expensive), but you know how to savor what you get. Your personality isn’t exactly bubbly, but you’re well-liked by your close circle of friends. Your sense of humor is rather dark, but that’s just another way to say sophisticated, right? Cheers.

Take The If You Were A Beer Test
at HelloQuizzy

So your Maximum Leader is Bass Ale. Not a bad choice. Your Maximum Leader loves Bass.

So… Up for another quiz?

I am a: Heckler and Koch, Model P7 in 9mm
Firearms Training
What kind of handgun are YOU?

Sadly, your Maximum Leader doesn’t know much about the H&K pistols. He’s never fired one. Heck, he’s never held one. H&K isn’t a brand your Maximum Leader thinks about. He likes his Ruger Vaquero frankly.

Your Maximum Leader found both of these quizzes on our friend Brian’s site.

Your Maximum Leader wishes he’d been feeling better because he’d have tried to go to this function and meet up with the “Personal Lubricant of the Right Wing Blogosphere” - Robert Stacy McCain.

While lounging in the water closet (if you can call it lounging…), your Maximum Leader has been paying attention to the news. So what the hell is up with all these monster raving looneys calling for the head of every person who received a bonus from AIG? You know… While our Congress is considering passing some bills of attainder can your Maximum Leader go ahead and start up his own star chamber?

The whole reaction to AIG bonus business is driving your Maximum Leader completely nuts. This whole situation is proof positive that we need gridlock in Washington. When you have gridlock you don’t have crazy politicians going around attainting people. Of course, when you have gridlock you also have time for deliberative consideration of legislation. When you don’t deliberate or even read the legislation that is being approved you should only expect to get bad legislation. The AIG bailout was quickly and sloppily done. So was the Stimulus/Pork bill. So was the budget bill. Frankly, any piece of legislation passed in the past four months is likely crap and should be revisited and reworked…

Carry on.

Taking the plunge

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has just filled out his form committing to purchase Washington Capitals playoff tickets. He hopes taking this step hasn’t turned out to be some weird jinx-y thing.

Mrs Villain doesn’t approve of the expenditure, but she is holding her tounge as she knows how much it means to your Maximum Leader and the Villainettes.

Carry on.

Oy! This can’t be good.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sits up a little straighter in his chair and begins to worry a little bit when he reads that the avuncular Wen Jiabao (Premier of China) says in a press conference We [the People’s Republic of China] have lent a massive amount of capital to the United States, and of course we are concerned about the security of our assets. To speak truthfully, I do indeed have some worries.

(Excursus: Your Maximum Leader loves the word “avuncular.” It is so rare to see it out there nowadays. You know what else? He doesn’t think he’s ever seen the adjective used to describe the leader of the PRC. Of course it was used to describe Joe Stalin… Perhaps the word has a more sinister secondary meaning he doesn’t associate with it?)

Let’s see… The nation that holds something like $1,400,000,000,000.00 in US Treasury bonds (according to the article) tells the world press that they worry that the US may not be “creditworthy” doesn’t seem like a good thing for the US. According to Reuters, the US Treasury Bond market fell in Asia after Wen’s comments. No surprise there.

Is anyone in Washington listening to this? It is not a good thing when your major creditor tells you that you probably want to take a look at how much debt you are taking on… Call it a friendly warning.

What is your Maximum Leader saying? Of course no one in Washington is listening. The President’s rump economic team is too busy trying to make the best of the current crisis to notice that the people financing the “making the best of the crisis” are politely asking them to not make too much of the current crisis.

Nope. This is no good at all.

Does anyone know when the next major auction of T-bills is taking place? One wonders if the market for long-term T-bills will be “soft?” (NB: thanks to the magic of Google… Long-term T-bills auctioned on March 19, 2009)

Carry on.

Linky dumpy

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is going to pass on some links to articles that he has found particularly interesting for your reading pleasure.

Is this portrait a contemporary image of William Shakespeare? Some experts think so.

Here is an interesting little history of Citibank by the WaPo. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure he has a pithy comment on this except to say it is interesting to see the arch of the bank’s history and how they pushed the envelope of what banks have historically done in the US and world.

Read this post by our friend “The Other McCain.” Any post that starts with Elvis and Jesus and delves into an autobiographical portrait of a man who found his way.

Did you miss Taftapalooza on Irish Elk? Go and celebrate the man and his strong horse.

You know… Your Maximum Leader finds himself reading many many items on FLG’s blog and thinking “Yes. This is what I would like to blog about. Only with more swear words.” You should just click over and read. Your Maximum Leader is going to have to spend some time reading his Witchcraft post when he can.

And welcome back Mrs P from your little vacation. You are very “Old School Upskirt.”

Carry on.

Rife with pestilence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been dealing with three kiddies who are rife with the pestilence right now. Three cases of strep throat and one with a sinus infection to book.


He is very lucky that his best buddy Kevin is able to come and help watch the kids today. He is a Godsend.

Carry on.

Someone to talk to.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was reading today that three more members of President Obama’s economic team are being nominated to their posts. David S. Cohen is being nominated for the position of assistant Treasury secretary, terrorist financing; Alan Krueger for the position of assistant Treasury secretary, economic policy; and finally Kim Wallace has been nominated to serve as assistant Treasury secretary, legislative affairs. Interestingly enough, these three nominations (requiring Senate approval) come right after two other nominees withdrew their names from consideration.

One must wonder just how good a job the President’s economic team can possibly do when most of its members have yet to be nominated. The stimulus and the budget have to be enacted by someone. We aren’t all expecting Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to do all the work themselves are we? The problem is that all the someones who aren’t Geithner and Summers aren’t in place yet. What exactly was the transition team doing from November to January? (Did they go to Hawaii with the President-Elect?) It isn’t like they didn’t know there was an economic crisis going on. Indeed, it seems as though lots of lip service was paid to the economic crisis being job one for the new administration but little was done to make sure that all the cogs in the bureaucratic wheels were greased and ready to get the engine running.

In normal circumstances one might be willing to give the new administration a pass on having all these under secretaries and assistant secretaries ready to go. But as the administration is fond of pointing out we’re not in normal circumstances. Indeed, just last week the President’s Chief of Staff was boasting about how one has to make the most of a crisis to push through legislation that you wouldn’t usually get through. If this is such a big crisis, we can’t give the President a pass on the economic team. Sure we can still give the Administration a pass on not having nominated a assistant Secretary of Education for eraser clapping and whiteboard cleaning; but not having a Deputy Treasury Secretary for Domestic Finance is more than a little troubling.

What makes the dearth of deputy, assistant, and under-secretaries of the Treasury very disturbing for your Maximum Leader is the date of April 2.

What is going on on April 2? The G20 Summit in London that’s what. On April 2 all the leaders of all the nations that move the world economy are going to go to London to finalize agreements on what the hell we’re all gonna do about the world economy. Notice that all these agreements and understandings and communiques are going to be finalized during the summit that begins on April 2. The summit isn’t where these agreements, understandings and communiques are going to be negotiated. When the big-wigs get together it is all “Howdy, how ya doin’?” and “Hail Fellow well met.” There is some spit and polish on the final language. There is some “i” dotting and “t” crossing. But all the substance of those agreements, understandings and communiques are being worked out right now.

Yup. Junior Finance Ministers, Assistant Exchequer officials and assistant secretaries of the Treasury are meeting on the phone, in London, around Europe - whereever really trying to hash out a global approach to the greatest economic crisis to have hit the world in over 20 years (and possibly since the Great Depression - although your Maximum Leader still thinks we haven’t gotten as bad as 1982 yet… Yet…). The Brits are working overtime to make sure the summit is successful. Heck… They are inviting business leaders from around the world to help prepare for the summit.

Have you started to wonder what your Maximum Leader is wondering? He is wondering just whom exactly is voicing the position of the United States in all these run-up-to-the-main-event-events?

Let us assume that Mysty Helmgruber, the perky intern from California who worked ’round-the-clock in Eureka to insure Barack Obama got elected, is not sitting down across from the South Korean Deputy Finance Minister for Banking attempting to articulate the President’s plan for stabilizing the global credit market. Who is sitting at that table articulating the plan? (Assuming there is a plan for stabilizing the global credit market. Color your Maximum Leader doubtful on that count.)

If there are US negotiators (and your Maximum Leader earnestly hopes that there are) then they are likely very senior-level career bureaucrats. While these people are likely very knowledgeable in their fields, they are not policy makers. If they aren’t policy makers then what bloody good is their input going to be? Nothing they say will carry an weight whatsoever because they aren’t (as George W. Bush put it) “the deciders.” They are the “carry-outers.”

So in the face of a deep and worsening economic crisis the United States of America finds itself with little or no voice in the largest gathering of nations that might actually be in a position to do something useful.

Your Maximum Leader is feeling very hopey-changey right now.

Carry on.

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