Friday, October 10, 2014

#ShawShooting

The symbol of our separation.
Yesterday turned out to be a heck of a day for a post on black rage:
In the racially mixed Shaw neighborhood Thursday, the differences about what happened were as sharp as day and night. A day earlier, an off-duty white police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old African American, and whether the dead man had a gun was a hotly disputed question.
Of course, it would seem like that's the only question that matters.  If Vonderrit Myers, under house arrest for a felony weapons charge, really shot at a cop, then it's hard to make the case that his death is unjustified.  If he did not shoot at the cop, then no matter his record it is hard to make the case that this was anything short of murder and conspiracy on the part of police. Whether a person believes one or the other tells little about the facts - which we don't know yet - and a lot about the believer.

However, the reaction of people, and not just the protestors, tells a lot about where I think we are going as a nation. And it's not good. But it's double-plus-ungood for the protestors. So let me back up a bit, because we need a big picture to give context to the little picture on the top right.

There are, in general, two kinds of sovereign political entities in the world: nations and empires.  Nations are generally homogenous racially, geographically, and culturally, while empires tend to be a hodgepodge of peoples and cultures spread over non-contiguous areas.  Obviously, any country need not be all 'nation' or all 'empire' - most are on a sliding scale somewhere between them and may even be perceived differently depending upon where one lives in it.  Obviously an 18th century Englishman and Irishman would perceive the British Empire differently.

America began its life pretty close to the nation side of the scale but has been sliding to the empire side, faster or slower, since its inception.  Obviously, we are no longer contiguous, but just as obviously, we are no longer culturally one people.*

Now, that becomes a problem, because while nations may be democratic,** empires cannot be. And the reason they cannot be is that once you have multiple competing cultures within a political entity, you have groups of voters who have no common ground upon which to vote. They do not agree on what government should do, nor how it should do it, and especially who it should do it to the most. What happens is that one group does it to another, and eventually the other gets sick of it and rebels. The groups have no reason to remain within a single political entity, except that it's to the advantage of the stronger party that they do so.

Disparate peoples are kept in a multicultural empire by political force. But as soon as that force is released, peoples go their separate ways, like Czechs and Slovaks, or Russians and Lithuanians, or Irish and Brits.  As America becomes more empire, it will apply more and more political force to its subject peoples in order to remain one country. Even so, if the pressure from below is too much, there's nothing magical about America that makes us immune to the forces that broke up Bosnia and will break up Spain, Italy, and Canada next.

So what are the forces driving America towards empire? Strangely, they are different than for the Brits or the Soviets or the Mongols or the Assyrians. For the past half century or more America hasn't conquered peoples all over the world and subjected them to American government.*** We have actually done something far more dangerous. We have imported people from all over the world and not made them part of the common culture, but allowed them to establish little cultures, little nations, within the larger nation but owing it no allegiance. This is where the flag-burning symbolism is important.  We are making ourselves into a multicultural empire, a geographical space within which several distinct peoples must vie for superiority.  Because there is only one political entity - one flag - only one culture can win.

One of those cultures**** is made up of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico south to Argentina. We have so many and are adding so many more that there is no need for them to acculturate. As they become a majority in any area you can expect that they will make it their own. After NWA came straight outta Compton, the Mexicans drove out many others who looked like them.  That erstwhile black enclave is now 65% Hispanic and is growing more homogenous, not more diverse, every year.

If Hispanics were the only other significant culture in America we would still be doomed to eventual Czechoslovakian separation. But adding large groups of Somalis, Syrians, Bosnians, Ghanans, and Chinese makes the separation more faceted, more complicated.

But there is another culture, big but not as big as the Hispanics: the oppositional culture of the #ShawShooting protestors.  Call them the Royal Crown Cola of American culture. This culture is not only hostile to the majority culture in America (and treated hostilely by the Hispanics) it is also a culture of dependence.  That is important, because we are entering a period where dependence will become much more of a liability, both for the minority culture and the majority. America is entering an era where there will be less to share and less desire to share it.  If you can't feed yourself, then you will have two choices: take food or starve. And no one wants to starve.

So given that we can expect in America's future
  1. More multiculturalism, leading to
  2. More political pressure intended to hold America together politically, leading to 
  3. More violence used by the state against protest and disorder 
And that we can expect
  1. Less material abundance as the bills for our prior spending come due, leading to 
  2. Less to share with the dependent and less desire to share, leading to 
  3. More frustration and desperation from those who do not produce enough to meet their own needs
The number threes are going to clash. And it will not be tear gas and rubber bullets forever.

The Hispanics, being numerous and contiguous, will probably survive from west Texas to Sacramento. But Royal Crown culture, though numerous, is geographically separated into enclaves. Though frustrated and hostile - burning the majority culture's flag over a death that may or may not have been justified - it is also a culture that cannot support itself without those who hold that flag dear. It is this culture that will suffer most when things get nasty.

This is a reason that I believe, and have long believed, that the only way to thrive as a black person in America is to embrace the majority culture with everything you have. America can no more survive as a multicultural empire than did the Romans or the Huns or the Brits. We can no more stay rich by spending more than we earn than did the Spanish of the 17th century or the French of the 20th.  We cannot do the damnfool things we are doing with our currency and budget and not end up in the poor house. We are on our way to becoming a poor nation.  Check that: an impoverished, bitter, confused, cold, angry, hungry empire.

Tolerance, both of differences and of anti-social actions, is a virtue that only a rich nation can afford. Once we are no longer a rich nation, you do not want to be a member of a hostile, anti-social, and helpless minority culture, no matter the color of your skin.

* we have never been actually one culture - depending upon how tightly you want to draw the definition - but we were functionally one because most people subscribed to it and they had all the political power.
** But need not be. A nation can be a monarchy, republic, democracy, or one-party communist dictatorship.
*** influenced them, yes, warred on them, yes, but we have not made them a part of the United States.
**** or more accurately, groups of allied cultures.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What whites don't understand about black rage

See how these guys are dressed? That's known as win
Pretty much everything:
Alice Singen had always seen her home town as an integrated, harmonious place...But since the death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, some African Americans are calling it segregated and racist. 

“I didn’t have any problems with anybody or any color, and all of a sudden it feels like we are being held responsible for something that’s not our fault,” Singen, 70, said as she left Faraci Pizza, a 46-year-old Ferguson business that has become a focal point of racial tension. “I don’t get it.” 
Neither does  Jim Marshall:
Protestors chanted they were going to shut down Faraci’s [Pizza] because the owner was “racist,” but Marshall said if that was true, he wouldn’t have opened in North St. Louis County in the first place.

Marshall said he’s getting death threats in addition for calls to move his business out of town, but he plans to stay put at the location he’s been for the past 17 years...
Now admittedly, when you see a piece thus provocatively titled, you can usually expect to be dressed down by some white suburbanite in a rant that comes down to two points:
  1. Black rage, whatever form(s) it takes, is justified, because
  2. You're racist
Off to Tumblr with you
Such articles are moral masturbation for Social Justice Warriors, wherein they seek to prove to blacks that they (the white-skinned, white-hatted heroes) are indispensable to the fulfillment of black hopes and dreams, and seek to prove to themselves that they are morally superior to their fellow whites.

This is going to be a rant of a wholly different nature. So if you are expecting the other kind, here is your last chance to go somewhere that provides appropriate trigger warnings for that brand of politically-incorrect thought known as hard truths.

So now that everyone has ever used CISHet* non-ironically has left the building, we can approach the actual question, which is to detail exactly what whites don't understand about black rage. It really comes down to 4 issues:

1. Why Black Rage ignores the reality of significant black responsibility for their own station.  It ought to go without saying that many blacks have fully integrated into American Society, while others have not.  Those who have get along generally well, just about as well as the average white guy. They are bankers and bakers and mechanics and the guys that trim trees on the side of the road. And we all get along pretty well, so long as everyone pulls his weight.

Sorry, we're not hiring
That said, if some poor white trash high school dropout with his hat on backwards, his pants hanging below his ass, and tattoos all over his neck, asks us for a job, white people will generally tell him to get lost. That black guys who dress that way can't find jobs isn't racism: it's that nobody with half a brain expects someone who presents himself in such in infantile manner is likely to be worth anything as an employee.  Whites don't understand why blacks who present in a hostile and anti-social manner act so surprised when they are hostilely and socially rejected.

2. Why blacks pretend that modern racism is equivalent to historical racism.  Look, everyone knows that there are some white people who don't like blacks. The lovely and gracious Rogue gets the Mudshark Glare** all the time. But people not liking you because you are black is so different from the kind of racism that your grandparents and their grandparents faced that it's an affront to language to refer to them with the same word. It is difficult to find a single person in American public life who seriously argues in favor of racism, slavery, involuntary segregation, miscegenation laws, Jim Crow, or forcible expatriation of blacks to Liberia, all of which were mainstream political positions over the past century or two. Voter ID laws are not Southern Literacy tests and it's blatantly dishonest to pretend they are.
Racism

Racism is the quintessential and cardinal modern American sin, and being against racism is the default position in this culture.*** The most rich and powerful of whites lie at the mercy of a single accusation, much less a demonstration, of racism. The discrimination that blacks face today, when offset by our culture of rabid equalitarianism and the legalities done in minorities' favor, is in no sense comparable to that faced by Frederick Douglass or even Dr. King. For 50 years blacks have had equivalent civil rights to whites and it has been  a century and a half since slavery. It's long past time to quit pretending otherwise.

not-Racism
I ran across a piece the other day about microaggressions that well illustrated the point. The writer noted that if a person said, my boss forced us to work overtime off the clock and threatened to have us deported if we complained but what really gets me is that some dude told me to smile the other day on the bus, you would automatically assume the first part never happened. No person who was actually oppressed would ever complain about something so trivial.

When blacks, and especially black academics, seriously argue that "Some racism is so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on—which may be especially toxic for people of color," that tells us that the author is
  1. looking to be offended, and 
  2. can't find anything real to be offended by. 
When someone who's looking to be offended gets offended, when they elevate some trivial faux pas to justify their rage, normal people are justified in pointing and laughing at that person.

3. Why blacks leaders purposely exacerbate racial tensions.  Blacks constantly complain that whites are targeting them, waging war on them, that it's open season on black men. Here's an unpleasant reality, Mac: if whites as a whole really wanted you dead, you'd already be dead. There are more of us, we are in positions of power, and we have more and better weapons than you. The fact that you are alive is proof that whites don't want you dead and there is no war upon you.  What exists is a class of politicos who gain and hold political power by using your fear to organize you. Fear that instead, for at least it's real.

Open season on black men
The fact is that a black man is 10x more likely to be killed by another black man than a white one.  Most inter-racial crime is black-on-white, not the other way around. There are twice as many black-on-white murders every year as white-on-black. Every day, more than 100 white women are raped or sexually assaulted by black men, while statistically zero black women are raped by white men.**** If you read a story about a random person assaulted in the streets, it's generally a white person being attacked by blacks, and that's not because the press suppresses news of packs of feral whites flash-mobbing convenience stores. Interracial home invasions are nearly always black on white. So if there is a war, it's going the opposite direction than black leaders and their white SJW fellow travelers claim. Whites are currently tolerant of that fact. It will be a very unpleasant day for everyone involved when they at last grow weary of it.

White people do not understand why there is no black rage about 20 dead black kids in Chi-town every week, but there is so much about 1 in Ferguson. We suspect it's manufactured.

4. Why angry blacks give America no credit for past progress.  There has never been, in the history of all people anywhere, a majority culture that has said, You know what? We really have screwed these people over, really bad, for a really long time. So let's make an effort to see if we can rectify that, like American whites have.  Whites in the 50s and 60s didn't have to grant civil rights to blacks, they chose to. Chalk it up to euphoria from winning the war, horror at Hitler's atrocities, whatever: never before has such a majority made such a U-turn in minorities' favor in such a short period.

When it comes down to brass tacks, blacks earned full legal civil rights by demonstrating that they were worthy of them. The Civil Rights Movement was a moral display, and those marchers convinced whites that whites were in the wrong in a very real moral sense.  But there have been lots of such demands in the cold history of the world. Most of them, I would argue, have ended in mass graves. This one was different, not only because of blacks, but because of whites.

The opportunity that blacks both earned and have been granted is pretty unprecedented.  Blacks might take the opportunity to join the majority culture, a right for which prior generations of blacks bled and died at the hands of whites whom we all hold morally culpable. But it seems that the closer blacks get to actual equality, the angrier they grow, because like every other human endeavor, America is not perfect and whites are not perfect.

c-c-c-combo-breaker
There is no other place in the world, nor has there ever been, where a man - white or black - could make so much of himself with talent and dedication and hard work. Who knows, he might even become President. That was the dream that still brings millions of immigrants, and it has been experienced by millions of whites, and truth told, millions of blacks as well.

And that's what whites don't understand the most about black rage: in the land of opportunity that America is, is there anything more you could realistically have - legal, material, or otherwise - that would make you happy?

* For those who don't know, a CIS-Heterosexual is a sexually normal person who does not pretend to be abnormal, not even on Tumblr or to get on TV.
** a white woman shopping with up to seven kids of various hues is looked down upon. A white couple with the same does not receive those stares. 
*** which is why I'm always amused that so many whites want moral credit for holding it.
**** One can argue (and should) that the FBI should not conflate rape with "sexual assault," a wholly useless category. And one can also argue that as many as half of all rape allegations are false. One could even argue that blacks are more likely to be falsely accused of rape/sexual assault (as was actually the case in the afore-pictured lynching). But it's very difficult to argue that blacks are under assault when there are not even any accusations of white on black sexual assault.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

If it were that easy

"Dark Apple" just doesn't have the same ring...
everyone would be doing it:
Terrorist groups could get the capability [to launch an EMP] from any one of these countries or from a few other countries either directly or by theft. The weapon could be delivered by a Scud missile hidden under a tarp from a medium sized ship in the shipping lanes off the coast of the United States. Scud missiles are available in the weapons market for about $100,000. If the United States were attacked with this weapon the country may find it very difficult if not impossible to retaliate...
Part of the downside of DoomPr0n is explaining exactly how, if it's so easy to destroy the US, leaving us unable to retaliate, for less than the annual salary of a Midwestern state college CIO, why someone hasn't done exactly that. Seriously, whether we deserve them or not, we have lots and lots and lots of enemies, and surely most of them can scrape together $100k.  If the Russians could have Ukraine as far as Paris for the cost of a single nuclear missile, why are our lights still on? Maybe because it's a fake threat.

This is not, of course, to minimize the potential damage an EMP could do: I'm actually of the opinion that a Carrington-type EMP event is not a possibility or threat so much as an eventuality.*  But I do suspect that building a working EMP bomb that would fry electronics over 4 million or so square miles takes a little more engineering and testing than does cutting off the heads of reporters.

"Terrorist groups,"** whether they have cool acronyms or not, ought to rank very low on the average American's threat scale.  You are far more likely to be destroyed by Janet Yellen than by Akhbar Akmed al-EMPbomb.  Just sayin'.

* that burning orb in the sky really doesn't care if you live or die, so much. And he can turn your lights off forever with no more than a well-aimed root beer belch.
** by which we usually mean "garlic-smelling men more interested in killing other garlic-smelling men than us"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Potatoes in a barrel - the disappointing finale

Our work here is done.
The year began with high hopes that growing a potato garden in a 55-gallon barrel would result in many more pounds of potatoes per square foot of ground space than planting traditionally.  I am sorry to report that this did not happen.

As you recall, the plants themselves took to the concept like ugly to a feminist.  A full three months ago they had already reached the top of the barrel and by my count had 97 days to do nothing but make tubers for us.

Where have all the taters gone?
It wasn't like there was anything wrong with the plants themselves.  I harvested my control group,* made up of a pair of plants in a raised bed, a few weeks ago. The result, while not impressive by Irish standards, was at least respectable.  I probably got a 10-1 return in that group.

And it wasn't like there was any lack (or surfeit) of water.  When I dumped the barrel I noted that the soil was moist all the way through yet none of the potatoes showed evidence of rot.  The healthy growth and color of the plants themselves is sufficient evidence that they were not lacking sunlight, either. And the plants seemed to suffer little or no bug damage.

That leaves the soil or the barrel itself as the main problem.  As it was nearly the same dirt as the control group, I am tempted to eliminate that as well. And the barrel itself should not have made any difference - we're left to blame the depth of the dirt or perhaps the temperature.

Spud, I am disappoint
So what the real problem is, I'm not sure. But the top foot of dirt contained almost no potatoes whatsoever. The middle third gave up but a half-dozen small ones.  In the whole bottom third waited only the tiniest of spuds.  In all, the 2 pounds of seed potatoes we started with resulted in maybe 4 pounds, not even enough return to cover their cost. Or even hash browns at Thanksgiving.

I'm still sold on the concept,** but next year I'm going to make a couple adjustments.

1.  I'm probably not going to use this barrel again. A couple of people I talked to use wire fencing or even old tires to the same effect, so I may try one of those or perhaps a shorter barrel. More gardens, but none will be as tall - or as heavy.

2.  I'm surely going to change up the soil.  While I was always careful to add it dry, it was still horribly packed by harvest time.  So a bunch more mulch and maybe even some chopped straw may help to lighten it up a bit.

If I were Irish, we'd be facing a long, hungry winter.  This is why I like to make mistakes while they still don't count.

* Because, science
** Like a government climate scientist, I'm not going to let facts get in the way of a good theory.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The problem really is black culture

Not a victim of black culture
Phillip Bump uses his #whiteprivilege to dismiss the true cause of black underachievement:
Let's assume instead that the black culture option is the correct explanation. That pathology actually is something reserved for black people...
It has always been amazing to me how white liberals will go to such extremes to avoid 'blaming' black people - by which is meant, treating black people as adult and fully-human moral agents - for the consequences of their own decisions.  In this case, we're going to go through an entire article on 'black culture' while dismissing the very idea that it might have any impact on black achievement.  And we're going to do so without ever examining a single attribute of that culture that might affect one's financial health.* It's a very liberal thing to do.

In that vein, Bump is happy to kick things off with a straw man, that being the idea that the pathology of poverty "is something reserved for black people." Besides acting as an anti-racist dog whistle, it's laughable, because no one denies that there are lots and lots of black people who are successful and lots of whites who are not. While this social pathology is commonly referred to as 'black culture,' that's only because American blacks are its primary modern representatives, not because they are its sole adherents or even solely responsible for its existence. What is actually at issue is whether the culture itself leads its adherents into poverty or plenty.
But again: What are the components of that culture? Paul Ryan got in trouble because he implied that the problem was, in short, laziness. Coates frames it loosely in similar terms — "black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding" ...
You will notice that while Bump is willing to ask a very good question here, he is also quick to avoid any specific answers that might enlighten us to precisely how black culture might keep its adherents in poverty. He mumbles instead about negative stereotypes, as if the fact that something is a time-honored stereotype makes it automatically incorrect. 

But let's leave politics aside and go straight to the culture at issue.  Rather than trying to determine whether rims or gold teeth or twerking lie upon the path to a stable prosperity, let's examine prosperity and back our way into whether the components of modern black culture are liable to lead us in that direction or not.

I will defer here to Professor Walter E. Williams** to tell us what a person ought to do to escape poverty.  His list is surprisingly simple and if followed virtually guarantees any American will provide a better life for his children, something expected and experienced by whites since the founding of the nation.

The steps are:
  1. Graduate from high school. 
  2. Get married before you have children, and stay married. 
  3. Work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. 
  4. Avoid engaging in criminal behavior.
Now, these steps and their implications are not really difficult to comprehend, so let's measure them against black culture and see how they align.

First off, education, graduate from high school.  Does black culture value education?  Not, do black people go to school?  That's not the question.  The question is, does black culture place importance on getting educated?

There was a time when it did.  Read the works of Booker T. Washington and his frenemy WEB DuBois and you will quickly discover that 19th century blacks understood that education had been denied them under slavery because it was so powerful. The slave was kept illiterate because no literate man could be kept a slave. George Washington Carver said that education was the key that unlocks "the golden door of freedom," and it was more to his generation than a pretty image.  The first generations after slavery worked very hard to become educated or at least literate. The black illiteracy rate dropped from 80% in 1870 to 23% in 1930, an incredible advance in a very short period of time.

When Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or Kweisi Mfume or Louis Farrakhan talk to black people today, do they talk about the value of education?  No, they don't. The fact that a novelty rap video that promoted literacy caused consternation across the fruited plain is sufficient proof that black culture does not value education.  Strike one.

Secondly, marriage. Does black culture value marriage and childbirth therein?  To ask the question is to answer it.  People may dispute why the black illegitimacy rate is north of 70%, but no one denies the fact that fewer than 3 in 10 black children are born to married parents, down from 7 in 10 a half century ago. Marriage is simply not important to black culture.*** Strike two.

Thirdly, how about work?  One can go into all sorts of explanations about why the black unemployment rate stands at twice the white, and I have no doubt that racism plays a non-trivial part in that. And there are lots of black entrepreneurs, though not nearly as many as there needs to be. That said, is hard work valued in the black community?

One does not have to look very hard to find country songs that celebrate hard work.  As much as I hate country music,**** it offers a good representation of middle class white values, and those values presume that hard work is a noble endeavor.  So one question: where are the rap songs that celebrate hard work and the value of holding a job? Strike three.

Finally, avoiding criminal behavior.  Spend a few hours watching BET and you'll find that criminal behavior is glorified in nearly every video.  Yes, it's glorified in much white music, too. Get it thru your head: this is not a racial thing. Glorifying crime will have the same corrosive effects on whites in the near future as it has on blacks today. And those effects today cannot be denied.

Blacks are not in prison in such high numbers because of racism. That's a fantasy woven by the enablers and those who make a decent living perpetuating black behavioral pathology. Blacks are imprisoned because they commit and have historically committed crimes at a far higher rate than whites. One can try to explain why this is so, but one cannot deny the fact that obeying the law is not a very high priority in black culture.

Martin Luther King addressed these very issues a half century ago:
Let us be honest with ourselves, and say that we, our standards have lagged behind at many points. Negroes constitute ten percent of the population of New York City, and yet they commit thirty-five percent of the crime. St. Louis, Missouri: the Negroes constitute twenty-six percent of the population, and yet seventy-six percent of the persons on the list for aid to dependent children are Negroes. We have eight times more illegitimacy than white persons. We’ve got to face all of these things.
But blacks have not faced these things.  They have, if anything, reveled in them. They have hopped aboard a liberal excuse carousel that guarantees that blacks will have music and motion but will never actually go anywhere. Strike four.

But in the end, Bump reveals the real problem even while he tries to pass blame for it off to his political opponents:
It's the Lee Atwater-ization of institutional racism, manifested on the front page of The New York Times ... in the form of expanded voting restrictions that would keep more black (Democratic) voters from getting to the polls.
The beauty of liberal thought is that it can sweep so cleanly to conclusions without ever examining the logic that got the liberal there.*****  Those conclusions make liberals, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves, which I have long suspected is the purpose of liberalism anyway.  But it is a cheat. The much maligned discussed voting restrictions do not, in fact, keep black(Democratic) voters from getting to the polls.  They demand that people going to the polls provide proof that they are the people who have the right to vote.

This demand, Bump asserts, constructs a barrier over which black(Democratic) voters cannot climb. But even assuming that it's true, why should it prove such a barrier?  Is there a law that keeps black(Democratic) voters from getting IDs?  No, there's not. What exists is a lot of black(Democratic) people who do not possess or will not present IDs.

Now assuming just for a minute that such disengagement from what most would consider a basic requirement of civic life truly is a part of black culture, then how could blacks ever expect to share those parts of the majority culture - like getting a job, opening a savings account, and buying real assets - that lead to accumulated wealth?

Culture matters, and there are certain cultural values - literacy, savings, and marriage, to name a few - that have a non-trivial effect on the capital accumulation of those who exhibit them. The fact that black culture possesses none of these values should not lead us to any other conclusion than that those who follow that culture will remain poor.

Poor people are poor because they make the kinds of decisions that lead to poverty. Except in the liberal fantasy world where everything happens by magic and randomness and racism.  In that world, savers have savings not because they spend less than they earn and put the difference aside, but because they are, as one former Speaker of the House asserted, The Winners of Life's Lottery. And those who spend every penny they receive have nothing left at the end of the day not because of math, but because math itself is #racist.

* It has always amazed me that the kind of people who are so quick to value multi-culturalism do not, when push comes to shove, really believe that culture makes any difference in any meaningful respect. 
** Black by popular demand
*** It is becoming less important to white culture as well, and can be expected to have the same corrosive effects. 
**** For me, I prefer Rush. The band, that is.
***** p'raps because it was not logic that got them there, but whatever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coach Farrakhan mocks his own players

Looks more like number 2 to me
The Ministry of Truth gives his people the what for:
See I don't know about the store they say [St. Michael Brown] strong armed somebody and took some cigars but I know this, coming to Chicago ... when you live in the hood you don't control no economy so you have Arab store owners that don't give a damn about you and have no respect for you. You got Korean, you got Chinese, you got other people taking the money out but not giving a damn thing to this community. I imagine that blacks under those conditions suffer everyday.
While Breitbart TV titles this particular clip Farrakhan Attacks Arabs, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Whites in Ferguson Rant, it seems to me that the people he's picking on is blacks.

Imagine this scene if you will.  In a professional football locker room, a coach addresses his defense, which gave up 7 touchdowns in the first half on national television:
... when you play defense you don't control no ball, so you have running backs that don't give a damn about you and have no respect for you.  You got wide receivers, you got tight ends, you got other people running the ball on you and not giving a damn thing to your side. I imagine that defenders under those conditions suffer every play.
Who is the coach criticizing?  Is he really haterizing the opposing tackles for being too big, the backs for running too fast? If it's the former, then he is a laughingstock of a coach.  When a coach says those words, it ought to be obvious that it's the defense's job to stop the offense, not the offense's job to lay down for the defense.

Why don't Arab store owners give a damn about blacks?  Even better, where are the black store owners?  Where are the black entrepreneurs, the community men, the coaches and teachers?  Where are the men who renovate old buildings, who clean up the streets on behalf of their club and their people? Where are the Rotaries, the Odd Fellows and KoC, the Owls and the Elks? What happened to the Afro-American Sons and Daughters? Why aren't black-owned small businesses "taking the money" that's going into the hands of others?  Why aren't your DBs fast enough to cover the WRs, Coach?

The black man's problem is not the white man. It's not the Korean who sells him food or the Arab who sells him clothes or the Indian who sells him big gulps.  The black man's problem is coaches that excuse his failures, that make him feel good about his losses, that teach him to take pride in his thrashings.

With coaches like that, there's no need for scoreboards. Hell, there's not even any need to play the game.

Monday, August 25, 2014

And I thought jelly season was over

Not blueberries
So anyway, I'm walking thru the back yard on Sunday when I smelled something.  Not in a 'check your shoe' way, but in the way that makes you stop and inhale to make sure it really smells as good as you thought the first time.

It did. 

The 100 degree week* has done amazing things to my Concord grapes. The whole freaking yard smelled like a jelly sandwich.  So I grabbed the scissors and fought the spiders** and a few wasps and managed to get, after sorting, about 8# of almost quarter-sized grapes, while leaving plenty for the birds.  So it looks like a big, fat batch of jelly tomorrow.  Maybe the last of the year for sure this time.

Except that the lovely and gracious Rogue, who has put away 5 cases of applesauce in the past week, just brought in another 10 gallons of fat, juicy apples that are dying to become jelly as well.

* About the only one we've had here this year, I'm happy to report.
** Spiders last about 5 minutes in the deep freeze.  I gave them 24 hours just so they knew I'd won.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apples and peaches and pears, oh my!


So anyway, by the time I got home from work today, the lovely and gracious Rogue had knocked out about a case of applesauce. Still about three buckets of apples left to go. Maybe by the time we finish those the pears will have ripened up enough to start them as well...

I would say I'm gonna need more jars, but it's absolutely amazing how much fruit a half dozen or more kids can eat.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The end of white guilt

In the latest of a string of relevant and insightful posts, James Howard Kunstler makes one little oversight:
White America is tortured by black America’s failure to thrive, and all that guilt and anxiety has only gotten worse as a substantial quota of white America loses its own footing in the middle class and plunges into the rough country of joblessness, hopelessness, and government dependency. The usual remedies of even more dependency aren’t working so well for anybody. It’s politically easier for the moment, though. And both the government and the news media are frantically busy manufacturing excuses for everybody’s bad conduct.
White America may be tortured by black America's failure to thrive, but it's only because White America was itself thriving.  When we decided some six decades ago to take seriously the idea that all men were created equal, it came with the expectation that black America would join white America's thriving. For some blacks, that has happened. For many others, obviously it has not. 

Liberals and conservatives can argue themselves blue in the face as to the reasons behind this fact, but I suspect it's not going to matter a bit.  Once America as a whole stops thriving, then the moral impetus that has driven middle class America to make concessions on behalf of poor blacks* disappears.  When you are fighting for your own survival, you have a lot less time and energy to take on pet projects like the moral and economic improvement of other people. The White Man's Burden is only taken seriously by white people with too much time on their hands.

What had been guilt and anxiety is going to turn into apathy at best. White guilt only exists because whites have been convinced that black failure in the midst of white success is ultimately a white failure. But if white America is no longer thriving, if the vast majority of recently-rich feels itself sinking both economically and emotionally into a quagmire of diminishing returns, then there becomes no reason for it to concern itself with black America's similar situation. The best we can hope for is that, once the political crutches used by black America to justify their own failures are kicked away, they might experience a little home grown success in dealing with those failures.

On the other hand, the reason manufactured crises like Ferguson are ultimately so dangerous is that an impoverished people - and especially a recently impoverished one - is a radicalized people. And a radical people may just decide, in their quest for order amidst the swirling chaos that they suffer but do not understand, that niceties like rubber bullets are going out the window.  Rubber bullets are shot by armies that are only partially serious about keeping order.**  As the order that every American adult has known his entire life crumbles around him, I expect that more than a few people are going to get very serious about maintaining order. And there will always be people looking to make a career providing exactly that.***

Once the manufacturing accepting of excuses for bad behavior ends, there will be nothing left to deal with but the bad behavior itself, both among poor blacks and poor whites. That is not a situation that will be welcome or pretty. But neither is it a situation whose outcome is really in doubt.

* And make no mistake, besides being inherently racist, the institutional manufacturing of excuses for bad behavior is a concession.
** It should not come as a surprise that Napoleon did not use rubber grapeshot in the streets of Paris when he suppressed the Vendémiaire uprising.
*** Perhaps it is even less surprising that the slaughter kicked off for Napoleon what turned out to be a pretty successful political career. At least for a while.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making Wild Plum Jelly

Wild things
I made plum honey jam a few years ago after hitting a decent fruit clearance sale.  It wasn't great. In fact, it took a few years to burn thru the case or so that I made.  In all probability, I'll never make it again.

However, with this year's bumper crop of wild/American plums, I figured I would try something different.  Never made jelly with them before, so what the heck?  Let's do this.

For those fuzzy on the difference between jelly and jam, here it is in nutshell: jam uses all the parts of the fruit* whereas jelly is made from just the juice. With jam you just mash everything into a medium like sugar or honey. To make jelly, we need juice and lots of it, which sometimes proves a problem when dealing with wild fruit.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves here, so let's start with the first things.

The first thing we need is a simple jelly recipe. This one from Taste of Home Magazine demands some 5 pounds of wild plums, 7 1/2 cups of sugar, and a package of powdered pectin.

The recipe in a nutshell:
  1. Simmer 5 lbs of halved and pitted plums for about 30 minutes.  Strain 5 1/2 cups of juice.
  2. Boil the juice and the pectin. Add 7 1/2 cups of sugar. Full boil that for another minute.
  3. Scoop the resulting jelly into half-pint jars and boiling-water process those for 5 minutes.
Pretty easy, but...

To make jelly we need juice.  So the first thing we have to do with our plums is cook them down.  The recipe says to halve and pit them in preparation for cooking.  Given the miniscule size of our prunus americanas, that would take on the order of a month and a half to make 5 pounds. Using the cherry pitter didn't work, either. So to make the job easier, I froze them.  Once they thawed they got kind of mushy, so I could simply squeeze most of them to get the pit out.

One side note, with wild plums you want to use red plums, not purple.  The yellow/orange ones have no juice, the deep purple ones have very dark, soft meat that seems almost rotten. But the reds are firm and juicy with meaty, yellow innards.  Good thing we have lots of those.

The chickens will feast tomorrow.
But perhaps not enough.  I cooked down just over 5# of plums and got a very consistent mush.  The recipe calls for straining that mush thru 4 pieces of cheesecloth.  Instead, I put the mush thru a big sieve, then the strainings thru a finer one.  I put those strainings thru a jelly bag and got some beautiful, clear purple juice.  Unfortunately, I got only about 4 cups of that. What I had mostly was a dry, sloppy mush that resembled stroganoff vomit. It brought back some very bad memories.

So we'll put our juice back in the pan and fire it up, but we'll have to adjust our recipe just a bit.  I actually added all the pectin - liquid instead of powder - because there are few things less useful than 1/2 ounce of leftover liquid pectin.  Once it got to a good boil, I added 5 cups of sugar. That's a little less than the ~80% target based on our juice, but since we're over on the pectin it ought to be alright.  I gave it an extra minute of hard boil just to be sure.

Jelly season is complete.
Now comes the moment of truth, or actually, 5 minutes of truth in the open boiler.  The recipe should have produced 8 half-pints.  Being short juice, I'm not surprised that I ended up with ~7.

What I am surprised about is how good it tastes.  The chicken slop is dry and sour, but adding lots of sugar to this juice** balanced it out quite nicely.  It jelled easily but not into a little half-pint brick like my jalapeno jelly did.  As of 10:00, one of the jars hasn't sealed, so one might end up in the fridge tomorrow.

Which is awesome, because the jelly is much, much better than the plum honey jam ever was. I'm pretty sure I'll have no problem making enough bread to get rid of all of it this winter.

* Excluding pits generally, but including small seeds like those in strawberries.
** Usually with jelly one runs about 50/50 juice and sugar.  This one is closer to 60/40 sugar.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Earn your preps

Treasures from my home town
It's difficult to stay motivated when it comes to prepping.  I've noticed this tendency most frequently among those who buy their preparations in one big shot - they spend a bunch of money "getting ready" and once they are done, they either forget about the whole thing,* or worse, interpret every headline as The Big One to try to stay focused. Not only is the boy-who-cried-wolf approach tiresome, it can actually distract you from deepening your preparations.

So how does one remain motivated to keep preparing other than watching disaster pr0n and living off fear's adrenaline?  One way that I have found is to deny yourself the satisfaction of prepping without truly earning it.  And by that I don't mean spending your hard-earned wages on preps. I mean earning that prep by doing something prep-related to get it.

Let me give you an example.  The adjustable wrenches pictured above were made by the Diamond Calk Horseshoe Company (later Diamond Tools) of Duluth, Minnesota.  That happens to be my home town.  Having grown up around Diamond Tools** my whole life, I can testify that tools like these would likely be inherited by my children.  I am not going to wear out a Diamond adjustable wrench, much less 4 of them.  And the price on Ebay, including shipping, was a mere $30 for all of them. Wrenches for life.  How easy could this be?

Yes, I could have just put them on a plastic card.  I'd have solid wrenches to add to the workbench and I'd be that much more tooled up for whatever comes.  But a few years ago I promised myself that I would not spend just any old dollars on preps, but only dollars I earned from prep-related activities.***  So to get these masterful wrenches, I needed to restore and sell 3 reloading dies or sell 15 copies of The SHTF Stockpile, or maybe sell 5 boxes of horseradish crowns.  I was not going to use wages, but I was going to use the motivation of need - well, of desire anyway -  to advance my prepping on 2 fronts at once.

In the end I sold the dies. The money from the first went into replacement dies, while the money from the other two brought me four adjustable wrenches that are now part of my SHTF Stockpile.  I got my preps, I restored a few tools, I provided prep items to three other people. What's most valuable prep-wise is that I didn't rely on my current job to do it, I used my preps to increase my preps.

Preparation is much more than having stuff. It's having the tools and the skills to get the stuff you need.  Find a prep-related way to get that and not only will you stay motivated, you'll advance your other preps at the same time. 

* Subconsciously expecting, I guess, that those freeze-dried green beans will taste even better in 2034 than they don't today.
** as many liberated by employees as purchased on the open market. 
*** After the absolute basics, which I already had.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rogue's turn at the canner

The lovely and gracious Rogue puts Sunday's apples to good use

Anyway, posting has been a little weird because the roofers knocked the satellite dishes out of whack, so no internet at home.  I'm pretty surprised at how much I don't miss it.  Except to check the SHTF Map when I wake up. It seems to have replaced Weather.com as the go to place for realtime weather...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Word of the Day

Ye Olde Bucket O' Plenty
Or wave of the future:
dis·in·ter·me·di·a·tion

noun. reduction in the use of intermediaries between producers and consumers, for example by investing directly in the securities market rather than through a bank.
Also known as 'cutting out the middle man,' disintermediation is what happens when economies shrink. Like eating apples from your own tree rather than those trucked in from Washington because there are no more trucks coming in from Washington.

Speaking of which, I seem to have discovered a magic bucket.  Last night I began the process of making a couple cases of jelly by removing all of the smallest apples from the trusty orange 5-gallon bucket I filled on Sunday.  I quartered about 5 quarts, boiled them down, and recovered almost a gallon of juice that I'll make into jelly tonight. I also had about a gallon of mash that will go on the mulch pile.*  However, I was very surprised to find that when I re-filled the bucket, it was just as overflowing as when I started. Good times.

* Never put apple mash directly on the garden. It's acidic enough to kill just about anything. Trust me on this one.

Monday, August 4, 2014

That didn't take long


Apple Day

Plus some peaches and a cantaloupe
I feel less bad about the fledgling Granny Smith that got eaten by bunnies now that one in the orchard is really producing. So it looks like apple pies and canned apple pie filling this week. Plus, from the reds, lots and lots of applesauce, cider, and maybe some apple wine (which I have never made before) if I can round up a couple of glass gallon jugs.*

But it was quite instructive to note the difference that a few codling moth traps made. The Granny didn't have any traps in it and I would guess that about half of the apples had some damage. Minor damage to be sure, but still enough to notice.  On the other hand, the tree with those reds was right next to it and holds two quart-size traps that are literally filled to the top with dozens and maybe even hundreds of dead moths.  And I would guess that maybe one apple in five from that tree had damage.  The difference - not just between the trees but between last year and this year - is astonishing.

Next year, codling moth traps go in even before the blooms come out.  I just hope I can still get bananas for the traps.

* OTOH after looking at a couple recipes, good grief.  15 lbs of apples needs 8 lbs of sugar.  Maybe I'll just stick with cider.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cheater

It's OK to not follow the recipe
So I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with my salsa.  It's a deep red, it's thick, it's spicy.  And it's all those things because I cheated on the recipe.

I mentioned in The SHTF Stockpile that while I'm not a fan of storing freeze-dried foods generally, I'm a big fan of dried canning mixes.  This is not only because I'm lazy, but because when learning a new skill, like canning, you need to have some success.  While storing a bunch of bottles of salsa is a prep, making a bunch of them is a prep and an experience.  Using a canning mix can go a long way toward making that experience a good one.

That said, my home-grown tomatoes are not such a deep red, nor does the canning mix I used have big chunks of bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos like this salsa.

So here's how I cheated:  Yeah, I followed the instructions on the back of the package.  Except that instead of using 6 lbs of fresh tomatoes or 3 14-oz cans of canned ones, I went 2/3 fresh* and 1/3 canned - that way I got the texture of the fresh tomatoes and the color of the canned ones.  In addition to the mix, I chopped in a dozen fresh jalapenos and a couple of bell peppers from the garden and added a handful of freeze-dried onions.**

The result?  A hot(ter) salsa with deep color, fresh-tomato texture, chunks of peppers and onions, but which was still balanced and (most importantly) safe to open-boil can because it followed an established recipe. Eventually, probably, we'll have to get along without mixes and perhaps even store-bought vinegars.  But experimenting and practicing today will make that eventuality much easier, and one would hope, much safer.

* including a couple under-ripe ones. Not green, though, just sort of orange.
** See, I even cheat on the stuff I say I don't like. Actually, freeze-dried onions are one of the most useful freeze-dried foods you'll find.  Especially if you want to save your garden onions for topping burgers.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You've come a long way, baby

Is there a pepper in the house?
The pic above is the raised bed I first photographed in The Lazy Man's Raised Beds.  If you look carefully, you can see evidence of that bed under the nasturtiums, mustard, dill, cilantro, garlic, chives, marigolds, basil, radishes, and, oh yeah, peppers in the pic.  The raised beds have done their jobs, as have the companion herbs - my pepper harvest is off the charts. No so much the radishes, which is fine, as I dislike them anyway. I only added them because they cover the ground quickly and I don't like to weed. Tossing them all on the mulch pile was no loss.

But the thing I'm not sure about is the flowers.  As you can see, the nasturtiums on the left and the marigolds on the right (both in front and back) look good. They seem to be thriving in this cramped and mixed environment.*  But I'm not sure I'm sold on their companion-plant, insect-repelling ability.

The last couple weeks have been pretty dry.**  And I have noted a pretty good invasion of the neighboring horseradish, both by cabbage moths and grasshoppers. The former I've taken to using for tennis practice, while my chickens are enjoying the tasty crunch of lots of the other. Still, I have both good and bad bugs in this bed and especially in my tomatoes. Bugs are not eating the fruits, but every tomato I pick is covered with black bug poop.

I don't know that I ever expected the mix of plants to keep the bugs out completely - I know enough about online 'expertise' to reduce my expectations of promised results considerably.  Nor do I know the answer to the critical question of how bad the bugs would have been without this companion planting.  And while I have been tempted a couple times this week to break out the Sevin Dust and nuke the bastards, I have not done so yet. If only because, if I don't figure out pest control now, it's not going to be any easier in future years.***

So we'll be watching carefully to see if the bugs chewing my leaves actually do any damage to the harvest. Given that I'm already harvesting apples, pumpkins, and other things I had not expected to touch until September, those bugs just might be too late to the party anyway. What a shame.

* Diversity, FTW!
** Not Huck dry, but pretty dry compared to the wonderful spring where it rained seemingly every other day.
*** Plus I have a mother lode of dragonflies out there that I don't want to kill.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Send the inlaws home happy

Grandma is making zucchini bread today.

Prunus Americana

This is not the hand of a giant.
I bought a bundle of American plum trees from the state extension service a decade ago or so.  While they were mostly intended to make a hedge row, I figured at the time that any fruit would be a bonus.* While not a huge fan of plums, I had hit a clearance sale on them at Wally's the prior year and had made some at best marginal jam from them. So I looked forward to redeeming myself 7-10 years hence.

As you can tell from the picture, American plums are not the same plums you'll find on your grocer's shelves.  Prunus Americanas are little bitty things, the biggest about the size of a quarter. It takes a whole bunch of them to make a batch of anything.  But the good news is that they taste even better than the fat, juicy plums you get elsewhere. You just have to pick a lot more of them. Luckily for me I have a bumper crop this year, possibly because I prunused the crap out of them this spring in an attempt to keep them from hedging in my driveway.

That they are not as juicy as other fruits might limit their utility.  It's hard to make jelly without juice, but that's what we're going to try first - once I finally manage to pick enough to cook up a batch.**  Should that fail, we'll have to go back to the old standby: plum honey jam.

Even if it turns out that jam is their only use, they are still a worthwhile tree to add. I think the price I paid when I bought a bundle was on the order of a buck a tree if I bought 25.  They grow like crazy, though not always where you'd like.  They make a great hedge. They're hardy.   And even if I decide not to make anything out of them for myself, I suspect they will provide enough of a distraction to my bird population to keep them out of the grapes.

* You might be surprised at how effectively the first purpose defeats implementing the second.
** In the meantime, I have a cookie sheet in the deep freezer.  Anything that I'm going to cook but do not have enough of presently (tomatoes, grapes, blackberries) goes on the cookie sheet until frozen and then is added to freezer bags.  Grapes I put in there because I'm tired of being jumped by spiders while separating them.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where to Live XIII - Green Living in Tan Country


One thing odd you might notice about the above map from Visualizing Economics is the extent to which it corresponds to the map of US population density. The DC to NY corridor, one of the most heavily populated areas in the nation, is also among the highest in income, as is San Fran, Chicago, and Denver. So one might be tempted to think that if one wants to live well, then high population density areas are the places to move. After all, one can live 50% better on $90k than $60k, right? It's just simple math.

Except that it's not.  I remember as teeny little programmer flying to NYC to do some software installation and to train users on how to use a dialup modem. 2400 baud, baby.  The thing that stuck with me from that trip was not that NYC smelled just like the first diaper of the morning,* but that a software guy with whom I was talking told me his one bedroom apartment cost $1500 a month. At the time I lived in a newer 5-br house on acreage that never came close to $1500 a month, even with interest rates twice what they are today.  Yes, he made twice the money I did.  And I lived better by just about any objective measurement.** He paid more taxes, far more rent, more for food and transportation - I thought at the time that I could have lived just as poorly as him on half of what I made.  It's probably not true, but it's not wholly false, either.

What has that to do with SHTF? Plenty, actually.  While it's great to have a high income, if you live in an area where ordinary costs eat that income up, all you have at the end of the day is bragging rights over your redneck competitors. And when income disappears, those costs remain, dragging hordes of indebted, high-maintenance people underwater very quickly.  While prices will (because they must) eventually adjust to reality, it is harder for costs to fall than rise: every government program is geared toward making your life more costly.*** 

But where income is already low, it has less room to fall, so to speak.  People are used to getting along with less cash, but they have more real assets they can fall back on and fewer people competing for them. As food prices continue to rise, backyard gardens in tan areas expand, but they still needn't be guarded.

Our current income structure is wholly supported by cheap energy and financial shenanigans, and when those end, income will become less important than access to real assets. Those assets are not only better in tan areas, they are generally cheaper as well. If you can manage a green income while living in a tan area, you can gain control of plenty of worthwhile assets in short order. Besides, if you want to live twice as well as everyone around you, that's easier to pull off among wrestling fans than among fans of Cats anyway. 

* There are plenty of better reasons to hate NYC, and the same thing could be said of New Orleans. Which had better food, too.
** I didn't have Broadway next door and he did.  For some reason, both of us counted that as a win.
*** For example, the government creates 'affordable housing' not by allowing house prices to fall, but by propping them up while subsidizing loans on those houses for people who cannot afford them at the new, higher prices.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Guess what's ready already?


These are Frontenac grapes, a cold-weather variety I picked up some years ago at a Fleet & Farm in central Minnesota.  I'm not sure why they are already turning from Packers to Vikings; I mean, 2014 training camps aren't even open yet. Maybe it's just that they are used to a shorter growing season - things really got kicked off here in April while my dad still had snow at the cabin in northern Packerland.

But I'm pretty sure I know why they're so small: I neglected both of these vines while I was pruning everything else back in January.  I intended to get to them, really I did.  But sometimes things don't work out.  As a result, both vines are crawling with grapes, but you need about three of them to make up one of those awesome California grapes you see at Walmart. Each bunch is about 6" from top to bottom.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the yet.  I still have bit of grape jelly from last year and the Concords, which are better for jelly anyway, look to be producing a bumper crop.* So if I need to make more jelly, I'll probably use those.  Wine is a possibility, and I ordered some appropriate yeast tonight and may try a gallon or so.  But for now, I separated them and put the purple grapes in the freezer.  A few more nights of picking and I'll have close to 10 pounds, I suspect. That's enough to make pretty much anything.

Suggestions?

* I just hope I get to them before the birds do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Making Jalapeno Jelly

I used the smallest jars I had.
It must be a Southern thing.  Several people in the past week, upon hearing that I already had a bumper crop of jalapenos on hand, asked if I had made any jalapeno jelly from it.  I had never heard of such a thing.  Cherry jelly, apple jelly, grape jelly, sure.  But jelly made of hot peppers?  Of what use could such a concoction possibly be?

Apparently it does have some utility: people pour it over warmed cream cheese and dip Wheat Thins in it.  Then they eat it.  No, really.

So with that in mind, let's make some.

We'll need:
  • 15 medium-sized jalapenos. That hardly made a dent in my crisper stock.
  • 2 cups of apple cider vinegar.  This is not regular vinegar, so choose wisely.
  • 6(!) cups of sugar.  Good grief! I got Type 2 diabetes just reading this recipe.
  • 2 3-oz bags of liquid pectin. I have plenty of regular (i.e. powdered) pectin on hand, but since every recipe I saw demanded liquid pectin, I coughed up a few bucks and bought some.
I  The good news is that making this jelly is easy. Really easy. 
  1. Cut the tops off the peppers and toss them. Blend up the remaining pepper parts with 1 cup of vinegar until all the chunks are gone.
  2. Add your pepper smoothie and the other cup of vinegar in a big pot.  A really big pot.  You need a BIG pot. B-I-G. Did I mention you need a big pot?  Add in the 6(!) cups of sugar and bring it to a boil.*
  3. Boil it for pretty hard for 10 minutes.  At the same time, get your hot jars ready.
  4. Drop in your 6 oz. of liquid pectin and boil it for another minute.  Now it's done, and it's gonna gel fast, so ladle it as fast as you can into your jars.  This recipe promises to yield 2.5 pints - I used 10 4 oz. jars because, not knowing if I would ever actually eat jalapeno jelly, I figured small jars are easier to give away. It fit perfectly.
  5. Open-boil them for 10 minutes.  Poof! You're done.
Thoughts on the final product:

I've never seen a recipe gel as fast and thoroughly as this one.  I swear, by jar three I was trying to ladle around huge translucent chunks that had already gelled. I wish my cherry jelly gelled like that.

Using 4 ounce jars might have been a mistake.  Three of the ten did not seal properly.  You have to get the headspace perfect on such small jars, and with the gel coagulating as fast as it did, that was tough. Too tough for me.

Then I tasted it.  Hmmm... you might think that a recipe made up of nothing but jalapeno peppers, cider vinegar, and a buttload of sugar might look like the first, smell like the second, and taste like the third.  But brother I'm here to tell you that you would be exactly correct.

Maybe jalapeno jelly is an acquired taste. That just means that if this Minnesota boy has to eat it all himself, in 2020 7 4oz jars will suffer the same fate as 2008's pear butter.**  It's not that it tastes bad, it's just that it doesn't taste like something I'd eat voluntarily. 

To be fair - both to the recipe and to Southern culture - I have a box of Wheat Thins and a block of cream cheese on hand, so I'm going to try it as I guess it ought to be eaten.  Unless I am really pleasantly surprised, I suspect 7 Southron friends are going to get nice little green-flecked jars in their Christmas baskets this fall.   

Just sayin'.

* As soon as it comes to a boil you will understand the capital letters.
** I wonder if chickens get heartburn.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Where to Live XII - Virus and Vector Edition

A couple articles this week reminded me that location is good for more than just keeping zombies at bay:
UNITED NATIONS – Health ministers from 11 West African countries began a two-day Emergency Ministerial meeting in Accra, Ghana, Wednesday amid concern the outbreak of the Ebola virus that began in Ghana could spread across their region as an uncontrolled pandemic...
and
[The Telegraph] The world could be "cast back into the dark ages of medicine" where people die from treatable infections because deadly bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, David Cameron has warned... Overuse of antibiotics for minor infections has resulted in bacteria becoming resistant to medicines.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time and evolution before those diseases we conquered so effortlessly during the past century developed an end-around to modern medicine. "For every action..." and all that.

But it's not even really flus and infections that ought to concern us, at least not on an SHTF scale.  Sure, the Spanish Lady flu* of the 1920s killed 50 million people as it burned its way around the world, but that was a world of nearly 2 billion people.  It was nothing like the great plagues of Europe, that killed sometimes half the people over very large geographic areas.

And they say Ebola ought to concern us, though only 500 people have died from it in its current outbreak, 1/100th of 1% of those killed by Spanish Lady. While Ebola is a headline disease, it's not really a story, I don't think. At least not yet.

No, after meandering through the disease stories of the week, it was this one that I expect to see cause real trouble sometime in the perhaps near future:
A controversial scientist who carried out provocative research on making influenza viruses more infectious has completed his most dangerous experiment to date by deliberately creating a pandemic strain of flu that can evade the human immune system.
Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has genetically manipulated the 2009 strain of pandemic flu in order for it to “escape” the control of the immune system’s neutralising antibodies, effectively making the human population defenceless against its reemergence...
This is not a rant against science any more than it is a rant against the Japanese or Wisconsin, it's just a recognition of the fact that if something is possible, someone** is going to do it. And they are not terribly careful with their creations. That means that eventually a manipulated disease is going to get out of a lab, perhaps accidentally, perhaps on purpose. It might even be a sexy cross of influenza and Ebola. And it's going to rip through the world's population.  This flubola will be designed to spread quickly and perhaps even to do the most possible damage to humans that you can imagine. It might be released by the Russians in a bid to depopulate Ukraine, it might be created by the Klan to finish off Africa, who knows? And who cares, for the results will be the same...

So when it does happen, where should you be? Where should you live?  Before he was reined in by his handlers, Vice President Extraordinaire*** Joe Biden let the truth out of the bag: don't be anywhere where lots of other people are in close quarters. Not subways, not planes.  I would add, not in a city with a million people sniffling and sneezing all over water fountains, buffets, and restroom door handles, either. 

When a perfect virus-and-vector is released into the world, there are no guarantees it won't come your way, no matter where you live, no matter what you do.  But there are reduced odds.  And as with any number of other threats, the best place to avoid a pandemic is to be where lots of infected people aren't sneezing all over the egg rolls.

* apparently it kicked off right here in good old Kansas.  You're welcome.
** probably someone in a lab coat, in all fairness. That is why I expect that, once the world finally recovers, the mere wearing of a lab coat will be a capital offense.
*** The thing about Biden is that he always tells the truth.  At least when he knows it, which is seldom.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Making Jalapeno Hot Sauce

That's not a frying pan.
Jalapeno Week continues with a new concoction. This one is a recipe from the Barefoot Kitchen Witch* with minor modifications and a hat tip to the Nerdy Survivalist.

So now that we've eliminated the impression that there is any originality to be found on this blog, let's make some hot sauce.

We'll need:
  • Jalapenos, sliced into 1/4" rings. I used 36 or so.
  • 1 TBSP of olive oil, maybe more.
  • 1.5 TSP of salt.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced. I used fresh.
  • .5 cup of  onions, minced. I used freeze-dried onions, reconstituted.  Yes, I have lots of freeze-dried food around. Shut up.
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
Step 1. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, then drop in the peppers, salt, garlic, and onions. You'll need enough oil to get a good fry going, so if you have to add more, feel free. 

Step 2.  Saute those suckers so they are nice and brown on the sides. This is going to give our sauce a fried flavor to go with the pepper flavor.  After 5 minutes, cut the heat. If most of the peppers aren't browned, turn the flame on high and hit them again until they are.

Step 3.  Now, transfer the whole shebang to a sauce pan, add the water, and boil it hard for about 20 minutes. Remember what I said about jalapenos getting mushy from cooking? Here's where you get to see if I was lying.  

Step 4.  Now that everything is soft and mushy, put it in the fridge until it's cooled.  I left mine overnight because I hate waiting for stuff like this. Besides, wrestling was on.

Step 5.  Break out the blender.**  Pour everything in but the vinegar in and hit the lowest blend setting.  Now, ratchet it up one button at a time until the mix is nice and smooth.

Step 6. We're going to add a little bit of vinegar, both for acidity and to take a little of the edge off.***  So while it's grinding, pour in a little bit of the vinegar. You'll notice that every time you do, the mixer will speed up and might splash a little. If you're not careful here, you'll get jalapeno juice in your eyes.  That's bad. Keep pouring until the vinegar is all in and the mix is smooth.  You should not see any seeds at all if you are blending fast enough.

To the freezer with ye little ones!
Step 7.  Jar it up.  I put a couple small jars in the freezer and the rest in the fridge.  Since it's so easy to make, there didn't seem to be any reason to can it for long-term storage.  And I'm not big on canning sauces anyway.

Thoughts on the results: had it on tacos tonight, and I'm glad to report that it packs quite a punch. Plus it pours easily. When added to the pickled jalapenos we made earlier, they made for a spicy taco to be sure. But even though the sauce and pickled jalapenos have almost the same ingredients, the sauteing of the peppers here adds a depth to the flavor that pickled jalapenos alone lack. So I definitely recommend making both if you can.

If I had to pick just one, I would take the sauce. It's that good.

* Cool name, Bro Sis.
** You can use a food processor if you wish. Barefoot Kitchen Witch did and then she had to strain it because she had seeds left in the mix.  I will leave no seed behind.
*** Remember what we said about horseradish. It works the same way.