Saturday, August 14, 2021

We Are Still Married (1998)

 Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1998 13:08:58 -0400

From: Victoria

Subject: not sure if i should send this, but...

i’m back again, sorta.

back from the east coast anyway, where i went for a week or so to get my thoughts together, decide why i wanted to kill/hurt/maim myself as badly as i did, why i was so paralyzed with fear over turning 30, why i was so desperately, miserably unhappy.  i learned that i have very few boundaries.   i learned that many parts of me that i’m ashamed of having are part of me whether i like it or not, and i’m going to have to learn to deal with them (for further clarification, read “two women” by denise levertov). i learned that i am not in love with my husband anymore.

it’s that last one that’s throwing me for a loop.

it’s that last one that’s eating me apart inside.

<snip>

....i’m just trying to get a handle on this.  i’m wondering if anyone else out there has felt this, is still married, and why.  please don’t write and quote me all the sanctity-of-marriage verses in scripture:  i know them already....

<snip>

has anyone else ever been here?

i’m desperate, or else i wouldn’t be telling a bunch of people that i really don’t know.  answer me privately, if you wish.  i want to want to work this out, but if i were flat-out honest i’d rather be anywhere than here.

i never knew love was this fragile.

victoria

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi, Vic.  It’s Izzy, lifting the title of someone else’s book.  You say:

>i learned

>that i am not in love with my husband anymore.

to which I say “So what?”

Alright, now that your hackles are up, let me expand.  And I’ll try to have something practical after I ramble through some theory...

SWMBO and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary.  This is something of  milestone for us, since we now figure we have half a chance of making it.  Well, actually, it’s not that WE figure, but... Well, the first Sunday back from our honeymoon, one of our elders came up to us and said, “If you make it 15 years, I give you half a chance.”  Gee, thanks for the encouraging word.

But he wasn’t too far from wrong.

We had a longer honeymoon than most (about four years), but for most of our married life we have not been “in love”.  Some of the time, we haven’t even liked one another all that much.  But we made the decision before we were married, and vowed to one another in the ceremony, that we would make the effort to love one another, and so even when we don’t like each other, we try to love one another.

There have been times that I have carried this marriage on my back alone.  And there have been (probably more frequent) times that SWMBO has carried it on hers.  In retrospect, had we treated marriage like a 50-50 partnership, it would have dissolved years ago.  Instead, we try to treat marriage like a 100-100 partnership.  Now at any given time, the total effort going into this thing called our marriage may only be about 70% total, instead of the 200% total for which we claim we want to strive.  This has been enough, so far, to get us over the bad patches.

OK, I know I haven’t been too encouraging so far, but here’s the thing.  Yes, there have been bad patches.  Yes there have been times when we didn’t like one another all that much.  But we have found it well worth getting through the bad patches because the good patches are so much better when we get back to them.  I personally don’t put a whole lot of stock in being giddily in love; I know how volatile emotions can be.  And yet, even after fifteen years, we still hit times when we are just plain stupid in love (we’re leaving one of those periods right now, and on a downhill ride toward being friendly roommates.  God willing, we will rise again.)  And quite a bit of the time, we function well as a team now.

SO here’s the deal: after years of training one another, we fit well.  We anticipate each other’s stupid jokes.  It’s harder to arrange a surprise for each other (but what’s life without a challenge or two?).  We’re already starting to remember shared stories differently (it was during the summer of ’91 that we...  No, it was ’92; I remember because Aunt Flo...  But Aunt Flo was in Utah in ’92...)  And when we take on responsibilities, we apportion the work well and collapse into a comfortable heap afterwards.  People accuse us of being cute.

As for the notion of being “in love”, I think it’s one of the most overrated and damaging ideas invented.  Desires in general are aimed at extinguishing themselves.  If I have a real hankering for chocolate and indulge that desire, I satisfy it and the desire is (at least temporarily) dead.  The only way to hold onto a desire for any length of time is to never fulfill it.  And being “in love” is a desire.  Think about all the TV shows that keep us going from week to week with a “will they or won’t they” plot.  Now think about the shows in which they “do.”  Either the shows lose their impetus, or we have to start throwing new obstacles in the way of the new lovers.  Why?  Because being “in love” is by its very nature a transitory thing.

By the way, the notion of “true love” was forged in the tradition of Courtly Love, in which the only real love is for an object that can never be attained.  Thus the world’s great love stories: Tristan & Isolde, Romeo & Juliette; they end in death.  Or Cinderella, where marriage takes the function of death and there’s some magic “happily ever after” that can never be spelled out.

Look, nothing can kill pure, spiritual love like putting flesh on it.  Suddenly, this great object of romantic passion reveals itself as a lump of flesh that makes funny noises and weird smells, that always stirs its coffee in that annoying way, that always leaves things in the wrong place.  This is what it means to live and to love in a fallen world.

SWMBO and I were called to love one another the best we can.  This means taking the bad with the good, as we promised in our vows:  “For better or for worse” assumes that there will be worse.  We just have to learn to get through it to the better again.

SO what has helped us get through the bad?  Well, in general, having good network of Christian friends with whom and to whom we are accountable for our actions.  Having in that network people who have been married and walking with God longer than we’ve been alive and being willing to go to them and bitch.  I think SWMBO would have killed me during our second year if she hadn’t been able to go to an older woman and complain about me, only to be met with some gentle laughter and similar stories from years before.  It helped SWMBO to have someone demonstrate that she had been there as well and that it was worth getting over it.  It also helped to have this same woman remind SWMBO of a number of my good points and to tell her how obvious it was to everyone that I was mad for my wife.

It has also helped me in those times when I wasn’t so mad for her to ACT s if I were.  Sometimes, I have been able to rekindle the feelings by acting on what I don’t feel.  So I’ll do something self-consciously sweet like send her flowers for no good reason.  And send them to her office.  And here’s what happens.  Her coworkers ask “Is it your birthday/anniversary/tpam?”  “No?  Well he must have *done something*.  What did he do?”  “Nothing?  Well, what did YOU do?”  Eventually they get the idea that SWMBO has received flowers for no particular reason.  This makes her coworkers jealous and makes her feel good.  And perversely, it makes me feel good to make her feel good in front of her colleagues.  And at the very least/worst/most selfish, her coworkers all think I’m hot stuff.  All this from doing something I didn’t FEEL like doing; much good from an act that could be viewed as hypocritical or cynical.

Alright, I’ve rambled on long enough.  The big message I have for you is this.  You are not alone; many of us have gone through bad patches and know that we’ll go through them again.  It is well worth the effort to figure out how to get to the other side.  The good patches get better every time.  And forget about this being “in love” shit.  Emotions are too unstable to form the basis of any relationship.  It’s great, even wonderful, when they fall into place, but don’t trust ’em, don’t rely on ’em.  Learn to love without being in love.

Pax,

Izzy

OK, one more story.  Sitting in a Greek class where the prof had been married only about 8 years, I had been married about the same amount of time, and my favorite classmate, Susan, had been married long enough that she had actually dropped a class a couple years earlier when she walked in and found *her son* enrolled in the same section — sitting in this class a fellow named Mark said, “I’m getting married soon, and I know a lot of you have been married for a while so I thought I would ask, what’s the secret to a lasting marriage?”

The prof said, “Well, you just take it one day at a time.”

Mark, never one to let people get away with non-answers like that, said, “OK, I’ve heard that before.  What does it mean?”

I leapt into the breach:  “It means you wake up, roll over, realize you don’t like this person next to you so much right now and you say, ‘Gee, I think I want out of this.  But is it going to be easier FOR TODAY to get up, get showered and dressed, eat my Wheaties, go to work for nine or ten hours, come home, have dinner, watch some TV, and go back to bed?... or is it going to be easier FOR TODAY to call in to work and get some time off, find a lawyer, and start divorce proceedings?  I think that FOR TODAY, it will be easier to just move along in this well-worn rut.’”

Mark and the prof stared at me, aghast at what they’d heard.  Susan looked at me and said, “You are wise beyond your years, child.”

Cynical, I realize, but there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere.

Pax Christi,

Izzy

who is constantly amazed to wake up and find that once again his wife has forborne to murder him in his sleep

History to We Are Still Married

 I honestly can’t believe that I have never blogged this. I had it as a FaceBook note for a long while (before FB decided that those couldn’t be monetized and shut them down), and before that it lived on a website curated by a Canadian OOGer. 

It has been 23 years now since Victoria sent her primal scream into the OOG list and I typed out a rushed response over my morning breakfast cereal. It has been over a decade since I posted this note on the eve-more-malevolent Book of Faces. In the interim, Victoria fell off a step-ladder while hanging decorations on their house, banged her head, and turned into an overly-large and overly-strong toddler for her husband (not recognized as such by her) to nurture. He’s doing the best he can, and their relationship is far different from anything either of them had ever imagined.

I still haven’t written anything more coherent, but have been told by many people over the years that this has been helpful. And now that Visage Codex has taken away the only method of long-form, thoughtful discourse they had, I find that I need to correct the absence of this essay from cyberspace. And this only so that I can share it easily.

14 Aug 2021 (during a pandemic)

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Intro to the now-lost note posted on Zuckerberg’s social medium platform:

The following was written in haste one morning almost ten years ago over breakfast before the morning commute in response to a heartfelt posting on an e-mail list.  I include here a portion of the original post followed by my somewhat disjointed reply.  Frankly, had I set out to write an essay on the topic, I would have made it more coherent.  The main reason I’m posting it here in its present form is that it seemed to touch a nerve with a lot of people on that list, many of whom (including a couple of pastors) asked for permission to pass it around.  I consider this a rough draft based on some things that SWMBO and I had been discussing that summer; had I known this post would have a life of it’s own, I would have put more thought into it and been more careful to footnote.  Some day I’ll write a more coherent essay, or at least post a similar set of ruminations from Fitz Allison’s The Cruelty of Heresy. http://www.amazon.com/Cruelty-Heresy-Affirmation-Christian-Orthodoxy/dp/0819215139/  But its heart is genuine, and it will have to do for now.

For those who worry about such things, I’ll just mention that Victoria and her husband are still together and have happily added to their family.

Sometime around 2008

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman

(on the occasion of Joseph Robinette Biden jr.’s inauguration, 20 January 2021)

When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tomato Jam

There are lots of versions of this recipe with many variations in the list of ingredients. This one comes from Chef Wes Fulmer of Motor Supply Bistro here in Columbia. The recipe Eddie Wales handed me called for fifteen tomatoes. The recipe at Very Vera calls for eight. I really wish that the recipe called for a weight of tomatoes rather than a number. Right now, I’m choosing to err on the side of more tomatoes and tomato flavor.

  1. Core out and score 8 - 15 tomatoes on the bottom.
  2. In a medium stockpot bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Place the tomatoes in and blanch until skin starts to separate from the flesh.
  3. Meanwhile dice 1 large yellow onion and one bunch of fresh thyme. Sautée them and set aside (if you have time before the tomatoes are done).
  4. Place tomatoes in an ice bath immediately. Peel and rough chop.
  5. Place the roughly-chopped tomatoes, onions, and thyme in a medium rondo or small stockpot on medium-low heat. Add 
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 1½ c. rice wine vinegar, and 
    • 3 large bay leaves
      and cook on low heat for about 2-3 hours until almost all liquid is gone.
  6. Spread on a half sheet tray and let cool.
  7. Enjoy!

Feel free to add other flavors as your taste buds dictate. Ginger is nice. As are cloves.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

New York-Style Pizza Crust

This is based on J. Kenji López-Alt’s New York Pizza recipe. His recipe makes three pies; we only ever make two crusts. It is well worth reading the original and following his link to the windowpane test to make sure you have good gluten development.

Oil the insides of two 32 oz. lidded containers (I tend to use quart-sized deli rounds) and set them aside.

Into the bowl of a food processor, put

  • 15 oz. / 425 g. bread flour (~ 3 c.),
  • 1 Tbsp sugar,
  • .23 oz. / 6.6 g. kosher salt (~ 2 tsp.), and
  • 1⅓ tsp. instant / rapid rise yeast.

 Pulse to combine.

Add

  • 2 Tbsp EVOO and
  • 10 oz. / 283.3 g. lukewarm water.

Run the processor until the dough forms a ball that rides up along the side of the bowl (~15 seconds) and then continue for that much time longer (~30 seconds total).

Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface, knead a couple of times (feel free to check the dough by using the windowpane test), cut the dough in half, form into balls, and put them into the oiled containers. Refrigerate for one to five days, checking every now and again that the lids haven’t been blown off the containers (don’t ask me how I know that this can happen).

At least two hours before needed, take the doughs out, punch them down, reform the balls, drop them pinched-side down back into the oiled containers, and let them warm and rise on the counter until doubled in volume.

After this, it’s nearly the same instructions from the Thin Crust recipe, but for convenience, I’ll paste them in here:

[Insert two hours worth of music & other chores here.]

  • Place a pizza stone, cast iron bistro pan, or some other such item into an oven and preheat to 450℉.
  • Punch down the dough.
  • Get out some parchment, sprinkle with semolina (I switched from corn meal and like the texture slightly better), and place a dough ball onto it. With fingers & knuckles, work the ball out into a rough disk (feel free to pick it up by the edges and let gravity do some of the stretching), then start rolling out the dough from the center, shifting 90° with each stroke.
  • When the dough is ~13", sprinkle with a bit more corn meal semolina,
  • prick all over with a fork,
  • flip,
  • brush with olive oil, and
  • top with desired toppings.
  • Transfer to heated stone or iron in the oven. (I slide a thin metal pizza pan underneath the parchment, just set the parchment with the pizza down on the hot stone or iron, and slide the fake peel out; the parchment makes a convenient tool for removing the cooked pizza from the oven and for containing the mess when cutting and serving.)
  • Bake for ~12 minutes
  • check for desired browning of the crust, and either leave in for a bit longer or
  • take out, cut, and serve.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
Then with cracked hands that ached
From labor in the weekday weather made
Banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.


I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
And slowly I would rise and dress,
Fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
Who had driven out the cold
And polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Monday, May 20, 2019

When Abortion Stopped Making Sense

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense
By Frederica Mathewes-Green

January 22, 2016 9:00 AM

Roe v. Wade -- Abortion Won the Day, but Sooner or Later That Day Will End

At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”

The first issue of Off Our Backs after the Roe decision included one of my movie reviews, and also an essay by another member of the collective criticizing the decision. It didn’t go far enough, she said, because it allowed states to restrict abortion in the third trimester. The Supreme Court should not meddle in what should be decided between the woman and her doctor. She should be able to choose abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

But, at the time, we didn’t have much understanding of what abortion was. We knew nothing of fetal development. We consistently termed the fetus “a blob of tissue,” and that’s just how we pictured it — an undifferentiated mucous-like blob, not recognizable as human or even as alive. It would be another 15 years of so before pregnant couples could show off sonograms of their unborn babies, shocking us with the obvious humanity of the unborn.

We also thought, back then, that few abortions would ever be done. It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that “last resort.” We had no idea how common the procedure would become; today, one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion.

Nor could we have imagined how high abortion numbers would climb. In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been 59 million abortions. It’s hard even to grasp a number that big. Twenty years ago, someone told me that, if the names of all those lost babies were inscribed on a wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall would have to stretch for 50 miles. It’s 20 years later now, and that wall would have to stretch twice as far. But no names could be written on it; those babies had no names.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine.

But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really “turn back the clock.” It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle. When she first sees the positive pregnancy test she may feel, in a panicky way, that she has to get rid of it as fast as possible. But life stretches on after abortion, for months and years — for many long nights — and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made.

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.

The same thing goes for the human animal. Abortion gets presented to us as if it’s something women want; both pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric can reinforce that idea. But women do this only if all their other options look worse. It’s supposed to be “her choice,” yet so many women say, “I really didn’t have a choice.”

I changed my opinion on abortion after I read an article in Esquire magazine, way back in 1976. I was home from grad school, flipping through my dad’s copy, and came across an article titled “What I Saw at the Abortion.” The author, Richard Selzer, was a surgeon, and he was in favor of abortion, but he’d never seen one. So he asked a colleague whether, next time, he could go along.

Selzer described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table. (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week.) The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with a prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure — chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called “partial birth abortion” and “dismemberment abortion,” more reliably ensure death.)

After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”

He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life.

The last words in Selzer’s essay are, “Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?”

The truth of what he saw disturbed me deeply. There I was, anti-war, anti–capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? How could I think it was wrong to execute homicidal criminals, wrong to shoot enemies in wartime, but all right to kill our own sons and daughters?

For that was another disturbing thought: Abortion means killing not strangers but our own children, our own flesh and blood. No matter who the father, every child aborted is that woman’s own son or daughter, just as much as any child she will ever bear.

We had somehow bought the idea that abortion was necessary if women were going to rise in their professions and compete in the marketplace with men. But how had we come to agree that we will sacrifice our children, as the price of getting ahead? When does a man ever have to choose between his career and the life of his child?

Once I recognized the inherent violence of abortion, none of the feminist arguments made sense. Like the claim that a fetus is not really a person because it is so small. Well, I’m only 5 foot 1. Women, in general, are smaller than men. Do we really want to advance a principle that big people have more value than small people? That if you catch them before they’ve reached a certain size, it’s all right to kill them?

What about the child who is “unwanted”? It was a basic premise of early feminism that women should not base their sense of worth on whether or not a man “wants” them. We are valuable simply because we are members of the human race, regardless of any other person’s approval. Do we really want to say that “unwanted” people might as well be dead? What about a woman who is “wanted” when she’s young and sexy but less so as she gets older? At what point is it all right to terminate her?

The usual justification for abortion is that the unborn is not a “person.” It’s said that “Nobody knows when life begins.” But that’s not true; everybody knows when life — a new individual human life — gets started. It’s when the sperm dissolves in the egg. That new single cell has a brand-new DNA, never before seen in the world. If you examined through a microscope three cells lined up — the newly fertilized ovum, a cell from the father, and a cell from the mother — you would say that, judging from the DNA, the cells came from three different people.

When people say the unborn is “not a person” or “not a life” they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is “Can I kill this?” the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it “a human life”: It’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA. It’s a person, just like the rest of us.

Abortion indisputably ends a human life. But this loss is usually set against the woman’s need to have an abortion in order to freely direct her own life. It is a particular cruelty to present abortion as something women want, something they demand, they find liberating. Because nobody wants this. The procedure itself is painful, humiliating, expensive — no woman “wants” to go through it. But once it’s available, it appears to be the logical, reasonable choice. All the complexities can be shoved down that funnel. Yes, abortion solves all the problems; but it solves them inside the woman’s body. And she is expected to keep that pain inside for a lifetime, and be grateful for the gift of abortion.

Many years ago I wrote something in an essay about abortion, and I was surprised that the line got picked up and frequently quoted. I’ve seen it in both pro-life and pro-choice contexts, so it appears to be something both sides agree on.

I wrote, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Strange, isn’t it, that both pro-choice and pro-life people agree that is true? Abortion is a horrible and harrowing experience. That women choose it so frequently shows how much worse continuing a pregnancy can be. Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then expect them to be grateful for it.

Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression.

***

And so we come around to one more March for Life, like the one last year, like the one next year. Protesters understandably focus on the unborn child, because the danger it faces is the most galvanizing aspect of this struggle. If there are different degrees of injustice, surely violence is the worst manifestation, and killing worst of all. If there are different categories of innocent victim, surely the small and helpless have a higher claim to protection, and tiny babies the highest of all. The minimum purpose of government is to shield the weak from abuse by the strong, and there is no one weaker or more voiceless than unborn children. And so we keep saying that they should be protected, for all the same reasons that newborn babies are protected. Pro-lifers have been doing this for 43 years now, and will continue holding a candle in the darkness for as many more years as it takes.

I understand all the reasons why the movement’s prime attention is focused on the unborn. But we can also say that abortion is no bargain for women, either. It’s destructive and tragic. We shouldn’t listen unthinkingly to the other side of the time-worn script, the one that tells us that women want abortions, that abortion liberates them. Many a post-abortion woman could tell you a different story.

The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence — fatal violence — against the most helpless members of our human community? If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us?
Comments   

In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters.

One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Magnificent Obituary

Tim Schrandt

June 11, 1955 - March 29, 2019
U.S. Veteran

Tim Schrandt, age 63, of Spillville, IA died on Friday, March 29, 2019 at Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, WI after a short battle with cancer.

A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville with Deacon Pat Malanaphy presiding; burial will be in the church cemetery with full military rites.

Visitation will be from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville and also after 10:00 a.m. at the Church on Thursday morning.

Tim Schrandt (Lynyrd) made his last inappropriate comment on March 29, 2019. If you are wondering if you may have ever met him, you didn’t — because you WOULD remember. For those of you that did meet him, we apologize, as we’re sure he probably offended you. He was world renowned for not holding back and telling it like it is.

Tim was born to William (Bill) Schrandt and Mary (Schrandt) Manning on June 11,1955 - 100 years too late. Given Tim’s demeanor he would have been the perfect weathered cowboy in the old west or rough and tough pioneer, or maybe he just should have been Amish.

Tim was the 4th of 8 kids, the bottom rung of the top tier (the big kids). Instead of taking his place on that rung, listening to the older kids and doing as he was told by his older siblings, he decided to anoint himself “king” of the 4 little kids. Tim spent his childhood and early adulthood ordering them around and in general, tormenting them. He was a great orator, (not like Shakespeare, but more like Yogi Berra), as he always had something to say,
and always had to get in the last word.

His position as “king” and orator was challenged by the nuns at St. Wenceslaus school in Spillville. He may have met his match. We’re not saying the nuns won, but they put up a good fight, we mean literally - he got into a fist-a-cuff with a nun. In fairness, she probably started it. You didn’t take a swing at Tim and not expect one back. Tim’s fondness for authority (his own - not others) followed him to South Winneshiek High School in Calmar and later into the Army. This provided for many interesting episodes and stories, detentions and demotions, and a few “run ins” with the law, not just locally, but globally.

Tim worked at Camcar/Stanley Black and Decker in Decorah as a tool and die maker for 30 plus years. Tim worked with many friends and “a bunch of morons”. His words, not ours. Well not exactly his, words because that would have included a bunch of swear words.

Tim leaves behind a hell of a lot of stuff that his family doesn’t know what to do with. So, if you are looking for a Virgin Mary in a bathtub shrine (you Catholics know what we’re talking about) you should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch with them.

Tomorrow would be fine.

In addition to his stuff he leaves behind two great boys who he was extremely proud of, Cody (Jenny) Schrandt and Josh (Lydia) Schrandt were the product of his marriage to Crystal Hilmer. He will be missed by his two granddaughters that he adored and taught to cuss, Peyton and MacKenna. Also left to keep the stories alive (but damn, there won”t be any new material) are his mother Mary Manning and siblings Mike (Rita Dixon) Schrandt, Marty (Clint) Berg, Becky Schrandt-Miles, Bill (Grease) Schrandt, Pam (Rick) Barnes, Peter (Sandra) Schrandt and many nieces, nephews and cousins that wanted to hang out near him, because you just knew he was going to say or do something good. It’s not that he was such a great storyteller, it’s that he WAS the story!

To his siblings’ amazement he was actually able to snag a good woman, Cheryl Murray, and hold on to her for the past 13 years, and as far as we know restraints were not used. Tim also created great memories and stories for Cheryl’s kids Alex (Christina) Murray and Samantha (Evan) Luedking and grandkids Tatum and Grace.

He will be having a reunion with his infant daughter Ashley, his brother Duke, his dad Bill Schrandt, many aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins that passed before him. Tim was in charge of getting the beer and ice for our family reunions, so they will be happy to see him.

A common line in obituaries is “He never met a stranger”, in Tim’s case he never met a rule he couldn’t break, a boundary he couldn’t push, a line he couldn’t cross and a story he couldn’t stretch. Another common obituary phrase is “He’d give the shirt off his back”, well Tim was prepared to do that, and he could do it quickly, because he always wore his shirts unbuttoned ¾ the way down. Tim was anything but common!

Despite his crusty exterior, cutting remarks and stubbornness, there is actual evidence that he was a loving, giving and caring person. That evidence is the deep sorrow and pain in our hearts that his family feels from his passing.

Tim led a good life and had a peaceful death - but the transition was a bitch. And for the record, he did not lose his battle with cancer. When he died, the cancer died, so technically it was a tie! He was ready to meet his Maker, we’re just not sure “The Maker” is ready to meet Tim.

Good luck God!

We are considering establishing a Go-Fund-Me account for G. Heileman Brewing Co., the brewers of Old Style beer, as we anticipate they are about to experience significant hardship as a result of the loss of Tim”s business. Keep them in your thoughts.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Scrumptious Banana Pudding

This is a family favorite, and people would ask my mother-i-law for the recipe only to be told “my next-door neighbor made it.” So here it is, Judy Weathersbee’s recipe, by way of Bobbie Boone Craig.

  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding (French vanilla preferred)
  • 5 cups milk
  • 8 oz. carton sour cream
  • 12 ox. carton Cool Whip
  • ~5 bananas
1. Mix pudding with milk & whip until thick.
2. Fold in sour cream.
3. Fold in 1/2 the Cool Whip.
4. Start layering in a serving dish: pudding, wafers, bananas. Be sure to start & end with the pudding, but reserve some wafers for the top.
5. Spread the rest of the Cool Whip over the later of wafers.
6. Refrigerate until time to serve.

 I will doubtless be making this for some family event, but will not be using Cool Whip. Instead, I will be whipping some actual cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Baked Home Fries

I’ve been chasing ways of cooking potatoes that end with a crispy crust around a fluffy interior for a while. Combining a couple of tricks from different cooking shows, I think I have found a relatively easy method, and last night Dr. SWMBO said that this was it. Instead of cubes, I made dinner fries this time, so my prep time was even less than it might have been. The basic innovations are:
  1. use an apple wedger/corer to cut the potatoes,
  2. parboil the wedges in water with baking soda, and
  3. bake at high heat.
Beyond that, you will want to think about flavor profiles and adjust as needed. But here’s what I did last night to make a side dish for two adults and one teenager:
  • Preheat an oven to 400º F.
  • Cut two medium-large Yukon gold potatoes in half across the short axis in order to make stable bases so you can
  • use an apple wedger/corer to cut the potatoes into wedges with a few tubes (I used a tool that cuts 12 wedges; the thickness of the wedges (a function of the number of wedges) will obviously affect cooking time).
  • Bring a pot full of water up to a boil; you will want a pot with a whole lot of head room as there will be quite a bit of foam.
  • Toss a good bit of baking soda into the water; I probably used a couple of tablespoons, but I was just eyeballing it. The water will foam and then settle.
  • Add the potato wedges (and tubes) to the water and wait for the water to come back up to a boil.
  • In the meanwhile, grab a large mixing bowl, pour in
    • some EVOO
    • some kosher salt, and 
    • some paprika
    (you know about how much seasoning you want on your taters; but do try to use kosher salt or something else with large grains so that it will be more abrasive on the surface of the parboiled potatoes).
  • When the water comes back up to a boil, let the potatoes dance around for one minute. (There will be a lot of foam at this point. A lot.)
  • Get the potatoes out of the water and into the bowl with the oil & salt. (Use a colander, or a spider, or whatever you feel like washing later.)
  • Stir vigorously. Notice how this develops a kind of creamy coating on the surface of the potatoes. This coating will turn crispy in the oven, and this is the magic that the baking-soda-induced pH change in the water does to the potatoes. And the coarser the salt, the more little crispy furrows you will get.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or with oiled foil.
  • Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer with room between the pieces. (I just dump them out of the bowl and give the sheet a few shakes in a couple of different directions, then do any final arranging with whatever tongs, spatula, spoonula or other thingy I happen to have been using.)
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Flip the pieces. (Now aren’t you glad you sprayed the foil with non-stick oil?)
  • Bake for 20 more minutes.
  • Plate & let cool a bit before biting into those bad boys.
With Yukon golds, this produced a crisp exterior with a creamy interior. I’m willing to bet that russets would produce a fluffier interior rather than creamy, and I might try that some day. For neither type of potato will I be peeling first. I love the skins. But a Yukon gold’s skin is much thinner and more delicate than a russet’s, so some adjustment or other will be needed to keep the skin of a russet from getting too tough.

I might also experiment with flavoring the potatoes. I have in the past made cubed potatoes for a large crowd by cooking them on a large griddle. For those, I cut the potatoes the night before and tossed them with oil & spices like salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and rosemary before leaving them to marinate overnight. Great flavor, but very labor intensive to get the browning right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thin Pizza Crust

Thin Pizza Crust from Tori Avey

This recipe makes one thin, 11-13" pizza crust.
  • Put into a bowl and whisk:
    • ⅓ cup warm water (~95℉);
    • 1 tsp sugar, honey, vel sim.; and
    • 1 tsp active dry yeast.
  •  Cover and let stand to proof the yeast. If it’s not nice and foamy within 10 minutes, you need fresher yeast (although when I did this two days ago, our nearly-empty jar of Fleischmann’s that had a 2015 expiration date on it produced yeast that was still quite active).
  • In the meanwhile, put into another, larger bowl
    • 1 cup all purpose flour and
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
  •  and whisk to combine.
  • Add the clearly active yeast mixture and 1 Tbsp olive oil to the dry ingredients.
  • Mix to combine thoroughly and then
  • knead for five minutes. (I did this in the bowl and needed (ha!) no more flour for the kneading).
  • Form into a ball and
  • transfer to a smaller, oiled bowl.
  • Turn to completely coat the ball with oil.
  • Cover and let rise in a room that is ~76-80℉ for about 2 hrs (until double in size).
[Insert two hours worth of music & other chores here.]
  • Place a pizza stone, cast iron bistro pan, or some other such item into an oven and preheat to 450℉.
  • Punch down the dough.
  • Get out some parchment, sprinkle with semolina (I switched from corn meal and like the texture slightly better), and start rolling out the dough from the center, shifting 90° with each stroke. (With other crust recipes, I get slightly better results when I can use my fingers to knead the dough out into a round shape, then pick it up and stretch the outside circumference to enlarge the circle. I still find myself finishing with a rolling pin, though. This crust is fairly loose, so rolling pin it is.)
  • When the dough is ~13", sprinkle with a bit more corn meal semolina,
  • prick all over with a fork,
  • flip,
  • brush with olive oil, and
  • top with desired toppings.
  • Transfer to heated stone or iron in the oven. (I slide a thin metal pizza pan underneath the parchment, just set the parchment with the pizza down on the hot stone or iron, and slide the fake peel out; the parchment makes a convenient tool for removing the cooked pizza from the oven and for containing the mess when cutting and serving.)
  • Bake for ~12 minutes
  • check for desired browning of the crust, and either leave in for a bit longer or
  • take out, cut, and serve.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Skillet Mac-n-Cheese

This is completely experimental for the time being. I’m recording things here to keep track of my changes as I work on the recipe. When it’s done, I’ll delete this header.

Update, July 2017: I made my first attempt at smoked Gouda mac-n-cheese. Because there would be the two of us and a very hungry Chinese teenager (the one who made it 40 days), I worked off of the proportions from the original recipe. For a creamy cheese, I used cream Havarti. The smoked Gouda was the hard cheese. And of course, I used Locatelli instead of Parmesan. I did the whole thing with one heavy skillet, toasting the creole panko first, then putting it into a bowl, then pan roasting some coarsely  cut tomato ends (which added nothing to the conversation) and putting them in a bowl before finally staring in on the pasta.

Notes:
  1. Dr. Nurse doesn’t like mac-n-cheese done with gnocchi. Too heavy. This time, I made it with Barilla Rotini, and that seems to be the way to go in the future for us.
  2. The flavors were almost where I want them to be, but the dish was not creamy enough. So pump up the smoked Gouda flavor, but make it smoother. Possibilities include switching back from the Havarti to the American or finding a way to make smoked Gouda work all on its lonesome. (Added Oct 2017: switching back to American didn’t do it. So, I’m going to try cream Havarti and increase the amount of milk in the pasta water.)
  3. I prefer the panko & cheese toasted in a pan before stirring it in, so in keeping with the one-pan idea, toast them first, reserve them into a bowl, and then stir them in at the end, just before putting some of the whole mixture back into the same bowl to eat out of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I think that the flavor & texture I want here could be achieved with cream Havarti and smoked Gouda. Tonight, I did this for two people:
  • Bring
    • ½ c. water
    • ½ c. milk
  • to a boil in a small skillet.
    • Add 8 oz. Rio Bertolini gnocchi.
  • Reduce heat to medium & cook with frequent stirring until the gnocchi is floating (~10 min.).
  • Add 
    • 2 oz. shredded American cheese (block, not singles) 
    • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
    • pinch cayenne pepper
  • and stir constantly until the cheese is melted (~1 min).
  • Off heat, stir in 
    • 2 oz shredded sharp cheddar.
  • Cover & let stand 5 minutes.
  • Stir until smooth.
  • Sprinkle with
    • Cajun panko crumbs
    • S&P
    • Locatelli Romano
  • Enjoy!


I’m basing this on the Cook’s Illustrated recipe that appears in the March/April 2017 issue. That recipe to serve 4 people is as follows:
  • Bring
    • 1½ c. water
    • 1 c. milk
  • to a boil in a small saucepan.
  • Add 8 oz. Barilla elbow macaroni.
  • Reduce heat to medium & cook with frequent stirring until the mac is al dente (6-8 min).
  • Add 
    • 4 oz. shredded American cheese (block, not singles) 
    • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
    • small pinch cayenne pepper
  • and stir constantly until the cheese is melted (~1 min).
  • Off heat, stir in 
    • 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar.
  • Cover & let stand 5 minutes.
  • Combine
    • ⅓ c. panko crumbs
    • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
    • S&P
  • in a hot skillet &
  • cook over medium heat until browned.
  • Stir in 
    • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese.
  • Stir Mac & Cheese until smooth.
  • Season with S&P.
  • Top with panko & Parmesan.
  • Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Soft-boiled eggs

I like my fried eggs over easy—whites set, yummy yolks hot and runny. Occasionally I like that hot, runny yolk without the crispy edges of a thin white. Sometimes, I like the white thick like in a hard-boiled egg, but still want the liquid gold in the center. I even have an egg topper, a couple of egg cups (I used to use footed shot glasses), and some demitasse spoons to fit out the ritual of eating soft-boiled eggs. I know that it’s a little fussy, but I find it fussy in a good way. Like a tea ritual, it slows me down and forces me to savor and appreciate a single egg, eaten in tiny spoonfuls straight out of the shell, lightly salting and peppering as I go.

This procedure I got from America’s Test Kitchen, who developed it so that they could reliably soft-cook a single egg or a dozen. It relies on the temperature of steam to cook the egg(s) and the quick recovery time of a shallow batch of water when a variable number of cold eggs are introduced into the mix. They recommend five and a half minutes, but even with jumbos, I prefer 5:15. They also use a saucepan or somesuch, while I use a skillet with a tight-fitting lid. I think that they want a taller steam area, but I find that the shallow steam bath works just fine for me.

  • Choose a cooking vessel with a flat bottom that is large enough for the number of eggs you want to soft cook to fit lying down with lots of room around them. It doesn’t matter if the sides are straight or sloping, so long as the flat area works and the lid is relatively secure. I normally use a Le Creuset 6" skillet, which has pouring spouts that leak steam, and it works fine so long as I cover it. I can’t think when I have ever cooked more than two eggs this way, so the small size works for me.
  • Put in enough water that it will come about halfway up the eggs you are going to put in later.
  • Cover (so that everything in the equation gets nice and hot).
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to a vigorous simmer.
  • Carefully but quickly add the cold eggs.
  • Recover and watch to make sure that the steam starts running out the top again.
  • Set a timer for 5¼ minutes.
  • Carefully drain and run cold water over the eggs.
  • Put the eggs into cups, open the tops, and enjoy!
So that’s my riff on the ATK recipe.

Hard-Bolied, easy peel eggs

Forget the salt, vinegar, and/or baking soda in the water. The key to easy peeling hard-boiled eggs is shocking them in an ice bath. The key to solid yolks without any green around them is the amount of time cooking, which is controlled marvelously well by using retained heat no matter what size eggs you’re cooking. The procedure I learned from my mother-in-law was to put eggs into tap water, bringing the water to a boil, removing the water from heat, and letting it sit covered for eighteen minutes. Even this has now been simplified by the use of an auto-shutoff electric kettle.

  • Put as many eggs as you want to hard-boil into an electric kettle. Mine does 1-6 in a single layer, but I’ve cooked as many as twelve with no difference.
  • Cover with tap water. I like about an inch over the top of the highest shell, but (as with all of this recipe) it’s pretty flexible.
  • Turn on the kettle
  • Wait for it to boil and then click off.
  • Set a timer for 18 minutes.
  • Prepare an ice bath large enough to quickly chill all of the eggs you’re cooking.
  • When the timer goes off, drain the eggs and 
  • dump them into the ice bath.
  • Agitate to thoroughly and quickly chill the surfaces of the eggs.
  • Pull the eggs out of the cold, then smack and roll them on the counter to break up the shell.
  • Slide the completely shattered shell off the egg under running cold water.
That’s it. It has not failed me even one time. I look forward to the entire flock of deviled eggs made to look like chicks this Easter. I’ve always hated all that peeling in the past, but now it’s easy as π.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Object Lessons: Another Oxford Comma

Widely reported. I chose to lift this article from NPR as it has fewer extraneous annoyances. The original article is linked to the title below.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Oxford Comma: Great For Listing, Pontificating, And Winning Court Cases

March 16, 20171:24 PM ET

by Colin Dwyer

Surely, Oakhurst Dairy would have done well to heed the immortal words of the ‘80s hair band Cinderella: “Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone).”

The milk and cream company based in Portland, Maine, likely never appreciated the serial comma — also known as an Oxford comma — so much as it did Monday, when the lack of that little curved stroke cost the company an appeals court ruling that centered on overtime rules for drivers.

Specifically, the ruling in favor of Oakhurst delivery drivers came down to Maine state law, which dictates that the following activities are not subject to overtime protections:

    “The canning, processing, preserving,
    freezing, drying, marketing, storing,
    packing for shipment or distribution of:
    (1) Agricultural produce;
    (2) Meat and fish products; and
    (3) Perishable foods.”

The trouble rests with “or.” The presence of that tiny conjunction without a comma as a companion makes for some muddled meanings: Is “packing for shipment or distribution” exempt from overtime regulations? Or are both “packing for shipment” and “distribution” exempt?

These aren’t idle questions for the five delivery drivers who sued Oakhurst, because as Quartz notes, “the drivers do distribute, but do not pack, the perishable food.” In other words, one interpretation of the law’s list would make the drivers eligible for overtime pay; the other would mean they won’t get those extra dollars for extra time on the job.

Enter the appeals court judges. In the opinion, 1st Circuit Judge David Barron writes that the lack of a comma renders the whole phrase too ambiguous to agree with Oakhurst — and the district court that originally ruled in its favor — that the drivers don’t get rights to overtime pay:

    “The District Court concluded that, despite the absent comma, the Maine legislature unambiguously intended for the last term in the exemption’s list of activities to identify an exempt activity in its own right. ... But, we conclude that the exemption’s scope is actually not so clear in this regard.”

Even making allowances for the fact that Maine’s legislative style guidance eschews the Oxford comma, Barron argued that the ambiguity of the sentence “must be construed liberally” — and so adopted “the drivers’ narrower reading of the exemption.”

Case closed ... for now, at least. With the district court ruling in favor of Oakhurst reversed, Quartz reports the case can now be heard in a lower court.

Now, as adherents of the great and terrible AP Stylebook — which also eschews the Oxford comma — we must admit the moral of this story flies in the face of everything (or one thing) NPR’s own sentences stand for.

But we offer the above fable as a reminder that every punctuation mark deserves a fair hearing, a glimpse into the glories of grammar(,) and a quiet rebellion against the tyranny of copy editors everywhere.*

*Just a joke, NPR copy desk! Please don’t break out the red pen.

Note from the copy chief: While NPR does generally follow the AP Stylebook, we on the copy desk take a more liberal approach in deciding when a series is complex enough to warrant the comma’s use.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The final note from the copy chief puts me in mind of the sage advice from the original, non-Burchfield Fowler’s on the split infinitive.

In all fairness, the judge’s ruling does not rely on the ambiguity being entirely caused by the missing comma. As the Quartz article and others note, there is also the fact that all of the other elements in the list are given as gerunds (canning, processing, … packing), while that final action putatively meant to be exempted from overtime pay (distribution) is not. I would say that what won the drivers their appeal is the lack of both the serial comma and the parallel noun form.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Update, 21 March:
Mary Norris’ New Yorker article from half a week ago (St. Paddy’s Day, actually) reports that there is also a third grammatical element at issue in the ambiguity, asyndeton.

Judge David J. Barron’s opinion in the case is a feast of subtle delights for anyone with a taste for grammar and usage. Lawyers for the defense conceded that the statement was ambiguous (the State of Maine specifically instructs drafters of legal statutes not to use the serial comma) but argued that it had “a latent clarity.” The truck drivers, for their part, pointed out that, in addition to the missing comma, the law as written flouts “the parallel usage convention.” “Distribution” is a noun, and syntactically it belongs with “shipment,” also a noun, as an object of the preposition “for.” To make the statute read the way the defendant claims it was intended to be read, the writers would have had to use “distributing,” a gerund—a verb that has been twisted into a noun—which would make it parallel with the other items in the series: “canning, processing,” etc. To the defendant’s contention that the series, in order to support the drivers’ reading, would have to contain a conjunction—“and”—before “packing,” the drivers, citing Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, said that the missing “and” was an instance of the rhetorical device called “asyndeton,” defined as “the omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence.”

Read the rest of that article. It’s quite nice. And note that the paragraph quoted above contains a link to the actual opinion.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mrs. Moore’s Chess Pie

This recipe is from Marion Brown’s The Southern Cook Book, published by the UNC Press in 1951. Our dying copy was printed on very acidic paper in 1961 by Pocket Books, Inc. (NY). I can not tell you what page it’s on; it seems to be somewhere between pp. 327 & 332, but most of the pages have fallen out and been stuck back in at some point, and their corners are badly foxed.

In my earlier, rapid-metabolistic, pre-diabetic days, I penned above this recipe the words “(MOORE) FILLING!!),” but numerous experiments by Dr. SWMBO over the years have shown that scaling the recipe monkeys with the pie’s ability to set properly, so if you want more (or “moore”), just make another pie. The procedure here at The House of Chez Casa now involves using the smallest metal pie pan we have in the house (not one of the stoneware nor one of the glass plates) and cooking it on top of a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven.

Here is the recipe, word for word. I have only changed the formatting:

This “just about perfect” Chess Pie appeared in the first edition of the Burlington Episcopal Church’s Soup to Nuts some years ago, and by popular demand in the revised 1947 edition. At the request of many, I am again using it—it never fails to win applause.
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ egg shell of milk
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, unbeaten
  1. Mix together the white and brown sugar and flour.
  2. Break the two eggs into mixture,
  3. add milk and vanilla.
  4. Melt butter and pour in last.
  5. Bake in a slow (325-degree) oven in uncooked pastry shell. If baked around 30 to 35 minutes it is better than if cooked fast.
When done it will look puffed and yellow; when cooked it falls into rich jelly-like consistency.
[This mixture makes delicious little tarts. Put tablespoon in each uncooked pastry shell, bake as above. Serve with whipped cream.—M. B.]
Mrs. S. I. Moore, Burlington, N. C.

I will only add here that the whipped cream is necessary. This is a very sweet pie, and the richness of actual cream that has just been whipped very much enhances the experience by cutting the sweetness and adding a contrasting texture. Don’t bother with non-dairy whipped toppings or even semi-dairy spray junque from a can. Open up a carton of whipping cream, toss it into a vessel with some vanilla and a bit of confectioner’s sugar, fire up a beater, and whip that stuff. It’s quick and delicious.