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Happy Thanksgiving & a Family Tale

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all (or at least you Americans) a happy Thanksgiving. His turkey is in the oven and various side dishes have been prepped and are awaiting their cook time. He is taking a little break and trying to relax a little before doing more cooking…

For some reason this little family story popped into his mind today and he decided to share it…

Many years ago, your Maximum Leader was sitting in his maternal grandmother’s kitchen discussing what he and his maternal grandmother would be cooking for a family gathering. In the course of discussing the menu, your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandfather said that this would be a good time to pull out “that cookbook I got you” and use it to plan a menu. Your Maximum Leader asked what cookbook while glancing over at his maternal grandmother. Grandma suddenly had a sour look on her face. Your Maximum Leader again about the cookbook. At that point his grandfather got up and went to another room; returning shortly with a beautiful book.

Your Maximum Leader is serious. It was a gorgeous book. It was bound in thick green leather and debossed with gold leaf (real gold leaf in fact). On the front and spine the lovely script said the book was the “Cordon Bleu Menu Cookbook.” As your Maximum Leader opened the book the spine made a noise. It had obviously not been opened in years. The book was published by the Cordon Bleu school in Paris in the early 1950s. (Your Maximum Leader was looking at it in the late 1980s.) The pages were heavy bond and had wonderful hand. The book was divided by season and holidays. Each chapter provided a number of complete formal menus for breakfast, lunch, brunch, tea, and dinner by season or holiday. The menus were described in detail with recipes, order of service, description of what to use to decorate the table, what wines to serve with the food. All of this was in French and in English. The photo pages were spectacular.

So… Your Maximum Leader leafed through the book and commented that it was a lovely book and asked how long it had been hanging around without him ever seeing it. At that point Grandpa started to tell the tale of the book. Grandpa worked for the Department of the Army from the 1939 to 1969. During the 1950s he was often assigned to various NATO related tasks and would often travel to Europe (with a cool diplomatic passport that your Maximum Leader still has). So, the tale progressed. Grandpa was on NATO business in Belgium and France and happened to be in Paris. It occurred to Grandpa that he ought to try and bring Grandma a different type of gift than his usual. He was in the habit of buying some fancy perfume or article of clothing for Grandma while he was abroad. This time it was going to be different.

Your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandmother was a great cook. She was taught by her mother and grandmother. She could bake (and was a great baker). She could cook. In a kitchen she was an expert. In your Maximum Leader’s life, he couldn’t remember seeing her study a recipe to make a dish. She did have a copy of The Joy of Cooking but it seemed to be for quick reference or to jog her memory when she was cooking something.

Grandpa continued that one night on this business trip to Paris he was being wined and dined by some French official. The dinner was prepared by students and professors at the famed Cordon Bleu school. Of course, back in the 1950s there was only one Cordon Bleu in Paris - now they have them everywhere… Anyhow, at some point during the dinner, or just after, Grandpa commented on the quality and breadth of the dinner and how it lived up to every preconception of fine French dining. His host noted that the students and professors had put together a book with recipes and other instructions for how to put on a similar type of meal. Grandpa asked where he could get a copy and was told that they would deliver one to him the next day.

And so Grandpa acquired the large green-leather bound debossed in gold leaf cookbook.

Needless to say, Grandpa was pretty excited that he’d found such a thoughtful and unique gift for his wife. He had it wrapped up for presentation when he arrived home…

Well… The gift didn’t go over as planned. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure of the exact circumstances under which the gift was exchanged from Grandpa to Grandma; but it didn’t go well. Apparently Grandma took the cookbook as a subtle jab that she wasn’t well versed in preparing fancy meals. To your Maximum Leader’s knowledge, Grandma never looked at that cookbook after that first instance. It sat on a hidden bookshelf in your Maximum Leader’s grandparents house for 30 years before Grandpa retrieved it that day.

After perusing the book, your Maximum Leader said that the book was really cook and would be a handy reference when planning a formal dinner party. Right after saying that, Grandma said sternly, “If you like the book you can have it. I never use it.”

So the book passed from Grandma to your Maximum Leader…

Unlike his grandmother, your Maximum Leader used the book a few times. He prepared multi-course meals for friends, girlfriends, girlfriend’s parents and others. (NB - Your Maximum Leader cooked a huge meal - six or seven courses - for a girl he dated for a while and her father and step-mother. It must have been sort of impressive because years later when he happened to encounter his now-former-girlfriend’s father at the mall the father reminisced that he could still remember the meal and that your Maximum Leader was the only boyfriend of his daughter of whom he had approved. In fact he encouraged his daughter to consider me a fine marriage material.) That cookbook came in handy on more than one occasion.

So, on this huge feast day in America is your Maximum Leader using this great tome to help him make a great Thanksgiving dinner? Well, no… Sadly, the book is no longer with your Maximum Leader…

You see, a number of years back, your Maximum Leader was dog-sitting for his sainted Father-in-law and beloved Mother-in-law while they were on a trip to Canada. One of the dogs (there were two - they were beautiful purebred Chesapeake Retrievers) had never been to the Villainschloss before and was a little nervous. After overcoming his nerves, he decided to start marking the Villainschloss ash his… He decided to pee all over one of your Maximum Leader’s bookcases… Sadly, the primary landing point for the pee was the Cordon Bleu cookbook. This happened while your Maximum Leader was out at work, and Mrs Villain did her best to rescue the book. But it was not to be. Mrs Villain threw the book (and a few other favorites that met a similar fate that day) away….

And thus the book’s karma was fulfilled…

Today, while planning the Thanksgiving menu, your Maximum Leader did wish that he still had the book… For reference purposes…

Happy Thanksgiving….

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader.

Positively Orwellian

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has deceived you. He deceit is that he’s led you to this post with a misleading title. You might think that he is going to rant about some element of Obamacare or other political item in a way that will make them out to be Orwellian.

That is not so.

It turns out that our bloggy friend Professor Mondo links to a website called “I Write Like” which attempts to take a piece of submitted writing and tell you what writer your writing is most like.

After submitting his short fiction piece “The Commissar” the web site told your Maximum Leader that he wrote like George Orwell.

Other blog writing samples came out predominately as Cory Doctorow.

All in all, your Maximum Leader would be very pleased with himself if he did, in fact, write in a style similar to Orwell. Your Maximum Leader is fond of Orwell’s style and many of his works. Sadly, your Maximum Leader has never read any Cory Doctorow. Thus, he can’t comment on the “I Write Like” analyzer’s efficacy on his other writings. Perhaps your Maximum Leader should pick up some Doctorow and read a bit.

Thanks for the neat link Professor! (He writes while doffing his bejewelled myllan cap in the Professor’s direction.)

Carry on.

(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

What did we do for Bastille Day?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has found himself a little time to waste and he’s decided to blog. For the past year or so when he’s had free time to waste he’s indulged in reading/watching TV/sleeping; but now he’s going to blog some.

You probably aren’t asking yourself, “Self? I wonder what my Maximum Leader was doing on Bastille Day this year.” Well, you probably should be asking yourself that if you plan on reading further.

(NB: This is one of the many blog posts your Maximum Leader composes in his head fully intending to write it out and post it. What makes this one different is that he is actually writing it out.)

Around July 8th your Maximum Leader realized that something was up in his fair town. At first he wasn’t able to put his finger on it; but then he realized what was up. His town was festooned with French flags. Yes, tricolors were everywhere. Really. They were. Here is photographic proof:
Fredericksburg, France

If you didn’t know, and really there is no reason for you to know, Fredericksburg, VA (your Maximum Leader’s home town) has a sister city. That sister city is Frejus, France. Your Maximum Leader found that Frejus has a web site. You can clicky on this linky to go to the French language Frejus site. So in the spirit of fraternite we here in Virginia celebrate Bastille Day with our French brethren.

(NB to history nerds: Your Maximum Leader sees that Frejus was founded by none other than Julius Ceasar himself (Forum Julii) and was an important Roman era naval base.)

Of course, when you think of France (in a friendly way and not in the cheese-eating-surrender-monkey way) you think gastronomy and good living. So your Maximum Leader started to think to himself, “What could I do to celebrate Bastille Day?” Well… He thought of a variety of fancy haute-cuisine dishes he could try and make for dinner. But then realizing that he was having this conversation with himself at noon on Bastille Day itself he realized that a highfalutin’ dinner was likely out of the question. Then your Maximum Leader realized that provincial French cooking is delicious, hearty and able to be prepared in an afternoon. But what to make? Your Maximum Leader started pulling out his cookbooks to think of something and then he came up with Poulet en Cocotte.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader decided to look up what a cocotte was as he is many years removed from his study of french and he’s not remembered what he should. He assumed the cocotte was a piece of crockery that could be used on a fire and in an oven. And in that he is correct. He has now also learned that cocotte is also antiquated slang for a prostitute. He imagines the English word “coquette” is likely related to this origin. Now having learned that a cocotte could also be a prostitute it seems funny to have eaten a dish that could be loosely translated as “Chicken in a Prostitute.” Indeed, Chicken in a Prostitute doesn’t sound appetizing at all.)

Now there are lots of variations of this traditional dish. So there isn’t one particular recipe that your Maximum Leader decided to use. He decided to go with the general technique and enjoy what he got. He also decided to take some photos of his progress with his phone so that he could food blog!

Anyhoo… Here we go.

Your Maximum Leader had pulled out some chicken thighs from the freezer, so that became the poulet for the dish. He also had plenty of his home-cured bacon slabs around. In fact your Maximum Leader had a few slabs of bacon that he had “over cured” (made very very salty in other words) that he’d been using as lardons in many different items he’d been cooking. So he had the protein taken care of. Then he got out a mess of onions, carrots, celery, peppers, and potatoes.

Now generally, Poulet en Cocotte is made with tomatoes as well, but after a quick poll of the Villainettes, the wee Villain and Mrs Villain your Maximum Leader determined he nix the tomatoes in the dish.

So first he prepared his mise en place with the help of Villainette #1. We cleaned, peeled and diced all our veggies and set them aside. Then your Maximum Leader cut his lardons out of the slab bacon and was ready to begin.

First he put the bacon in the pot over medium heat to render the fat.
poulet 1

After a little bit the bacon was cooked and there was fat and delicious cooked bits all in the pot.
poulet 2

Your Maximum Leader then removed the bacon and put it aside for later. Then he started to brown the chicken thighs. It is in this photo that you can see the first mistake your Maximum Leader made when preparing this dish. He neglected to dust the chicken with flour before browning. This resulted in the skin not being as brown as he would have liked. It also meant that he had to make up a little roux to add into the broth at the end before baking to thicken up the gravy. This is a rookie mistake that your Maximum Leader should have not made; but it is also an illustration of one of his favorite expressions. Namely, “cooking is an art and baking is a science.” Had he made a rookie mistake while baking he would have had to throw out what he’d done and start over. But as he was just cooking, he could adapt later. Anyway, here is the chicken going in.
poulet 3

And while your Maximum Leader is fessing up about mistakes… He can also fess up that he crowded the chicken in the pot. He should have done one or two thighs at a time. But he was just throwing together peasant food, so it was all okay. Right? Mais oui!

After browning the chicken on both sides he removed them from the pot and started on the veggies. He first put in the onions. Then came the carrots. Then shortly after the carrots the celery went in. Then the multicolored peppers. These all cooked up nicely. Your Maximum Leader didn’t caramelize these much. And in the photo you can see that the caramelization hasn’t started. This is another adaptation your Maximum Leader makes for his family. You see, the Wee Villain is 8 years old and prone to call the most delicious caramelized onion a “burned” onion. So, to avoid this your Maximum Leader kept the caramelization down. Anyway… Here is the photo.
poulet 4

After the veggies seemed to be about right, in went the potatoes. Your Maximum Leader waited until the last minute to add the potatoes because he doesn’t like mushy potatoes. And this dish is going to cook for a while in the oven. He didn’t want his potatoes too soft.
poulet 5

After the potatoes went in and got heated up a little, the bacon went back in.
poulet 6

Now, if one was going to have tomatoes in your gravy, this would be the time to add the tomatoes in the mix. But, per the recent poll of the family, no tomatoes were added to the mix. What was added to the mix (in copious amounts) was wine. Your Maximum Leader should explain that he is not a big wine drinker. It is the occasional beer and lots of the hard stuff for him. But he does believe in keeping decent (if inexpensive) wine around for cooking (and drinking). If you wouldn’t want to drink a glass (or two) of the wine you damned well don’t want to be cooking with it. In this case, the wine was a cheap (but drinkable) California Chardonnay. Your Maximum Leader did have a single bottle of very nice French wine in the cabinet, but it was a rather expensive red that had been given as a gift and your Maximum Leader didn’t think it was right to open for drinking since he wouldn’t finish the bottle himself. (And Mrs Villain doesn’t really drink…)
poulet 7

Your Maximum Leader brought everything up to a slow boil then added some additional chicken stock to round out the liquids.
poulet 8

Now here is where your Maximum Leader’s photo food blogging went bad. At the moment he was ready to add the chicken back into the pot he realized that he’d forgotten to flour the chicken. So he quickly made his roux and mixed it in and brought the heat back up. Then he added the chicken to the pot. He was going to take photos of these two events, but Mrs Villain needed to make a call on his phone so it was not available to photos.

You must accept as read that the roux was made, the chicken added back to the pot and the whole business was covered and put into a 350 oven to finish off. The Poulet was in the oven about and hour and fifteen minutes. It probably only needed an hour, but your Maximum Leader was getting distracted by a game of Medieval Total War 2 and lost track of the time. Thankfully with a dish like this, a few extra minutes doesn’t hurt the result. And the result looked like this:
poulet 9

Your Maximum Leader wishes he’d taken a photo of the chicken on the plate, but he forgot. He is pleased to report that everyone loved the Poulet en Cocotte and he had no leftovers. The only thing that could have improved the meal would have been someone there to drink some French wine with.

(NB to readers: Indeed, your Maximum Leader was eating his dinner and his mind wandered to his college days. He shared a political science class or two with a charming young French woman who was studying abroad for a year. Her name was Karin. She was smart, witty, totally charming and a blast to hang out with. Sadly for me in those more superficial days, she was very plain looking. (Not that it really mattered much because your Maximum Leader was dating someone else altogether.) But he did recall when Karin’s best friend Veronique came to visit her. Veronique was anything but plain. As a matter of fact, the very act of remembering her sends a thrill through your Maximum Leader’ groin. Sadly, it was hard to judge if Veronique as a witty, smart and charming as was Karin. Veronique’s English was almost as bad as my French. But we were able to communicate a little bit. In fact, the most useful bit of information I was able to give Veronique was that she needed to buy a new bathing suit because the small scrap of cloth that would barely cover her nether region would get her arrested for indecent exposure at the beaches in Virginia and North Carolina that she and Karin were going to visit. Anyhooo… Your Maximum Leader gave brief thought to Karin and Veronique while eating dinner on Bastille Day. And that is a good way to celebrate the day.)

Carry on.

Moribund

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was asked by one of his buddies if this blog was dead. He replied it wasn’t dead, but apparently was quite moribund.

mor·i·bund/ˈmôrəˌbənd/
Adjective:
(of a person) At the point of death.
(of a thing) In terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigor.
Synonyms: dying

Your Maximum Leader hopes that it is just lacking in vitality and vigor and not into the final death spiral; but time shall tell on that.

Carry on.

June nearly gone

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a shitty blogger. If by shitty one means “infrequent.”

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader sees on Twitter some interesting graffiti from Pompeii. “hic ego cum veni futui, deinde redei domi.” Apparently this translates as “I came here, had sex, and went home.” It tickled your Maximum Leader so he added it to the random tag lines to this site…

The month of June is nearly half spend, and this is the first post… Crazy how that works. Let’s review some of what your Maximum Leader has done recently…

He saw Prometheus Wednesday night. Your Maximum Leader’s review? Meh. Your Maximum Leader thought the pacing of the movie was fine. He says this because a frequent critique of the film he reads is that it was boring. Your Maximum Leader wasn’t bored. He thought the speed (pacing) of the film was fine (as he just wrote); but it seemed edited for time. Perhaps this is becoming a Ridley Scott thing… He makes a film. He releases the film in the cinema. Then he started amending and remaking the film until it is closer to the film he wanted to release in the first place. Your Maximum Leader could see that this would be a problem back in the 1980s (he is thinking Blade Runner specifically) but can’t imagine that Scott would be “forced” by “studio suits” to release a movie before it was (at least pretty close to being) ready. Prometheus feels like it was: 1) either rushed to meet a release deadline or 2) released with every intention of Scott working on it for another 20 years and periodically releasing new “director’s cuts” until he (one day) gets what he wants.

All in all, your Maximum Leader doesn’t think he could recommend Prometheus to you. The story was interesting, yet it felt incomplete. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t require that a film raise questions and then answer them; but he does feel as though questions that arise from the narrative be addressed in some way. Prometheus doesn’t do that.

Re-reading that last paragraph makes your Maximum Leader feel as though he should go into more detail. He doesn’t want to give out too many spoilers - in case you’ve not seen the film and plan on doing so… That said, the big open ended question of the film is “what was on the ‘engineer’s’ mind?” The ‘engineers’ are the alien race that apparently created life on Earth, and according to character exposition during the film are trying to destroy it with xenomorph creatures they are manufacturing on LV-226 (the planet begin visited by the Prometheus). Now, some other sites have speculated that the answer to the big question was given in the film by the android character, David (played magnificently by Michael Fassbender). In the film David asks why he was created by man and receives the answer “because we could” then David replies that it would be disappointing for man to travel across the galaxy to speak to their creators and receive the same answer. It is entirely plausible that the ‘engineers’ created humanity because they could; and that they would like to destroy humanity for the same reason. While that answer to the question actually amuses your Maximum Leader more than anything else, it is a weak bit of storytelling.

In other news… Your Maximum Leader is going on a cruise next week. Baltimore to Bermuda. It will be his first time on a cruise ship. He is looking forward to the trip. He expects some quiet and time to read.

Speaking of reading, your Maximum Leader broke down and bought a Kindle Fire. For a few years now a number of people have told him that he should get an e-reader. He’s resisted, until now. He opted for the Kindle Fire for the overall entertainment possibilities offered by that device. Books, movies, TV and internet. So far he is very impressed. He’s found he’s been watching some Amazon Prime streaming movies and TV shows that have entertained him very much. He’s also downloaded about 100 books that are in the public domain (some Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raphael Sabatini, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Pope, Thomas Hardy, Plato and Shakespeare among others) to read. While he doesn’t believe that he’ll ever get away from real books on paper, the Kindle is a good device that serves the purpose for which it was bought.

(NB to readers: Your Maximum Leader still believes that the basic iPod Classic is the greatest piece of personal electronics in recent times.)

How about politics…

Your Maximum Leader voted in the Virginia Primaries this week. He had to vote for a Republican to take on Tim Kaine (Democrat former Governor) to see who will replace Jim Webb (D-VA) in the US Senate. Your Maximum Leader voted for George Allen. Mostly on the basis of the other choices being a Tea Partiers and likely (or possibly actually) insane. Your Maximum Leader will vote for Allen in the fall against Kaine. He hopes that the Republicans will take the US Senate. He also hopes that the Republicans will retain the US House. He further believes that President Obama will be re-elected. So we’ll get at least 2 more years of divided government. Divided government, at this point, serves no purpose other than to moderate the unchecked idiocy of the left and right. Sadly, no one is actually doing anything to address the actual issues that are most in need of solving. No party or person seems to be looking to step up and say what needs to be said either. Your Maximum Leader did read something about Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) repudiating his “no tax increase” pledge. That is a good start. Since both parties seem pathologically incapable of serious action on the debt, spending, and revenue. When Americans start to realize that our economic situation must be addressed with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases then we might start to get politicians who will act.

Of course, getting voters to vote against their self-interests is a silly hope to hold out… Your Maximum Leader wasn’t sure what he was thinking there…

Basically we’re screwed…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader will be going on a cruise…

Carry on.

The truth about a new word

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had a wonderful day (last Sunday) with his good buddy the Minister of Propaganda. While shooting the breeze over drinks and victuals, the Minister introduced your Maximum Leader to a word that he’d invented (with another friend of his). Your Maximum Leader likes this word and will share it with you:

Circumwongle = to arrive pleasantly at the results you want by an unexpected route.

Your Maximum Leader has given his approval to this word and hopes you all can find a way to work it into conversation.

In other news…

Your Maximum Leader was speaking with some other friends last night and one of them threw out a nice line that he’ll have to remember: “The truth is a powerful tool and should be used sparingly.” Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know if this a quotation from someone else, but he’ll have to remember this one too…

Carry on.

Another rambling mess of a post

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader recalls, years ago - 2003/4 perhaps, sitting in a bar in DC with James Joyner, Rusty Shakleford and Cranky (among others) talking about blogging.

He specifically remembers much being made of keeping blog posts “on point.” This is to say that except for a “link dump post” all your posts should have a catchy and topical title and be concise and on a single topic.

Apparently your Maximum Leader never learned that lesson as it is apparent that he will be writing another rambling post with no clear subject, no clear title, and no clear point. But it will be his second post in as many days… So that is something.

Does anyone have a photo or vita on Timothy “Tim” Crawford, the Treasurer of SarahPAC? Your Maximum Leader, many moons ago, used to work with a Tim Crawford (for Tim Crawford more accuarately) of the Republican Governors Association. Your Maximum Leader wonders if it is the same Tim Crawford. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure what he would do if he learned that Sarah Palin’s Tim Crawford is the same person as your Maximum Leader’s Tim Crawford. Nothing he supposes… Except sit back and know that in the “degrees of separation” category your Maximum Leader would appear to have a (tenuous) 1 degree separation from Sarah Palin. That wouldn’t change your Maximum Leader’s opinion of Sarah Palin at all, or Tim Crawford either for that matter. It would just be interesting.

So… Has your Congressman DM’ed you a photo of his “junk” yet? And if he has done so has he done so with certitude that it was actually a photo of his “junk?” What a huge cluster-f for Congressman Weiner. He can’t say “with certitude” that the photo of the “junk” in question was his. What an idiot. Your Maximum Leader particularly appreciated the reported (Wolf Blitzer?) who asked the Congressman if he at least owned a pair of underwear similar to those in the photo. Your Maximum Leader was less impressed when the Congressman couldn’t say conclusively that he did (or didn’t) own a pair of underwear like those in the photo. FYI… Your Maximum Leader can recall what most of his underwear looks like. (Lots of boxer shorts if you care to know…)

NB - your Maximum Leader is on Twitter himself “@maximumleader” is the handle.

FYI - who started calling the male genitals “junk” anyway? How are we to keep from getting confused by “junk in trunks” and “junk in the trunk?” The former being what Congressman Weiner is accused of sending the photo of and the latter is that which Sir Mix-a-lot rapped so eloquently about here.

Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure what he thinks of the new “MyPlate” nutritional guide the USDA is promulgating today. Sure it might be more easy to use than the old food pyramid, but there doesn’t seem to be any portion size recommendations easily discerned from the new “plate.” If fighting obesity is the problem shouldn’t you have some easily visible portion control message there too?

And while we’re mentioning obesity… What if fruits and veggies are the reason why many people get fat? Contraversial theory indeed but one that seems to have some evidence to support it if one draws similar conclusions to Gary Taubes. What if the carbs in fruits and veggies are responsible for making us fat? If we eat mostly proteins we don’t get as fat. (We may not be any healthier mind you, but we may not be fat…)

Speaking about fruits and veggies… Rainier cherries are in. Damn if your Maximum Leader doesn’t love himself rainier cherries.

Speaking of proteins… Your Maximum Leader has 8 pounds of bacon under cure right now. 4 pounds of “regular” cure and 4 pounds of “maple syrup/brown sugar/bourbon” cure. The regular cure will produce the typical “salty” bacon we all know and love. When the curing is finished he’ll smoke up the bacon over hickory or applewood. The “maple/bourbon” cure is just that, regular salt cure plus maple syrup, brown sugar, and bourbon. Your Maximum Leader used Wild Turkey Rare Breed (a very expensive premium bourbon) in this batch of bacon. Mostly to see if it tasted much different than the last few batches (which he made with Makers Mark). He cut down the amount of maple syrup in this batch as well. When he smokes this type of bacon the syrup gets a little too crusty for his tastes sometimes.

In one last political note… Your Maximum Leader sees that Mitt Romney officially kicked off his campaign to become President of the United States today. Your Maximum Leader can’t recall being this ambivilent about a “front-runner’s” announcement in a long long time. Indeed, 2012 is shaping up to be a year where your Maximum Leader is so very ambivilent about the whole race to the White House. The current president is not good. No one on the Republican side is jumping out as a serious challenger. Frankly, not anyone (other than Paul Ryan of Wisconsin) in Congress or the White House or any potential White House challenger is talking seriously about how to confront the terrible debt/deficit problem facing the nation. Where is a US David Cameron when we need him? Your Maximum Leader believes, but has no economic evidence to support this belief, that uncertainty over the nation’s financial future is causing anxiety that is keeping the recession going. It is discouraging to listen to the political classes talk about how to get our financial house in order.

Of course it is worse to listen to the “man on the street” talk about how we are taxed too much, and how he’ll vote against anyone that touches “his Social Security and Medicare.” If your Maximum Leader educate people about one thing it would be that the majority of US Government spending is for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Without getting those costs down, there isn’t hope of getting ourselves in order financially.

And before any of your Maximum Leader’s liberal readers (there are a few of you out there…) start to say that President’s Health Care bill is a start down that path let him cut you off. The President’s plan isn’t going to be a money saver as best anyone can project. Government health care must (MUST!!!!), because resources are finite, control costs by refusing to pay for some treatments. That decision will kill people. There must be “death panels” as they’ve been described, in order for the scheme to work. Look at Britain for example. They have the NICE board. Basically the NICE board determines what treatments are going to be provided for by the National Health Service and which ones aren’t. If you have a condidtion for which NICE has said there is not an authorized treatment, you don’t get treatment. It is that simple. There seems to be some basic denial among supporters of the President’s plan that you will have to control costs by prohibiting some treatments.

Your Maximum Leader hadn’t planned on addressing “death panels” but he just did. Frankly, if you are going to have some sort of national health plan you have to have a sort of death panel. It is just the way it is. Your Maximum Leader has no problem with that concept. He doesn’t want national health care mind you, but if you have it you just have to HAVE it.

Also… Interesting article in the Economist about the cost of fighting cancer. The interesting bit, that touches on controlling health care costs, was a the Economist’s analysis pointing out that advances in cancer treatment drugs happens because the US health care system (as it is now) will pay for the research. Essentially, the rest of the world piggy-back’s on US health spending. If the US were to cut costs, R&D would diminish around the world and cause new drug advances to come less often or not at all. Now your Maximum Leader knows that some of you out there will dismiss this as “drug company fear mongering” but if you’ve ever worked in a real business you know that businesses are acutely aware of how they make money. They know where and how they make money. If those sources dry up, those businesses also know what will happen to them. Think about it.

Anyhoo…

That is about it for now. Your Maximum Leader will stop writing and go back to day dreaming about boobies (and other stuff).

Carry on.

I can see!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is pleased to report that he can now see clearly again. As he reported earlier in the week his glasses got screwed up. We think that they got exposed to some heat somehow and got tempered. This tempering caused very small “waves” to form on the lens. When your Maximum Leader put the glasses on, he got the feeling like he was looking constantly through those heat waves you see coming up off asphalt during the summer. It made him sick to his stomach after a few minutes.

So your Maximum Leader tried to trot out his old prescription and get a new set of glasses. Sadly, since the prescription was three years old no one wanted to fill it. So, your Maximum Leader went over to his eye doctor and got a check up. He was clear. No signs of bad deseases of the eye. No deterioration of his vision either. In fact his eyes were unchanged in 3 years. That is a good thing.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader has new glasses and can see just fine now.

Your Maximum Leader hasn’t blogged much this week because of the glasses issue (which really wasn’t resolved until Wednesday) and a desire to get some of the books off his nightstand. You see your Maximum Leader can read without his glasses. In fact his vision at book-reading distance is quite good. So he read a lot. He is nearly done with two baseball books he recently received as gifts. The books are George Will’s “Men at Work” and Jason Turbow’s “Baseball Codes”. Your Maximum Leader highly recommends Will’s book to any baseball fan. It is certainly one of the best baseball books out there. Turbow’s book is a fun read. Your Maximum Leader can’t say that he learned much from the Turbow book, but it is filled with so many entertaining baseball yarns that it was a quick read.

Now your Maximum Leader is going to try and knock out Lord Norwich’s “Travellers Companion to Venice” and Christopher Moore’s “Lamb” before too long.

Your Maximum Leader is also going to try and get rid of all the old programming on his DVR and free up some space on that hard drive. Last night your Maximum Leader and Villainette #1 finished the last two episodes of Joss Whedon’s ill-fated series “Dollhouse.” The penultimate episode was okay, but would have been better if it had been the last episode. The final episode was disappointing from the perspective of the story. It seemed rushed, badly edited (in fact it felt like it was 3 hrs long when shot and only 1 hr long when it aired), and just thrown together. The best thing about the final episode was the Whedon was able to throw in a few of his favorite actors from previous outings (like Felicia Day from “Dr Horrible” and many members of the “Firefly” series).

For your intellectual curiosity, you should go and read one of the latest installments of FLG’s posts on time-horizons and their connections to politics/economics/world-view. FLG is probably on to something with this line of thinking.

That is all for now.

Carry on.

Growing more stupid

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader receives a word of the day e-mail from Dictionary.com. He’s gotten it for years and years and finds that he is familiar with the word sent daily (even if he doesn’t use them regularly).

So… Today’s word was “hegira.”

Your Maximum Leader looked at it and drew a complete blank. He studied the word for a moment and thought to himself, “Self, this is probably a word of greek origin.” Then he thought for a moment to try and figure out the meaning of the word. Again he drew a blank. So he clicked through to read the definition.

As soon as he saw the pronunciation key he started kicking himself. Then the feeling of stupidity washed over him. Here is the definition for you:

hegira \he-JAY-ruh\, noun:

1. A journey to a more desirable or congenial place.
2. The flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution a.d. 622: regarded as the beginning of the Muslim Era.

Hegira, whether referring to the event in the history of Islam or a general sense of the word, comes from the Arabic hajara, “to depart.”

Ugh. He should have recognized the word as being closely related to “Hajj” - at least phonetically.

The more he thinks of it the more he realizes that he’s read this word (and probably used it in school) a number of times.

Your Maximum Leader wonders if he really is growing more stupid.

Carry on.

Calling all Latin scholars

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader needs a favor from any reader who knows his/her latin.

One of your Maximum Leader’s most favorite old sayings is “When your luck has run out it doesn’t matter how big your dick is.”

This little line was told to your Maximum Leader once by a college professor who told him that it was a line from Ovid. Your Maximum Leader’s never found the line (or a close approximation of it) in Ovid. But he did find it (in English) in a book about sex in history (where the line was purported scrawled on the wall of a bath in Pompeii.

Your Maximum Leader’s request is that if you have expert knowledge of Latin, how would you render that expression. Your Maximum Leader would like to put it on a t-shirt or something… (He has it on a t-shirt in Chinese… Buy one here…)

If you can help, please let me know.

Carry on.

End of the year

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure this will be the last post of 2009. He plans on trying to relax some this afternoon and then getting to be early. He will travel to New York tomorrow to visit Kevin’s mom. Sadly, it will be a day trip. Up early, on the train, visit, then back on the train and home.

Your Maximum Leader has been in a funky mood of late. There are likely many contributing factors to this funk. General pessimism may be the leading contributor. Pessimissm about the economy, the course of politics, the general outlook for things if idiots continue to be elected and behave (surprise!) like idiots. Your Maximum Leader has never really played the role of Cassandra here on this blog, but he supposes he could if he could get more motivated. Since he is not motivated he’ll leave you with some interesting posts from others.

First off, you should take a moment to read Daniel Henninger’s latest on the WSJ. “A Rodney Dangerfield America?” Henninger’s piece is good, and optimistic. It is worth your time.

Then you should read the recent prodigious output by our friend Skippy. He has been on a tear recently writing good thoughtful stuff that often closely mirrors what your Maximum Leader has been thinking. You could read about Vladimir Putin, or the rule of law, or Iran or injustice.

FLG commends a piece by Jim Manzi. You can read FLG’s excerpt here or the whole piece here.

If you are just looking for some interesting things to read here are some suggestions:

Is there a new Da Vinci painting out there? And by out there we mean Boston.

You can check out Jesus’ neighbor’s pad. It comes with a place to hide from Romans.

Will Russians star in the real-life Armageddon? Your Maximum Leader was still hoping for Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler…

Check out some words or phrases that some thing should be banished from our daily dialouge.

Of course… You could just close your browser and spend some time with family and friends and enjoy yourself.

Carry on.

Fun Read

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wasn’t a big Bill Clinton fan while he was in office. Frankly your Maximum Leader isn’t a Bill Clinton fan right now. Okay… Your Maximum Leader jokes about Bill Clinton working to improve the US’s image one vagina at a time; but those jests are only half-jests at best…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader hasn’t read Bill Clinton’s memoirs. He doesn’t plan to frankly. But there could be a Clinton book out there that he would want to read. Did you see on USA Today how Clinton and historian Taylor Branch met in secret 79 times throughout Clinton’s White House years and recorded interviews about what was going on in Bill’s head at the time? Your Maximum Leader didn’t know. Apparently, until a few days ago, no one knew. Now USA Today knows and has written about it.

Here are some highlights…

Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and civil rights historian, would pick up a notepad of questions and two microcassette recorders and drive his truck down Interstate 95 to Washington. Parking on the South Lawn, he would head to the White House family quarters for interviews so secret Clinton stored the tapes of them in his sock drawer.

What followed sometimes seemed like one of the bull sessions the two had two decades earlier when they shared an apartment in Austin, running George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign in Texas.

In these interviews and a new book that has followed, Branch says he tried to capture Clinton’s unvarnished perspective on the events swirling around his presidency, from the consequential to the occasionally comic.

Reluctant to discuss the affair with Monica Lewinsky that led to his impeachment, Clinton once lamented that it occurred when he felt sorry for himself and that he “just cracked” under the pressure of personal and political setback.

He also relayed how Boris Yeltsin’s late-night drinking during a visit to Washington in 1995 nearly created an international incident. The Russian president was staying at Blair House, the government guest quarters. Late at night, Clinton told Branch, Secret Service agents found Yeltsin clad only in his underwear, standing alone on Pennsylvania Avenue and trying to hail a cab. He wanted a pizza, he told them, his words slurring.

The next night, Yeltsin eluded security forces again when he climbed down back stairs to the Blair House basement. A building guard took Yeltsin for a drunken intruder until Russian and U.S. agents arrived on the scene and rescued him

Branch says the two conferred several times about it during the administration’s opening months. Clinton proposed Branch fill the role Arthur Schlesinger Jr. played in the Kennedy administration, a sort of court historian on the White House staff. Branch declined. Clinton tried dictating a diary but found it unwieldy; he said he needed to be interacting with someone.

In September 1993, Branch agreed to do oral history interviews with Clinton until the president could train someone on his staff for that role. No one else was ever trained, and their sessions continued until Clinton left office in 2001.

The president was determined to keep them secret to avoid what he saw as inevitable demands for disclosure.

“I was constantly wrestling with, ‘What is my job?’ ” Branch says. “Basically, my first goal was to say, ‘This is about history. … I want to get as much raw material on the record as possible.’ But it was never that simple.”

Branch was there as a historian but he also was a friend, and Clinton at times would seek his advice. From 1998 to 1999, Branch’s wife worked at the White House as a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. As Bill Clinton finished his memoirs, he surprised Branch with a $50,000 “bonus” for his help in laying the groundwork for them.

Publication of Branch’s book has underscored the conflicting agendas of friend and historian.

Clinton on several occasions had encouraged Branch to write a book about their sessions, albeit at some undesignated point in the future. The author used the advance he received from the publishing house Simon & Schuster to have his own tapes transcribed; he had stored them in a safe deposit box at a bank.

Those tapes will be available to researchers next year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The former president had planned to use the interviews he had given when he wrote his book, but there is little sign he did. As he neared the deadline to submit his manuscript in 2004, he invited Branch to Chappaqua to read the first 700 pages. Branch was stunned to find that with only a month or two to go until his deadline, Clinton was just beginning to write about his time in the White House.

This looks like good stuff… Your Maximum Leader might actually spring for a copy when it is published. It sounds like it would be a better purchase than the money spent on “Dutch.”

Carry on.

Setting the DVR

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wonders if it is more common to say that one “tivo’ed” a program on TV or “DVR’ed” a program; regardless of the recording platform one owns. He says that he “tivos” programs, even though his recording device is a DVR… Curious… To use “tivo” as a verb is much more fluid sounding than the tongue-tied “setting the DVR to record.” But should we use the product-related invented verb even if we don’t own the product itself? Well… Your Maximum Leader does…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader must thank and curse FLG for a TV recommendation. FLG recommends “The Ascent of Money” on PBS. The thanks come because your Maximum Leader is something of a Niall Ferguson fan and is genuinely interested in the program.

The curses come because in order to make room on the DVR for the program your Maximum Leader is likely going to have to erase some older episodes of Two and a Half Men, How I Met your Mother and Burn Notice. He thinks that by erasing the sit-com’s he’ll be okay… He’s watched them all anyway…

Of course he could erase “Outland,” “Clerks,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and some episode of NOVA about butterflies that Mrs Villain recorded if he chose…

In fact… He might just erase all that stuff (except Burn Notice)… It is time to clean off the DVR…

Carry on.

Who is generous?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has to ask something of his readers. As you all know, your Maximum Leader recently had a birthday. And although he’s mentioned this tidbit a few times, he was not trying to blatantly solicit a gift from any of his readers…

Well…

A box from an Amazon.com related retailer came in the mail last week. It contained a book that your Maximum Leader desired. Alas, the book contained a packing slip; but the packing slip did not contain the name of the party that ordered the book. Your Maximum Leader called a few of the usual suspects to see which one bought the book. But none of the ususal suspects purchased the book. Mrs Villain threw away the packing slip, so he cannot call the retailer and try and back-track to discover who needs to be thanked for the kind gift.

If anyone out there sent your Maximum Leader an out-of-print book off his Amazon wish list and hasn’t received a thank-you note yet… Please let him know. He would like to thank you personally.

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.

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