Wednesday, January 31, 2007


 I found the text on the net, but inbult formatting problems led me to just transcribe the darn thing myself. But it's a good piece of work and I think it was worth it.

Noel Coward-1943
Colonel Montmorency who was in Calcutta in ninety-two
Emerged from his retirement for the War
He wasn't very pleased with all he heard and all he saw
But whatever he felt he tightened his belt and organized a Corps
Poor Colonel Montmorency thought considering all the wars he'd fought
The Home guard was his job to do or die
But after days and weeks and years, bravely drying his many tears
He wrote the following letter to the Minister of Supply
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Or failing that a hand grenade will do
We've got some ammunition, in a rather damp condition
And Major Huss has an arquebus that was used at Waterloo
With the Vicar's stirrup pump, a pitchfork and a stave
It's rather hard to guard an aerodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Were getting awfully tired of drawing lots
Today we had a shipment of some curious equipment
And just for a prank, they sent us a tank that ties itself in knots
On Sunday's mock invasion, Captain Clark was heard to say
He hadn't even got a brush and comb
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Colonel Montmorency planned, in case the enemy tried to land
to drive them back with skill and armoured force
He realized his army should be mechanized, of course
But somewhere inside, experience cried "My Kingdom for a horse"
Poor Colonel Montmorency tried, at infinite cost to time and pride
to tackle his superiors again
Having just one motorbike, fourteen swords and a marlin spike
He wrote the following letter in the following urgent strain
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
We need it very badly, I'm afraid
Our local crossword solver has an excellent revolver
But during a short attack on a fort, the trigger got mislaid
In course of operations planned for Friday afternoon
Our orders are to storm the Hippodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
the lack of one is wounding to our pride
Last night we found the cutest, little Germanparachutist
He looked at our kit and giggled a bit, and laughed until he cried
We'll have to hide that armoured car when marching through Berlin
We'd almost be ashamed of it in Rome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
I came across this on a collection of songs from WWII. The Bren gun, I discovered after some online research, is a lightweight machine gun. For those who don't know, a marlinspike looks like a huge needle (they can be up to two fee log) that is used for splicing rope or line. Fishermen use them, and so do loggers. the stirrup pump is a small hand operated vacuum pump used to fight fires. Not much of an arsenal.
Noel Coward's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he wrote this but, when you stop and think about the circumstances it's laughter to keep from crying (or screaming). This song very graphically reminds us just how desperate conditions were for England during a large part of the war. Between the fall of France, until Hitler turned his ambitions to the east and Russia, England was alone. The US didn't get pulled into the war until Pearl Harbor. And if the Germans hadn't declared war on us after we declared war on Japan it would have been nearly impossible to divert resources to the European war.
Funny thing is, apparently more than a few folks were up in arms over the song. Seems that they felt is was disrespectful or something. Actually, although the song makes me laugh, it was really dead serious. Somehow the idea of a bunch of over the hill civilians even thinking they could stand up to the Wehrmacht, well, we'll never know, because the Germans never invaded England. Looking back, we can chuckle over a song that seems a lot like whistling while you take a shortcut through a graveyard.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


As the new constitution was being passed around for ratification opposition began to surface. Some folks started pointing out that the constitution laid out the rights of government, what about the rights of the citizens. Some supporters of ratification seemed to have a problem understanding what the hubbub was about. On the other hand some folks, including Patrick Henry, wanted to know what they were afraid of. Were they afraid that amending the constitution to include what became the Bill of Rights would "use too much paper" when it was sent to the printer


Thank whichever deity you're on good terms with that the likes of Patrick Henry held out. Considering what we're stuck with right now, we'd really be up shit creek, I suspect we'd be short the canoe as well as the paddle with no rock to stand on, in crap well over our heads.


Watched the PBS series Liberty again this month. It is so good, one of my better investments. But, it is so weird to listen to  people writing or speaking to us from over two centuries ago and they’re complaining about the same damn problems. One scene had material from Cornwallis to his commander in New York. The good general had just spent the better part of six months trying to catch up with Major General Nathaniel Green and his forces. Trouble is Green wouldn’t stay put and he wouldn’t fight unless he had to. Nathaniel Green is probably one of the most creative losing officers we've ever had. Probably couldn't get away with it now. Now that I think about it, that tactic sounds kind of familiar too.


Anyway, Cornwallis’ troops were sick, exhausted, and keeping their quartermaster supplied off the land had exhausted the patience of even the most die-hard loyalists.


After limping back to the Virginia coast with about 500 fewer healthy troops than he started with, Cornwallis basically told his commander, General Clinton, that if he had a plan he would appreciate knowing what it was. And if he didn’t, “what are we doing here?” Sound familiar? At that point I totally lost it and I think mom was looking for the eggs.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


This is a commercial photo from the net. Our crocuses don't oblige us by coming up in bouquets. But, the first yellow crocus blossom is up. Tucked in close to the heather where there is a little protection. It was a really frosty night last night. But, spring is on the way.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Playing around in the kitchen this afternoon. Turned out remarkably well for a first timer. Used a little cooking spray in the 8 ounce ramikins otherwise this is fat free but still tastes very rich to my taste buds.


2 medium to large apples cored and thinly sliced. Peel if you want to or leave the peel on. Microwave the apples for five minutes or so on high. Add a teaspoon of vanilla, two tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of honey, a few sprinkles of cinnamon or nutmeg and a teaspoon of vanilla.
1/2 Cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 Cup dried cranberries
1/3 Cup blueberries
1/3 Cup raisins
Soak the dried fruit in a little water until soft. Add the fruit and nuts to the apple mixture. Spoon into a casserole or four small ramekins. Bake in a hot water bath at 325 for 30 to 40 minutes. It's ok if the apples are still a little al dente. Serve with whatever topping suits you. Nonfat vanilla yogurt works very well.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I've never seen a president portrayed the way Bush has been by so many cartoonists. As little boy or a just a little guy. This one took it just about as far as it can go, I think. Ouch. Oh boy ouch. This piece appeared in the Oregonian earlier this week.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This entry was prompted by a story on AOL about a poor guy who managed to end up with the dubious title of heaviest person on the planet. He started out at 1200 pounds and he’s down to about 800. We won’t even go into the crap on the boards except to say that there are some really strange people out there.


I didn’t have much success with weight loss until I did some Internet research and got my hands on some good books. I highly recommend Andrew Weil and Dean Ornish. They both walk you through how your body processes the food you eat. What happens when your system processes highly refined carbohydrates for example? The reaction your system has to high fructose corn syrup. Short version of the story? It’s just about as bad for you as trans fats and it’s in even more foods. It’s used as a preservative as well as a sweetener and it’s poison, no matter where you find it. You can keep a person alive on glucose. Even though sucrose breaks down to glucose and fructose your body doesn’t use it the same way. Really screws up the way your liver works.


I don’t know if this has changed. Dr. Ornish mentioned in one of his books that insurance companies were willing to pay thousands of dollars for bypass surgery but nothing beyond the cost of a basic office visit for counseling on diet. Since the bypass surgery will probably have to be repeated if the patient doesn’t change his diet that seems very counter productive.  This was in the mid-nineties. This may have changed and now be part of a wellness benefit if your insurance has something like that. If you even have insurance.


Frankly, gastric bypass surgery is out. Not only do I find the risks unacceptable, but I can’t afford it. Even if my insurance picks up part of the tab, I still don’t have those kind of bucks in my bank account.


Let’s not even go into that sinking feeling that comes when you discover your tax dollars for farming price supports are going to provide incentives for agribusiness to grow crops like corn and soy because they get part of their costs paid, not because people eat that much corn and soy. Then you have a crop that needs a market and a lot of it ends up as high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated cooking fat. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot.


Anyway, our answer was to eliminate almost all processed foods from the menu. At least if I cook it, I know what went into it. (I hope. Mom was rinsing packaged salad greens before the E-Coli outbreak) Read the labels, read the labels, read the labels. As I’ve said before, imagine my surprise at finding that *())&* corn syrup in my Italian sausage. Avoid any food labeled “diet.” Too many diet foods are lower calorie versions of the foods that caused the trouble in the first place. You aren’t going to lose your taste (or craving) for candy if you don’t quit eating it even if it is labeled “diet.” One exception, Fred Meyer puts out a killer non-fat, non-sugar yogurt WITH fruit in it, not just fruit flavoring. They use Splenda and it only has 100 calories per serving.


Cutting down the fat or the sodium in a highly refined chip product doesn’t change how your body processes the carbohydrate and that’s where the real trouble is. I’ll break down once a month or so at work. Usually when I’m really tired. I suspect that what my body is after is the vitamin C in the spices that flavor those chili cheese corn chips. (I know there’s no vitamin C in the chip, it’s just how my body lets me know what I need. If I take more Vitamin C as a vitamin the cravings go down.) Frankly, my main weak points are salty or spicy items. Most sweets have moved into the “yuck” column. They’re just too sweet.


Ironically, there is a study out that shows that women who drink diet sodas actually gain more weight than women who don’t. 

One theory is that drinking something sweet with no calories triggers a response in the body encouraging it to expect that calories are coming. When “nothing” shows up the body activates your appetite in an effort to get something, anything that it recognizes as food. Great, just great. The only ones who win are the soft drink companies pushing their overpriced, flavored, fizzy water and the ad companies they hire.


If you aren’t careful, you end up fighting your body. Cut back too much and your body slows down your metabolism to compensate. Try to mix a weight lifting program that’s overly ambitious with a weight losing program and your body tends to go “?.” Also, I’ve discovered that your system has to adjust to the weight you’ve lost. I’ve forgotten how many inches of blood vessels you lose for every pound you lose but it has to go somewhere.


Add in your system trying to metabolize what’s been trapped in the fat that’s being released and any medications you’re on and you can end up dealing with things that never even occurred to you. Let’s just say that in the last few months I’ve ended up with “irritations” in places you don’t want irritated and leave it at that. Great Mother. Cut a gal some slack will you.


Bottom line is this. Most of us know about as much about how our bodies work as we do about how our computers work. If not less. In high school health was a six-week unit we took in PE. I think we got a little nutrition information in Home Ec but that was an elective and boys (who need this information as much as girls) tend to not take Home Ec. Not back in the sixties anyway. Of course if we get too much good information we’ll take one look at ninety percent of what’s in the grocery store and run screaming out the door. Can’t have that, can we?

Monday, January 22, 2007


We started watchin my copy of PBS's series "The West" again this weekend. The story of Joseph and the Nez Perce has caught at my heart for years. The real irony is that without the help of the Nez Perce Lewis and Clark's expedition would have come a cropper. They stumbled out of the Bitter Root mountains more dead than alive. The Nez Perce helped them with food and taught them how to make canoes. They wouldn't have made it to the Pacific coast without their help.

Over a century ago, a Nez Perce leader known to the whites as Chief Joseph gave this reply to representatives from the elected hired help in Washington. President Grant had opened the Wallowa Valley in Oregon to European American settlement. I'm not sure if Joseph said these words when his people were told they had thirty days to gather up their belongings and beloved Apaloosa horses and leave for Lapwai reservation in Idaho.

But, these words go to heart of what was wrong then and what is wrong now. The arrogance that allows some of us to believe that we have the right to dispose of the lives of others. All for their own good, of course.

Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the Creator, I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to return to yours.

Brother, we have listened to your talk coming from the father in Washington, and my people have called upon me to reply to you. And in the winds which pass through these aged pines we hear the moaning of their departed ghosts. And if the voices of our people could have been heard, that act would never have been done. But alas, though they stood around, they could neither be seen nor heard. Their tears fell like drops of rain. I hear my voice in the depths of the forest, but no answering voice comes back to me. All is silent around me. My words must therefore be few. I can say nomore. He is silent, for he has nothing to answer when the sun goes down.

Chief Joseph

And Joseph spoke these words when his people were finally forced to surrender to troops sent to force them onto the reservattion. They'd spent three months in a fighting retreat in an attempt to find refuge in Canada. They almost made it.

"Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead.  It is the young men who say yes or no.  He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I shall fight no more forever." And with that, Chief Joseph and his people surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry and were taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and then to Indian territory in Oklahoma.

Chief Joseph

(Thunder coming up over the land from the water)

Nez Perce Tribe
Born - 1845 in Wallowa Valley in Oregon
Died - September 21,1904 on Colville Reservation in Washington
Buried at Colville Reservation in Nespelim, Washington

He was never allowed to return to his beloved Wallowa Valley. And it is beautiful. A gem in a state that has more than one beautiful valley.

A mini bio of Joseph may be found here.

I'm not sure which birthdate is right. And the spelling of his tribal name is different. What is on the record is that he was born in Oregon, died in Washington, and in between spent no little time in hell, no thanks elected hired help that couldn't be depended on to keep their word from year to the next. One month to the next or even one day to the next.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Recipe for coffee on my new mug.


Add 1 pound of coffee to one gallon of water. Boil for an hour. Drop a horseshoe into the pot. If it sinks......add more coffee. :-)

I suspect that this brew would dissolve the cup......and any fillings the drinker has.


Two news stories caught my interest today. One on AOL about a man living in Mexico who, up until a couple of years ago, was the heaviest person the planet. He weighed in at 1200 pounds; he’s now down to about 800 pounds. Many of the posts on the boards are or were (threads keep disappearing) um, unkind to say the least. As someone who has dealt with overweight all my life I can certainly sympathize with him. And hope he succeeds.


The other has to do with the millions in farm subsidies for the corporations that grow the makings for two of biggest dietary offenders in the country, corn and soybeans. The root ingredients for high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soy based shortenings. So our taxes pay the subsidies for corporations that don’t need the supports and our taxes pay for health care for problems caused by a diet heavy in highly processed foods. What’s wrong with this picture?


We had considered tacos for dinner, but settled on getting the crock pot going for a good soup. Out of curiosity I hauled out the package of commercial tortillas in the fridge and checked out the ingredients. Imagine my surprise. My tortilla recipes have two or maybe three ingredients. Flour, water and MAYBE salt. That wasn’t what was on the package. Granted, they list the ingredients in the commercial flour too, and it’s kind of long. But the other ingredients? Yeast? Shortning? Molasses? What the *(&&^%. Tortillas are flat bread. I suspect the yeast is there for flavoring, not as leavening. Mom and I had a little discussion and decided we would try making our own.


May invest in a tortilla press, may just try making them on the bread board between a couple of sheets of saran wrap. Oops plastic wrap. Trying to cut down on that too. Parchment paper? Might work. Could probably use a little flour on the board and the roller and just work patiently. We even have one of those cute cast iron grills to cook them on.


I’ve noticed when I see travelogue footage of street vendors sellingtacos or tortilla products in Mexico that they’re using tortillas that are a lot smaller than what we find up here. Probably sell them for a few pesos. Hit the fruit seller down the way and you’re set. I find myself suspecting that making little flat breads won’t be that hard. This is sounding better all the time.


Made a batch of cheese and onion rolls this morning. The recipe is a variation on a recipe for challah from a book called The Village Baker. Lots of yummy sounding breads. You can get a long way on soup, bread, salad and fruit.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


We got about two inches of snowWednesday night and then it got cold. Very cold for this part of the country. It hasn't really been above freezing since Wednesday night. The yard has been very busy. One good thing, the frosty ground give a better background for the critters.

I suspect this little guy would be happier if his feet were warmer. But we made sure the pickings were pretty good.

If you look closely there are several juncos or other small birds down with the squirrel. They're willing to share, but nobody was leaving a relatively sure thing. And I don't blame them. I can't imagine being that little and putting up with the cold.

A western scrub jay added to the mix. That's the fellow in the blue jacket with the gray waist coat. He likes corn, and the suet mix.


This is a sparrow known as a towee. This is not my picture, I got it off the net, but we have some on the hill behind the house. The one in our yard today was moving too much for me to get a shot. I think it finally figured out that there was corn in the seed we've been putting out. The only times I've seen them off the hill have been during blueberry season when they like to help themselves to the odd blueberry. They'll pop up from the violets below the bushes, grab a berry and disappear.

The little guys getting their feet cold on the frosty ground. Odd triva fact. Officially, it hasn't snowed in the Eugene/Springfield area for ten years. Ever since the automated equipment was installed out at the airport. If the machines can't measure it, it doesn't exist. I guess a couple of my co workers the hills around town were stuck at home with five or six inches of "imaginary" ice and snow.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


“Many who live deserve death, and some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Then, do not be so quick to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Gandalf the Grey in The Fellowship of the Ring.


That said, if anyone deserved the ultimate penalty, it was Saddam Hussein. But the story being shaped leaves a lot to be desired. The story leaking out is of the Iraqi government insisting Hussein be turned over for execution over the objections of US diplomats and commanders in Iraq. Anybody who believes the final decision wasn’t made in Washington must be in the market for some beachfront property near the ruins of New Orleans. The current administration definitely attempts to control events from the top down. The only reason to do it any other way is to give the administration a degree of deniability in Hussein’s execution. Not that deniability of any kind is going to do this administration any good with the Iraqis.


Officially, Hussein was executed for ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite men and boys from a village where there was an attempt on his life in 1982. Officially, these charges were brought first because supposedly the court had the most evidence with his name on it for these crimes. Never addressed were charges of genocide against the Kurds in the late eighties, the attempts to force the Marsh Arabs off their lands, and the abortive rebellion of the Shiites after the first Gulf War. A rebellion encouraged by America. Ruthlessly put down by Hussein when we failed to support them.


An op-ed piece in the Saturday Oregonian by Peter W Galbraith (go to this link for information on Mr. Galbraith's career details his observations of the Kurdish area where 4,500 of 5,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed. At least 200 were with chemical weapons. In the best Nazi tradition, the middlemen responsible for the genocide kept paper records and video tapes of executions and torture sessions. Some fourteen tons of records captured by the Kurds after the Gulf War and now in the National Archives. That’s our National Archives folks. Hussein’sname has to be on an order in that stack of paper somewhere.


What our elected hired help would prefer not to come out at trial is what Galbraith calls “a deeply amoral period in Western diplomacy when the major powers including the United States, chose to overlook genocide for strategic and economic reasons.”


The idea of Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney or even the first President Bush being called to testify on what is part of public record had have them sweating bullets.


Donald Rumsfeld was President Reagan’s special envoy to Hussein in 83-84. According to Galbraith he met with Hussein twice without mentioning the use of poison gas on the Kurds. Even though he had spoken in public about the matter. Outside Iraq.


Colin Powell was Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He coordinated the successful effort to block legislation imposing sanctions on Iraq for using poison gas on the Iraqi Kurds. Imagine a former American Secretary of State called to testify in an Iraqi court about our failure to prevent yet another genocide.


In the months after the 1988 gas attacks the first Bush Administration doubled its financial assistance to Iraq. Dick Cheney was the Secretary of Defense at the time.


Without a trial and a verdict, Galbraith contends that future Iraqi governments can claim that genocide against the Kurds never happened. And it kind of makes me wonder if some of the current members of the Iraqi government might be on the witness list.


With or without a verdict justice was served. I can think of no better justice than Hussein’s spirit having to confront the souls of everyone, Iraqi or Iranian who died on his orders. It would bea hell of line up. I wonder how many years it will be before his soul is ready to come back to learn what it didn’t this time around.


Peter Galbraith is the author of The End of Iraq, how American incompetance created a war without end.

Monday, January 1, 2007


Bandit is a great one for shading her eyes when she thinks the light's too bright.


Started the first morning of the year with cloudy skies and a yard full of birds.

A western scrub jay. The king of the yard for a moment and a great lover of cracked corn.

Not the greatest shot. Goldfinches on the feeders, in the trees and in the air as somebody tries to hurry things along. They're tiny, not much more than four inches long. I kept the long shot because they were spread out so much. And also, because when I tired to edit the shot to get a tighter view it was pretty blurry. I may eventually be able to get closer shots, but right now anything unfamiliar sends them packing. Heck, I would too if I was that small.

A pair, and from the markings, I'd say mates. You don't see them around here very often. They'll probably head for the blackberry thickets when it warms up a bit, but the pickings are kind of slim right now. The males may turn a little yellower when it's time to strut their stuff this spring. I've been putting seed out on the ground this winter and we had a whole flock of starlings in one little spot Saturday. Hoovered everything in one spot and moved on.  

We haven't had any rain for a few days. Didn't set a rain record to end the year. And that's just fine because there's enough standing water in the fields as it is. The southern Willamette Valley this time of year is either warmer and rainy or chilly and foggy/cloudy. Sends a lot of folks looking for sunnier if not warmer places.

That's ok. Gives us something to look forward to when it's hitting ninety in August and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky for weeks. :-)