Some Randoms

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has some random thoughts that he will share here, rather than on the olde tweety-box.

You know, baseball is a hard game to explain to someone from China. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t recall that it was as hard to explain to his own children as they grew up as it is to our exchange student. There are, apparently, many things that don’t make sense to him about the game.

By the way, baseball is everything to which America should aspire. Football is everything that America is.

It is damned hot out. Really damned hot out. Walking a few blocks around downtown is enough to make your Maximum Leader think that he has sweat off 5 pounds.

The metric system is quite easy to use and understand. It is something of a pity that it never caught on here. (By the way, it is 32C outside right now.)

Your Maximum Leader ordered a biography of Aelfred the Great and it should be here today.

Your Maximum Leader has been quite fond of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” He really enjoyed Season 1. He also really enjoyed Season 2. He is watching Season 3 now (1 or 2 episodes to go - he forgets). He feels that Season 3 is weak and disjointed. There is also a plot line that he has real difficulty stomaching. So last night your Maximum Leader was talking about this hang-up in Season 3 with a friend. At one point the friend said, “So let me get this straight. You are just fine with mind flayers, demi-gorgons, and the whole ‘upside down,’ but an underground base filled with Russians is too much for you to handle?” To which your Maximum Leader replied, “Yes. That is it. I don’t know how the Soviets could move millions of cubic yards of dirt to build that base in Indiana without attracting attention. And how many uniformed Soviets do they have down there and how did they get to Indiana without causing a stir?”

Speaking of Stranger Things… Your Maximum Leader has always had a soft spot in his heart for Winona Ryder. He described her last night as his “secret, wonderfully-wacky, Oscar-nominated, shoplifting, hippy commune loving, girlfriend.” Your Maximum Leader seriously does love her.

Sometimes, dealing with “customer service” departments of large corporations can be a pain in the ass.

Did he mention it is hot out?

And in the TMI department, tomorrow morning your Maximum Leader is going to get a haircut (7:30am) and swing by his parish for some “time in the box” as Robbo would call it. Your Maximum Leader is always amazed at the line for Confession at 8am on Saturday mornings…

There it is. (As Emperor Franz Joseph might say…)

Carry on.

Aaaaand We’re Back

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader seems to be back up and working. The water damage in the Villainschloss seems to have been stopped and somewhat remediated. (He has some drywall patches yet to do.) His computer seems to be safe and functional. He was worried that the keyboard, which was quite soaked with water, wasn’t going to function. It seems to be fine as he is typing now.

He has some thoughts he might write about in more detail tomorrow. Right now he has a little more clean up to accomplish and then a wedding to go to.

Carry on.

TWP - Cold Water

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that the Bridget/Ms. Abercrombie writing prompt for today is to describe a time he went into cold water.

Allow your Maximum Leader to say that he generally avoids truly cold water. He recalls reading, perhaps in Lady Longford’s biography of the Duke of Wellington, that the Iron Duke (long before he was the Iron Duke) started his day with a bath of ice water. Or very cold water at the least. Your Maximum Leader is not one of those that enjoys the cold water first thing in the morning. Or really at just about any time. The last time he recalls an encounter with truly cold water was a number of years ago when he walked into the Atlantic Ocean in November. He didn’t go all the way in. He was in shorts and took off his shoes and walked out into the surf up to his knees. The air temperature was mild, perhaps in the 60s Fahrenheit. (15C for those of you using the metric system.) The water was not so mild. It might have only been in the high 30s Fahrenheit. (3C for you metric people.) He recalls the needle-like feelings all up and down his calves from the water. Then he recalls the numbing. He wondered how long it might take for his toes to turn blue. He didn’t stay in the water for long. But trudged back out onto the beach. Put his shoes back on. And walked on.

Your Maximum Leader much prefers the civilised choice of warm or hot water. He probably over-heats his water for showers. He isn’t as bad as he used to be, where if his skin color wasn’t just a few shades lighter than a steamed lobster it wasn’t hot enough. But he does like his warm shower. It is funny. In the morning a hot shower is invigorating. But at night the same water can be soothing and relaxing. He wonders why that is. It is probably all in his head…

Anyhoo…

There is the cold water prompt.

Carry on.

TWP - 3 Sentences

Greetings, loyal minions.

Today’s writing prompt was “Write three sentences. They don’t have to connect. They don’t even have to make sense. Just three sentences.”

Here you go:

The Washington Capitals/New York Rangers game is on the TV and is very close.
Today’s Oglaf.com cartoon amused me greatly.
The ham and bean soup I started to make yesterday (and hoped to eat for dinner last night) seems like it is ready to be eaten for dinner tonight.

And a bonus sentence:

I wish it would just stop raining for a week or two.

Carry on.

TWP - The Wall

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is more active on the Twitter than he has been here on his very own blog. This, if you are reading this, you know. On the Twitter (by the way, he is @maximumleader), he follows Bridget Phetasy. (She is @bridgetphetasy.) He really enjoys Bridget’s writing. She is a fascinating person. He would be reluctant to try to describe her simply. He will recommend that if you are interested in learning more about her, just go to her Twitter feed. She is open about herself - sometimes your Maximum Leader finds she is uncomfortably open about herself. Anyhow… Check her out. If you like what you read, consider becoming on of her patrons via Patreon. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why he decided to follow Bridget on Patreon, but he did. He’s not regretted it at all. And that brings us to this post.

In late 2017, Bridget exhorted her followers to write. Your Maximum Leader decided his blog was moribund and decided to try to write more. He wrote a few posts that he titled “The Writing Project.” Well… They didn’t go all that well. A few days ago, Bridget started to offer writing prompts and asked that those who were inclined to do so try and write according the prompts. Your Maximum Leader, though he will be dropping the 3rd person shtick that you’ve all grown to know and love, is trying to do as he’s been exhorted to do…

The writing prompt was thus:

“Write an intention, a new way to look at the block or wall that’s keeping you from writing, or a plan to ignore it an move on. Maybe you have a description of a formidable wall, or a negative monologue, or maybe just random words scattered on the page. It doesn’t matter, as long as you write something, anything, for five minutes. Could your wall also be giving you privacy and protection? Or maybe you need to blast a hole in it or dynamite it to smithereens. It’s your wall; you decide how to handle it.”

This prompt came from Kicking In The Wall by Barbara Abercombie. Though the prompt calls for five minutes of writing, at Bridget’s exhortation, Your Maximum Leader will go for 15 or 25 minutes. As always, what he writes would be better served by having an editor. Here we go:

What is (or was) it that effectively ended my regular blogging? I used to write about anything that popped into my mind. Then nothing? What the hell happened?

The easy answer would be life. Family with growing kids. Marriage. Work. You know (or perhaps you don’t) the regular stuff. But upon reflection it might have been a combination of three things. Those things are (in no particular order): Twitter, Self-confidence, and laziness. Allow me to expound on this…

I use Twitter. That gawd-awful shithole of a social media site. It was billed as “micro-blogging” at one point. Rather than the format in front of your eyes right this moment, Twitter was better. It was short and fast. 140 characters or less and your idea was out there. Shouted (or whispered in my case) into the ether for anyone to consume. It was instantaneous gratification. It was (and is) easy to do from your computer, from your phone, from a table. You name it, it is easy to use Twitter. How fricken hard can 140 (and now upgraded to 240) characters be? Not hard at all is the answer. And anyone can “like” your post. Or they can respond to your post. Or they can retweet your post to others. Twitter is an easy way to communicate the most basic short idea that you can have. You just put it all out there. A tweet takes almost no time. It take almost no effort. It demands almost no reflection. It just satisfies an urge. And it satisfies an urge in the worst way possible. You have an idea. You formulate that idea into a sentence. You type the sentence. You tweet it out. Once the tweet is sent, you feel like you have actually done something. You have shared an idea. You have created. The problem is that you have really just thrown some crap into the ether and hope that someone reads it. Thanks to all the algorithms that Twitter uses you can’t really be sure that anyone actually did see it (without getting some feedback on the tweet). But, you “feel” like you have done something. Also, if you read something on Twitter that strikes your fancy, you can hit that heart-shaped “Like” button. That, too, feels like really doing something. I “liked” that other person’s thought. I’ve co-opted that thought as something I “like” so in some small way you can lay claim to it. Even better, you can retweet something someone else tweets. You can even add your own comment to something you retweet. That is even more fulfilling. You are taking someone else’s thought and amplifying it in your own way. All these things feel like creation, and to some extent they are. But they are a cheap and easy type of creation that doesn’t require a train of thought. It doesn’t really require the discipline of writing lots of words together in a way that someone else could read and understand. In my mind, Twitter became a substitute for writing here. So this place languished. It just happened organically. As long as I have Twitter, I don’t think I’ll blog here like I used to. That does make me a little sad. It also leads to the second point…

I wonder about my self-confidence sometimes. By this I mean, who wants to read this shite (as my Scottish ancestors might have said)? What difference or point is there to adding another voice to the cacophony of voices? What on earth could I have to say that would amount to anything in this crazy world. I don’t know where this lacking of confidence may have come from. It isn’t apparent in the writing here from 2003 to 2015. But it is there now. Perhaps it is the times we are living through. What the hell is going on in the world? I called myself a “conservative Republican” from 1981 until about 2008. From 2008 until 2017 I started calling myself a “conservative.” Now I’m not sure how even to label myself. What am I trying to conserve? I flirted with “conservatarian” for a time. That odd term that is a hybrid of “conservative” and “libertarian.” It fits in a lot of ways. I think I am both a social and economic conservative. But I recognise that we live in a pluralistic society where civil people can agree to disagree. That is the root of my “libertarian” streak. I like freedom. I like liberty. I want you to like both of them as well. I want us to have as much of both as possible. But I also believe that the nature of mankind is generally bad and that we need restrictions on liberty. We need a society of laws. I would like as few laws as needed to have an ordered society in which we can all just get along. But sadly, this broad description of my own philosophy seems to run against the current trends on what we currently refer to as the “right” and the “left.” Both sides seem to enjoy namecalling, “sick burns” on social media, tribalism, and living in their own echo chambers. Both sides also are so gleefully and unabashedly hypocritical in their politics that it has finally gotten to me. I say finally because I’ve known politics make people hypocrites for my whole life. But I could put it aside to advance my side. Now it just upsets me. And there is the root of why this causes me not to write. I don’t want to participate in what passes for debate now. It isn’t debate. It isn’t discourse. I don’t know what it is really. It disappoints me and leads to a feeling that what I have to say is meaningless and without much value. If you don’t think what you might write has value, there isn’t much purpose in committing the words in your head to the ether for anyone to read…

The last point is one most people can wrap their heads around easily. It is easier not to write than it is to write. It is a lot easier for me to sit down in my comfy leather chair with a extra nice bourbon on the side table next to me than it is for me to write. I can sit in my chair and watch a game (mostly hockey and baseball) on TV. Or watch a stupid television show. Or perhaps read a book. It is easier to do any of those things than it is to write. I can justify my laziness as “relaxing” after a “hard day of life.” But it is just lazy. I used to enjoy writing. When I do it, I still enjoy it. But it is a shit-ton easier to sit and have a drink and not write.

So what is the plan? I don’t know. I suppose the past two weeks of writing (including this effort) is a start. It is just trying to re-establish the discipline of writing. In a way, this writing exercise is just another deflection. By writing about why I don’t write anymore I am just putting an apology out there. (And apology in the Aristotelian sense of course.) The wall keeping me from writing is not as wall so much as it is a mirror. A mirror showing me myself as not-a-person-that-writes. There is no way out of that except by not looking in that mirror and deciding to write. I could get rid of Twitter, but I don’t know that I’m going to. I could cut back. Cut back to just a few people on Twitter that I enjoy actually interacting with. Get rid of all the news and political stuff. But the platform creeps into everything. You can’t actually reduce your intake of Twitter. It is an all or nothing thing. You’re an addict or you are in recovery (or you were lucky enough to never experiment with Twitter in the first place).

I’m not sure where any of this leaves me… Except to figure out how to write more…

Carry on.

It (Sort of) Lives!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not dead or departed from this place. He’s just lazy and busy with real life.

Some things to put out there for you…

Your Maximum Leader has been working on an essay for this space. It started as an examination of the 2nd Amendment, but is now just a mediocre political screed. He does want to finish and publish it. If only for a feeling of accomplishment. Perhaps he’ll work on it this weekend when it will be unfit for man or beast to venture outside the air conditioning…

The Republican National Convention is over. For the first time since 1980 your Maximum Leader hasn’t watched a significant portion of a political convention. He normally watches most of prime time for both major parties. This year he’s watched nothing. He doesn’t plan on watching any of the Democrats party either. Both major party candidates are completely unpalatable to your Maximum Leader. He will be voting for Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate. If he doesn’t vote for Johnson, he’ll be voting for Cthulhu.

Speaking of politics… Let your Maximum Leader be among the first to congratulate Hillary Clinton on being elected President of the United States. Here is your Maximum Leader’s electoral map preditiction:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Your Maximum Leader might move Indiana over to Trump with its 11 Electoral votes. But he isn’t ready to move that state over yet.

And moving away from politics…

Your Maximum Leader’s best buddy Kevin surprised him with some Bundaberg Ginger Beer. It was an unexpected and wonderful gift. When a large box arrived at the Villainschloss, your Maximum Leader’s offspring were anxious to open it and discover what lay within. When they did open the box there were less enthusiastic than was your Maximum Leader. Which is a little strange because all of your Maximum Leader’s offspring really like ginger beer. Now, the standard ginger beer of the Villainschloss is Goslings. Your Maximum Leader is quite fond of Dark & Stormys and he tends to keep a supply of both Goslings rum and ginger beer on hand to make them. Your Maximum Leader has also had “Q” Brand ginger beer as well as Saranac ginger beer. While both Q and Saranac have characteristics to commend them, your Maximum Leader doesn’t care for them as much as Goslings. This weekend will be the moment of truth. Your Maximum Leader will taste test Bundaberg ginger beer and Goslings ginger beer. Kevin did his own taste test between ginger ale and ginger beer here. Your Maximum Leader will publish the results here and let you know his thoughts on this.

That is all for now…

Carry on.

UPDATE: There is one little update about the Electoral College map posted above. Your Maximum Leader could see where Iowa & Indiana go for Trump. Which would make the totals: Clinton - 336, Trump - 202. (Nebraska would give a vote to Clinton as they divvy them out proportionally. Maine does too, but your Maximum Leader thinks Maine goes all to Clinton.) As 270 is the magic number, Hillary Clinton still wins.

Thought.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will say that if your eyes are cast upon these words, you are very loyal indeed. He’s given you nothing to be loyal about.

Recently, your Maximum Leader attended the graduation of a cousin from the Maryland Institute College of Art. While there he spoke (briefly) to one of the professors. That professor indicated that the most important thing for the graduates to do if they hadn’t found jobs in their field was to keep producing something. To schedule a time to be creative and to not let it grow cold. Of course, those words rang true to your Maximum Leader and this blog. He really needs to schedule some time a few days a week to write something. He might have to give up the 3rd person schtick if it hinders him writing. But he needs to do it.

There have been some updates recently. Your Maximum Leader hopes that they will be more frequent.

Carry on.

When the world is running down.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has much to say, but hasn’t been making the time to say it. There is so much to say about Israel and Gaza. (Your Maximum Leader comes down squarely for Israel; but admits that Israel makes mistakes that should be addressed.) There is much to say about Ukraine. (Where your Maximum Leader is sympathetic to the plight of Ukraine; but does wonder what exactly we can do there that would be constructive.) There is much to say about ebola. (Calm down everyone. No really. Calm down.) There is much to say about the trial of Bob McDonnell, former Governor of Virginia. (Which your Maximum Leader thinks is just sad all around.)

All these subjects and more that call for comment… But are met with silence here.

Your Maximum Leader’s kids will be out with grandparents this weekend… Perhaps he’ll write…

Maybe he’ll tell you about his recent trip to Canada… (Yes… He visited with Skippy!)

Oh yes… Happy Birthday wishes to your Maximum Leader’s mum… Today is the big day…

Carry on.

So I Was Out On The Interwebs When This Award Came At Me

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was perusing some blogs recently and discovered that he’d been nominated for the Liebster Award. He was nominated by his virtual friend, Professor Mondo. One day your Maximum Leader hopes to meet the Professor in real life, by the by…

So… It seems that your Maximum Leader must reveal of himself for this whole Liebster Award thing to work. So if he slips out of his familiar to you all 3rd person narration, you must forgive him in advance.

First up… 11 random tibits about your Maximum Leader:

1) He was recently advised by his doctor to “cut back on carbs.” Your Maximum Leader has effectively only seriously “cut back” on one carb. That carb is ice cream. He’s not had ice cream (or a milkshake or similar ice creamy foodstuff) in a few months.

2) Did your Maximum Leader mention that he REALLY REALLY loves ice cream? He should have if he didn’t.

3) Your Maximum Leader is addicted to a game on his phone called “Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North” by a group called Kabam.

4) In the “Kingdoms of Camelot” game he just mentioned above, his screen name is Lord Blackadder. He chose the name Lord Blackadder because he loves the old Rowan Atkinson show “Blackadder.” Your Maximum Leader was told about the show many decades ago, but only got around in the past few years to watching all of them thanks to Amazon Prime. Although your Maximum Leader thought he’d like the first season the best (which was the one he’d actually seen some episodes of years ago), but in fact he thinks the second season is the best. (The second season follows Blackadder during the reign of Elizabeth I.)

5) In the same vein as Blackadder (to wit: a person on the fringes of famous historical persons or events), your Maximum Leader is a great fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flashman” books.

6) Your Maximum Leader is trying to teach himself to stop putting two spaces after a period when he types. It is a problem when he is on Twitter as that extra space uses up a valuable character. (Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader!) In case you were asking why this is a thing… Your Maximum Leader is of an age when he didn’t take a “keyboarding” class in high school but took a “typing” class in high school. He learned to type on an IBM Selectric Typewriter. He was taught that you always put two spaces after a period to make the sentence breaks easier to spot.

7) Your Maximum Leader owns a kilt. Which he bought in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1985. He’s had it altered once. He trots it out about once a year.

8 ) Your Maximum Leader owns more shoes now than he has at any other time in his adult life. (2 pairs of boots. 3 pairs of “good” dress/formal shoes. 1 pair of saddle shoes - which seem more dressy than casual but not really dressy. 2 pairs of nice shoes for work. 2 pairs of sneakers.)

9) Your Maximum Leader cures his own bacon, grinds his own sausage and cures ham - but not “country” ham. It disappoints him that he’s not done a good country ham. He doesn’t have a place where he controls temperature and humidity well enough. Or barring temp and humidity control, he doesn’t have a large enough vessel to completely pack the ham in salt.

10) Your Maximum Leader owns a few guns, but he doesn’t own a shotgun. (But he really wants one.)

11) Your Maximum Leader once had a conversation with the late Senator Edward Kennedy. In a men’s room. In the Kennedy Center.

There you go. Pretty random…

Now for questions from the good Professor…

1. If you could give a really painful (but not permanent — we’re not awful people) charley horse to anyone in the world without fear of retribution, who would it be?

Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that he is worked up enough about anyone to want to give them a charley horse. He thinks that Vladimir Putin could use one, just on principal. Plus, it seems like ole Vlad doesn’t have to take a lot of abuse from anyone. (Certainly not from any Western leader recently for sure…)

2. DC or Marvel?

This is sort of tough. When your Maximum Leader was younger he read some DC comics. He was a fan of Batman comics. He is a fan of most of the Batman films. He enjoyed Superman comics when he was young. But he is not a fan of any of the recent Superman movies. Intellectually, Superman is the most interesting and should have the most potential. But no one can seem to translate that to the screen. Your Maximum Leader had high hopes for “Man of Steel” but it fell way short of expectations.

That being said, after looking through some boxes in the attic, it appears as though your Maximum Leader owned and kept more Marvel comics than he did DC. He still has many copies of “Tomb of Dracula,” “GI Joe,” “John Carter, Warlord of Mars,” “Conan the Barbarian” and some others. All Marvel titles.

So… Your Maximum Leader supposes he is a Marvel guy.

3. Who would you cast to play the lead in a biopic of you?

This is a toughie. Your Maximum Leader had a whole bunch of actors in mind. The list contained actors that your Maximum Leader thought could capture his essential qi. (He didn’t try to think of an actor that resembled him physically - that would be a fruitless endeavor…) Among the actors that bounced around in your Maximum Leader’s mind were: Gary Oldman, John Malkovich, Christian Bale, Michael Sheen, or Edward Norton. (Those last two by the by happen to be the same age as your Maximum Leader.)

But in the end it was none of those fine actors…

In the final analysis, should a biopic of your Maximum Leader’s life be made, he would like to be played by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is a great actor and all around fine human being. And in the end all we can hope to be is a fine human being. You can check out Stephen Fry’s website here; or follow him on Twitter here.

4. Preferred pizza crust — Thin? Pan? Whole wheat? Other?

Generally speaking, thin. But from time to time he craves a good Chicago style pizza. Not too often. But it has been known to happen.

5. Is there a song that makes you hit the channel change/shuffle button as soon as it starts? What is it?

Almost anything my 9 year old son has purchased in the past 6 months.

6. What’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” movie?

Very tough. Recently it has been Disney’s John Carter. But over time it has been Bruce Campbell’s Army of Darkness.

7. Bluegrass or World Music?

Bluegrass.

8. What’s the most unusual thing in your fridge?

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think that he has anything particularly unusual in his fridge. He keeps the fridge pretty clean and goes through victuals regularly. If by unusual you might mean something “out of the ordinary” then it might be a stash of the greatest candy bar in the world… The Cadbury Crunchie bar. (Buy them here.)

9. What have I got in my pocket?

Front or back pocket? Hummm….

As for me… The contents of my pockets on a typical day (such as today) are: iPhone, handkerchief, wallet (from the Scuola del Cuoio as it turns out - a lovely and thoughtful gift), my car key, and a key ring (containing home and work keys).

As an aside… The key ring on which your Maximum Leader’s home & work keys hang has a brass oval fob that reads “10 Downing Street, London”. He has had that key fob since he bought it in London on his first trip there in 1985. Also… In his wallet he still has a folded up One Pound note from that same trip to the UK in 1985. So… For 29 years, your Maximum Leader has carried a One Pound note in his wallet…

10. What topic is most likely to make you start talking as your friends say, “Now you’ve done it.”?

Probably something about Elvis or Winston Churchill. Or possibly curing bacon…

11. What question were you hoping I’d ask you, but I didn’t?

In the tradition of “Pulp Fiction,” are you a Beatles man or an Elvis man? Your Maximum Leader is, very much, an Elvis man… Indeed his iTunes library shows 745 Elvis songs and 167 Beatles songs.

Now comes the nomination portion of our program…

Your Maximum Leader will nominate the following blogs:

His buddy Kevin.

Bill of Bill’s Comments.

Robbo of TPSAYE

Elisson

Big Stupid Tommy

FLG of Fear & Loathing in Georgetown

Skippy

Mrs P

Joan of Primordial Slack

The Amazing Ben of Badass of the Week

Eric of Straight White Guy

And here are the questions from your Maximum Leader:

1) What food do you most resemble - physically?

2) Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?

3) What is the earliest memory you have?

4) A good day would be…

5) A bad day would be…

6) Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?

7) Favorite Pixar character? Why?

8 ) Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.

9) Your favorite word?

10) If I met you at a dinner party, what would you NOT like me to ask you?

11) Tell me something I don’t know.

Question #9 is courtesy of Bernard Pivot and James Lipton.

Questions #10 & #11 are courtesy of one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite podcasts, The Dinner Party Download.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

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)

Various thoughts on Death

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is trying to make some time to blog. Why you might ask? Well, no reason in particular save that of thinking that he might have something to (virtually) say. There was one specific impetus today to write. He read a blurb on some website he frequents (and cannot recall now) that interviewed some very tech savvy people and asked them what ancient technology they insisted on keeping though it was very much outdated. One person talked about an old touch tone phone at their home they loved. Another talked about an old calendar notebook. But one said a blog.

A blog you say…

Hummm… Your Maximum Leader has one of those. Is this medium truly ancient and dead? Well. If it is it makes your Maximum Leader more resolved to try and keep using it.

So…

Your Maximum Leader has been thinking about death a little bit recently. The thought was first brought on a few weeks ago when Mrs Villain’s grandmother passed away. She was 105 and 3 months. She was, if your Maximum Leader might be forgiven for sounding uncaring, ready to go. And it was her time. Indeed, it was past her time. Probably 3-7 years past her time depending on which event one might want to use as a delineation. (She broke her hip about 7 years back and became mostly immobile at that point. But about 3 years ago her sight and hearing gave out pretty much continually - there were days when she seemed to be able to hear better than others.)

Regardless. She shuffled her mortal coil without excessive suffering or illness. As your Maximum Leader tweeted that night (using a paraphrase of a prayer that jumped into his awareness), the long burden of years was lifted for her.

In some ways, the long burden of her years was lifted for the rest of us as well. Your Maximum Leader doubts that she really remembered who he was for the past few years. There were times when she seemed to recognize Villainette #1. She did always remember Mrs Villain. Your Maximum Leader was amused to himself that she was able to recall Villainette #1. Your Maximum Leader’s eldest did make an impression on “great nannie” as we called her. We took Villainette #1 up to great nannie’s house in Rhode Island a few times before age and the onset of some infirmity required the move to the assisted living facility. Great nannie must have really bonded with Villainette #1 in a way that few did afterwards. Your Maximum Leader was amused that great nannie would remember Villainette #1; but wasn’t too sure about the father of this growing girl.

Great nannie also loved the Wee Villain. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that she always knew that the Wee Villain was her great grandson; but he was always sure that great nannie loved boys. She raised two of her own. She always seemed to prefer the company of men (over the company of “weak women”). Your Maximum Leader thinks that, with her own strong New England personality, she just had little toleration for the public face of women in her age.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure exactly how he should feel about great nannie’s passing. He is a little relieved. He thinks that it is something of a blessing. At some level he might even be happy for her. But he generally isn’t sad. He’s prayed for her (now that your Maximum Leader is trying to be more observant of his Catholic faith). But he isn’t sad. Should he feel some guilt about this? Perhaps. But as far as deaths go, this one is as good as one can get.

After thinking about this peaceful passing, there are other ruminations on death that come into his mind.

Two cases in particular. That of murderer Jodi Arias and kidnapper Ariel Castro.

Allow your Maximum Leader to step back and go over some ground that he’s not trod here in a while. For those of you who might not have been around years ago at the onset of this blog (and if you weren’t your Maximum Leader has to wonder what on earth brought you here more recently), your Maximum Leader has for most of his life favored and supported the death penalty. That effectively changed thanks to a post by our bloggy friend Skippy. The post concerned the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. That post, the links in it (especially to the New Yorker piece on Cameron Todd Willingham) and later the movie Incendiary basically changed the way your Maximum Leader thinks about the death penalty and its application.

(NB: You should read all of those links. And if you get a chance, rent Incendiary. Your Maximum Leader drove from his home in Fredericksburg, VA to downtown DC to see the movie during its limited run at one cinema in the area.)

Basically, the death penalty is over applied in the US. We like to think that we are being tough on crime by prosecuting and convicting in death penalty cases. But really, we are in the end harming our justice system. The harm is caused by a pervasive sense of doubt as to how the death penalty is applied and if it was called for. Was the death penalty sought because the accused was poor? Was black? Was marginally mentally competent? Was the prosecutor up for re-election? Too many questions.

But then just as one’s mind starts to ponder the many questions about the death penalty, as person like Jodi Arias comes around.

Without restating the whole sorrid case allow your Maximum Leader to summarize Jodi Arias thusly: a somewhat cute crazy bitch murdered her sometimes boyfriend. Unlike Skippy your Maximum Leader doesn’t find Jodi Arias all that physically attractive so he doesn’t quite get the national fascination with the story. (We Americans do like to follow capital cases with a hot defendant. Your Maximum Leader is willing to concede that he might have been more interested in the Arias case if a) he had found Arias more physically attractive and b) it hadn’t just gone on and on and on and on.)

Now… In the case of Jodi Arias, the state should go ahead and execute her. This is as clear a proper application of the death penalty as there can be. Crazy woman has wild monkey sex with boyfriend in the shower. He tells her afterwards that he’s not taking her on vacation with him. Crazy woman stabs and shoots him to death and then plays stupid. Jodi Arias should, now having been convicted, be ushered quietly in front of a firing squad and shot. Sadly, only Utah still shoots people - so lethal injection it is.

Unless you are against the application of the death penalty in all cases (and bully to you if you are); your Maximum Leader can’t see any reason why Jodi Arias shouldn’t be executed. (NB to Skippy: Okay there is one reason. To be Skippy’s sex-toy for a period and then be executed.)

So now having stated a case where your Maximum Leader has no trepidation in serving up an execution, let him move on…

At lunch with some respectable men about town the other day your Maximum Leader mentioned off-handedly that Ariel Castro should not be considered for the death penalty.

Just in case you missed it, Ariel Castro is the Cleveland man who kidnapped three young girls. Raped them. Beat them. Induced miscarriages in them. And ultimately fathered a child (of rape) by one of the kidnapped girls. He repeated these crimes over and over on these girls for a period of at least 10 years.

Yet this man shouldn’t, in your Maximum Leader’s estimation, be prosecuted for capital crimes. The most simple reason for this is that none of his victims died. Now, you are thinking to yourself, “Self, what about those miscarriages.” Good point. Although he’s against abortion, it isn’t quite the same. Pregnancies end for many reasons. Even the healthiest and most careful women can miscarry. Though there is a purposeful element to the miscarriages/abortions inflicted by Castro on those poor girls, your Maximum Leader isn’t able to commit to them being murder under the laws of the land. (NB: If it turns out that there is evidence that the babies had reached a stage of development where they might have lived outside the womb if delivered; then your Maximum Leader will reconsider this opinion.) Castro is a terrible waste of a human being. But his victims live. Because of that, the state shouldn’t attempt to kill him.

Your Maximum Leader didn’t realize the shock that this position would cause at the lunch table. One of his friends asked if his opinion would be different if the victim was one of the Villainettes? Of course it would. Your Maximum Leader would seriously advocate for the execution of people who inflicted minor harms on his daughters. But, that is because your Maximum Leader is their father. The law should be applied without that passion. It should be applied rationally and at arms length. Being as objective as possible, Ariel Castro, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion shouldn’t die for his crimes. A lifetime of solitary confinement punctuated by prison shower sodomy? That seems just. But death seems too much.

You may disagree (and frankly you are welcome to). But from what he knows now, that is how your Maximum Leader sees it.

So, there are some thoughts your Maximum Leader has been having about death… And look at that… He’s made a blog post out of them. Perhaps this medium isn’t as moribund as expected.

Carry on.

What the deuce is this? A post?!!?!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t dead. He is just living the dream of being a father with responsibilities. He wants to blog. Trust him on that. He does. It is just carving out time to do it.

So what is going on that he wants to comment upon? Well… Too much for the short time he has to write this. He hopes that he can write some this weekend. Here are some possible bloggy topics: His trip to the Land of the Great Mouse in Orlando Florida earlier this year; his trips to various Civil War battlefields with his family (to commemorate the 150th of many of these battles); his tribulations as a father of two teen girls and a boy who persists in pushing his buttons; and the regular stuff political and social.

What your Maximum Leader really needs to do is cut out a block of time (an hour or so) once or twice a week to just write a post.

As if that will happen….

If you happen to get on the ole Twitter machine, you can find your Maximum Leader at this twitter handle: @maximumleader (or clicky this link).

Carry on.

In need of updating

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader’s blog is in need of updating. He has comments that he is planning on posting very soon about Richard III and Benedict XVI. Perhaps some political comments as well. Perhaps this Sunday will be the day of updating…

In the meanwhile, please refrain from being martyred on this “holiday” known as “Valentine’s Day.”

Carry on.

Gang aft agley

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader’s Christmas & New Year’s did not go as planned. The trip to the National Christmas Tree did go wonderfully. We had a Suburban full of kids and had a great time going to DC to see the tree. Then the illnesses hit. Luckily, your Maximum Leader’s immediate family was spared. But his extended family was not. His Christmas dinner for 17 turned into dinner for 7. (That has meant that your Maximum Leader has been finding new and exciting ways to re-heat roast beef for a week.)

Then the post-Christmas quiet contemplation your Maximum Leader had hoped for evaporated quickly. Apparently, your Maximum Leader’s offspring decided to bicker and argue pretty much constantly for days.

It wasn’t the best.

Then, Mrs Villain declared that since January is shaping up to be a busy one for us… All the Christmas decorations had to come down. Once the decree had gone out, it had to be accomplished. So the Villainschloss is completely de-Christmas-ed. That makes your Maximum Leader a little sad; because he likes to keep the house festooned until at least the Feast of the Epiphany…

Anyhoo…

Yesterday, New Year’s Day (Rabbit by the way), was quiet enough. Most everyone in the Villainschloss stayed in their rooms and interacted very little. Your Maximum Leader watched a number of “Sherlock” episodes on Amazon Prime. Your Maximum Leader isn’t a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes “re-boots” that have come out. The 1st Robert Downey Jr. film was enjoyable as a “buddy film” but wasn’t Sherlock Holmes. Your Maximum Leader has also seen “Elementary” on CBS. While your Maximum Leader is happy to look at Lucy Liu for an hour in almost any circumstance, that show isn’t all that. But Stephen Moffat’s “Sherlock” is a different beast all together. It is great. If you haven’t had a chance to see the six episodes (all done before Benedict Cumberbatch had to go off and make the new Star Trek film and then Martin Freeman had to go and make the Hobbit films) you should watch them.

Your Maximum Leader wishes you all a happy and prosperous 2013.

Carry on.

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