Groan

Groan.

Stretch.

Groan.

Creak. Snap.

Smack.

Groan.

Are these the sounds of something coming awake?

Happy New Year & German Babies

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you a prosperous and happy 2015. The first few days of this new year haven’t been all that bad. Your Maximum Leader attended the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1st. That game will go down as one of the best sports memories of his life. It was great at so many levels… If you are a hockey fan and have a chance to go to a Winter Classic; you should.

Of course, your Maximum Leader was prepared for a long day outside on January 1 because he got a good night’s sleep on the night of December 31 to January 1. Your Maximum Leader has decided that from now on he celebrates New Years according to Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that he was toasting the new year at 7:00pm local time. It worked out well because it was right in the middle of a nice dinner. Your Maximum Leader was able to enjoy a meal, have a drink, then take a leisurely shower and retire to bed and get a full night’s sleep. He woke at his normal time (feeling no worse for wear) and carried on throughout the day.

Yesterday was the day when, for reasons of convenience mostly, your Maximum Leader “celebrated” Christmas with his family. His parents and sister (and sister’s family) came to the Villainschloss. We dined on pork tenderloin and a host of sides. One of those sides was Yorkshire Pudding. While most people associate Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef, it really can be had with almost any land-based roasted protein.

Well… Your Maximum Leader’s family are real fans of Yorkshire Pudding. We tend to eat quite a bit of it when we have it. So your Maximum Leader made a huge batch of the pudding batter and cooked it up in batches as the family was together. By cooking in smaller pans and smaller batches the pudding is always fluffy and hot when it is consumed.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader over prepared the batter and had quite a bit left uncooked at the end of the day. Mrs. Villain thought this was great because that meant that we could have “german babies” for breakfast the next day (which is today as I write this). Your Maximum Leader was taken aback. What were these “german babies” and why would we be eating them? It seemed a little much to start in on the cannibalism so soon in the new year and with our larder being pretty full. It was then that Mrs. Villain explained that close friends of hers growing up would make Yorkshire Pudding batter and cook the pudding in muffin tins and would take them from the oven and serve them for breakfast covered in maple syrup and confectioners sugar. This dish was known as a “german baby.”

This morning your Maximum Leader cooked up the last of the Yorkshire Pudding batter and did serve it up with maple syrup and confectioners sugar. It was pretty tasty all in all. Your Maximum Leader has even found a formal recipe for “german babies.” You can clicken here to see it. (And if you want a more glorified recipe there is one here. There is also a related Wiki page for “Dutch Baby Pancakes.”)

So there we are… Your Maximum Leader consumed german babies for breakfast this morning. And he liked it.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Greeting, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a break from real life to wish you all (such number of ye as there may be) a Merry Christmas.

There is so much that your Maximum Leader would like to write about, but he finds little time. (A constant refrain in this space…) What have we learned this year? Well, apparently some grand juries will not indict a ham sandwich or a police officer. (Some) People apparently like to demonstrate and riot over grand jury decisions. Some students believe the mental toll of following the news entitles them to make-up exams. Russians can shoot down jets with impunity. Some national airways can lose whole jet aircraft. The President can act monarchally when it comes to immigration issues. US voters will be contrarian in voting. Petulant asian dictators can determine what films will be shown in US cinemas. And it is possible that your Maximum Leader might not have to wait for the death of the Castro Brothers to visit Cuba…

That is a lot of stuff…

But what does all of it speak to? Is there a greater point in any of this news? A few days ago your Maximum Leader tweeted (follow him on the Tweety-box @maximumleader) the following pithy line:

Your Maximum Leader’s best bud, Kevin, asked for a more expansive exposition on this little tweeted aphorism. (Then he got in a - deserved - dig about how this blog is never updated…) Well… Here is a little more on that thought…

First off, perhaps your Maximum Leader should have written: Civility is the spanx holding in the barbarism of humanity. This thought came to your Maximum Leader as he was sitting down contemplating why he is an observant Catholic. In a meandering stream of thoughts your Maximum Leader eventually thought back to a lecture he once heard (and took notes upon) in college. The theme of this particular lecture was how many upper-middle class Victorians in Britain had the foundations of their social thinking shaken by scientific advancements but continued to behave as they had “for the good of society.” To restate this, science had cast doubts on long-held traditional beliefs. Evolution is the chief example of this, shaking the belief of traditional Christian Creationism. While these people were having to try to sort out what the basis of civilization itself should be, they continued to do the things they’d always done - like going to church on Sunday, acting like gentlemen and ladies and all the other tell-tale outward signs of being civilized.

Your Maximum Leader started to think to himself that our civilization is a very tenuous thing. This isn’t a new thought to him, or others. But for some reason that day the thought weighed heavily on his mind. Then, his mind moved from the sublime to the silly. He imagined the “body” of all humanity being constrained by nothing more than some shaped spandex. Humanity’s true nature has to be hidden, shaped as best as possible actually, by a thin veneer of something else. Civility is that thin veneer that keeps all the fat and bulging of our corpulent humanity in any sort of shape. Of course, over time the spanx wear out and cease to hold in that which they are designed to hold in… Your Maximum Leader wonders if the spanx of our civilization isn’t being pretty sorely tested by the mass of barbarous fat straining to break free…

Of course, this time of year should not be spent dwelling on the unpleasantness in the world… We should try to elevate our thoughts and celebrate the possibility of humanity’s advancement. The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar resets itself every year in Advent. One of the priests at your Maximum Leader’s parish suggested that like the church resetting the liturgical calendar each of us should try to reset our own personal quest towards living a life more in the image and likeness of Christ. Your Maximum Leader is sure that priests across the world, an ministers of every denomination, have preached the same message. Through our free will we have the potential for salvation. Your Maximum Leader wants to think this salvation is more than just spiritual salvation, but we can have societal salvation. We may not agree politically on items, but your Maximum Leader hopes that we in the United States (at least) can see the benefits our shared Anglo-Western-Judeo-Christian civilization and take steps to preserve it.

Oh… The silly things your Maximum Leader wishes for at Christmas…

Anyhoo…

Tis the season to read over the Gospel of Luke and perhaps contemplate its meaning. This year your Maximum Leader has been thinking a bit about Mary. Take this portion of Luke, Chapter 2:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.
9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Your Maximum Leader has always been struck by verse 19. “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.”

There is not much in the Bible about Mary. The passages directly mentioning her are very few. But there is always a gem in there. Your Maximum Leader’s money is on Luke 2:19 as the greatest of these gems. What does it say about a young girl that she should experience all she had and was still able to take in what she had seen and heard and ponder its meaning? If you aren’t a Christian, still take a moment to think through all this. Your Maximum Leader speculates that most young girls of the first century AD who had just delivered a baby under less than ideal circumstances might not be reticent and ponder their situation with the grace or poise that he reads in this verse. Of course, if you a Christian, there is a lot more going on in that one line.

Your Maximum Leader would like more people to keep the words they hear or read about and ponder them in their hearts. A little more pondering and little less talking and shouting might do us all a bit of good in preserving civilization.

And now… El Greco…
The Adoration by El Greco

Peace and goodwill to you all.

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

Doggie inspired sadness

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a brief break from his annual “rendering unto Ceasar” day of joy. During the break he went out and threw a ball for the dogs.

Yes. Dogs.

Your Maximum Leader can’t recall if he mentioned that he now has a second dog. His first dog, Maia, is 13 years old. The new dog, Bella, is about 10 months old. The circumstances of Bella’s arrival were not fortuitous. Mrs Villain announced, on the Sunday before Christmas, that she was adopting Bella and didn’t much care what your Maximum Leader had to say about it. She was then a surprised and upset when your Maximum Leader didn’t warm up to Bella and was giving Mrs Villain the cold-shoulder too. Anyway, that is past and Bella is, slowly, growing on your Maximum Leader.

Being a young’n, Bella has piles of energy and wants to play.

Being an old’n, Maia has some energy and occasionally likes to walk around slowly and sniff things.

While Bella has “livened” up Maia somewhat, Maia is still old. Maia has growing cataracts. She is arthritic. And Maia has been a little OCD for years. (NB: Not “a little OCD” in all honesty. She is very OCD. Do the point that we’ve had her on “downers” for about 5 years.)

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader was taking a break to toss a ball for the dogs to run around a little. Bella likes to run and retrieve and bound over things. Maia wants to run, but sadly cannot. When your Maximum Leader throws the ball, both dogs start towards the ball. Bella runs, accelerates and jumps. Maia takes a few steps. Then stops. Then turns and looks at your Maximum Leader with an expression that says, “I’d like to run; but it is too much.”

Sadly, this bad arthritis in Maia is probably going to be the end of her. She has trouble with stairs (so much so that we walk her around the Villainschloss outside to avoid them). She often has trouble getting up. Some nights she starts to move around and we hear her groaning as she stretches. Her time is coming. Coming quickly I fear. It is going to be very sad when it happens.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Miscellany - A Funk for 2014

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader felt the urge to blog. So here he is. Does he have anything to write about? Does he have a cogent thought that needs to be broadcast into the ether?

No. He doesn’t.

So far 2014 is tiring. Your Maximum Leader isn’t exactly sure why, but he has a theory on why. He hasn’t been sleeping well. He’s be waking about 3:30 every morning for a week. Sometimes he’s able to get back to sleep. Other times he’s not. So that means that come 8-9pm he is really beginning to drag and feels like he needs to go to bed.

Is it aging? Could be. Is there unusual stress in his life? No, nothing out of the ordinary.

Humm… He doesn’t really know what is up. Perhaps it is seasonal.

Basically he has lots of pet theories that he’s not interested in testing…

Your Maximum Leader has been more fixated in the past few weeks with sensory experiences. Basic things. He’s been fixated on the taste of things. He’s been cooking lots of good stuff and he’s been very conscious of how it is smells and tastes. Not as much on the looks of his food. The other day he doctored up some leftovers. The plate was a mess but did it smell and taste great.

He’s also been very concerned about his own smell. Strange isn’t it? Your Maximum Leader bathes quite regularly and is, like most Americans, rather scent neutral. Of late your Maximum Leader has been using his regular soap (the absolutely fabulous Oval Soaps by Fresh) while bathing; but has been often washing his hands using some great hand-soap he was gifted. The hand-soap, and a bottle of lotion that came with it, were a very generous gift from relatives just returned from Britain. The hand-soap is Quercus by Penhaligon’s of London. The Royal Warrant on the bottle should be a clue that the stuff is pricey but good. At $30 for a 300ML bottle it is probably not going to be a regular staple of your Maximum Leader’s toiletries; but he’d like it to be. The stuff is so good that he is going to seek out the local Penhaligon’s dealer in DC and actually consider buying some Eau de Toilette of a scent that jumps out at him. He doubts he’ll go through with this little plan due to the cost of the stuff ($125 a bottle!!!). Indeed the very fact that he is considering doing this is rather shocking to him.

Perhaps it is all part of this odd funk he is in. (Emotional funk. Not odoriferous funk certainly; if anything your Maximum Leader smells fantastic.)

There isn’t much else to comment upon. At least not much that is leaping to his mind. Your Maximum Leader is going to have to make some meat sauce for dinner in a little bit. The kids wanted spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner and your Maximum Leader was happy to oblige them. He is debating with himself if he’ll make meatballs or just put the meat straight into the sauce. He’ll likely take the easy way out and put the meat in the sauce.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader will start cooking now.

He may be back later today… Or not…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @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.

Happy Day!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to take a moment to wish his best buddy Kevin a big ole happy 44th.

Many happy returns.

Carry on.

So what is up with this rebirth of the blog?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure you’re asking yourself, “Self, what has caused my Maximum Leader to start blogging again? Is this a temporary thing?”

Well… It might be temporary - one cannot tell.

But why is your Maximum Leader blogging more frequently?

One reason that is immediately apparent to your Maximum Leader… He’s spending more time in front of his home computer. Why is this? Well, it is because for the first time since the mid 1990s, your Maximum Leader is taking a college course.

Yup. Your Maximum Leader is once again a college student. A community college student to be sure, but a college student nonetheless.

You see, your Maximum Leader has a job. And in that job he needs to improve his skills at accounting. So he is taking an accounting class at the local community college.

Yeah… Your Maximum Leader is the old geezer in the class of 20 somethings. Indeed, your Maximum Leader is only 1 year younger than his instructor.

You know, his class is an interesting cross section of his community. Indeed his row in the class is it’s own little cross section. There is the middle-aged white guy (yours truly), the ambitious young manager of Indian descent who majored in marketing and needs the accounting experience to get a promotion, the single mom trying to get a degree, and the guy who wasn’t ready for college when he graduated from high school and is now getting ready.

A lot has changed in the years since your Maximum Leader was last in a college class. First off, there are computers at every work station. Hell, they are “work stations” and not “desks.” His homework is all done on-line, turned in via a web app and graded and recorded instantly. There are on-line “blackboards” and everything is in PowerPoint.

My how the world turns.

Well… There isn’t much to add about the class here. Your Maximum Leader is learning a lot (even in two weeks) and hopes to learn even more as the class progresses. He is getting the hang of homework he has to do for himself (and not to help his children with).

He is also spending more time on his computer and deciding it might be a good thing to blog some…

So there you go…

Carry on.
(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

Ave Kevin!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is really happy for his best buddy Kevin, who will now be a professor at Catholic University of Daegu (S. Korea). It looks like Kevin will be shipping off to the Land of the Morning Calm in August. We will miss him here, but are happy to see him doing what he wants to do.

Carry on.

Bonjour

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maxmum Leader thinks that he’ll be writing a political tract for this space sometime this week. It looks like he might have some time to blog in the evenings this week. That is unless he is overtaken by events and has to change plans.

Today is a somewhat bittersweet day. Your Maximum Leader’s friend, Frank, who has been in a stroke-induced coma since December 23 is going to be transported today. Frank was in a hospital in Arlington, VA from the time of his stroke on. Today his parents (who reside in California) have managed to have him transported by air ambulance from DC to the Bay Area. The day is bittersweet because it means that he will be further away and hard to visit; but at the same time his care will be easier to manage for his parents. He remains in a coma with stable vital signs. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain visited Frank on Saturday to wish him safe travels. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain may, depending on time and finances, travel to California this summer to visit Frank and his family. We hope for a recovery of some sort, although signs continue to not be promising.

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Your Maximum Leader did. Indeed your Maximum Leader tried to get a Twitter meme going about #falsesuperbowlfacts. It didn’t catch on. By the way, you can follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader. Your Maximum Leader thought the game was boring until the thrilling ending. And the crop of ads wasn’t all that. In fact there were only two ads that he’d not seen before and remembered. The first was this ad that made him want to run out and buy a Fiat:

In addition to making him want to buy a Fiat, the ad also illustrated the continued coarsining of American society… The second ad was the Clint Eastwood ad for Chrysler.

This ad, as great as it was, doesn’t make him want to buy a Chrysler. Perhaps it is the dearth of hot Italian women dripping foam on their decolage.

And on a final note, the article that gives this post its title. From the Wall Street Journal, “Why French Parents are Superior.” A great (and very important) quotation:

[Yet] the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. “For me, the evenings are for the parents,” one Parisian mother told me. “My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time.” French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves.

Your Maximum Leader believes he and Mrs Villain have done a pretty good job with our kids. They behave well in public and we’ve never had a problem taking them anywhere. They also are well behaved in the company of others. They act out at home and in private - which one would imagine is a universal condition. But the key idea of the whole article is that parents are at the “constant service of their children.” That is a concept with which many American parents seem unfamiliar.

Carry on.

Whither your Maximum Leader

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that the month of January is nearly half spent and he’s hardly blogged at all. He’d thought that he’d devote a little more time to blogging in 2012.

But fate has conspired against him.

Your Maximum Leader is not trying to elicit sympathy from any of you out there that are still reading… But…

2012 (and frankly the tail end of 2011) have not been particularly good for your Maximum Leader.

After Christmas, Villainette #2 got pretty sick and was not feeling well for a while. That was a downer during the period from Christmas to New Years.

Right after New Years your Maximum Leader’s dear father-in-law saw his doctor for some chest pains. He (father-in-law) has had some cardiovascular issues in the past and has a number of stents in various arteries around his heart. After an examination we all thought that there would be more stents inserted into arteries around father-in-law’s heart. Well… That was wrong. Upon closer examination, father-in-law required double bypass surgery. That was the bad news. The good news is that father-in-law is a model of health and vigor and has come through the surgery very well and is now recovering at home. In fact, Mrs Villain (and a fully recovered Villainette #2) are with him now to help him and mother-in-law get all settled in.

As if that was not enough…

He hardest blow has been what has happened to your Maximum Leader’s graduate school buddy and one-time roommate, Frank S.

The Wednesday after Christmas your Maximum Leader received a call from a friend. She had just been called by Frank’s father. Frank was in the hospital. Frank had had a massive stroke. Frank was in a coma. Frank’s prognosis was unclear, but likely bad.

Sadly, my friend Frank’s condition is unchanged. He has suffered massive amounts of brain damage. He is still in a coma. His prognosis is still somewhat unclear, although doctors say any recovery is highly unlikely.

Frank is 44 years old.

I last spoke to Frank over Thanksgiving weekend. We had agreed to chat in January and set a date to go and see the hoard of Saxon gold at the National Geographic Society. I was going to bring the family along and we would see the gold and then get some Indian food near Frank’s apartment in Arlington.

I have visited Frank a number of times in the past few weeks. Some days I believe he might be “aware” of my being there and talking to him. Most days I don’t know. Sadly, as I have already mentioned, it is my understanding that Frank’s condition will not improve.

So there is that…

Sorry your Maximum Leader hasn’t started off 2012 with a burst of creative output. But he doesn’t have it in him.

Carry on.

Happy New Year

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all a happy new year. He hopes that your 2012 is going better than his…

Carry on.

Not A Zombie.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not dead. He is not an undead revenant. He was not a casualty of today’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Virginia.

No… Your Maximum Leader has been busier over the past few weeks than he can ever remember being. He’s barely had time to eat and sleep (two of his favorite activities). Blogging, which has been sparse over the past year or so, was waaaay down on the list.

Anyhoo…

Don’t you fret. Your Maximum Leader is lurking out in the ether.

Carry on.

One word for you… Apokatana

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader mused the other night, on Twitter (@maximumleader if you care to follow him) that he felt like he should own himself a sword.

Now, it is likely that this sudden urge to own a sword stems from two elements in your Maximum Leader’s person. The first is that for the past month or so he’s been reading George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire.” (NB: He is now starting book four, “A Feast for Crows.”) There are lots of swords in those books…

The second is that swords are cool. Your Maximum Leader has always loved swords. (NB: He also thinks that a sword is a handy back-up weapon to have during a zombie apocalypse.) He, at one time long past, had a cheesy replica cavalry sabre. He doesn’t know what came of it (but it is likely that it wound up being sold or given away to someone). But he has, from time to time, wanted a sword.

He doesn’t want any sword mind you, he wants a sword with character.

For a long time your Maximum Leader has been torn two ways when it comes to swords. The first way is towards Japan. Like so many others, Quentin Tarantino for example, he believes that the Japanese samurai sword is about a great as you can get in a sword. Your Maximum Leader isn’t talking about a katana that is stamped out of pot metal, chromed, and sold in a Spencer’s Gifts in a mall somewhere. He is talking about a legitimate sword, crafted by hand by folding heated metal upon itself over and over again, then hand polished. Of course a sword like that is a work of art and, sadly, way out of your Maximum Leader’s current budget.

But there is another problem with an authentic katana. (Which is the only type he’d want.) It is Japanese. Your Maximum Leader is not Japanese. He feels a little weird about investing himself in a Japanese sword…

Your Maximum Leader is of good Scottish stock. So the likely sword for him would be the claymore. Now when your Maximum Leader says “claymore” he’s thinking about a full-out medieval two-handed great sword. That is a sword that befits a Maximum Leader. The very idea of a claymore stirs the Scottish blood in your Maximum Leader.

Then again, your Maximum Leader is American. And like America, we have got to make badass stuff that is our own.

That is where your Maximum Leader’s interweb acquaintance the Amazing Ben comes in. You may know the Amazing Ben from his kick-ass blog (Badass of the Week) or either of his two fabulous books (here and here). Ben also tweets at @badassoftheweek

If you know anything at all about the Amazing Ben Thompson, you know that he knows badass forwards and back. Ben, upon reading that your Maximum Leader was thinking of swords, and was thinking about how a sword would come in handy during the zombie apocalypse, suggested that your Maximum Leader check out a website that might satisfy his yen for a sword as well as be handy to have in the zombie apocalypse.

Your Maximum Leader now suggests you go on over and check out Zombie Tools.

Your Maximum Leader is not prone to cursing on his blog… But oh fuck yeah. This is what he’s talking about. Check out the blades they sell. (Here if you need a linky to clicky).

Your Maximum Leader is completely captivated by the Apokatana. (He is also pretty psyched by the d’Capitan, but the Apokatana seems to speak to him.) See the Apokatana in action (NB: they drop the f-bomb a few times - so be careful who is listening):

Need more?

How about the guys testing out their wares on Earl the zombie cow:

Well… Now your Maximum Leader is going to have to squirrel away money to save up and get an Apokatana for himself… There just ain’t no two ways about it. He’s going to have to have one…

Unless the guys at Zombie Tools decide to make a claymore style great-sword…

Carry on.

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